From the mile to the marathon, running shoes with carbon-fiber plates have revolutionized the sport.
The boom of shoes with carbon-fiber plates came in the wake of the original Nike Vaporfly 4%, which promised a 4 percent improvement in running economy. Nike’s claim was initially backed up by independent lab tests, and it was bolstered by a steady stream of boundary-breaking performances by athletes like Eluid Kipchoge, who ran the marathon in under two hours in the Nike AlphaFly Next% in 2019.
Soon, other brands began releasing their own models packed with ultra-responsive foam compositions and propulsive carbon-fiber plates. HOKA ONE ONE debuted the Carbon X at a special event in California, and New Balance unleashed the FuelCell 5280 for one of the premier mile events in the country.
By propelling athletes to new world records, surpassing the perceived limits of human performance and claiming podium spots around the world, this new generation of speedy shoes has proven it's here to stay—and there are more on the way.
Here are the best carbon fiber-plated running shoes you need to know about: