Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes 2023
Buyers Guide | Fleet Feet
From the mile to the marathon, running shoes with carbon-fiber plates have revolutionized the sport.
What are carbon-plated shoes?
Carbon-plated shoes have a thin carbon plate sandwiched in the midsole foam to help propel you forward during your run or race. Carbon is incredibly lightweight, strong and stiff. It is normally combined with a super light, bouncy and responsive foam to give you comfort and energy return over longer distances.
Carbon plates help you run faster because it helps keep your big toes straighter during your gait cycle and gives you more explosive toe-offs. They provide maximum energy return, minimal ground contact time and delay fatigue, making you a more efficient and faster runner.
History of the carbon-plated shoes
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 in 2019 ran a (non-official) sub-two hour marathon in the Nike AlphaFly NEXT%..
Soon, other brands began releasing their own models packed with ultra-responsive foam compositions and propulsive carbon-fiber plates. HOKA 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.
Who are carbon-plated shoes for?
Carbon-plated running shoes started out as shoes only for the super-fast, and they are still mostly known as racing shoes. But this technology has now branched out from road racing shoes to carbon-plated daily trainers and trail shoes.
With companies finding new ways to adapt the carbon-fiber technology to make it more durable and flexible to fit a variety of situations, more innovation and adaptation is sure to continue with carbon fiber to benefit more and more runners of all types and abilities.
Every runner can become more efficient and faster with carbon-plated shoes, but the racing models are going to work best for people who are looking for a slight edge over the competition and shave minutes or seconds off of their racing time. One last thing to consider is that the best carbon-plated racing shoes are made to be as light and efficient as possible, which can reduce the durability of the shoe.
Here are the best carbon fiber-plated running shoes you need to know about:
Bst Carbon-Plated Shoes for Racing
- adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3
- Nike Air Zoom VaporFly Next% 2
- Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
- New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3
- Saucony Endorphin Elite
- HOKA Rocket X 2
- Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
Best Carbon-Plated Shoes for Training
Best Carbon-Plated Shoes for Trails
[This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2023. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]
Best Carbon-Plated Racing Shoes
adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3
Get ready to pass the competition in the adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3. The carbon ENERGYRODS 2.0 have been re-engineered into one piece to provide even more energy return and smoother transitions. There are two layers of the resilient Lightstrike Pro foam surrounding the ENERGYRODS 2.0 to provide cushion and propel you through your run.
There was extensive research done by adidas to optimize the performance of this racing shoe—the new lightweight upper provides support where runners need it the most, while Continental rubber on the outsole strategically placed where runners toe-off from gives you better traction as you sprint to the finish line.
Read more in our adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 review.
Nike Alphafly Next% 2
There’s no doubt you’ll see Nike Alphafly Next% 2 running shoes toeing the starting line of any major road race.
From top performances by professional athletes and up-and-coming NCAA runners, the Nike Alphafly Next% 2 has pushed the limits of speed to break world records and personal records.
The Alphafly Next% 2 combines a snappy carbon-fiber plate with innovative ZoomX cushioning for next-level energy return and unmatched performance. Nike also added two Zoom Air units under the ball of your foot for lively toe-offs. A lightweight and secure Atomknit upper conforms to your foot for comfort and breathability from mile 1 to 26.2.
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
Brooks powered the updated Hyperion Elite 2 with a DNA Flash midsole designed to cushion fast transitions and deliver big energy returns with each step. An integrated carbon-fiber plate propels you forward with each step and keeps the shoe responsive so you can reach top speeds on the road. Brooks also carved the midsole foam into a newly engineered Rapid Roll shape to support smooth heel-toe transitions as you run.
Designed with durability in mind, the Hyperion Elite 2 will last anywhere between 200-400 miles, giving you the premium speed of a race shoe and the endurance of an everyday trainer.
New Balance FuelCel SuperComp Elite v3
New Balance updated the FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 for lightning speed. The FuelCell midsole foam is uniquely designed to deliver high energy return and is combined with a full-length carbon-fiber plate that keeps the ride snappy and maximizes the efficiency of each step to push you to faster speeds.
A super-thin, bootie-construction upper will have you race-day ready. Designed to push 5K or marathon pace, the FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 is streamlined for performance.
Read more in our New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3 review.
Saucony Endorphin Elite
Saucony turbo-charged the Endorphin Elite to crush your records. A full-length slotted carbon plate is sandwiched between layers of Saucony’s brand-new PWRRUN HG foam that provides even more energy return.
These two new technologies work together to deliver smooth transitions, high energy return and unbeatable responsiveness. Saucony also features a more aggressive SPEEDROLL construction in the Endorphin Elite that uses elevated cushioning and a stiff forefoot to generate power with each step. Testers loved the new feel underfoot in our Saucony Endorphin Elite review.
One key way that the Endorphin Elite varies from other racing shoes in this category is the upper. The lightweight upper features cut-outs and straps for a distraction-free fit and unparalleled breathability.
HOKA Rocket X 2
HOKA engineered the Rocket X2 with its lightest components yet to blast you through your next race.
Featuring a redesigned spoon-shaped carbon-fiber plate throughout the midsole to create a responsive and snappy ride, the Rocket X is a more cushioned, lightweight alternative to the HOKA Carbon X3.
The midsole is designed with brand-new super-light, super-cushioned and super-responsive PEBA foam to support each step and propel you forward toward your next PR. In our HOKA Rocket X2 review, our runners loved the upper that has an internal midfoot cage to give you a snug performance fit and keep you on top of the large stack height of foam while you race around turns. It also fits a bit wider in the forefoot than other carbon-plated racing shoes on this list.
Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
The Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro is made to race longer distances and beat your personal records. It uses the lightweight and responsive ENERZY LITE midsole foam with Mizuno’s first carbon-reinforced Wave Plate to help you have explosive toe-offs and race to the finish.
Mizuno gave the Wave Rebellion Pro a rocker-like geometry to propel you forward. Plus, there are strategic cutouts in the sole to relieve the pressure that the carbon plate can put on your foot to keep your legs feeling fresh.
The grippy outsole and superlight upper complete the Wave Rebellion Pro and help you get to the finish line in record time.
Best Carbon-Plated Training Shoes
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer
The New Balance SuperComp Trainer has quickly become a fan favorite of Fleet Feet customers and reviewers alike. This shoe contains an arched carbon plate that is sandwiched in between two layers of FuelCell cushioning. New Balance’s Energy Arc technology places a strategic midsole void that increases energy return and keeps your legs feeling fresh.
One difference between the SuperComp Trainer and other super shoes is that this one is made to cover most of your miles, everything from long runs and walks to speedwork can be done in this shoe since it is more durable than racing shoes.
In our New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer review, our reviewers noticed how easy it felt to run fast in these shoes, with one even saying “I didn’t even feel like I was running, I felt like I was gliding. The thick slab of FuelCell foam is so springy and bouncy it makes each stride feel effortless. I love how soft yet responsive the cushioning is, too.”
HOKA Carbon X 3
Get to the finish line faster with the snappy, responsive HOKA Carbon X3. This shoe features a carbon-fiber plate integrated into the super-light midsole foam to deliver a responsive yet cushioned ride for fast road races or long training runs. A robust Meta-Rocker in the midsole supports a rolling cadence to keep your transitions quick and light.
HOKA updated this shoe by changing the upper to an engineered knit. It has a bootie-like construction and bold, asymmetrical colors to give you style as you cross the finish line.
Read more in our HOKA Carbon X3 review.
adidas Adizero Prime X
The Adizero Prime X makes running feel effortless. It contains three layers of adidas’ LIGHTSTRIKE PRO cushioning that gives you a ton of energy return for every run. This midsole is packed around carbon-infused ENERGYRODS that provide a lightweight stiffness that transfers energy and helps you to be more efficient.
There are different upper options with this shoe. All are lightweight and breathable, but the STRUNG upper is woven thread by thread based on athlete data for long-distance runners so it fits around your foot like a cocoon.
Best Carbon-Plated Trail Shoes
Saucony Endorphin Edge
Fly through the trails with the Saucony Endorphin Edge. The Edge features a flexible Carbitex™ AFX carbon-fiber plate designed specifically for trail running: It gives you speed and efficiency without sacrificing ground contact, and its three-fourths length lets your heel strike adapt on varied terrain. This works in combination with Saucony’s SPEEDROLL geometry to propel you forward.
The Endorphin Edge has all of the characteristics that you need from a good trail shoe—comfortable and responsive cushioning with Saucony’s PWRRUN PB, grip and traction with the PWRTRAC outsole, and a breathable upper.
HOKA Tecton X
The HOKA Tecton X lets you speed through the trails with ease.
HOKA built the Tecton with a unique set of parallel carbon plates that pair performance with protection: The plates deliver the propulsive feeling carbon-plated shoes are known for and also shield your feet from rocks and roots. Plus, they’re flexible enough to handle uneven terrain.
The Tecton X features HOKA’s soft, lightweight and responsive ProFlyX™ foam that is comfortable enough for everyday training but also allows you to pick up the pace for race day, which our reviewers loved in the HOKA Tecton X review.
You’ll also have plenty of grip with the Vibram® Megagrip with Litebase outsole, while the jacquard engineered mesh upper locks down your foot and provides breathability.
Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2
Made for elite ultra-marathon runners, the Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is made for speed over long distances. A split-toe carbon plate gives you energy return and efficiency benefits of the carbon plate but allows it to work well on uneven surfaces at a variety of paces. This, combined with Craft’s responsive Vault Foam™, gives you lightweight cushioning to go the distance.
The Vibram™ MegaGrip™ outsole gives you plenty of traction, while the one-piece upper has a race-style fit that is lightweight and breathable. The Craft CTM Ultra Carbon 2 is durable enough for training, yet light enough for racing.
Standing Behind Our Picks
We picked the best running shoes based on what we think will work for the most people in the most situations. If you buy a pair of running shoes from us and you don’t like the way they look, fit or perform, bring them back within 60 days for a full refund.
Plus, we offer free shipping on all orders over $99 on fleetfeet.com, and we’ll match a lower price from a qualifying retailer. That’s our Happy Fit Guarantee.
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