We look at the latest road racing footwear that can potentially take your running to the next level
Since Nike introduced their super shoes in 2016, rival brands have caught up and produced their own models with carbon plates in the midsole. At the recent London and Boston marathons, companies like Adidas and On enjoyed success with at the sharp end of the races, with thousands of good club runners also using them to help clock PBs.
British distance runner Chris Thompson estimates they can help an elite marathoner run around four minutes quicker compared to traditional shoes from a decade ago. Even Eamonn Martin, the last British man to win in London back in 1993, told AW that they represent the future of road running.
Martin didn’t even wear a watch or socks when he won in London 30 years ago but says: “I grew up in engineering where we would bring out the next car or a new material that would be better than the previous ones, so I’ve lived in a world of progress. Athletics tracks have improved. Shoes got better in the 1980s due to the big marathons that took off. The javelin has also changed. So I progression in technology is something that I expect and embrace.”
Here are the pick of the latest super shoes…
Saucony Endorphin Elite – £228
Taking their racing line one step further, the Elite sits above the Endorphin Pro in the Saucony carbon-plated race day offerings.
With a new midsole foam – PWRRUN HG – the shoe has a familiar, high-energy return feel but at the same time is a little more stable and slightly firmer than the Pro. The new carbon plate has a more aggressive toe-off and, combined with the Speedroll technology in the forefoot, creates a shoe that feels like it’s propelling you along the road. This all requires you to be operating at a decent pace to start with but, once up to speed, the Elite feels incredible.
The upper is striking, too, with a broad midfoot strap holding the foot in place and featuring large cutaway sections to reduce weight. It’s a great fit and allows plenty of airflow.
While being one of the more aggressive models around it’s probably the easiest of this kind to get used to. Within a few miles it felt very natural and capable of covering the marathon distance without issue.
Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2 – £175
The first version of Puma’s carbon-plated racer was perhaps a little rushed to market but this updated model builds on that shoe and makes minor all-round improvements. It’s lighter and the ride feels a little smoother, while the cushioning and “energy-return” comes from the Nitrogen-injected foam which also proves to be durable.
The full-length carbon plate is still there but feels a little less aggressive than in some models in this category, which makes the shoe better for the longer distance on the road, whereas some marathon shoes feel like they’re better suited to the 5km!
The super-thin upper keeps the weight down and is highly breathable, while the brand’s PWRTAPE technology adds structure and support for a great fit.
Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite – £225
This shoe may be the last of the big-brand carbon-plated racers to hit the market but it’s already race-proven thanks to a New York Marathon win last year from Sharon Lokedi.
With a carbon plate sandwiched between PEBAX-based and nitrogen-infused layers of foam, the cushioning is soft and smooth riding, while the plate provides the added spring.
Again, the plate here isn’t too aggressive but perhaps that reflects the brand’s focus on creating both a marathon shoe as well as one more capable of more frequent use.
The upper features a minimal and highly breathable mesh, with taped pieces added to create shape and support.
HOKA Rocket X 2 – £220
Finally, HOKA has delivered a shoe that combines a full-length carbon plate with modern foam. The dual-density PEBA-based foam is similar to that found in many of the brands and gives the shoe a responsive feel that puts the Rocket X2 on a more equal footing.
It’s certainly HOKA’s best racing shoe ever and instantly feels faster and more responsive than previous efforts.
The relatively low 5mm drop in the heel, combined with the soft feel of the foam, does make it a little unstable at slower speeds but remember this is a race shoe so it feels much better when the pace is picked up.
The upper is a lightweight, translucent synthetic mesh with a relatively slim fit and, with midfoot straps incorporated into the tongue, it provides a snug hold on the foot.
There’s enough coverage on the sole from the rubber to provide good traction and ensure durability without adding weight.
With an existing large customer base from their current racing shoes, the Rocket X2 will be a welcome update and should prove popular.
Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro – £200
With a strikingly aggressive design, the Rebellion Pro stands out from the crowd.
While it features a carbon-infused plate running through the midsole, the propulsive effect comes largely from the geometry of the midsole with its cutaway heel and large forefoot rocker.
At its deepest part, the stack of the shoe measures close to 50mm but the clever heel design ensures it meets World Athletics regulations. This deep stack and the rocker help create a pivot point that almost throws the foot forward.
It’s certainly a shoe that feels fast from the moment you put it on and one that requires you to get up to speed to get the most out of it.
This model is aimed at marathon runners and it has shown great promise with some early adopters of it. From our experiences with it so far, it’s certainly a fast and propulsive shoe over shorter distances and one in which we’re looking forward to venturing out over the longer event.
Brooks Hyperion Max – £160
Whilst not carbon-plated, this model does feature a substantial nitrogen-injected foam midsole. The DNA FLASH cushioning has a great “energy-return” feel when on the move which, when combined with the shoe’s unique midsole geometry, creates a reasonably aggressive gait cycle.
This all combines for a fast-feeling shoe that can handle daily miles with comfort.
The nitro-foam used by Brooks isn’t as soft as many of the competitors but that makes it more stable – something that may be a blessing for many runners.
The upper is lightweight and features laser-cut holes for breathability, while it’s a great fit, too. This is a great option for those seeking a fast and stable ride from a shoe that can be used for more than race day.
New Balance Fuel Cell Supercomp Elite V3 – £220
More stable than the previous version of this shoe, the v3 feels the best yet. The FuelCell cushioning feels a little firmer and the overall shape has been tweaked. The foot seems to sit a little lower in the cushioning, almost cradled, and overall it feels more under control.
The EnergyArc carbon plate has a specific geometry and, combined with the voids in the midsole cushioning, it is allowed to sink a little into this space to create a better energy return.
A bootie design to the knitted mesh upper is beautifully shaped and wraps the foot incredibly well for a sock-like fit. Overall the balance of carbon and cushioning here feels spot on for the marathon distance. It’s a soft but responsive ride.
ASICS Metaspeed Edge+ – £225
With two very similar carbon plate models, the Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge+, ASICS say the former is intended for runners who increase their stride length to speed up, whereas the Edge+ is intended for those who up their cadence to gather speed.
Physically the Edge has a slighter higher heel drop, 8mm to the 5mm of the Sky, and the carbon plate of the Edge has a slightly more curve to it in the forefoot.
I’ve found the Edge slightly better than the Sky in that it feels a little more aggressive and, with that higher heel drop, a little more suited to the longer distance.
Otherwise, both shoes feature the same great fitting upper and weigh in at a super-light 200g. Whichever you choose for the marathon you’ll have the edge over a regular trainer.
Nike Alphafly 2 – £269.95
Still arguably the fastest marathon shoe on the planet, the Alphafly holds that crown thanks to Eliud Kipchoge. A new third generation of the shoe is on the way but, for now, the Alphafly features every piece of technology Nike have to help propel athletes to record-breaking performances.
ZoomX cushioning is soft and springy and, combined with a full-length carbon plate and twin Air unit, makes this model the king of the spring!
» This feature first appeared in the April issue of AW magazine, which you can buy here