Shoe guru Paul Freary features five footwear models which have reignited the carbon craze
You would have had to have been running on a different planet to miss all the debate about carbon-plated shoes.
The talk of bans and performance enhancement has been so widespread that even non-runners are asking their running friends about the potentially magical footwear.
The theory behind the carbon plate is generally one of providing a stiffer base within the shoe to push off from.
Combine this well enough in cushioning with the latest polymers that retain their shape better than ever and you have the magic formula.
Most brands have – or will have – a carbon-plated shoe by the end of the year, so lace them up and prepare for take-off!
NIKE – Air Zoom Alphafly Next%
This is the latest version of the shoe that reignited the carbon craze.
With 40mm of Zoom X cushioning, combined with a carbon fibre plate and now twin Air pockets, the Alphafly (pictured top) is crammed full of technology.
The soft cushioned foam aims to make marathons less stressful on the legs while the carbon and Air should have that desired propulsive effect.
A new ultra-light upper helps keep the weight down and the speed up.
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NEW BALANCE – 5280
The curve of the embedded carbon plate is immediately obvious in these shoes. Looking like a cross between a track spike and road racer, this model was specifically designed with road races of just one mile in mind.
The FuelCell midsole is already the brand’s most responsive cushioning material, light with a natural spring to it, and the added plate noticeably puts you more onto your mid/forefoot to enhance your natural gait.
A minimal sock-like upper holds this tech in place with the shoe feeling like an extension of the foot.
HOKA ONE ONE – Carbon X
In this shoe, the carbon plate exists to reinforce Hoka’s ‘rocker’ shape. On its own the aim of the exaggerated sole is to improve the forward roll of the foot, something which the carbon plate emphasises.
The stiffened plate also helps minimise the deformation of the cushioning over time as it would normally compress and lose shape.
As with all of the brand’s shoes, the cushioning is deep yet light, making this a popular model with ultra-distance road runners.
BROOKS – Hyperion Elite
Like an old school racing shoe with the added benefits of a carbon plate, this shoe is a perfect alternative for those who prefer their racers to feel a little firmer and more aggressive.
The plate certainly gives a noticeable toe-off and you know it means business.
The brand initially said the shoe was only good for around 100 miles but, having covered almost twice that in them with little sign of wear, we’d say they are going to be good for many more speedy miles to come!
ASICS – METARACER
Described as ASICS’s most advanced distance racing shoe yet, the METARACER features a rigid carbon plate which emphasises the toe-off and works best with a faster running gait.
Slim and lightweight (190g per shoe for a men’s US size 9), the shoe has a mesh upper to keep the foot cool and energy efficiency is the name of the game. The midsole technology aims to provide a softer run and improved responsiveness.
Built for speed, the shoes also sold out fast when first released last month, with more coming soon.
» A version of this feature was first published in the March 26 edition of AW magazine