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Setting personal bests on race day means that every fraction of a second counts. This has led to the development of carbon-plated shoes and, more specifically, carbon fiber track spikes. By harnessing the explosive rebounding abilities and light weight of carbon fiber, shoe manufacturers have created shoes that help athletes run faster and expend less energy. You probably aren’t running to your true potential if you aren’t racing in carbon fiber track spikes.

There is no argument that carbon-plated shoes are the fastest on the market. Go to any track meet, local 5km, or large marathon, and you’ll see more and more runners sporting carbon-plated shoes. As any track runner knows, a few hundredths of a second can be the difference between a podium and a disappointment, so it should come as no surprise that there are more carbon track spikes on the market than ever.

How do they help you run faster? According to Trackspikes.co, “Running track spikes provide maximum grip, adding a carbon plate has made them even lighter, faster, and more responsive.”

Several studies have shown that by switching to a carbon fiber shoe, experienced runners can expect a 2-4% increase in running economy, leading to roughly a 2.67% improvement in running performance. Novice athletes have improved even more as they increase their cardiovascular system simultaneously.

The main benefits of a carbon-plated shoe are the spring it creates and the stabilization it provides. The most important aspect of the carbon fiber plate is its explosive rebounding abilities. With each stride, the carbon fiber plate bends and loads with energy. As you push off, the carbon plate rapidly unloads the energy stored inside it, helping to propel you forward with its spring-like effect. The plate also acts as a lever to help roll the foot forward, allowing you to roll through the gait cycle much more efficiently.

The second benefit is increased stabilization and toe-off. Toe-off is when the weight transfers forward on the foot, and the big toe flexes and tightens the muscles in the arch. The carbon plate’s stiffness helps keep the foot and toes straight, creating a stronger push off with each stride. This is especially crucial in sprinting when getting the most power and speed from each stride is imperative.

Increased stabilization while running can help to improve your running form, which can be critical in preventing injuries.

Another added benefit of the carbon plate is the added cushioning. While most traditional track spikes have little or no cushioning, this isn’t the case with carbon track spikes. The plate is usually placed between two foam pieces for the most energy return, meaning that even the most lightweight race shoes will have decent padding in the midsole.

When you add all these benefits, it becomes obvious why carbon-plated shoes have taken over the market. But is there a downside?

The main downside for runners is the added cost, as they are more expensive than traditional track spikes. Carbon fiber is a relatively expensive material, so it reflects on the cost of the shoes.

Carbon-plated shoes also won’t last as long as regular running shoes. Carbon spikes are generally most effective in the first 150-200 miles, and then the carbon plate can begin to deteriorate and lose some effectiveness.

Achilles or lower leg issues can arise from carbon-plated shoes, but they are most common in long-distance runners who wear their carbon shoes too often. Generally, this isn’t something sprinters need to worry about, nor do runners who run in varying shoe types.

If you are a sprinter, you owe it to yourself to try a pair of carbon fiber-plated spikes the next time you need to buy track spikes. Not only can they help make you a faster, but they also can help avoid unnecessary injuries throughout the season. For anyone looking to set a PB in their favourite distance, carbon spikes could very well be the answer that you’re looking for.