Running shoes with carbon plates have become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among competitive runners.
These shoes are designed to improve running economy by reducing the amount of energy required to run at a given pace. Is it happening to a level that gives real competitive advantage?
We easily notice that most of the elite runners are leaning towards this choice for race day, starting from the holder of the world record of Marathon, Eliud Kipchoge.
In the world of running shoes, it is not a surprise that they therefore become very popular. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of running shoes with carbon plates, as well as examine some recent research on their effectiveness.
Advantages of Running Shoes with Carbon Plates
- Improved Running Economy
The primary advantage of running shoes with carbon plates is improved running economy. The carbon plate is designed to act as a spring, storing and releasing energy with each foot strike.
This reduces the amount of energy required to run at a given pace, allowing runners to maintain faster speeds for longer periods of time.
In other words, if a regular shoe can be able to return about 70% of the energy released at the strike, this technology can increase this number over 90%. That gives an idea how the running economy can benefit from it.
- Increased Speed
The improved running economy provided by carbon plate shoes can lead to increased speed. This is particularly beneficial for competitive runners who are looking to improve their race times.
Many say that the true advantage of using these shoes is capitalised when running at paces faster than 4:00 min / km. I don’t know if this is true but for sure a good run technique can help to harvest more benefit from a high potential shoe.
Although this is not an advantage related to the plate, all the brands have been designing these shoes to be fast. And to do that, any extra gram considered an unnecessary burden is removed.
Race shoes can be quite lighter than daily training ones, and being designed to lead you to the end of a marathon, they usually have also a good level of comfort.
In fact many carbon plate shoes also feature advanced cushioning and support systems. This can be particularly beneficial for long-distance runners who spend extended periods of time on their feet.
Where is the catch? We will discuss their lifetime in the disadvantages section.
Disadvantages of Running Shoes with Carbon Plates
One of the primary disadvantages of carbon plate shoes is their cost. These shoes can be significantly more expensive than traditional running shoes, with prices even two times the price of a daily trainer.
However, if you are patient enough, you will find good deals in specific periods (black Friday for example) or in connection with the release of a new model.
- Lack of Flexibility
Carbon plate shoes are also known for their lack of flexibility. While the carbon plate can provide a spring-like effect, it can also limit the natural flexion of the foot. This can lead to discomfort or even injury in some runners. If you buy a pair, get used to it! As usual it is important to test your gear before a long distance race, and with shoes this becomes even more crucial.
- Less durable
Carbon plate shoes unleash their potential, they are fast, light, springy… to achieve that, what is unnecessary is considered superfluous.
This leads to a durability which is reduced, compared to heavier daily trainers, built to give more mileage to the avid runner. They serve two different purposes after all.
Thus, a carbon plate supershoe will have a even worse money to km ratio, lasting on average around 25% to 50% less that a daily trainer.
Recent Research on Running Shoes with Carbon Plates
Several recent studies have examined the effectiveness of running shoes with carbon plates. One such study, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine in 2020, found that carbon plate shoes were associated with improved running economy and increased speed compared to traditional running shoes.
Another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance in 2021, found that carbon plate shoes were associated with reduced oxygen consumption during running. This suggests that these shoes may be particularly beneficial for endurance athletes.
I have waited long time before staring using a carbon plate shoe. One of the reasons was that I felt I had to improve my shape and running abilities before being ready for them.
But when I tried one of the most iconic type (the Nike zoomx Vaporfly next%) I felt something was wrong.
Although it’s a shoe loved by many runners, I felt it was too unstable for me.
Running shoes with carbon plates have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to their potential to improve running economy, increase speed, and reduce the risk of injury. While they do come with some disadvantages, such as their cost and lack of flexibility, many runners have found them to be a valuable addition to their training regimen.
As always, it is important to choose running shoes that are comfortable and supportive, and to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program.
Remember, the shoes can increase the energetic return, the experience (cushioned, bouncy, soft…) and improve your running economy. But it will still be your body, your head and your legs to go from start to finish line.
Therefore chose carefully the shoe, ideally consulting a good running shop where you can have a gait test (I wrote about it here) and follow a thorough training plan: that’s the best way to put your shoes in the conditions to shine!
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