When the carbon fiber shoe landed in 2018 I was not convinced that they help you run faster. The elite runners were racing in them but they are already fast. After a while a few of our Forerunners clinic members started to race in them and had remarkable improvement in their finishing times. Many of our clinic runners were racing personal best times and qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
The carbon fiber plated shoe has a plate that runs through the midsole to provide a spring forward on each step. The are made of extremely light materials and will not last longer than 150km to 200km.
I decided to try out the Nike Vaporfly Flyknit 4 % on a training run and was surprised by my pace. I was tired from four days of workouts but was running 15 seconds per km faster than usual. I became convinced that they work.
ZoomX Vaporfly Next %
Nike launched the second version of the shoe the ZoomX Vaporfly Next %. The Next is improved over the first version the Nike Vaporfly Flyknit 4 % and helps race times from 5km to the marathon but work better for the longer distances. And this is an improvement over regular racing shoes. Regular racing shoes will improve your time by 2 percent. With a plated shoe you can expect another 4 to 5 percent.
Are they expensive? Yes. However, if you travel to many marathons in search of a faster time, there is a cost associated with each trip. If you buy the carbon fiber shoe, and reach your goal on the first attempt it actually costs less. They make sense if you are within about 10 minutes of the qualifying time for Boston or another marathon. With a carbon plated shoe you should be able to cut about 5 to 15 minutes off your time depending on your goal time and the course. A 4 hour marathoner will see a larger time reduction than a 3 hour marathoner based on percentages.
New Balance 5280
New Balance recently introduced the 5280.
A very lightweight racing shoe for distances of 5km or less. It has a springy plate in it as well which makes the shoe very fast. I ran a set of 200m sprints last week while I was recovering from a tough workout two days beforehand. I decided to try the 5280’s to test them out. I thought I would run on average 2 or 3 seconds slower than usual because my legs were sore. I was surprised again; I ended up averaging a second faster per 200m than my best workout. I could definitely feel the speed of the 5280s.
The Canadian Marathon record of 2:09 was set on Carbon Plated Hoka prototypes and the Women’s Marathon record of 2:26 was set using the Nike 4%.
The carbon fiber plated shoe is here to stay. There has been some discussion that this kind of shoe helps too much and gives an advantage. The reality is that they represent a change in technology similar to a faster running track surface, or a new aerodynamic cycling wheel. Runners of all levels will continue to race in them until something faster is developed.
You can expect many more options in the near future. Other shoe companies are stepping on board as Saucony, Brooks and New Balance are all launching carbon plated marathon shoes in Spring 2020.
The all new Zoom X Vaporfly Next % is currently out (see image below).
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