Carbon Plated Running Shoes

Men's Carbon Plate Shoes

Women's Carbon Plate Shoes


On this page we will explore in depth, all things carbon plated shoes! The History, Pros/Cons and the Science behind how these shoes give 'all' athletes an edge on Race Day!!!


The introduction of Carbon Plated running shoes you'd think to be a fairly recent development in the running world and we all know who made the first carbon plate shoe right... A big global brand which has been in the shoe business for years, making some of the best running shoes on the market; and that brand of course is BROOKS...

In 1989! Brooks released a shoe called the Fusion and Fission, which both incorporated a carbon fibre plate sandwiched between the midsole foam and outsole rubber. But of course then it's the brand we are all thinking... Yep, FILA brought out a carbon fibre racing shoe in the 1990s, after this the next big development came from of course... ADIDAS creating a curved and shaped carbon plate called PRO PLATE, a technology present in a shoe worn by Haile Gebrselassie to set the world record marathon in 2007.

Fast Forward to 2017 when NIKE finally joined the carbon fibre game, they released the original Vapourfly which is what everyone usually believes to be the first carbon plated shoe. The reason for this assumption is down to the great advertising from Nike around the BREAKING 2 project, which saw the best marathon runner in the world Eliud Kipchoge run close to a sub 2 hour Marathon (2:00:25) using the Vapourfly shoe.

Calls for the shoe to be banned came flooding in claiming the shoe gave an unfair advantage to runners, however the lack of knowledge around the science and the fact running shoes throughout history have contain carbon plates meant the Carbon revolution had offcially begun!


Let's start by addressing the biggest myth about carbon plate shoes, they DO NOT! significantly make your top/peak running speed any faster that it already would be; so with people running faster times in carbon plated shoes they must improve performance in other ways... the shoes do this in a few different ways:

Carbon Plated Running Shoes


One of the reasons why people are running faster in these type of shoes, comes from the composition of the new 'bouncy' Superfoams used in carbon racing shoes. Shoes throughout history with carbon plates are often paired with Ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA foams which typically give back about 65% energy return, adidas revolutionised this creating BOOST foam out of a Thermoplastic elastomer called TPU with 75% energy return, nearly all Carbon Plated 'Supershoes' nowadays contain polyether block amide (PEBA) based foams can give up to 85% energy return!!! The extra 20% energy given back each step soon adds up to a lot of energy saved throughout a run which creates the ability to run at a desired pace for a prolonged period of time.

Carbon Plated Running Shoes

2 - Carbon plate shape and position:

The original curved plate design came from Darren Stefanyshyn at the University of Calgary’s famed Human Performance Lab alongside Adidas to create the Pro-plate (see picture), Nike in 2017 used a similar S-Shaped carbon plate curved design with a stronger curved shape, the idea of the shaping in the carbon plate is that it allows for big toe joint stiffness which decreases wasted energy during the toe off phase of running, whilst keeping ankle load to a minimum, by doing this waste energy and running economy would increase making maintaining a desired speed more manageable for longer.

On top of the Plate shape, the position of the plate often now sits between two layers of foam like a sandwich, the benefits of this is you aren't placing your foot onto a solid harsh surface of the carbon fibre plate, so comfort is maintained, but also the plate sitting in the middle means when you compress the shoe during the foot landing phase, more of the foam can be compressed, i.e., you foot presses down to compress the foam above the carbon plate, and the carbon plate then compresses down the foam below the carbon plate, meaning greater utilisation of the majority of the PEBA foam within the shoe.

Carbon Plated Running Shoes

3 - Rocker Geometry and Eccentric loading:

The final aspect of most Carbon plated shoes comes down to the geometry of the shoes and the loading forces on the body, mainly achieved from the shaping in the midsole foams. During running the biggest cause of muscle fatigue to the body comes from eccentric contractions when you plant your foot during the stride, simplified this is when the muscle is loaded when the muscles is lengthening e.g., when you land during running the calf muscles and the achilleas stretch to absorb the impact, this is eccentric loading/force/contraction.

A 'Rocker' designed sole unit on a shoe is designed to improve the transition between Foot strike and Toe off by reducing the eccentric impact force, it does this by maintaining forward momentum which in turn reduces the breaking force experienced on foot strike impact. This forward momentum coupled with the carbon plate stiffness and energy return from the foam all provide a runner with increased running economy (the efficiency of a runners gait) which saves energy throughout the race meaning maintained elevated performance is possible.

The Pros

  1. Improved Running Economy
  2. Increased Energy Return from the midsole
  3. Reduced fatigue throughout run compared to None Plated shoes (over the same distance)
  4. Overall Performance i.e., Race Times improved.
  5. improved recovery following Racing
  6. Psychological Performance boost

The Cons

  1. Reduced life of the Running shoe (between 200-300 miles of range)
  2. Higher Price compared to none plated shoes
  3. reduced stability due to softer foam and higher stack heights
  4. Overuse can lead to Plantar Fascia tenderness and other injury
  5. Overuse can cause an over reliance on carbon shoes to perform
  6. With poor running technique there is no guarantee these shoes will help improve performance, and could increase injury risks if worn.