Running as a sport has been evolving over the last few decades and Naturally, the technology that goes into running shoes has been evolving with it. Researches have been conducted to figure out the best possible way to optimize a running shoe to improve the running economy of an individual.
Running economy in very simple words is the amount of oxygen you consume to run at a particular pace. A higher running economy would mean you consume more oxygen to maintain a pace and a lower running economy would mean that you consume lesser oxygen to maintain the same pace.
You must have heard of running shoes having carbon fiber plates in them. I’d say they are becoming the norm at a…very fast pace.. (get it? No? Pace? Running? Moving on..), The concept of having a carbon fiber plate in a shoe was started by Reebok but the shoe wasn’t received well, On the other hand, Nike took the same concept, modified and popularized it through their well-researched running shoe called the Nike Vaporfly 4%
The glorious shoe can improve your running economy by up to 4% hence the name Nike Vaporfly 4%, the percentage may not sound like much but trust me, it does make a HUGE difference when you’re running a marathon or racing. The consensus from runners is that it feels like they are running on a trampoline.
They achieve this by using an advanced foam called ZoomX (Technically, it’s Pebax but hey, most of you aren’t foam enthusiasts so let’s just stick to ZoomX), and a carbon fiber plate in the midsole. The carbon plate needs to work with the foam used to provide the most optimized output.
Why Carbon Fibre?
When you’re making a running shoe, it has to be lightweight. Carbon fiber is lightweight and does not add much weight to the overall shoe. It provides a rigid structure to the shoe and guides the way the foot lands in the shoe which reduces any unnecessary motions (such as toe flexion for example).
The carbon fiber is placed in the shoe to improve energy return. When the heel strikes the ground, there is energy that is stored and released back to the runner when an athlete pushes off the ground. The advanced foam used in the shoe would enhance the energy return even more.
The plate providing rigidity, support, and stabilization results in the athlete having lesser injuries as the ankle joints are stabilized and cause lesser load on the knees and hips.
In a race, where seconds count, even the slightest advantage could lead to making or breaking a record.
Carbon plate in running shoes is in no way new, A lot of running shoes have had them in the past but none of them provided any drastic advantages to a runner and they all seemed like gimmicky marketing. Nike rehashed the existing formula, figured out a way to balance the conjunction of carbon plate and ZoomX, and came out with the vaporfly. These shoes have without a doubt have helped athletes set records but the shoe isn’t the only thing that makes an athlete, The World Athletics Association, later on, came out with laws that state that there cannot be 2 carbon plates stacked on top of each other and the stack height should not exceed 40mm.
Some other popular shoes
It has always been a trend in any industry, a company does something that works, the competitors observe if it’s received well, and if it is, well, they jump on the bandwagon and rehash the formula in the hopes that they can achieve the same with their unique design.
Brands like Adidas, Hoka One One, and On-Running have stepped up their running shoe game with the carbon fiber plate.
Hoka One One Carbon X
Hoka One One came out with the Carbon X, it follows the same idea as a Vaporfly 4% but it retains its signature meta rocker feel to the shoe. It uses a premium lightweight upper and it’s a little heavier underneath the foot in comparison yet is more durable than the vaporfly.
The carbon plate fiber is shaped differently as well, it’s got a different feel altogether. The carbon plate is shaped like the letter “Y”, It allows for some level of flexibility in the forefoot but it also gives you a fulcrum where it immediately propels you forward so that you can lift off as soon as your foot lands.
Adidas Adizero Adios Pro
Adidas has been coming out with shoes that seem to be just mediocre but now, they finally might have something that competes with the Nike Vaporfly 4%. When they first announced the Boost, it took the market by storm. Very few foams had such good energy return, cushioning feel, and lightweight.
The Adios Pro was an innovative and mysterious release (Pssst…Will be available on runners.ae soon) which is why it has garnered so much demand. They use their new foam called the Lightsrike PRO which is bouncier and has a more cushiony feel than the ZoomX, but it is also reported to be slightly heavier.
These bad boys have two carbon plates inside of ‘em, One of them is the carbon-infused Energyrods that are shaped like the bones of your feet that adds a good structure to the midsole and the second one is a non-intrusive carbon plate in the heel to make the transition smoother to the forefoot. Both plates work in harmony with their super Lightstrike PRO to give you the snappy spring take-off. Nike Vaporfly finally has some tough competition and this indeed gives it a fair fight.
Asics MetaSpeed Sky
You can count on ASICS to make sure they give a tough fight to any brand out there. The MetaSpeed Sky is the exact contender to all the super shoes equipped with a carbon plate. The upper is lightweight, breathable, and has considerably more room than the other super shoes making it a good fit for runners with wide feet.
Asics went all the way when they developed the nylon-based foam for this shoe called the Flytefoam Blast Turbo, It is probably the only foam that comes close to the ZoomX. Lightweight, springy, and comfortably cushioned. The carbon plate is full-length, curved, and stiff with zero flexibility. Like the vaporfly. Due to the curve, the propulsion that It causes when the heel is loaded is excellent.
The outsole uses the ASICSGRIP which is a flexible type of rubber that provides excellent traction. This outsole provides good grip, traction, and enough protection to the Flytefoam Blast Turbo. Here’s a fun fact for you, ASICS reserve the prefix ‘Meta’ for their super shoes and oh boy trust us when we say that these definitely classify as super shoes.
The carbon fiber plate has changed the sport of running and the technology that goes into making the best running shoe will keep getting better, exciting, and fun to review.
What do you think about having a carbon plate in your running shoes? Let us know and we might just have something special for you 😉