The best carbon running shoes in comparison & test - 2021

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Carbon running shoes are the new silver bullet in running.

Marathon world records and half marathon world records have been smashed in recent years. Responsible for this were probably not only the athletes, but also the technology.

Massive leaps in performance with carbon running shoes

Because all road world records that have been set in running in recent years had one thing in common. The athletes ran in running shoes equipped with a carbon plate in the midsole. Not only did Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei set new marathon world records, but also Kibiwott Kandie and Letesenbet Gidey new half marathon world records.

First boom in 2017

Carbon running shoes experienced their first big boom in 2017. At that time, Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge wanted to be the first person in the world to run a marathon in under two hours on the Monza racetrack. Under conditions that were not record-breaking (changing pacemakers), he just missed this goal with 2:00:25 hours. But his shoes were also the center of attention at the time. The Nike Vaporfly 4%. Because these were equipped with a carbon fiber plate and should help the long-distance runners to new leaps in performance.

What happened next was an incredible boom. In the next few years, world records were broken several times, even though the pandemic prevented many competitions. Within a little more than four years, the best times in road running developed into new spheres.

Development of world records with carbon running shoes

Men's Marathon:

Before: 2:02:57 hours - Dennis Kimetto (Kenya, 2014)

After: 2:01:39 hours - Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya, 2018)

Unofficial (*): 2:00:25 hours - Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya, 2017)

Unofficial (*): 1:59:40 hours - Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya, 2019)

Improvement: 78 seconds (unofficially: 197 seconds)

* for projects that are not suitable for world records

Women's Marathon:

Before: 2:15:25 hours - Paula Radcliffe (UK, 2003)

After: 2:14:04 hours - Brigid Kosgei (Kenya, 2019)

Improvement: 81 seconds

Men's half marathon:

Before: 00:58:23 hours - Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea, 2010)

After: 00:58:01 hours - Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya, 2019)

After: 00:57:32 hours - Kibiwott Kandie (Kenya, 2020)

Improvement: 51 seconds

Women's half marathon:

Before: 01:04:51 hours - Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya, 2017)

After: 01:04:31 hours - Ababel Yeshaneh (Ethiopia, 2020)

After: 01:04:02 hours - Ruth Chepngetich (Kenya, 2021)

After: 01:03:43 hours - Yalemzerf Yehualaw (Ethiopia, 2021)

After: 01:02:52 hours - Letesenbet Gidey (Ethiopia, 2021)

Note: Yehualaw's record was later invalidated because the route was not measured correctly.

Improvement: 119 seconds

In the 10-kilometer road run, there were also huge leaps in performance for the women and men.

Particularly impressive is the striking improvement in the women's marathon world record, which was long considered unattainable. The men's half marathon world record set by Zersenay Tadese also lasted a long time before carbon technology.

Most world records have been improved by almost 2 to even a little more than 3 seconds per kilometer within a few years. That's also the speed advantage predicted by these shoes. This also means that further major leaps in performance are much less likely without additional technological developments. Only among the women was there an outlier, where the world record was even increased by almost 6 seconds per kilometer.

Why do carbon running shoes make you faster?

A stiff carbon plate in the midsole of the running shoe is designed to increase energy return with every step. This leads to an improvement in running economy. That is, the runner can run at a high pace with less energy expenditure.

This technology is said to improve mileage by 2-3 seconds per kilometer.

But there are also some disadvantages with carbon running shoes, such as the service life (approx. 250 - 300 kilometers) and of course the high price. More details are explained in detail here: Carbon running shoes: advantages and disadvantages

Which carbon running shoes are there?

Almost all major manufacturers now have at least one carbon model in their range. Here is a brief overview:

Carbon running shoes from Adidas

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro

Adidas Adizero Prime X

Carbon running shoes by Asics

Asics Metaracer

Asics Metaspeed Sky

Brooks carbon running shoes

Brooks Hyperion Elite

Carbon running shoes by Hoka One One

Hoka One One Carbon X

Hoka One One Evo Carbon Rocket

Carbon running shoes from New Balance

New Balance Fuel Cell RC Elite

New Balance Fuel Cell TC

Carbon running shoes from Nike

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature (ECO Tip)

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%

Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%

Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next% 2

Carbon running shoes from ON

ON Cloud Boom Echo

Carbon running shoes by Puma

Puma Deviate Nitro (Price TIP)

Carbon running shoes by Saucony

Saucony Endorphin Pro

Saucony Endorphin Pro+

Saucony Endorphin Speed

More carbon running shoes

Craft CTM Ultra Carbon

Mizuno Wave Rebellion (glass fiber instead of carbon)

5 carbon running shoes presented in more detail

1) Adidas Adizero Adios Pro

A striking feature of the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro is an above-average hard midsole

As a result, the running feeling is more natural, but the comfort may be somewhat reduced

At 200 euros in the lower price range of carbon running shoes

Go to the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro

2) Asics Metaspeed Sky

Successor to the Asics Metaracer

Very light weight

Could possibly show its advantages over shorter distances (5 km - half marathon) compared to other carbon running shoes due to the low weight

At 250 euros, it is significantly more expensive than the Metaracer (200 euros)

Go to the Asics Metaspeed Sky

3) Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%

Eliud Kipchoge became the first person in the world to run a marathon in under two hours with a prototype of the Alphafly Next

Due to the hard sole, however, it is only suitable for very well-trained runners

Currently the most expensive carbon running shoe at 300 euros

Go to the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%

4) ON cloud boom

ON's first carbon running shoe

In contrast to the other carbon shoes, the sole seems more flexible or less stiff

Nevertheless, the running feeling is very direct and natural, even a touch more direct than comparable carbon models

Therefore possibly also a good choice for shorter distances (5 km - half marathon)

To the ON cloud boom

5) Mizuno Wave Rebellion

Use glass fiber instead of carbon

The wavy fiberglass midsole is designed to provide the same reactive effect as a carbon midsole

At 200 euros in the lower range of carbon shoes

To the Mizuno Wave Rebellion

By clicking on "Next" you get to the overview of all carbon running shoes:


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