The best carbon plate running shoes

Carbon plate running shoes are some of the best running shoes out there. They’re made with superstar tech to get you running your fastest, and they usually are the priciest pair of running shoes you’ll buy.

This means that you want to get it right. Luckily, our testers are here to help. We’ve been testing out all the newest carbon plate shoes, both for road and trail, to let you know what to expect from each. Here’s what they said:

Read on for our in-depth guide to the best carbon plate running shoes…

What are carbon plate running shoes?

Carbon plate shoes use the latest in running shoe technology to give the runner as much energy return as possible. This means that they can run faster, and for longer. Not all speedy shoes are carbon plate shoes. They need to feature some kind of carbon fiber plate in the midsole, which may be full length or partial length.

Are carbon plate shoes allowed in races?

For the most part, yes. You might have heard of the Nike Alphaflys, which caused some controversy and were not allowed to be worn at the Olympic games in Tokyo 2020. This was because they use three carbon plates in the shoe, which World Athletics banned under new guidelines in January 2020 However, any shoes with just one carbon plate can be worn in race conditions under these regulations.

Carbon plate running shoes pros and cons

The main pro of carbon plate running shoes is speed. These shoes will almost definitely have you running faster than your normal everyday pair.

There are some cons. These shoes are highly technical, so they’re often not so suited to beginner runners. They may also require the runner to adjust their technique to get the most out of the shoe. They often offer very little cushioning and protection, too, so they’re less comfortable than an everyday running shoe.

The best carbon plate running shoes

Best for a PB: Nike Alphafly Next% 2

nike alphafly next% 2

Nike Alphafly Next% 2 technical details

  • Price: £269.95
  • Weight: 211g in a UK size 6.5
  • Size: 4.5-8.5
  • Special features: Full-length carbon fiber plate, Zoom Air units, full-length ZoomX foam

Why we loved them

  • Unmatched propulsion
  • Extremely comfortable

Why we didn’t

  • Stuck in inner sole
  • Better for narrow feet

What our testers said

“I am a total convert. The Alphafly offer a unique running perspective: it’s as though someone has strapped you into some tiny foot-shaped pogo sticks. Because as soon as you set off, you feel as though you have a distinct advantage over every other runner. You are propelled – literally propelled across the tarmac in a way in which no other shoe has matched that I’ve run in. One small niggle I had was that I couldn’t remove the inner sole, as is the case with the Tempo, and possibly all Nike high-end shoes.”

Best for speed on roads: On Cloudboom Echo

On Cloudboom Echo review

On Cloudboom Echo technical details

Price: £210

Weight: 190g

Sizes: 3-9

Eco credentials: 100% recycled polyester

Why we loved them:

  • Clever rocker design that propels you forward
  • Full carbon plate for maximum bounce
  • Really lightweight – you barely feel as though you’re wearing shoes

Why we didn’t:

  • At the upper end of the race shoe cost
  • A more firm ride than other carbon plate shoes that may not be suited to all runners or longer distances

What our testers said

ON shoes seem to always be a good fit for my feet, and these fit like a glove. The upper is a super-minimalist fabric design, so it can be adjusted using the laces to almost wrap around your foot – there’s not a lot of structure force your foot into. They have a boxy fit around the ankle that I wasn’t sure about when I first put them on, but it caused no problems when running.

For the first run, I was doing sprinting intervals, and they performed perfectly. I really noticed the difference in my pace, and it was actually quite difficult to slow down when it was time to do a slower or walking interval. They really kept my legs moving, thanks to the carbon plate and rocker combo. I was worried they might be a little too peppy for my steadier, longer runs over the weekend, but they adapted really well. The whole ride felt smooth, not jumpy, and I really did feel as though I could keep up a faster pace with less effort than usual.

Want to know more? Read Kate’s full On Cloudboom Echo review.

Best for speed over longer distances: Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

saucony endorphin per 3 review

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 technical details

  • Weight: 258g
  • Sizes: 3-10
  • Drop: 10mm
  • Price: £155

Why we loved them

  • Great for energy return over longer distances
  • Very light
  • The outsole offers good grip on corners

Why we didn’t

  • They run a bit small – sizing up is recommended

What our testers said

When I first took them out of the box I was shocked by how light they felt and this is definitely noticeable on your feet too. The lightweight upper is barely noticeable and the foam beneath your feet is bouncy. They’re a great summer shoe – your feet aren’t going to get sweaty with so little fabric covering them. Running in them is really smooth with a seamless heel-to-toe transition.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say they’re really fast shoes! Partly the shoe is doing some of the work for you, that carbon plate and foam giving you a boost each step, and partly it’s encouraging you to push yourself a little more. It’s difficult to run at an easy effort in them because they’re almost taunting you to pick up the pace and then rewarding you with a big return on your energy investment. It made me really excited to see what would happen if I strapped them on for a race.

Want to know more? Read Laura’s full Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 review.

Best for carbon plates on a budget: Kiprun KD900x

Kiprun KD900x review

Kiprun KD900x technical details

  • Price: £129.99
  • Weight: 182g
  • Sizes: 4-8

Why we loved them

  • Comfortable enough for longer distances
  • Excellent first carbon plate shoe for everyday runners who are looking for some PBs
  • Designed to be long lasting
  • Great price point for a great shoe

Why we didn’t

  • Not quite as bouncy as other speedy shoes
  • Took a little while to break in the fit
  • A little firmer underfoot than other carbon plate shoes we’ve tried

What our testers said

I’ve spent my summer testing carbon plate shoes (yes, I’m the luckiest gal out there!). I know that these kinds of faster shoes can sometimes feel a bit firm and also unstable, especially compared to the comfortable likes of HOKA or Brooks.

The KD900x felt much more like a trainer to me than some of the others I’ve tried. They gave me some serious energy return, but it didn’t bounce me wildly forward as I walked to the start of my runs. I think this makes them a great option for runners who have never tried carbon plates before and are a bit nervous of the more extreme styles.

I could feel the energy return as soon as I set off on my first run in these. The carbon plate and the VFoam gave my legs a lovely extra kick of energy with every step, without affecting my stride. I was also really impressed with the grip on this shoe, especially as we weaved through pedestrians on a drizzly London day. If you’re a runner who has fancied buying a super shoe but hasn’t known where to start, I’d say that these are perfect for you. They have a great price point and offer all of the benefits of a carbon plate shoe, without needing a more technical running style.

Want to know more? Read Kate’s full Kiprun KD900x review.

Best for wider feet: CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel

CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel test run

CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel technical details

Price: £220

Weight: 176g

Drop: 10mm

Sizes: 3-9

Why we liked them

  • super lightweight
  • really responsive
  • helped us get that PB!

Why we didn’t

  • loose fit around the upper that may feel uncomfortable for some runners

What our testers said

These shoes are SO lightweight. They’re also really comfortable to wear. They have good cushioning in the heel, especially considering that they are so light.

The carbon plate technology optimises your speed, giving you plenty of energy return. I certainly noticed that the propulsion was excellent. I ran in these along the seafront over lots of different distances, and really enjoyed wearing them. The responsiveness of these shoes was impressive and they lived up to their promise of speed. I got my best 5K time since 2019 while testing these!

Want to know more? Read the full CTM Ultra Carbon Race Rebel review.

Best for speedy trail running: Saucony Endorphin Edge

Endorphin Edge review

Saucony Endorphin Edge technical details

  • Price: £200
  • Weight: 221g
  • Sizes: 3.5-10
  • Lugs: 4mm
  • Eco credentials: vegan & includes recycled materials

Why we loved them

  • Very comfortable considering the carbon plate
  • Mudguard stopped dirt and mug from clinging to them
  • Good energy return
  • The colour!

Why we didn’t

  • Not quite as much energy return as other carbon plate trail running shoes – though this may suit some runners
  • The grip wasn’t enough on a slippy concrete section

What our testers said

I found these shoes more comfortable than other carbon plated shoes that I’ve tried, which was especially valuable on hardened earth. They also handled uneven ground well, not being too firm underfoot. I think this is due to the plate being three-quarter length, which gave the shoe more flex.

Another thing I was really impressed by was how they handled water. They’re not waterproof on the top, so my feet got wet pretty quickly on both the light and heavier rain days. But thanks to their mesh design that aids evaporation, my feet were dry again super quickly.

These shoes offered good grip and they have a mudguard, which left them pretty clean during and after all of the runs.

They gave a nice energy return that kept my legs moving and helped me to feel really light on my feet. They felt like they offered a solid base to tackle any terrain.

Want to know more? Read Kate’s full Saucony Endorphin Edge review.

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