Not all super shoes are equal or remotely similar
By Brian Metzler
If you’re planning to run a race this fall, it makes sense to wear a pair of super shoes enhanced with carbon-fiber propulsion plates. They’re going to cost you a bit more, but it’s a no-brainer investment if you want to run fast.
But which shoes are best for you? Like snowflakes and microbrewed IPAs, no two are remotely alike. Some feel extremely soft and bouncy, while others feel relatively firm and rigid. Some work better with a compact gait, others work better for a long, loping stride pattern. Taking the time to find the pair that works best for your style will go a long way in helping you optimize your performance in any race from a 5K to a marathon.
4 Tips to finding the super shoes for you
1. Try before you buy.
As with any kind of shoe, it makes sense to try on as many pairs as possible before you purchase. The best way to do that is to visit your local specialty running store, where you can do brief test runs with each shoe that should give you an indication of how each one feels. But you can also get expert insights and advice from a store’s shoe fitters to help narrow down your choices.
2. Don’t shop by brand or popularity.
Just because Eliud Kipchoge continues to lower his best marathon personal best while wearing a pair of bright orange Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% 2, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can. Yes, you might be able to, but you might be able to run even faster in another pair of shoes that are more conducive to your running gait. Making your choice based on a certain brand or the popularity of a certain shoe or its graphics is never a good idea.
3. Fit, feel and ride are most important.
How a shoe fits your foot is always the most important factor in selecting a new pair of running shoes, but with super shoes, how the shoe feels and how it rides are almost equally important. Even if two shoes fit your feet similarly, you’re likely to notice a decidedly different feeling as your foot rolls from heel to toe-off and thus, an entirely different ride sensation. The energetic pop of a shoe might be distinct as your foot transitions from midfoot to forefoot or it might come by way of a more muted rolling sensation as every shoe’s rocker geometry and foam responsiveness are tuned slightly differently.
4. Don’t stress about the price tag
Most super shoes have prices in the $200 to $275 range, but that’s a pretty big range. While it might be hard to avoid the sticker shock, try not to make your decision based on which shoe is cheaper. Trying to save $50 on a less expensive model could ultimately be a $225 mistake if the shoe you wind up buying just doesn’t work for you.
6 Carbon-Plated Racing Shoes to Consider
Here are six of the best (and fastest) road racing shoes available at stores this fall. There are several more from Skechers, Altra, New Balance, Craft, Atreyu and On, so be sure to shop diligently.
The Adizero Adios Pro 3 has a distinctly firm feeling and is considerably less bouncy and more accommodating compared to other modern racing shoes. The thick, featherweight Lightstrike Pro midsole foam platform serves up contoured support under the heel and arch before your foot rolls into the dramatic toe spring rocker shape under your toes when the foam finally gives way and compresses slightly. The biggest difference with this shoe is that it doesn’t have a full-length carbon-fiber plate embedded in its midsole, but instead it features a smaller plate in the back half of the shoe and tuned carbon-fiber rods embedded in the forefoot that mimic the toe bones in your feet. The result is a peppy, stable and propulsive sensation just before the final toe-off moment of a stride that helps promote a shorter stride pattern and a high-cadence gait.
Weights: 6.5 oz. (women’s 8), 7.9 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 6.5mm heel-toe drop (39.5mm in the heel, 33mm in the forefoot)
ASICS developed the Metaspeed Sky+ and Metaspeed Edge+ shoes to address two different types of stride patterns. Both have a full-length carbon-fiber plate embedded in a thick, responsive Flytefoam midsole and a lightweight, breathable engineered mesh upper, but aside from those aspects the shoes are entirely unique in how they ride. The Metaspeed Sky+ is meant to increase a runner’s speed and efficiency at race pace by extending stride length without increasing cadence. In other words, if your gait evolves into a long, loping stride pattern at faster paces, this would be a good shoe for you to consider. However, the Metaspeed Edge+ has a marginally higher heel-toe offset and a slightly firmer sensation for runners who tend to rhythmically increase their cadence without upping their stride length at race pace.
Weights: 6.2 oz. (women’s 8); 7.2 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (33mm in the heel, 28mm in the forefoot)
Weights: 6.4 oz. (women’s 8); 7.4 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (33mm in the heel, 25mm in the forefoot)
The Hyperion Elite 3 is great for the same reason the second edition was great, namely the combination of the light and lively nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole cushioning enhanced with a carbon-fiber plate. It retains the same rocker geometry with a quick transition point just after the midfoot (known as Rapid Roll Technology) that provides a uninhibitedly smooth and consistent rolling transition from heel to toe-off. Several key updates have made the Hyperion Elite 3 a significantly better shoe, including a new stretchy, breathable knit upper material, new and improved serrated laces, a new more breathable and less-unobtrusive, semi-gusseted tongue and a new overall aesthetic with a seafoam green color motif.
Weights: 7.0 oz. (women’s 8); 8.1 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm (35mm in the heel, 27mm in the forefoot)
The Carbon X 3 offers a more accessible approach to carbon-plated racing shoes, as its fit, feel, and ride caters to a wider range of paces from moderate to very fast. Just about any level of runner can benefit from it, but the key is running within the rhythm dictated by the distinct rocker geometry and the relatively firm and inflexible sensation it gives off. The two-level midsole consists of a resilient compression-molded EVA foam above the carbon-fiber plate and an injected rubberized EVA material below the plate that creates a balance of stability and responsiveness. The Carbon X 3 isn’t quite as light as most of the other modern marathon racers, but it definitely doesn’t feel heavy at faster speeds because of the rolling sensation and propulsive toe-off in every stride.
Weights: 6.6 oz. (women’s 8), 7.8 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm heel-toe drop (32mm in the heel, 27mm in the forefoot)
The shoes that Kipchoge wore to set a new world record in Berlin on Sept. 25 have more ZoomX midsole foam and two Zoom Air pods for improved responsiveness and heel-to-forefoot transitions. But it’s important to note that it has a considerably different design, feel and ride than its popular Vaporfly Next% 2 cousin. It feels less bouncy than the original Alphafly model, but it’s also much wider and therefore much more stable, too. Unlike the dramatic rocker sensation in Vaporfly shoes, it’s hard to feel the rocker in the Alphafly Next% 2. That’s because this shoe has a more flexible carbon-fiber plate and two Zoom Air units on the forefoot that store and return energy. The end result is a longer stride with a slower cadence, but a faster and more energetic ride.
Weights: 7.1 oz. (women’s 8), 8.3 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm heel-toe drop (40mm in the heel, 32mm in the forefoot)
The Endorphin Pro 3 has thickest stack of hyper-resilient PWRUNPB foam ever incorporated into a Saucony shoe (about 4mm thicker than previous Endorphin Pro shoes) and it also features a new, curvier carbon-fiber plate to provide the optimal spring and pop in every stride. It’s a light, soft and very bouncy long-distance racing shoe built on Saucony’s SpeedRoll technology—a combination of the high-end component materials of the and a unique rocker geometry that promotes forward propulsion and optimal energy return with the least possible energy output from the runner. The maximal midsole cushioning helps produce a smoother and less aggressive ride than the original Pro series shoes, but, even though it’s a bigger shoe than its predecessors, it’s actually about a quarter of an ounce lighter.
Weights: 6.2 oz. (women’s 8), 7.2 oz. (men’s 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 8mm heel-toe drop (39.5mm in the heel, 31.5mm in the forefoot)