Clinical Analysis of Running, Running Footwear, and Injury Prevention/Performance. The Doctor(s) of Running, using knowledge of human movement, clinical biomechanics and performance to bring you cutting edge reviews, science and knowledge.

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Carbon Fiber Super Shoe Comparison 



   The current trend in racing shoes has been toward super foams and carbon fiber plates. Although plates have been used in the past, their popularity has surged. A new age of fast shoes has come about and now a variety of companies have released their products (some in small batches). For the first time (almost ever) there is an interest from the general public (and not just the competitive runners) in finding the fastest shoe to get them across the finish line. We at Doctors of Running thought it would be helpful to have a guide to all the current models to help you choose if and which one may be right for you.

Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper (FULL REVIEW)



Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 6.0 oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height: 23mm / 19 mm
Drop: 4 mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Racing Flat

    The Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper features a H-shaped carbon fiber plate, a snug but very lightweight upper and full HYPER BURST cushioning. The Speed Elite is the lightest member of the super shoe category, yet still remains a versatile shoe. The H plate and HYPER cushioning do allow for fast paced runs at 5k pace and below, while the HYPER cushioning allows for the maintenance of consistent paces up to the marathon. For those looking for the lightest weight with a snug upper, great ground feel but really great cushioning, the Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper should be on your try on list.

Saucony Endorphin Pro (FULL REVIEW)



Specifications (per Saucony)
Weight: 7.4 oz
Stack Height: 35.5 mm / 27.5 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Marathon Racing Shoe

   The Saucony Endorphin Pro is the goldilocks of this group of shoes. The PWRUN PB peba sole combined with the Speed Roll creates a very smooth ride that will carry you for miles. The PWRUN PB peba sole is not the softest or the firmest of the group but sits in the middle with great rebound and slightly firmer cushioning than ZoomX or HYPER. The sole really comes to life when you pick up the pace as the Speed Roll technology really works well to keep your hips forward and a high turnover. The upper is extremely comfortable and fits a little wider than the rest group (so some may need to lace lock the shoe). Given the smoothness of the ride and responsive sole, the Endorphin Pro will work best from 10k to full marathon distances (although I have won a 5k in them). Best for long miles when you are trying to maintain a pace, the Endorphin Pro can go as fast as you want, but gets additional points for being one of the more comfortable fitting and riding shoes of this group.

Nike Vaporfly Next% (FULL REVIEW)



Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 6.6 oz
Stack Height: 40 mm / 32 mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Racing Flat

   The Nike Vaporfly Next% is the current version of the original super foam carbon fiber racer, the Nike Vaporfly. The ZoomX foam is the softest by far of the shoes listed here. The upper is a thin yet strong vaporweave mesh that holds the foot well, yet can crinkle and cause pressure points. There is a thick heel counter in the back that provides decent lock down. The full length carbon fiber plate is aggressive but is offset by the softer cushioning. Many will find this shoe best for 10k to full marathon, although is aggressive enough to be used in 5k races (the 5k road world record was set in this shoe). For those that like a soft and bouncy ride that have very stable mechanics, this is the classic distance racer you should look for.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% (INITIAL REVIEW)



Specifications (per Nike)
Weight: 7.4 oz
Stack Height: not provided
Drop: 4mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Marathon Racer

   Although not widely available to the public yet (except on ebay for >$500), the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% made its debut at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials. This shoe is by far the most cushioned and protective shoe of the bunch. With the most stack height of any of the shoes, the thickest carbon fiber plate and two Air pods in the forefoot, this shoe will provide the most protection over long distance racing. Thanks to its size, it can be a little clunky over shorter distance races and is best used for the half to full marathon distances. The upper is the most breathable with an Atomknit upper and it also fits a little on the wider side (most people are sizing down a 1/2 size). However, those with stability needs should be cautious given the tall stack height.

Brooks Hyperion Elite (FULL REVIEW)



Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 6.9 oz
Stack Height: 33mm / 25mm
Drop: 8 mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Racing Flat

    The Brooks Hyperion Elite is the firmest and most stable of these shoes. With a firm DNA ZERO midsole, an aggressive toe spring and a very evident propulsive plate, the Hyperion Elite may be best for shorter distances from 5k to half marathon. The upper has a little more room than others, yet breathable and supportive with structure only in a few places (toe guard and very thin strip of a heel counter in the rear) featuring a snug heel and midfoot and wider forefoot. The ride is fast and features the most prominent feeling plate of this category.  The plate also contributes to one of the most stable rides of these shoes along with a few other features that provide very mild stability. The firmness may limit the versatility of this shoe to shorter races for most people. For those looking for a firm and aggressive racing shoe, the Brooks Hyperion Elite may work best for you.

Hoka Carbon X (FULL REVIEW)


(Note: We are aware of the recently released Hoka Rocket X. We have not had the opportunity to test this shoe at this time and have not tested the Carbon Rocket either).


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 8.8 oz
Stack Height: 35mm / 30 mm
Drop: 5mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Lightweight Trainer / Marathon Racer

   The Hoka Carbon X was included in this review as it has been seen frequently on the feet of elite Hoka athletes. For those looking for a less aggressive racer/trainer, the Hoka Carbon X offers a gentle transition into this footwear category. Featuring a special plate designed for efficiency and stability, the Carbon X can pick up the pace, but is limited due to its weight to long distance racing, workouts and training miles. The Carbon X has the most forgiving ride of the above mentioned shoes and features a comfortable and breathable upper that should work for a variety of people. For those looking for a shoe that doubles as a training shoe yet can still pick up the pace, the Hoka Carbon X is worth a look.

CONCLUSION

  The above shoes are only a taste of what is to come. With Adidas still set to release the Adizero Pro, Asics giving sneak peaks of the Meta Racer, the Hoka Rocket X and New Balance Fuel Cell TC entering the market and far more updates coming, there is a great deal to be excited about. For those looking for a soft, super cushioned and bouncy ride, the Nike Vaporfly Next% is still on top when it comes to soft and fast shoes. For those looking for a lighter ride with a snugger fit that can handle 5k to marathon, the Skecher GOrun Speed Elite Hyper features the most traditional racing flat weight as the lightest of the group. For those looking for a cushioned and consistent ride, the Saucony Endorphin Pro has the best ride of the group with a little more stability than the softer shoes but definitely one of the more comfortable uppers. For those looking for maximal cushioning as high off the ground as possible yet still wanting an aggressive shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% is the tallest of the bunch with the thickest carbon fiber plate and two zoom air pods in the forefoot. For those looking for stability and a firm ride, the Brooks Hyperion Elite features the firmest and most aggressive ride of the bunch and may work better for most at shorter distances. Finally, for those looking to just get their feet wet in this category, the Hoka Carbon X has enough cushioning and design similar to a traditional trainer to not be a too aggressive jump with plenty of cushioning and smooth ride (although by far the heaviest of the bunch). There are far more shoes coming and we will update this list as they come. For now, remember that each person is different and thus may find a different shoe works better for them. Thanks to the incredible variety of the shoes above, that is possible. 

TESTER PROFILES

Dr. Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up.  IG handle: @kleinrunsdpt

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

***Disclaimer: Several of these shoes were provided free of charge and many were purchased for their full US retail price. This in no way affected the honesty of this review. The Saucony Endorphin Pro, Nike Vaporfly Next%, Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% and Brooks Hyperion Elite were purchased for their full US retail price. The Hoka Carbon X, Skechers GOrun Speed Elite Hyper and our recent pairs of Saucony Endorphin Pros were provided free of charge in exchange for reviews. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.


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