Is It 'Cheating' To Always Run in Carbon-Plated Super Shoes? (2023)

If you’re used to regular-old trainers, running in shoes with a carbon plate can feel like you’re flying. It's no surprise that the shoes have exploded in popularity in recent years, with most running brands offering their own version: There’s the Nike Alphafly and Vaporfly, the Hoka Rocket X, the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3, the Saucony Endorphin Pro, the Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro.

These next-gen sneakers have become the go-to racing shoes for elites and serious amateurs alike. And it’s easy to see why: Carbon shoes make running fast feel easier; like you have mini-trampolines on your feet propelling you forward. A recent study found that, among runners who own carbon shoes, 91 percent reported that the shoes give them more confidence, and 100 percent of those who'd raced in them said the shoes helped their performance.

This effortlessly-fast feeling can be addictive—and can supposedly boost your running efficiency by up to four percent. (Hello, new PR!) And with the recent availability of training-specific carbon shoes on the market, it’s tempting to go all-carbon, all the time. Why wouldn’t you want to feel effortlessly fast on all your runs?

One potential reason: Shoes with carbon plates tend to be more expensive than other running shoes, typically costing between $200 and $300. (Though the training-specific versions are slightly more affordable, usually in the $150 to $250 range.)

They also don’t last as long. Whereas shoes without plates should carry you between 300 and 500 miles, carbon-plated shoes may not even have half that lifespan.

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And what makes carbon shoes so perfect for race day can make some runners feel like they’re “cheating” during training runs, like they aren’t working as hard as they would wearing non-plated shoes. (And isn’t working hard the whole point of training?) Plus, since the carbon plate is a relatively new technology in running shoes, there’s still lots we don’t know about what the shoes mean for our bodies long-term.

So can carbon shoes work as an everyday trainer? We broke down the pros and cons, plus what kinds of runners they’re made for and the best models for training runs.

How carbon-plated shoes work

Most carbon-plated shoes—what many call “super shoes”—combine a light, rigid, propulsive carbon plate with a thick stack of foam cushion. The plate rebounds as you run, acting as a shock absorber and helping you push off more aggressively with less effort, and the foam stack makes the ride feel cushy and bouncy.

The rigidity and propulsiveness of the plate means that most runners’ mechanics will change slightly when wearing these shoes. Your center of gravity will be further forward than usual, and your feet and ankles won’t have to work as hard. Some runners report that super shoes are easier on the legs, helping them to experience less delayed onset muscle soreness after tough speedwork sessions or races. But others who may not be used to the shoes may initially get more sore, since they are activating slightly different muscles as they run.

This also means that wearing super shoes too often could weaken your feet and ankles over time, as well as your proprioception, says Mark Mendeszoon, DPM, a podiatrist who owns two running shoe stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“They’re going to lose memory, things are going to atrophy,” he says. “So even though you may be running faster, you may be negating the natural motion of the foot and ankle biomechanics.” This could make your running suffer when you aren’t wearing super shoes.

Other potential risks include forefoot injuries, like blisters, calluses, traumatized toenails, and metatarsalgia (inflammation of the bottom of the ball of the foot), says Dr. Mendeszoon, since you’ll be spending more time than usual on the front of your foot (unless you’re a professional runner and perfect forefoot-striker!), and since super shoes often have relatively narrow toe boxes. Some experts believe that the shoes’ extreme energy return could overtax the tendons and ligaments in the midfoot, or lead to plantar fasciitis or bone stress injuries. And Lee Firestone, DPM, a podiatrist and certified running coach, says that the high stack in most carbon shoes could lead to instability, leaving you at a greater risk of ankle sprains.

Who carbon-plated shoes are best for

Deployed with strategy and intention, carbon-plated shoes can be a game-changing addition to an experienced runner’s shoe rotation. Yes, the word "experienced" is key. Dr. Firestone emphasizes that runners should already have strong running form—including a fast cadence, a slight forward lean, and a strong knee drive to avoid heel striking—in order to wear the shoes, as well as strong feet, ankles, and glutes.

That doesn’t mean you need to have perfect running form to wear carbon shoes, or that you can never heel strike at all. In fact, it’s totally normal for your form to relax slightly during easy or recovery runs, says Nike running coach Jes Woods, which likely means landing further back on your foot. “When wearing a carbon-plated shoe, that relaxed form is going to feel awkward and you’re no longer taking advantage of the shoe and what it’s designed to do,” she says.

Bottom line: Save carbon shoes for when you’ll be running fast enough for them to work their magic. And if you’re still a running newbie, get comfortable logging miles in traditional running sneaks before incorporating super shoes into your rotation.

But also know that some runners could be uniquely served by carbon plates, says Dr. Mendeszoon, such as those with bunion issues or arthritic toe joints, since super shoes don’t require the toes to push off as much as a regular shoe.

How often to wear super shoes

If you’re set on incorporating a carbon shoe into your training, first thing’s first: Get a fitting from a professional just like you would any other running shoe, says Dr. Mendeszoon. There’s lots of variation even amongst shoes with carbon plates, and someone at your local running store can help you find the best pair for your feet, stride, and running goals.

You’ll want to build miles slowly and gradually in carbon shoes to get used to the propulsive feeling and the different pressure points on your feet, says Dr. Mendeszoon. “It takes a little while because the shoes aren’t going to have the same amount of forgiveness,” he says. Start with shorter efforts, and work towards wearing them occasionally for speed-focused runs like interval work, hill repeats, and tempo runs. That way, you’ll wear them enough to be used to the plates when race day comes around, but not so often that you’re overly reliant on them.

There’s also the psychological component of training in carbon shoes: For one, they could trick you into running faster than you need to be (another reason to avoid wearing them on easy runs). Dr. Mendeszoon points out that they could also tempt runners into thinking they can run fast on race day without doing the proper training—a recipe for a disappointing race or, at worst, an injury.

The best carbon-plated shoes for training

If you’re planning to wear super shoes on race day but don’t want to wear them out beforehand, you may want to opt for an in-between to get used to running in a carbon plate. These training-oriented options are typically more durable and more comfortable than racing shoes. And often, brands make their training carbon shoes with similar features to the racing versions for an easy transition come race day.

Nike Zoomfly 5 — $160.00

A more durable sister shoe to Nike’s Vaporfly and Alphafly, the Zoomflys feel more responsive and more stable than those lighter, faster shoes, but still with enough energy return to give your speedwork a boost. Woods especially recommends them for tempo runs, and long runs where you’re practicing some race pace, since the shoes are sturdy enough to get you through high mileage but propulsive enough to make those long stretches at an uncomfortable pace feel less like a slog.

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New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer — $180.00

For a super-cushioned option, there’s New Balance’s SuperComp Trainer, which boasts a whopping stack height of 47mm at the heel and 39mm at the forefoot (this means they are technically not race-legal). Some runners may find them overly bulky, but others compare them to running on bouncy pillows, with the added stability of denser foam and a wider midsole than a typical racing shoe. Chris Morfesi, New Balance’s senior product manager, recommends them for long runs and tempo runs, but suggests opting for a lighter shoe for shorter, faster efforts.

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Hoka Bondi X — $215.00

The carbon-plated version of Hoka’s much-beloved Bondi, the X version maintains the same plush, cushioned feeling, with added propulsiveness from the plate and extended rocker bottom. The design is ideal for distance training efforts, according to HOKA’s director of performance product, Rebekah Broe.

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Still, you shouldn’t completely save your race day super shoes for the big event: Just like any racing shoes, make sure they’ll work for you by wearing them on a few training runs pre-race. For a marathon, Dr. Firestone recommends wearing them about three times: A short run to start, a workout, and a long run. He believes that just like you wouldn’t carb-load before all of your long runs, wearing carbon shoes minimally before race day will help you feel extra-fast when it counts.

“Don’t think of it as cheating,” he says, “Think of it as being able to maximize the energy that your body produces to make you a more efficient runner on race day.”

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Is It 'Cheating' To Always Run in Carbon-Plated Super Shoes? (5)

Tags: Fitness Tips, Footwear, Running, Running Tips, Sneakers

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How many miles can you run in carbon plated shoes? ›

Designed with durability in mind, the Hyperion Elite 2 will last anywhere between 200-400 miles, giving you the premium speed of a race shoe and the endurance of an everyday trainer.

Do you need to break in carbon plated shoes? ›

Well, the shoes don't need time to break in, they are good to go out of the box.

Should I run in super shoes? ›

An independent study published in 2022 by Joubert compared different brands of super shoes and found that the Nike Vaporfly improved running economy by about 2.7 percent at speeds of 16 kilometers an hour (or 6:02 mile pace) compared to a control shoe.

What are the cons of carbon plate shoes? ›

While carbon running shoes have many potential benefits, they are also drawbacks. One downside is their cost, as carbon running shoes are more expensive than traditional running shoes. Additionally, the durability of carbon running shoes may be reduced due to the stress on the carbon plate.

Can I train in carbon plate shoes? ›

They are an obvious choice for race day, but we recommend wearing carbon-fibre running shoes during your shorter, quicker efforts, like intervals, hill sprints and general speed work. You can also use them during tempo runs, especially when you're practicing your race pace.

Do carbon running shoes make a difference? ›

Another study also demonstrated more than a 4% increase in running economy when wearing carbon fiber running shoes. What is this? Practically, this improvement is said to correspond to at least a 2% improvement in performance time. While this may not sound like much, it can actually be pretty significant.

Should I train in Vaporflys? ›

Running in a high-efficiency shoe like the Vaporfly means less wear and tear on the body, helping you perform your best during key workouts. You'll still need an adequate recovery shoe in your rotation, but we strongly recommend lacing up your Vaporflys for speed workouts and tempo runs to reap major training benefits.

Do you need to break in Vaporflys? ›

If you are looking to run a race in something like the Vaporfly, Steve Crnic from Brooklyn Running Co. suggests to start breaking them in about 2 weeks before a race in your final weeks of training before wearing them on race day.

How many miles can you run in Vaporfly? ›

This shoe is meant for marathons but not training for marathons. I would say this shoe can last about 4 to 5 marathons which is ~200-250 miles.

Should you train in supershoes? ›

Using super shoes for only hard efforts can also result in shorter recovery periods between workouts. Since the shoes are designed for you to use less energy, you will still be getting a great aerobic workout without straining your muscles and legs as much as you would in regular running shoes.

How much faster are carbon shoes? ›

“Maybe two or three seconds per kilometre,” Hunter states. “A couple of seconds could be very meaningful to some runners, but there isn't more than that.” The technology of racing flats before carbon shoes wasn't far behind, and runners were still breaking world records in flats.

Do super shoes give regular marathoners a performance boost? ›

Super shoes allow you to run faster with less effort. That's the key benefit of the carbon plates. They essentially act as a spring to help propel you down the road and thus require less of your own muscular effort to do so. The result is lower energy output at a given pace.

Is it bad to run in carbon shoes? ›

Running in a carbon plated shoe with a high stack and spring-like foam will cause biomechanical adaptations which sports scientists speculate can lead to muscle ache and potential injury.

Are carbon shoes better for knees? ›

This study found that placing a full carbon plate in a shoe reduces the amount of work at the knee joint and places that work back into the foot.

Can you wear carbon plated shoes on treadmill? ›

A treadmill-friendly running shoe still needs to be firm, stable, and grip well. A carbon-plated shoe is definitely not the ideal shoe for a treadmill–they may deserve a place in your shoe rotation, but not at the gym.

Do carbon plated shoes help slow runners? ›

Carbon-plated shoes could make someone run faster as a result of increasing energy return, but also by reducing the rate of fatigue.

Can you train in Hoka carbon? ›

The HOKA Carbon X 3 is a maximally cushioned, hyper-responsive shoe designed for long-distance racing and up-tempo training.
HOKA Carbon X 3 vs Carbon X 2.
Tech SpecsHOKA Carbon X3HOKA Carbon X2
UseRacing, daily trainingRacing, daily training
3 more rows
Apr 28, 2022

Do carbon shoes help plantar fasciitis? ›

They are effective in managing turf toes, plantar fasciitis, metatarsal and stress fractures, etc. Carbon Fiber Inserts are the best materials when the foot needs maximum support. They are more than two times more rigid than steel inserts.

Is a lighter running shoe better? ›

Down to a Science

The appeal of lightweight shoes is simply better running performance that feels more effortless. Carrying less weight on your feet can result in less energy expenditure and improved form and biomechanics, which similarly boosts stride economy and efficiency.

How much difference do vaporflys make? ›

An analysis of nearly half a million marathon and half marathon times logged between 2014 and 2018 found that runners wearing Vaporflys ran between 3% and 4% faster than similar runners wearing other shoes.

Are Vaporflys for everyday use? ›

Vaporfly Mode

It actually feels like you're cheating when you run in them because of that plate. For that reason, these sneakers actually should be worn for everyday use and walking.

Can I use Vaporfly for everyday running? ›

Nike claims a carbon fiber plate in the sole helps propel you forward. The shoes are made with incredibly lightweight and advanced materials. Vaporfly shoes are not designed for every day use. You should only wear Vaporflys for racing, as they only last about 250 miles per pair.

Can I run in Vaporflys on the track? ›

The shoe works well at all paces. You can take them out for your easy long runs, wear them for your track workouts and they will not let you down. However, I feel the shoes perform for what they are designed to be at paces faster than 5:00/km.

Do Vaporflys hurt calves? ›

If you've never run in the Vaporfly, it's important to work into them slowly. Since they are relatively unstable and emphasize the Achilles, you might find yourself sorer in the calves or Achilles.

Do carbon plated shoes make you faster? ›

Therefore, carbon-plated shoes could make someone run faster as a result of increasing energy return as well as by reducing the rate of muscular fatigue. Thus, in theory, these shoes will help athletes arrive at the most fatiguing stages of running races with less soreness in their muscles and more energy remaining.

Can you wear Vaporflys on the treadmill? ›

Running economy (RE) is defined as the oxygen consumption (VO2) at a given running speed. The Nike Vaporfly line of racing shoes, which includes more compliant and resilient midsole foam and a carbon-fiber plate, have been shown to improve RE during treadmill testing.

Can you run on grass with Vaporfly? ›

The traction performed great on all surfaces. One of my runs on grass, it was pouring. I was practicing my cross country course, and surprisingly only fell once in the mud. That's great for a road marathon shoe in slick conditions.

Will Vaporfly make me run faster? ›

Several studies have also shown that the stride length with the Vaporfly increases slightly(partly due to the spring action and the height) , which also has a positive effect.

Can you run a marathon in Vaporflys? ›

It allows the Vaporfly Next% 2 to be one of the lightest racing shoes on the market with enough cushioning for a full marathon. The midsole of the Alphafly Next% 2 is also made of ZoomX foam but it also has the two Zoom Air pods in the forefoot which add extra cushioning and extra spring to each toe off.

Do super shoes help slow runners? ›

A new study suggests that slower runners may benefit less from “super shoes,” such as the Nike Vaporfly, than faster runners. “Super shoes” — high-tech sneakers that companies claim help wearers run faster — have taken over the running world.

Is it OK to walk in training shoes? ›

Typically, training shoes will be best served for casual walking if you want to use your training shoes for walking. If you plan to log serious miles in your shoes, then you may want to explore shoes that are more specific to walking.

Is it OK to train in racing shoes? ›

Although research is lacking so far, some elite and age-group athletes suggest training too many days a week in carbon-fiber racing shoes can lead to numbness in the forefoot, strained calf muscles, and Achilles tendons, and stress reactions in the plantar tissue under the feet.

Do carbon wheels make you faster? ›


Because they are lighter, carbon wheels reduce the effort you need to make to reach higher speeds on straights, whether on road cycling or even in MTB. Being more aerodynamic, they are able to provide better performance, less effort and friction while achieving better results and less energy spent by you.

What shoe has the lowest carbon footprint? ›

Footprint, which only emits 2.94kg of CO2e per pair. Asics, however, has just taken the title with the Gel-Lyte III CM 1.95, a shoe with the lowest carbon footprint ever achieved in a commercial sneaker. The Gel-Lyte III CM 1.95 has been in the works for more than a decade.

Do people actually run in ultra boosts? ›

The answer is yes. Built on runners' insights, their Boost technology promises epic energy in every stride. Fast forward a few years and Ultraboosts are still front of mind. Runners are clicking 'add to cart' so they can secure a pair, get in their miles and round off their athleisure look.

What makes elite runners so fast? ›

Elite runners have a strict training regimen that will gradually build up their tolerance to the longer runs. Plus, they run very frequently (often 5 to 6 times per week). The average runner, on the other hand, may run a lot more when the weather is nice, or when they have more time.

Can performance shoes be used for running? ›

Unless you're running a short distance less than one mile, it's generally not a good idea to wear training shoes for running. Not only can training shoes be heavier and more cumbersome, but they also don't have sufficient cushioning to absorb the shock of repeatedly pounding your feet into the pavement.

Are carbon plated shoes bad for knees? ›

Kim Hebert-Losier, a researcher in sports biomechanics at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, told Live Science that injuries in the knee, hip and back are also likely to occur in carbon-plated shoe wearers, as well as ankle sprains, due to the high stack height causing instability.

What shoes are banned in running? ›

The two most notable rules state that a runner cannot compete in any shoe with more than 40 millimeters of stack height (sole thickness) in the heel or more than one plate in the midsole. Coincidentally, Nike shoes were deemed legal under both of these standards.

Is too much cushioning in running shoes bad? ›

The study showed that highly-cushioned shoes come with a higher vertical average load rate and vertical instantaneous loading rate. Both of these issues promote overuse injuries like stress fractures and plantar fasciitis.

What is the purpose of carbon plate running shoes? ›

Carbon-plated racing shoes are designed to give you an extra edge on race day. The carbon-fiber plate is placed in the midsole and helps you run faster by returning energy and delaying fatigue. Paired with responsive foams and lightweight uppers, these shoes are designed to provide maximum comfort with minimal weight.

What are the best running surfaces for bad knees? ›

Flat grass is the best surface to run on because it has the least impact on your bones and joints, experts say. Its softness also causes your muscles to work harder, burning more calories and building more strength. Dirt, gravel and woodland trails are also good choices.

Why are Hoka sneakers so good? ›

When compared to other popular sneakers, Hoka's shoes have a wider toe box, which allows for a more comfortable fit for those with a broader forefoot and can minimize the risk of developing uncomfortable conditions, like bunions or ingrown toenails, he adds.

What is the best shoes to wear on a treadmill? ›

The best shoes for running on the treadmill, at a glance:
  • Best overall: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22, $108.
  • Most lightweight: HOKA Women's Rincon 3, $125.
  • Best for injuries: Saucony Kinvara 13, $90.
  • Most stylish: Lululemon Blissfeel Women's Running Shoe, $148.
  • Best for flat feet: Asics Women's GEL-Kayano 27, $160.
Dec 18, 2022

How long do Hoka carbon shoes last? ›

Pros. High mileage carbon shoes – 350 miles! Usually Carbon shoes last about 100-150 miles.

How many miles can you get out of Vaporfly 2? ›

This shoe is meant for marathons but not training for marathons. I would say this shoe can last about 4 to 5 marathons which is ~200-250 miles. This is much lower than other carbon fiber plate shoes and definitely lower than a trainer.

Can shoes last for 1,000 miles? ›

The general rule of thumb is that you should get between 800 to 1000 kilometers or 500 to 650 miles out of a pair of running shoes.

Are carbon-plated shoes good for slow runners? ›

Carbon-plated shoes could make someone run faster as a result of increasing energy return, but also by reducing the rate of fatigue.

Why do my feet hurt after wearing Hokas? ›

Hoka shoes have been reported to causing foot pain in some wearers because of their thick cushioning, which can cause strain on the tendons and ligaments of the feet.

How many miles can you run in Hokas? ›

The typical lifespan for a pair of running shoes falls in the 250-500 mile range, which in itself is very broad. Some people may find they get less than 200 and others more than 700.

Do Hokas wear out faster? ›

They were not worn every day, maybe every other day for an hour or two. They should not wear out this quickly, but in my experience, all Hokas do wear out this quickly. The sole material also compresses pretty fast, making them much less cushy in just a few months.

Should you wear Vaporflys on long runs? ›

Running in a high-efficiency shoe like the Vaporfly means less wear and tear on the body, helping you perform your best during key workouts. You'll still need an adequate recovery shoe in your rotation, but we strongly recommend lacing up your Vaporflys for speed workouts and tempo runs to reap major training benefits.

What is the best distance for Vaporfly? ›

The Nike Zoomx Vaporfly Next% 2 has been created to help you achieve your personal goals and break new records. This racing shoe is ideal for 10km to marathon distance and is available on our website in various different colours.

Do more expensive running shoes last longer? ›

Will a more expensive shoe last longer? The answer is not really, as the cushioning in most road running shoes is good for about 300-500 miles. A more expensive shoe will just give you better cushioning/protection over those miles than a mid/entry level shoe.

What running shoes last the most miles? ›

Here are our picks for the best long distance running shoes:
  • Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.
  • HOKA Clifton 9.
  • Mizuno Wave Rider 26.
  • ASICS GlideRide 3.
  • HOKA Speedgoat 5.
  • Brooks Glycerin 20.
  • Karhu Ikoni.
  • New Balance FuelCell TC.
Feb 22, 2023

Why do running shoes only last 500 miles? ›

You should generally replace your running shoes every 300–500 miles. That's because it's around this point that the midsole cushioning on most shoes will lose resiliency and stop absorbing shock as well as when newer, which can cause more impact on your muscles and joints.

What are the best running shoes for men banned? ›

As of the writing of this article, there are three banned running shoes on the market: the Adidas Prime X, New Balance Supercomp Trainer, and Asics Superblast. All three are banned from competition because they exceed the 40-millimeter stack height rule.


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