Best Carbon Plate Running Shoes 2024

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April 4, 2024: Nike Alphafly 3 US restock today at 10am ET

Best Carbon Plate Running Shoes 2024: Jump Menu

A selection of carbon-plated running shoes photographed from above arranged in circular fashion

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

The Quick List ↴
Best Overall: Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris
Best Nike shoe: Nike Alphafly 3
The OG super-shoe: Nike Vaporfly 3
Best For Beginners: Saucony Endorphin Pro 4
Best Value: Kiprun KD900X LD
Best Hoka Shoe: Hoka Cielo X1
Best Adidas Shoe: Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3
Best Asics Shoe: Asics Metaspeed Sky+
Best New Balance Shoe: New Balance FuelCell SC Elite v4
Best Puma Shoe: Puma Fast-R 2 Nitro Elite
Best Saucony Shoe: Saucony Endorphin Elite
Best Brooks Shoe: Brooks Hyperion Elite 4
Best Trail Shoe: Adidas Terrex Agravic Speed Ultra
Best Mizuno Shoe: Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
Best On Shoe: On Cloudboom Echo 3
Best Salomon Shoe: Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2
Shoes For Trail Running
Buyer's Guide

As recently as a few years ago, keen runners would line up at the start of races wearing stripped-back shoes that prioritized being lightweight above all else. The shoes would have just enough cushioning to make sure your legs didn’t fall off, but everything else was sacrificed.

These days, however, the preferred racing option for many is a shoe with an almost comically high stack of foam and a carbon plate in the midsole. Newer proprietary foams that are soft and springy but light allow manufacturers to cram a huge amount of cushioning into a shoe without making it too heavy to race in. This provides more comfort, so your legs are fresher in the closing stages of a race, which makes more of a difference the longer the event is. At elite level these shoes have led to records being broken; the same is true of PRs at amateur level.

After a couple of years in which the Nike Vaporfly line was the only show in town, every major brand now makes a carbon plate running shoe, though they vary in quality somewhat.   

How I Test Carbon Plate Running Shoes

You can trust Coach We give honest reviews and recommendations based on in-depth knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more about how we review and recommend products.

I am Coach’s main running shoe reviewer and, as an obsessive road racer, I love testing the best carbon shoes. I have a 5K PR of 15min 30sec and a marathon PR of 2hr 28min (both set in the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2). I’m constantly training and racing in attempts to better those times, which gives me plenty of opportunities to test carbon shoes.

I’m one of the few running journalists to have tested almost every carbon plate running shoe, which means I can compare each new release with the best options on the market. I aim to race, or at least do an all-out parkrun (which we all know is not a race but a friendly weekend run), in any carbon plate running shoe I review. I also put them to the test with fast training sessions on the track and road.

I’ve tested almost all the carbon plate shoes available (with the notable exception of the Adidas Pro Evo 1) and picked the best overall, along with the top racing option from each major brand below. This is because many brands now have more than one carbon shoe in their range. I’ve also linked to our longer reviews for each so you can dig deeper.

The Quick List

Here’s a brief run-through of the best carbon plate running shoes. Click on any shoe to jump to the full listing for more detail.

The Best Carbon Plate Running Shoes

Best Overall

Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Overall

Specifications

Weight: 6.6oz / 188g (UK 9)
Stack: 39.5mm heel, 34.5mm forefoot
Drop: 5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Light
+
Bouncy, comfortable foam
+
Great for any distance race

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited outsole coverage

After testing and loving the Nike Alphafly 3 I didn’t expect any shoe to impress me more in 2024, but the Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris has shot to the top of my carbon shoe rankings. It’s an outstanding racer for any distance thanks to its light design and bouncy midsole foam, and as a bonus is cheaper than other top shoes, including the Nike Alphafly 3.

Asics has updated the midsole foam compared with the Metaspeed Sky+, and the new FF Turbo+ material is lighter, springier and softer. The shoe feels light and aggressive for short reps and races, but then has the bounce and protection you expect from a modern super-shoe over longer distances. The Metaspeed Sky Paris is one of two carbon racers in the Asics range and is aimed at bounding runners, with the Metaspeed Edge Paris meant to suit high-cadence runners. 

Read more in my Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris review

Best Nike shoe

Nike Alphafly 3

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best overall

Specifications

Weight: 7.7oz / 220g (UK 9)
Stack: 40mm heel, 32mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightest Alphafly yet
+
Bouncy ride
+
Smooth transition onto toes

Reasons to avoid

-
One of the most expensive shoes

The Nike Alphafly 3 is the lightest, and best, version of the Alphafly. I prefer the ride feel of the Asics Metaspeed Sky Paris, but the Alphafly 3 is its equal in terms of performance, especially for the marathon. The ZoomX foam and Air Zoom pods in the midsole create a propulsive, efficient ride that makes holding your race pace feel effortless at times. I found the new continuous midsole resulted in a faster, smoother transition onto my toes compared with the Alphafly 2. It’s a terrific shoe for any kind of fast running and any event distance. I loved racing 5K and 10K in it, although I think it will shine even more over longer distances. 

Read more in my Nike Alphafly 3 review

The OG super-shoe

Nike Vaporfly 3 upper

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best for 5K

Specifications

Weight: 7.3oz / 206g (UK 9)
Stack: Not given
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and agile
+
Bouncy cushioning

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than the Vaporfly 2
-
Outsole isn’t durable

A lot has changed in the running shoe world since the Nike Vaporfly 4% launched in 2017. However, even as other brands have released their own super-shoes and Nike has brought out the Alphafly, many runners are happy to stick with the latest version of the original, and they’re not losing out on performance by doing so.

Given its light weight, the Vaporfly 3 has no right to be as bouncy and cushioned as it is, and it’s a phenomenal racing shoe for any distance. It’s more nimble, and narrower, than the Alphafly 3, and some runners may prefer the lighter Vaporfly for shorter events where it’s arguably the best shoe from any brand. I found the Vaporfly 3 outstanding when running the 2023 London Marathon in it, thanks to the extra cushioning Nike added when updating from the Vaporfly 2. It’s still an aggressive shoe because it tips you onto your toes, though my only complaint is that the thin outsole isn’t durable. It’s one to save for race day and key training sessions.

Read more in my Nike Vaporfly 3 review

Nike Vaporfly 3 Video Review

Best For Beginners

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best for beginners

Specifications

Weight: 8.2oz / 233g (UK 9)
Stack: 39.5mm heel, 31.5mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, rockered ride
+
Comfortable
+
Cheaper than other carbon shoes

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as bouncy as rivals
-
Heavier than previous model

If you’re new to running I’d avoid using a carbon shoe for your first races, since they’re expensive and can be unstable. However, if you’re a newer runner and decide you want the super-shoe boost, Saucony’s Endorphin Pro 4 is a great option. The ride is still fast, but the speed comes from a rocker that feels natural on the foot. The Pro 4 is more stable and accommodating for slower paces as a result.

It doesn’t have the bouncy feel of some super-shoes, and the presence of the more expensive Endorphin Elite in Saucony’s range may suggest the Pro 4 is a second-tier racer, but I found its performance to be up there with most carbon shoes. I also think most runners will find its ride more enjoyable than the Elite’s, which is pretty harsh for longer events in my experience. 

Another reason to consider the Endorphin Pro 4 for your first carbon shoe is that it’s cheaper than many rivals, especially in the US. While I think the Pro 4 is an upgrade on its predecessor, the Endorphin Pro 3 is also still a good option for beginners, and will now be popping up in sales more frequently.

Read more in my Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 review

Best Value

Kiprun KD900X LD running shoes

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best-value shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.1oz / 230g (UK 9)
Stack: 36.8mm heel, 32.8mm forefoot
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Good value
+
Bouncy, comfortable ride
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Upper caused discomfort
-
Not as propulsive as the best racers

Decathlon’s first attempt at a carbon racer—the Kiprun KD900X—was more of a durable fast trainer than a super-shoe for racing, but the KD900X LD is a considerable upgrade and worth considering as a cheaper alternative to the top shoes. The main update is the new VFOAM PLUS midsole foam, which is lighter and bouncier than the material used on the KD900X, and Decathlon has also lowered the drop of the KD900X LD to 4mm, adding more foam under the forefoot.

This makes the new shoe a lot more comfortable as well as lighter and springier. The KD900X LD is still not as propulsively fast as the best in the business, but it’s a cheaper alternative that you can use for races of any distance plus training sessions, since it seems a durable shoe.

I didn’t get on well with the upper, though, which has a plastic strip on the side that cut into my right foot on my longest run in the Kiprun KD900X LD. This hasn’t happened on my runs since, but it’s something to be wary of, especially if you are lining up a marathon. It’s also worth noting the KD900X LD comes up long—I’d go half a size down on your normal running shoe.

Read more in my Kiprun KD900X LD review

Best Hoka Shoe

Hoka Cielo X1

(Image credit: NIck Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Hoka shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.9oz/253g (UK 9)
Stack: 39mm heel, 32mm forefoot (men’s), 37mm heel, 30mm forefoot (women’s)
Drop: 7mm

Reasons to buy

+
Propulsive ride
+
Effective rocker
+
Comfortable over long distances

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than rival super-shoes
-
Weird laces

After lagging behind other brands’ racing options for a couple of years, Hoka now has two excellent carbon shoes in its range. The Hoka Rocket X 2 is lighter and nimbler than the Cielo X1, and a better option if you stick to 5K and 10K races, but the Cielo X1 gets my vote because of its phenomenally bouncy and comfortable ride. It’s one of the best marathon running shoes, rivaling the Nike Alphafly 3 for long-distance speed and comfort, and still works well over shorter distances. The downside of the Cielo X1’s highly cushioned design is that it’s heavier than most carbon shoes but on the run I didn’t feel that the weight held it back, especially at around marathon pace.

Read more in my Hoka Cielo X1 review

Best Adidas Shoe

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Adidas shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.7oz / 247g (UK 9.5)
Stack: 39.5mm heel, 33mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Springy, comfortable ride
+
Good for training and racing
+
More durable than others

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than others
-
Less suited to short races

The Adios Pro 3 is not the top racing shoe in the Adidas range any more. That honor belongs to the Adidas Pro Evo 1, which has already been used by elite athletes to set world records. However, the Pro Evo 1 is $500 in the US and £450 in the UK, it’s not at all durable, and  on the rare occasions it is on general sale only a few pairs seem to be available. It’s more of an elite-only shoe, in my mind, whereas the Adios Pro 3 is the best Adidas super-shoe for the mainstream.

It’s a particularly good option for the marathon, with the bouncy and comfortable midsole helping to protect the legs over longer distances, though I found the Pro 3 still felt fast over shorter events. That’s despite being heavier than most other super-shoes on this list. A word of warning on the fit: This shoe can be small and narrow at the forefoot, so try before buying if possible, or go a half size up.

Read more in my Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 review

Best Saucony Shoe

Saucony Endorphin Elite

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Saucony shoe

Specifications

Weight:: 7.7oz / 219g (UK 9)
Stack:: 39.5mm heel, 31.5mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Very fast ride
+
Light and agile
+
Bouncy PWRRUN HG midsole

Reasons to avoid

-
Firmer than other options
-
Very expensive

Saucony’s top racing shoe is firmer and bouncier than the Endorphin Pro 3, with the Speedroll rocker in the Elite creating a faster and more aggressive transition from heel to toe. It’s a remarkable shoe that’s a joy to run fast in, especially over shorter distances, but the ride is harsher than many carbon shoes and may prove too uncomfortable for many runners over the course of a marathon.

The other problem with the Elite is its price. Even for a carbon shoe it’s extraordinarily expensive. You can get brilliant carbon shoes that match the Elite for a lot less, so until it starts cropping up in sales it’s hard to recommend over the likes of the Nike Vaporfly 3 or Asics Metaspeed Sky+.

Read more in my Saucony Endorphin Elite Review

Best New Balance Shoe

New Balance FuelCell SC Elite v4

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best New Balance racing shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.6oz / 243g (UK 9)
Stack: 40mm heel, 36mm forefoot
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Bouncy midsole foam
+
Comfortable
+
Fast ride for longer races

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than rivals
-
Other racers are better for short events

New Balance has made significant changes to its top racer with each of the four generations released so far, and the SC Elite v4 is the best version of the shoe yet. That's mostly down to the new Peba-based midsole foam, which is bouncier than the materials used on the previous versions of the shoe. As a result the ride is more propulsive and the SC Elite v4 makes it feel easier to hold fast paces over long distances.

I found the SC Elite v4 at its best for long sessions during my testing and it's one I consider more of a marathon-focused shoe overall, since it's a bit heavy and not as nimble and aggressive as some rival shoes. It's still a speedy option for shorter events and interval sessions of course, but the forthcoming SC Pacer 2 might be the best New Balance shoe for 5K up to half marathon races when it launches later in 2024. 

Best Puma Shoe

Puma Fast-R 2 Nitro Elite running shoes in neon yellow Ekiden colorway on Tarmac

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Puma racing shoe

Specifications

Weight: 9oz / 255g(UK 9)
Stack: 40mm heel, 32mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Bouncy midsole foam
+
Great grip
+
Fast transition onto forefoot

Reasons to avoid

-
Heel design can irritate Achilles
-
Heavier than other super-shoes

Puma has more carbon shoes in its line-up than most brands. The Fast-R 2 is described as the propulsive racing option for powerful runners, while the Deviate Nitro Elite 2 is a lighter shoe that feels a bit more natural, if less bouncy, and the Fast-FWD is a more aggressive shoe designed for 5K and 10K events. 

Of the trio, the Deviate Nitro Elite 2 is the best value and one that will work for lots of runners, but for flat-out speed the Fast-R 2 impressed me the most. It's a strange-looking shoe, with its decoupled midsole and carbon plate that extends beyond the front of the shoe, but it delivers an incredibly springy and fast ride. It's a little heavy and the unusual ride will suit some runners better than others, but its lively bounce makes the Fast-R 2 an excellent marathon racing option in particular.

Best Mizuno Shoe

Wave Rebellion Pro

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Mizuno shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8.2oz / 233g (UK 9)
Stack: 39mm heel, 33mm forefoot
Drop: 6mm

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight 
+
Cushioned design
+
Bouncy ride
+
Great grip

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most stable shoe
-
Demands a particular running style

There are a lot of carbon shoes available and most follow a similar design pattern, which means it takes something special to stand out. The Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro has that something special. A unique design that delivers a bouncy, propulsive and comfortable ride and will help you speed around your races.

The heel-less rocker design works best for mid-forefoot-strikers, but even as a heel-striker I loved using it for fast runs of any length, even if it’s primarily pitched as a marathon shoe. It worked a treat during a 5K race in my testing. In the UK, the Wave Rebellion Pro is also a relative bargain with its low list price, and it’s often in sales with the second version of the shoe on the way soon.

Read more in my Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro review

Best On Shoe

On Cloudboom Echo 3

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best On shoe

Specifications

Weight: 7.9oz / 223g (UK 9)
Stack: 38mm heel, 28.5mm forefoot
Drop: 9.5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Pebax foam midsole
+
Comfortable, fast ride
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive, even for a super-shoe
-
Outsole durability 

The Cloudboom Echo 3 is a big leap forward for On’s super-shoes, and the first from the Swiss brand that I consider competitive with the best on the market. The new Peba-based midsole foam is springy and the pronounced rocker on the shoe—in combination with the carbon plate—provides a fast and propulsive ride for races of any distance.

The performance is excellent, though I believe the Cloudboom Echo 3 may get lost in the crowded carbon shoe market. This is due to both its high price and the fact that I’ve seen more wear on its outsole after 30 miles of running than on most super-shoes. I think it’s a great shoe, but I prefer options like the Nike Vaporfly 3, Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 and Asics Metaspeed Sky+—and they are all cheaper than the Cloudboom Echo 3.

Read more in my On Cloudboom Echo 3 review

Best Salomon Shoe

Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)
Best Salomon shoe

Specifications

Weight: 8oz / 228g (UK 9.5)
Stack: 37.5mm heel, 28.5mm forefoot
Drop: 9mm

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, springy ride
+
Peba-based midsole
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of grip
-
More expensive than rival carbon shoes

The S/Lab Phantasm 2 is Salomon’s best road-racing shoe, and the first carbon shoe from the brand that rivals the performance of the top super-shoes. To achieve this Salomon has introduced a Peba-based midsole foam to its range for the first time. This delivers a bouncy, fast ride that’s comfortable for longer events and hard training sessions, while being light enough to make the shoe suitable for shorter races too.

Ahead of my review, I used the S/Lab Phantasm 2 for a range of training sessions on the road and track, as well as a 5K race, and it impressed me every time. My main qualm is that the grip isn’t particularly good on wet paved surfaces, which is surprising given Salomon’s trail heritage. The price is also high given that Salomon has not been a go-to brand for road runners, and it makes it hard to recommend buying the shoe when you can get the Vaporfly and other more established options for less.

Read more in my Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2 review

More Road Running Shoes

New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 running shoe

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Specifications

Weight: 8oz / 228g (UK 9)
Stack: Not given
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, rockered ride
+
Springy midsole
+
Versatile racing option

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher price
-
4mm drop won’t suit everyone

The SC Elite V3 is billed as the long-distance racing shoe in New Balance’s line-up, while the SuperComp Pacer is the low-stack, short-distance option. However, the SC Elite V3 is the only true super-shoe in the line-up and would be our pick from New Balance for any distance.

With the third version of the shoe New Balance has created a faster, more aggressive ride thanks to the pronounced rocker shape. The SC Elite V3 is a great racing option for events of any distance – it feels nimbler and faster than the RC Elite V2 over 5K or 10K and is still cushioned enough for the marathon.

Read more in my New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3 review