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Carbon-plated running shoes - are they right for you?

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There are many running shoes with plates these days. Until recently, the plate was found almost exclusively in modern racing shoes, aka “supershoes”, high stacks, next generation midsoles and rocker models, and is now widely used in marathons and half-his marathons. But plates are becoming a core component of short-distance racers, lightweight models, trail shoes, and even everyday trainers. And the plate-in-it trend could accelerate.

Is this a good trend for the average runner? Here’s what the experts have to say about why it’s happening and whether you should be running more in plated shoes.

Why and What Are Running Shoe Plates?

Running shoes with plates are nothing new. Sprint spikes have long included plates, with Adidas and Fira offering road racing shoes with plates over 15 years ago. Like modern versions, the plates on these shoes are designed to act as stiff levers that propel the runner faster through the gait cycle. Yes, it’s designed to protect against pain-inducing footsteps, not for speeding on gravel.)

The popularity of the current plate began in 2016, when select Nike runners began competing in prototypes of what would later become the Vaporfly 4%. . A high-stack he midsole of lightweight, soft, energy-returning foam that nearly every brand offers today. A plate that provides stability and propulsion. A rocked shape instead of flat allows you to roll across the foam more quickly. The popularity of those shoes has led to the current trend of plates appearing in models designed for non-marathon purposes.

Before looking at the latest developments, it’s important to remember two important things about the latest plated running shoes. First, just like there are many types of shoe midsoles, there is no one-size-fits-all plate.As runner’s world Deputy Test Editor Jeff Dengate recently wrote: Some use partial plates, carbon fiber rods, or plates that make the shoe bend in a certain direction. A recent article on the plate details the variations offered by one of his carbon fiber his plate suppliers. Some newer models incorporate plates made out of non-carbon fibre.

Second, plates are just one of the three core elements of modern shoes that include them. The next-generation midsole that wraps around the plate makes a big difference in softness and height. There is also great variation in the shape of the plated shoes. Some have a large upward curve in the front of the shoe and a violent toe spring that starts past the ball of the foot, allowing for quick toe-off at a faster pace. , has a slight slope that starts near the midfoot for a smoother, more gradual transition through the gait cycle. Finding plated shoes that meet your needs and goals can be difficult.

plate growth

The elite women of the 2022 Boston Marathon and their plated shoes.

Derek Cole

If the prototype Super Shoe was made for marathon racing, one of the main variations the brand offers is a plated training companion. For example, Saucony’s Endorphin includes Pro and Speed. The Pro is a carbon fiber plated racer, while the Speed ​​is a slightly similar looking lightweight trainer with a slightly lower stack height and nylon his plates. This year we’ve also seen more trail shoes with carbon fiber plates like the Hocatekton X and plated low stacks aimed at 5K/10K outings like the New Balance Super Comp his Pacer and Nike Streak Fly his racing shoes .

But to see what really happens when it comes to plates, consider Skechers’ current lineup. Of course, there are also plated racing shoes, most notably the Speed ​​Freek. The Speed ​​Freek is a high-stack marathon model with carbon fiber plates and a free-form spell. But there are also three training shoes with plates. The Max Road 5 is the brand’s mega cushion model. The evolution from version 4 to 5 adopted his carbon-infused H-shaped plate. It’s designed to give you more stability at slow paces and a little help on your toes at fast paces. The Razor Excess 2 also has a carbon-infused plate. The original version of this lightweight trainer had no plates. As you might expect, there is also persistence, a new daily mileage model with carbon-infused plates. Perhaps most importantly, it costs $115, about half the price of a regular Super shoe.

We expect to see more products like this from all brands, especially from 2023, said Joe Rubio, CEO of online store Running Warehouse.

“There are a lot of supercritical foam and plate shoes in China at ridiculously low prices,” says Rubio. “Some stink, some are very good and cheap. My guess is that the next wave will be all the super foam and plates and rockers you see in regular old running shoes at an affordable price. If you can get super foam, rocker and plates in a $140 shoe from one of the big 7 brands, here’s the big one: experience it once, almost every run. It will become the standard for shoes.”

In other words, the line between “super shoes” and “regular running shoes” will continue to blur, if not completely disappear. Rubio says this next-generation shoe plate will be made of something other than carbon to keep weight and cost down without compromising performance.

Need to step up to the plate?

When considering whether to add one or more plated shoes to your collection, remember that running shoes are tools. Ideally, the running shoes you own should be designed for a specific task, even if that task is general work like everyday use. Historically, one of the primary uses of plated shoes has been to help you run faster. However, as the plate extends to models other than racing shoes, the plate’s potential uses expand.

“Firm rocker-bottom shoes have been shown to help improve gait on many types of feet,” says a physiotherapist who has worked with many companies in designing and testing shoes. “People with stiff feet, bunions, grass toes, or plantar fasciitis are better equipped with well-designed rocker than the ‘standard’ running shoe,” says Geoffrey Gray, president of Heeluxe. You may have a better experience with plated shoes.

Andrea Myers, physiotherapist and Doctors of Running contributor, says: [at the base of the big toe] Due to the stiffness of the plate and rocker sole, you may benefit from training in supershoes, but this will depend on your specific shoe geometry. A shoe with a lot of forefoot rocker with a very upturned front of the shoe is not suitable for a shoe with a low initial MTP extension.

“Similarly, runners with limited ankle dorsiflexion range of [i.e., pointing your toes toward your shin] You may benefit from shoes with plates and heel bevels. This reduces the amount of dorsiflexion required during the stance phase, helping runners transition quickly from heel to forefoot,” says Myers.

plated shoes

New Balance’s Fuelcell Pacer features a carbon plate.

Trevor Raab

How nice! However, Myers warns: Due to the interplay of plate, foam, and rocker geometry, platehi shoes may move runners into hip extension faster than shoes without these features. This can put a lot of stress on your glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. ”

Gray recommends rotating multiple models (plated and non-plated) to provide a variety of stimulation and reduce the risk of injury. In his now-famous 2013 study, runners who wore three or more models had a higher injury rate in the 22-week study than runners who did nearly all their runs in one model. I found him 39% lower. Think of plated shoes as a potentially useful addition to your toolbox, rather than an excuse to throw away the designs and principles that have served runners for years.