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Road • July 5, 2022

10 Best Carbon Plated Racing Shoes for 2022

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We review a lot of shoes here at Believe in the Run. Not to play favorites, but we’d be lying if we said that taking carbon-plated racers out at fast paces isn’t one of the most fun things on our “to do” list. Since the boom of carbon use began, the running world has seen some impressive innovations in what a shoe can do and, more importantly, what a shoe can do for you. On the flip side, this is the most expensive tier of running shoes on the market.

It’s commonplace for carbon-plated racing shoes to retail for over $200, and the best of the best are approaching the $300 mark. Racing shoes are an investment in results, so it’s important to be confident not only in your purchase but also at the starting line. Here are our 10 favorite carbon-plated racing shoes with some quick thoughts from our team.

Oh, and yes, it counts as 10 shoes because the Edge+ and Sky+ are paired up, and so are the Takumi Sen 8 and Adios Pro 3.

The 10 Best Carbon Plated Running Shoes

• Nike Zoom Alphafly Next%

nike alphafly next

Price: $275

Get it before it goes. Our favorite racing shoe of 2021 (and ever) is still our favorite racing shoe of 2022, even after we tried out its successor (the Alphafly Next% 2). The changes seem minor in the new version, but they’re pretty significant as a whole. We prefer the first version on race day, which has more of that bounce we need when our legs get tired. Sure, the newest version is a bit more stable and we actually prefer the Atomknit 2.0 upper and improved tongue padding, but something about the ride lacks the magic of the original. It’s not a terrible shoe by any means and is easily better than most of the shoes on this list, but when it comes down to a clone vs. clone battle, we’re picking the Alphafly Next% 1.

The lighter weight, the carbon plate, the pure bounce sensation off the toe– it’s all there in the first version. You can get it at a significant discount now, so don’t wait until it’s too late.

Shop Nike Alphafly – Men Shop Nike Alphafly – Women

• ASICS MetaSpeed Sky+ and Edge+

asics metaspeed sky+ carbon plated running shoe

Price: $250

The carbon-plated running shoe game is a lot like a race. Only, instead of a finish line, everyone is trying to catch up to Nike. ASICS is doing a better job than almost anyone, and it’s back in the saddle with another round of the MetaSpeed Edge and Sky. We called the original MetaSpeed Sky as close to a Vaporfly as you could get, and the Sky+ is even better. It should really be called the Sky 2, though, cause there are plenty of changes afoot.

For starters, there’s more FlyteFoam Blast Turbo in both the MetaSpeed Sky+ and Edge+. Not a lot — remember, 40mm limit — but there’s more cushion for race day. Perhaps more importantly, ASICS retooled the carbon plate shape to better emphasize the strengths of each shoe. The Sky+ plate sits higher in the stack, which gives more compression and a higher bounce through the stride. The Edge+, on the other hand, has a much lower plate for more of a kick forward with less bounceback.

The changes still come down to whether you’re a cadence runner or a stride runner, but it’s tough to argue the results. Oh, and the Eugene Green colorway (as we’re calling it) is absolutely gorgeous for the World Athletic Games.

Shop ASICS – Men Shop ASICS – Women

• Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

saucony endorphin pro 3 carbon plated running shoe

Price: $225 (available 8/2)

Ooh look, a super shoe that I don’t just have to grab Thomas and Meaghan’s thoughts on. We might be sounding like a broken record, but this is the year that super shoes are catching up. The Endorphin Pro has always been just below the top tier of racers, with its firmer foam and slightly overbuilt upper, but not anymore. This is a true speedster, and it’s a full reboot from last year.

Above all else, Saucony kept the great upper from the Endorphin Pro+, which means this baby is super breathable. It’ll absolutely keep your feet cool, and the iridescent pink upper is one of our favorite colors of the year. There’s ample room for a variety of feet, and even Wide-Foot Jarrett got in on the fun. Saucony added extra foam to the midsole and made the platform wider overall for better stability — noticing a theme?

I know it’s tough to list price as a deciding factor when it comes to super shoes, but the Endorphin Pro 3 makes a good argument. It’s $25 cheaper than most other competitors ($50 less than the Alphafly), and it’s finally a bonafide race day pick. Like, we wouldn’t hesitate to put this in the top three race day shoes right now. As Steven Tyler put it, “Pink, it’s my favorite color.”

Shop Endorphin Series – Men Shop Endorphin Series – Women

• Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

adidas adizero adios pro 3 - both outsole

Price: $250

The Adios Pro has incrementally gotten better over the years and it all comes together (almost) in the Adios Pro 3. With a wider base, more foam in the forefoot, and a reconfigured Energyrods system, this thing is a bonafide racer. It’s more stable than last year’s version, which was precarious in any situation aside from turbo-blaster-full-speed-ahead mode. The toe-off feels more propulsive, despite the fact that the landing seems more stable and the foam a bit more comfortable. Thank you to whichever Adidas designer made sure an extra 2mm of height and higher drop made its way into this shoe.

Also, that Continental rubber outsole is straight-up black and neon green magic. No idea how it can grip so well, but it’s the best in the game.

All is not guns and roses, however– we did have some issues with the upper. Namely, that there’s too little structure, the tongue has a tendency to fold under itself, and the lacing is a Mensa-level brain teaser. If you figure it out, you should be good, but it is not a task for the weak at heart, or for jump-out-of-bed runners like me who don’t want to take 15 minutes to tie my shoes.

Shop Adios Pro 3 – Unisex

• Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2

nike vaporfly next 2 - best carbon plated racing shoe

Price: $250

The shoe that started the craze is still a gem, no matter how you cut it. For a pure racing shoe that will give you an undeniable edge without that teeter-totter feel of the Alphafly, there’s no better option than the Vaporfly Next% 2. More traditional than the Alphafly, you’ll often see it as the shoe-of-choice for elites on race day, including Eliud Kipchoge. The carbon plate, combined with the full bed of ZoomX, makes this girl sing at fast paces.

Lightweight with a snappy ride, the Vaporfly 2 gets you to the finish with legs that don’t feel beat up. Most of Nike’s changes for version two are in the upper, with a little more room in the toebox and a much more breathable design. The good news– you can often find this one on sale, so happy treasure hunting at your local Nike outlet.

Shop Vaporfly – Men Shop Vaporfly – Women

• Altra Vanish Carbon

altra vanish carbon side

Price: $230

Color us skeptics when Altra announced it was coming with a carbon-plated road racing shoe in 2022. But then we saw it at The Running Event and our interest was piqued. Then we ran in it, promptly went home, and refueled with a slice of humble pie. This is a very good racing shoe with some premium components. Namely, a Carbitex carbon-fiber plate (which utilizes an asymmetrical flex), supercritical EgoPro midsole, a more narrow toe box, and a rocker geometry. All in a pretty lightweight package.

Of course, Altra retains its zero-drop platform with a 34mm stack in both the heel and the forefoot. Significantly less foam than the Alphafly or Adios Pro (39mm), but it feels fast and bouncy nonetheless. Kudos to Altra for making it happen and for laying the groundwork for some exciting stuff in the future.

Shop New Balance – Men

Shop New Balance – Women

• New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2

new balance rc elite 2 - carbon plated racing shoes

Price: $230

Do we know when the Supercomp Elite 3 (the successor to the RC Elite 2) is coming? Yes, maybe, but not sure if we’re allowed to say. So for now, we’re going to have to settle for the RC Elite 2, which isn’t a bad thing. The short synopsis is that this is a fun and fast plated racer that feels good at easy paces and comes alive when you drop the hammer. The FuelCell cushioning is plush and the exaggerated plate helps the shoe propel you more aggressively than the original. No doubt this falls on the softer side of race day shoes, made for those of you who love that cush underfoot.

Last year, Meaghan felt that this was a competitor to the Nike Vaporfly NEXT% (the competition has tightened things up since then, but this still remains one of our favorite race-day options). It’s got the bounce and responsiveness of the Vaporly but comes with a better fitting upper. For those of you who fall into the wider foot category, you’re going to want to check this one out.

It’s such a great shoe that Ben Johnson, or Nike fanboy reviewer, wore this to a 2:38 PR in the marathon last May. When we say the results speak for themselves, well– they do.

Shop New Balance – Men

Shop New Balance – Women

• Brooks Hyperion Elite 3

brooks hyperion elite 3

Price: $250

If you want stability in a race day shoe, look no further than the Hyperion Elite 3. With a wide platform and a carbon-plated midsole, this offers a large landing zone while still giving you that roll-through and responsiveness courtesy of the rockered geometry of the shoe. Of course, the supercritical DNA Flash midsole provides solid energy return and durability, so if you’re looking for a racer to last long miles, then this could be your weapon of choice.

Do we love the knit upper? It’s not our favorite, especially in the event of a rainstorm, so consider that when purchasing.

Shop Hyperion Elite 3 – Men Shop Hyperion Elite 3 – Women

• Puma Deviate Nitro Elite

puma deviate elite nitro

Price: $200

This shoe “kind of” came out in 2021, meaning it was a real scavenger hunt to find a pair after Molly Seidel did a little thing called winning bronze at the marathon in the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, with all the supply chain and production issues, we really didn’t see this shoe come in a wider release until spring of this year. In fact, it’s still an issue as size runs sell out quite quickly.

It looks a lot more like your standard race day shoe — the supercritical midsole is in one piece, it’s supremely lightweight, the Olympic colorway is… colorful, you get the drift. It packs plenty of Nitro foam underfoot and the upper feels almost invisible. In fact, you can see your toes right through it.

While we wouldn’t put this on the top-tier of race day shoes, it is undeniably a fun shoe. We love wearing it for speed workouts and even in shorter races. But hey, Puma women have been wearing this to win and podium at a slew of marathons over the last year, so something must be working right. Right?

Shop Deviate Nitro Elite – Men Shop Deviate Nitro Elite – Women

• Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF

salomon phantasm cf best carbon plated racing shoe

Price: $225

We got our first taste of the Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF on Noah Droddy’s feet during the New York Marathon. Sure, the name is a mouthful, but the bright red colorway hits harder than Daredevil’s pipe across the cranium of a Hell’s Kitchen hoodlum.

Salomon gave its carbon-plated racing shoe a rocker (called R Camber) and added a composite carbon fiber plate for good measure. Is it technically cheating if we put a composite fiber shoe on our carbon plate list? Probably, but we don’t care. The Phantasm CF also has a feather-light upper, which is almost too cold on some winter runs. While this one may not have the trampoline-like bounce of an Alphafly, the rocker and the soft foam kept us rolling through strides.

One thing to point out: Salomon might need to dial in its fit a little bit, the shoe does tend to run on the long side.

Shop S/Lab Phantasm CF


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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Jon says:

    Um, there’s only 9 in the list 😉

  2. JaketheSnake says:

    The Alphafly should come with a disclaimer. If you are not a forefoot or mid forefoot striker, you’re going to have a bad time in these shoes. The density difference between the forefoot and the heel is an issue that no one is talking about. If you heel strike, which is perfectly fine, this will feel like a negative drop shoe and cause calf and hamstring issues. For a lot of folks, they may never put enough miles in em at one time to notice, but these bad boys pulled me out of a marathon at the halfway mark. Revolutionary shoe; not for everyone.

  3. Gustaf says:

    Out of the top ones, how do they compare on stability? Im looking for a plated shoe for a 30km race on packed gravel/ dirt and need something that helps me when my form breaks down.

  4. Fiifo says:

    That’s weird.

  5. Fiifo says:

    It only has 9 shoes

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      Just seeing of our readers can count since we can’t

  6. Kevin says:

    wow – the cloudboom made it ahead of the Puma Deviate Nitro…..or the Hoka Carbon X2.

  7. Ib Erik Söderblom says:

    Since Atreyu doesn’t generate money for RTR, the Artist is missing.
    Or what ?

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      Who’s RTR? Also, we never got the production version, so…

  8. David says:

    I love you guys… but if you’re going to reuse a post from 2021 (yeah the URL kinda gave it away 🙂 ), maybe filter out unavailable shoes?
    Hint: it has a + in its name.

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      If you mean this shoe that they just restocked this week… Saucony Endorphin Pro+

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