Best Carbon-Plate Running Shoes, 2023

Expert Advice on Running Shoes
Best Carbon-Plate Running Shoes, 2023

The last few years have seen a huge rise in interest in carbon-fibre running shoes.

Shoes where a stiffer plate is inserted in a well-cushioned midsole to help forward propulsion in the last phase of the gait cycle is not a new idea by any means. Several companies have implemented the idea in various ways over the last 20 years. 

The combination of a carbon plate, super springy cushioning and the right “rolling geometry” has spearheaded the current wave of shoes. The increased performance indicators at elite level – notably the sub-2-hour marathon – have engendered much debate amongst runners at all levels. One thing for sure: carbon-plated shoes are not going to go away for the moment.

What does carbon fibre do for shoes, and how do they work?

Simply put, carbon fibre plates are like springs that propel you forward. Basic biomechanics identifies 3 phases to the gait cycle of most runners:

  • First impact phase: usually at the heel or midfoot.
  • Second phase: when most of the foot can be in be contact with the ground.
  • Third phase: when you go onto your forefoot and you project forwards.

The combination of the rocker-like geometry of the designs, together with the spring-like qualities of the plate, when used in conjunction with a soft springy midsole, just seems to enhance forward motion – and quickly.

Should I wear carbon plate shoes?

In our opinion and experience, shoes with any kind of enhanced forward propulsion like carbon plates are engineered to improve performance. 

Although in the last two years performances by elite runners in carbon-plated shoes have broken records and hit the headlines, performance is all relative. Obviously, if you want to improve your running, you have to train and train hard. No pair of shoes by itself is going to help that. Having said all that, whether you are an elite 10km or marathon runner going for a national record or a club or recreational runner just aiming to improve your PB, little things do matter! If you are convinced by the arguments that a carbon plated shoe will help you improve, there is only one way to find out.

How much faster are carbon plate running shoes?

Some companies would lead you to believe quite a lot, and the mythical 4% figure has been often quoted. Trying to find independent research not involving a running brand is not easy but does exist. 

You, as a runner and we, as a retailer, always try to go beyond the headlines or the tweet or the marketing hype to see, “what is really going on here?” Any coach, in any sport, will tell you it is hard consistent training and attention to your running form – sometimes for a few years – that brings genuine improvements.

However, performances by elite and club runners wearing carbon-plated shoes have shown substantial individual improvements at a range of distances from 5k to 50 miles. Or as people often say, “The stopwatch doesn’t lie.”

Which running shoes have a carbon plate?

Hoka Mach X / Saucony Endorphin Elite / Saucony Endorphin ProSaucony Endorphin SpeedSaucony Endorphin Trail

Men's Hoka Mach X


This is the second incarnation of Hoka's fastest racing shoes. It comes with the same 5mm drop as its predecessor.

Stack Heights:  Men's 42/37mm / Women's 37/32mm
Average Weights: Men's 266g / Women's 227g

The new Mach X prioritises speed and comfort. Upgrades to the engineered mesh upper allow for a generous fit. The PEBA midsole cushioning meets the new Pebax® carbon plate for a responsive and forgiving landing. Additionally, Mach X is noted for its stability. In combination with the cushioning, runners can experience the effective forward propulsion this shoe has to offer. These new updates suggest a strong focus on performance and comfort, making it a potential contender for your regular runs.

Men's Hoka Mach X

Women's Hoka Mach X

Saucony Endorphin Speed


Saucony's Endorphin range boasts innovative technology and features Speedroll technology. The Pro have a carbon plate, while the Speed has a plastic/TPU plate. Saucony has a great reputation for this technology and continues to impress with its recent product line. Read on for details of each...


The Endorphin Pro is designed primarily with performance and competition in mind. Constructed on what is Saucony’s standard 8mm drop.

Stack Height: 33.5/27.5mm
Average Weight: Men's 213g

The Speedroll technology has a geometry that like other shoes in this genre generates a lively forward roll for a natural and responsive ride.

Saucony's luxurious PWRRUN PB foam cushioning features the PeBa technology. For the geeks, PeBa is an acronym for Polyether Block Amide. For the average runner it is basically very soft and protective but, with the curved speedroll design, naturally propels you through the gait cycle.

It is a great shoe to rival any of the other carbon plate editions at the sharp end of any race field.

Men's Saucony Endorphin PRO 3


The Endorphin Speed is the most popular of all the Endorphin racing shoes. It's more agile than the PRO but still delivers powerful propulsion, to help you to achieve our fastest speed.

Flexible and forgiving nylon plate. Some runners use it not only for racing but also for training. The Speedroll feature works together with the plate to propel you forward. Saucony's performance PWRRUN PB cushioning is responsive, lightweight and soft, to give comfort to your feet while competing.

Stack Height: Men's 35.5/27.5mm / Women's 36/28mm
Average Weights: Men's 224g / Women's 204g

Men's Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
£180.00 £145.00

Women's Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

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