Running shoes were becoming increasingly minimal until the Nike Vaporfly which change how runners think about speed–we once thought that speed meant light and minimal, and now speed looks like a whole lot of cushion and carbon. Almost every shoe company has taken a carbon-plated shoe to market. There’s the Nike Next%, the New Balance 5280 and the Hoka One One Carbon X. All these shoes have been released in the last six months.
Despite so many shoe brands releasing their carbon-plated masterpieces to the public, there were still a lot of unmarked shoes on race courses this fall. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the prototypes we found on marathon race courses around the world to give you a glimpse of what you can expect to see on the market in the near future.
On Saturday, October 12, Germany’s Jan Frodeno won the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in a new course record of 7:51:13. Setting a new World Championship course record is no easy feat, and Frodeno had the assistance of a prototype shoe from ASICS.
Triathlon Magazine wrote: “Frodeno worked on his running style over the winter and found that the changes meant that the shoes he wore in winning the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt ended up giving him some blisters. ASICS was quick to come through with a solution–a shoe that isn’t set to be released until the Tokyo Olympics next year. The handmade prototypes had the ASICS logo painted on just a week before the race after Frodeno used them for his last two long runs before the race on Saturday.” The new shoe is narrower and features a carbon plate. Frodeno’s marathon time was 2:42:43.
Eliud Kipchoge wore a speciality shoe for the Ineos 1:59 where he ran the world’s best marathon time of 1:59:40. This shoe isn’t available to the public, and it wasn’t even given to his 41 pacers. Kipchoge’s shoe was more built-up than previous Vaporflys.
The midsole is still cushioned with a carbon-fibre plate and Nike’s ZoomX foam, but there’s something new that the company has added. There seem to be built-in shock absorbers through the toe, that you can see a peak of on the inside of the shoe. The marathon beats up your legs, and this could be a step to ensure that Kipchoge felt as fresh as possible through 42.2K.
While Saucony has yet to officially release their latest racing flat, Canadian marathoner Krista DuChene wore a prototype at this year’s Ottawa Marathon and 2:09 marathoner Jared Ward has been working with the company on a new shoe for a year.
The discreet shoe DuChene wore in Ottawa didn’t have any Saucony branding, and the midsole was cut with a black band that’s likely a carbon plate. The shoe is much taller than Saucony’s other models, with a stack height similar to the Nike Vaporfly and Next%.
Brooks has had an unnamed prototype floating around for nearly two years. The shoe’s been worn by Des Linden and other American elites and it’s scheduled to be released to the public ahead of the Atlanta American Olympic Trials.
Rachel Hannah wore a New Balance shoe that isn’t on the market at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon on Sunday. While we can’t be sure that there’s a carbon plate in there, the make up of the shoe (lines through the midsole) suggest that there is.