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The ultimate carbon-plated shoe guide

We've tried a ton of carbon-plated shoes. Here's how to find the one that's right for you

In the past year or so, every major running brand has come out with a carbon-plated shoe. While some companies are on their fourth and fifth iterations (Nike), others are releasing their first. After trying dozens of pairs of carbon- and plastic-plated shoes, we’re imparting our new-found shoe wisdom. Because when you’re buying a $200-300 running shoe, you want to be sure you’re going to like it and that it’s the right find for you.

Disclaimer: after trying many pairs of carbon-plated shoes, I can confidently say there hasn’t been one bad pair. There are pairs I prefer over others, but each shoe has its own unique feel and will work for a certain person. The list below describes their feel, ideal wearer, and price points to help you make an informed decision when purchasing your next pair of shoes. 

RELATED: The beginner’s guide to every type of running shoe

Nike Alphafly: the bounciest shoe

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%

Nike popularized the carbon-plated shoe and has created the shoe with the most bounce. Thanks to the air bags, plate, and ZoomX foam, this shoe has some serious pop. The best way to describe the feeling of running in this shoe is, it’s like the road suddenly became a trampoline. This high-cushioned, bouncy shoe is ideal for someone who likes a plush ride and is all right with a lower drop (how much higher your heel sits than your toes), since this shoe’s drop is only 4 mm.

Don’t buy this shoe if: you’ve got a nagging Achilles issue (the low drop can aggravate it) or you like to feel the ground when you’re running. 

Buy this shoe if: Nike uppers work for your feet (they can run a little narrow), you’re comfortable with a low drop, and you like a plush ride. 

Price: $365 CAD

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New Balance RC Elite: the shoe with the best traction

Photo: Matt Stetson

This shoe is New Balance’s most recent road racing shoe – the company’s third crack at carbon-plated footwear. I’d say this shoe is for the track-turned-road runner. It feels significantly firmer than any other carbon-plated shoe I’ve worn and has a lower stack height than all but the ASICS Metaracer. On top of the firm ride, this shoe has remarkably good traction. To save on weight, many companies skimp on the outsole, but NB’s Dynaride is super grippy and not too heavy. 

Don’t buy this shoe if: you like a really plush ride. 

Buy this shoe if: you plan on racing or training in bad weather and you like a firm shoe. 

Price: $300 CAD

ASICS Metaride: the minimalist’s shoe

The ASICS Metaride is for the runner who isn’t totally down with the maximalist movement. This runner is looking for a lower-profile racing shoe but still wants a carbon plate. The ASICS shoe ticks those boxes. Basically, this is for the kind of runner who likes to feel closer to the ground and still likes their more traditional (not carbon-plated) racing flats. I found this shoe also lets your foot move a little more naturally. 

Don’t buy this shoe if: you like the feeling of maximal shoes. 

Buy this shoe if: you like moving naturally and still use your traditional non-plated racing shoes. 

Price: $260 CAD

RELATED: ASICS launches carbon-plated Metaracer

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro: the wide-footed runner’s shoe

The fit of the Adidas shoe is distinct from the other racing shoes. This category tends to run narrow and small, but the Adidas shoe fills an important void, which is a fast shoe for a wider-footed runner. The Adidas shoe is also notably plush and truly feels like walking on a cloud. Like the Nike shoe, it’s also been proven effective as it has been on the feet of runners while setting world records. 

Don’t buy this shoe if: you’ve got particularly narrow feet or bad ankles. The Adidas shoe uses rods instead of a full-carbon plate, making it a little less stable than some of its competitors. 

Buy this shoe if: you’ve got a wider foot and you like a plush ride. 

Price: $280 CAD

Saucony Endorphin Pro: the durable shoe

The Saucony shoes push you forward more than any other, thanks to SpeedRoll, and have also lasted extremely well. I’ve been wearing this shoe for months and it’s still just as responsive as it was on run Number One. This shoe is a happy medium among a lot of the other brands: it’s not as tall as Nike but has more height than ASICS, its outsole holds well and its foam has stood the test of time. 

Don’t buy this shoe if: you like your foot to move naturally. The roll of this shoe really pushes you up and forward. 

Buy this shoe if: you’re looking for longevity and you like a strong rocker. 

Price: $250 CAD

UA Machina: for the new runners

Photo: Nick Iwanyshyn

If you’re just getting into the sport and looking to make an affordable investment in your footwear, the Machina could be a good choice. This shoe will only set you back $190 CAD (much less than some of the other shoes on this list), making it the most affordable option. Its responsive HOVR foam and two-pronged plate make for a smooth ride – ideal as a training shoe for anyone, or as a racing shoe for the new runner. 

Don’t buy this shoe if: you’re counting every 10th of a second on race day. 

Buy this shoe if: you’re not fully sold on carbon-plated shoes and just want to give them a test drive. 

Price: $190 CAD

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