This post is about carbon-plated shoes. I’ve had it sitting in my drafts for over two years, hoping that I would prove myself wrong one day. But that hasn’t happened. So finally, I have made it somewhere coherent and less rambly.
For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me.
Why couldn’t I run “fast” in carbon-plated shoes?
Why did none of them really feel great?
They felt fine but not great. I’ve never had that magic feeling of just running fast in carbon-plated shoes.
For years, I kept trying to force it. I would race in carbon-plated shoes because “everyone” was. The world got faster, but I did not.
My best year of racing was in 2016. I PRed in almost everything. I PRed again in 2018 in the half marathon. I was wearing the Nike 4% shoe, but the course was much flatter than my 2016 PR. To this day, I don’t know if I was in the same sort of fitness as in 2016. I don’t know, and truthfully I don’t think so. The course was faster, and I just had a good day.
In 2016, carbon-plated shoes were not a thing. I raced in thin flats like the Nike LT racer or the old Saucony Endorphin. It took a few days of recovering (sometimes running easy runs 3-4 minutes slower per mile than the race). I felt good. My body felt good.
Maybe it was because I was 26.
Maybe because the shoe was the right racing shoe for me.
My coach at the time kept telling me to add more cushion to my shoes, but honestly, none of those shoes felt “good” to race in.
Since 2016, carbon-plated shoes have exploded, and you can’t go to any race without seeing them. Almost every brand makes a carbon-plated shoe. It consists of a high stack height, the brand’s secret foam, and of course, the carbon plate. I review shoes, and I’ve tried almost all of them.
But you know what?
None of them (yes, none) have felt magical to me. They have felt fine and like good workout shoes, but I’ve never experienced that magical run fast feeling in a plated shoe. But not feeling “magical” isn’t the only reason I haven’t had success.
Since 2018, I’ve been plagued with more injuries than ever before. Some serious, some not as much, but I’ve always seem to have “something” going on. Minor muscular injuries. A significant bone injury. There is always something.
I’ve run some of my slowest times in carbon-plated shoes. In 2019, I even wrote how the Nike Next% was not for me, citing using the shoe for two distance races and then having hamstring or achilles issues after both.
Yet…I continued to wear it.
Because I didn’t learn my lesson, I continued using them and wondering why I didn’t feel great. I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a half marathon or longer in a carbon-plated shoe without something bothering me. At a minimum, I’m more sore, and at maximum, my hamstring or achilles has locked up, and it takes me a few weeks to recover.
Yet…I continued to wear it because everyone else was.
I thought, “something is wrong with me.”
Finally, since I clearly was not getting any faster or found myself hurt more often than not, I finally decided actually to cut the cord.
In February, at Surf City Half Marathon, I decided to go back to traditional racing flats. Racing flats without much cushion. Racing flats that I’ve PRed many races in. If you look at my top 10 fastest half marathons, one, yes 1, was done in a carbon plated shoe. Going into my top 20 half marathons, just one half marathon was still done in a carbon-plated shoe.
While my stomach didn’t cooperate during the Surf City half marathon, the rest of my body felt good. I felt more similar to my past self than ever before. I came out of the half marathon sore but not broken. My body didn’t feel beat up.
Next, I tried the Streakfly at the Shamrock Half Marathon. Even with a training hiccup, I ran faster than Surf City and the Carlsbad Half (where I ran in the Next%). More importantly, my body did not feel as beat up. With both Surf City and Shamrock, I recovered faster than any half in recent time.
The last time I ran a workout or race in the Next% was the Carlsbad Half Marathon. My body has felt like it’s recovered faster from things since. Since then, I’ve used flats for every workout and race. Some days, I get glimpses of my old self-the person who ran a 1:22 half or 18:XX 5k.
What About Carbon Plated Shoes Doesn’t Work?
I don’t think it’s either the carbon plate or the foam; I think it’s the high stack height combined with those things. I think it tilts my body in a way that doesn’t work for me, my gait, or my form. If you’ve seen me run, you know my form is *unique*. It is not great. In most carbon plated shoe, the higher stack height combined with the rigid plate tilts my body at an ankle it doesn’t like. It stresses my achilles, hamstrings, and glutes.
So Why Am I Blogging About This?
It might seem like everyone is using carbon-plated shoes, but it’s important to keep in mind they don’t work for everyone. It’s impossible to have a shoe that works for every single person. You’d think after eight years of working in run specialty; I would know this.
Like the Five Finger and minimalist shoes, I think we will eventually see more people talking about various issues and injuries they’ve had or are experiencing.
Despite working in run specialty for eight years, I’ve strangely felt there is “something wrong with me” because I’ve never felt magical or great and been more injured than ever before. Hopefully, that isn’t your case, but you’re not alone if it is. I’ll probably continue trying new models, but I don’t think I’ll race in them until I feel the shoe is right for me.
Yes, I realize this is a super rambly post.
TLDR: I have finally concluded that carbon-plated shoes are not right for me. We know by now, no shoe can work for every single person.
Questions for you:
Have you run in carbon-plated shoes?
What is your favorite racing shoe?