Last updated on February 16th, 2024
In recent times, the notion that speed in running is solely dependent on the weight of the shoes has been challenged. Instead, the focus has shifted towards the utilization of carbon fibre plates and ample foam in shoe design. This groundbreaking innovation in running shoe technology has resulted in numerous shattered records and personal bests.
It is crucial to acknowledge that no shoe can replace the significance of proper training, nutrition, hydration, and sleep. However, imagine if a shoe could provide a slight advantage in terms of speed and endurance. Whether engaged in a competitive race or striving to surpass personal limits, carbon plated running shoes possess the potential to offer the desired advantage.
What are carbon fibre plates running shoes?
Running shoes with carbon plates feature a slender, typically curved carbon fiber plate positioned within the midsole's foam. Carbon fiber, which is both stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum, is an ideal material for enhancing durability without adding excess weight.
However, the plate alone isn't the sole factor at play; the shoe's light, bouncy foam and its overall design also contribute significantly. These three components collaborate harmoniously to enhance running efficiency.
When it comes to carbon plate shoes, many of us believe that they are a recent technological breakthrough, only emerging within the past few years. However, the truth is that their origins can be traced back to the early 2000s. During this time, researchers made a significant discovery regarding traditional running shoes.
They found that the foot, when enclosed in a regular shoe, acted as a hindrance by absorbing energy. In order to address this issue and minimize energy loss, they needed to limit the foot's flexibility. This led them to introduce a carbon fiber plate, which effectively stiffened the shoe.
Various running shoe companies, including New Balance, embarked on experimentation with this concept. Despite their efforts, they were unable to achieve complete success. It seemed that a crucial piece of the puzzle remained elusive.
In the past, EVA foam has been the go-to material for providing cushioning in the midsole of running shoes. However, there has been a recent surge in the development of alternative foams that offer even better qualities, such as being lighter, softer, and more responsive.
These advanced foams have the advantage of being able to be stacked higher without increasing the weight of the shoe, thus creating space for the incorporation of a curved carbon plate. It is the progression of these exclusive foams that has truly propelled the advancement of carbon plate technology.
What are the benefits of carbon plate running shoes?
The comparison of the carbon plate in running shoes to a mere 'spring' may have reached your ears, but this oversimplification may also lead you to believe that running in carbon plate shoes demands minimal exertion - a misconception, indeed.
So, what exactly does the carbon plate in running shoes accomplish? It aids in enhancing performance and increasing running efficiency through these means:
- Return Energy to Runners: The inclusion of a carbon fibre plate aids in the swift compression and expansion of the midsole foam, resulting in a heightened return of energy to the runner rather than its dissipation.
- Reduce ankle flexion and improve ankle mechanics: The carbon plate's curved design facilitates the foot's natural rolling motion, reducing the effort required by the ankle joint and calf muscle to propel you ahead.
- Lift heel faster: The curved form of the shoe also aids in a swifter elevation of the heel, propelling the hips towards the center of balance, thereby enhancing the overall propulsion forward.
- Keep the big toe straight: During the toe-off phase of your stride, the rigid plate minimizes the energy lost by preventing unnecessary bending of the big toe.
Carbon running shoes have the potential to enhance your musculoskeletal system, resulting in significant benefits. According to certain research, these shoes can save up to 4% of your energy. Although this percentage may not seem substantial, it can make a remarkable impact on your race time, allowing you to reduce seconds or even minutes.
The impact of carbon plate shoes on individual runners can vary greatly due to numerous factors. These factors include running style, biomechanics, stride length and frequency, ground contact time, foot landing position, and current fitness levels.
It is important to note that everyone's running mechanics are unique, and this can affect the extent of benefits derived from carbon running shoes. For instance, individuals who overpronate may not experience the same level of advantage as those with a neutral foot position. However, this does not imply that overpronators will not benefit at all, but rather that the benefits may be less pronounced compared to those with ideal foot mechanics.
Are carbon plates running shoes legal in contests?
World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, has recently clarified their rules regarding the use of carbon plates in athletic shoes. According to their regulations, carbon plates are completely legal for use in all events, including the Olympics.
Many elite runners have embraced the use of carbon plates in recent years, claiming that they help to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury.
However, World Athletics also has strict guidelines regarding the amount of foam that can be used in athletic shoes. The "stack height," or the distance between the midfoot and the toe of the shoe, must be under 40mm in order to be legal for competition.
Despite these regulations, there has been some controversy surrounding the use of carbon plates in athletic shoes. Critics argue that these plates give certain runners an unfair advantage, particularly in long-distance events where every second counts. Others say that the use of carbon plates is simply another tool in an athlete's arsenal, and that it is up to individual runners to determine what equipment works best for them.
Regardless of the debate, it is clear that carbon plates have become a game-changer in the world of running. As technology continues to advance, it will be interesting to see how World Athletics adapts their rules to keep up with the latest innovations in athletic gear.