Training in Carbon fibre shoes | Do’s and Dont’s

Carbon fibre plated footwear as we all know has taken the running world by storm. The research is also extensive in proving that they do help to improve performance and efficiency. I’ll be talking from a personal perspective on carbon shoes and the effects of training in carbon fibre shoes.

Nike next% - Training in carbon fibre shoes

Personal perspective on training in Carbon fibre shoes

Firstly, without a doubt, carbon fibre and the “super shoes” have changed the game. I ran my 5K PB of 14:03 in the Nike next%. I hadn’t actually run in them before the race as I’d just managed to get a pair delivered two days before the race. In the first 2k/3k I really hadn’t noticed a great significance, of course they felt like a smooth ride and they were propelling me forwards as many carbon shoes do. For me the biggest impact is when you’re starting to feel on deaths door with about a mile to go.

Having gone into the race at about 80% fitness I knew that last mile / mile and a half was going to be rough. In that last 2 miles the workload seemed slightly less to what it would’ve been in flats. It really felt like a second lease of life and just let me finish off the race really well. Similarly in track sessions I could bust out any reps from 400 up in them and even on dry grass they felt great, so I ended up doing a lot of golf course mile reps in them and preferring the Next% / Hoka Evo rocket over using spikes.

The problem

So, they’re great, we know they’re great. As mentioned above I started to appreciate them a little bit too much and would be training in carbon fibre plated shoes far too regularly. Which initially led to a believed stress response. It actually turned out to be tissue irritation where the calf connects to bone. More my fault than anything, for wearing the shoes far too often. The Next%’s have minimal flexion at the metatarsophalangeal joint, the aggressive forefoot rocker counteracts this. However, everyone is different and that lack of flexion ability can cause problems despite the rocker. Research suggests that overuse of the shoe can link to plantar related injuries. Predominantly due to the lack of movement opportunity for the plantar and also the Achilles.

For me it was a chain reaction. When I was running, in down strike, rolling from heel to toe, at the latter part of the movement pushing off, my hallux (big toe) couldn’t move the way it would in a normal pair of flats. Therefore causing a chain reaction where my inside metatarsal wasn’t moving organically. This caused pain in my lower tibia as my calf and shin were essentially working without the inside of my foot. From then on, I’ve been using carbon fibre shoes, at most, once a week and making sure that my shoes optimise staying healthy opposed to feeling like I’m getting the most efficiency.

Furthermore, due to the mechanics of the aggressive carbon fibre plate, calf tightness is likely going to occur. Because of this, achilles/calf problems can arise. We know achilles tendonitis is one of the most common injuries, so we wanted to include this bit of information, just in case anyone is struggling with achilles or calf issues, whilst wearing carbon plated shoes. Save them for the racing.

Alternatives for training in carbon fibre shoes

So, if you’re like most people, training in a lightweight, fast, yet supportive shoe is desirable. In an ideal World, we all would be able to train in the marathon super shoes. They tend to have plenty support and are very fast. However, due to durability issues and the side effects of training in carbon fibre shoes, this isn’t a sustainable option. So what are the best training shoes?

Tempo/threshold – Hoka Cavu 3, Saucony Endorphin speed, Nike Pegasus turbo 2

Medium paced track – Saucony Endorphin speed, Nike Pegasus turbo 2, Nike Streak 7, New Balance 1500V6

Fast paced track – Saucony Endorphin speed, Nike Streak Lt 4, Nike Matumbo 3, Nike Dragonfly, Hoka Speed Evo

Although I did mention the Saucony Endorphin Speed for all types of training, for some it may be slightly heavier than the other shoes in the list. For me its great, but anything over 600m speed wise, I think the weight would start to play a disadvantage. It’s not heavy by any means, but if you’re used to a lighter shoe like the streak LT, it may come as a surprise. Saying that, the Saucony Endorphin speed is currently (in my opinion) the best running shoe of 2020. It has a high stack height and has a nylon plate, rather than a carbon fibre. This means it’s less aggressive and a lot nicer on the calf, achilles and the plantar.

saucony endorphin speed - training in carbon fibre shoes

I do believe that many carbon fibre shoes should be treated like spikes, in that they aren’t to be used all the time, just for racing and important training sessions.

What do you guys think about the regular use of carbon ?

To read our recent article on the training of Eluid Kipchoge, click here.

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1 thought on “Training in Carbon fibre shoes | Do’s and Dont’s”

  1. Sean Sheridan-O'Gorman

    Nice post, thanks guys.

    In the clinic we have diagnosed numerous metatarsal stress fractures over the past year (where usually we would only diagnose a few (femoral shaft stress # would be more common usually) from initial use of carbon trainers. We have noticed a few commonalities between a few athletes that have presented here:

    1) Reduced ankle dorsiflexion – as you mention in your post, the action of the plate seems to irritate the lower aspect of the posterior chain. Add reduced ankle movement on top of this completely overloads the forefoot and really causes problems.

    2) Cadence – taking a look at cadence in plated shoe vs non-plated can give an big insight. As speed usually increases in the plated shoe, the question lies in where that increase in speed comes from. Some people will start to increase their cadence massively instead of making more ground of the same cadence as their used to – which in turn may pressurise the forefoot.

    3) Familiarity – I have been weary about athletes JUST using these runners for races. I would advise people to train with them intermittently and analyse their data to make sure they’re numbers (ground contact, etc) aren’t changing massively during these workouts. Also by running in them intermittently ensures the body becomes accustomed to the load variation.

    Cheers 🙂

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