How Much Faster are Carbon Plated Running Shoes?

Carbon-plated shoes are a trend that will surely not go away soon. These shoes are made for speed and endurance. Hence, they are top choices for competitive athletes around the world. Thanks to modern sports science and technology improvements, even the regular marathoner can enjoy the benefits of this gear.

Experts claim that wearing carbon-plated running shoes makes you 2.67% faster. That means if your current marathon time is 3:34:56, you are expected to finish 5 minutes faster (3:29:12) when you wear a carbon-plated running shoe.

But how did these experts come up with this number? How much faster will wearing carbon-plated running shoes make you in the common running distances? Furthermore, are carbon-plated running shoes for you? Ahead, we’ll discuss these topics in detail. But first, let’s find out what carbon-plated shoes are.

What are Carbon Plated Shoes?

Carbon-plated shoes are shoes that have carbon fibers sandwiched in their midsoles. Since its invention, carbon fiber was branded as a material that has the strength of steel but the weight of plastic. This makes it a perfect candidate as an add-on technology for shoes.

Carbon-plated shoes have been researched by Slippery Rock University and examined the effects of carbon-plated shoes on performance.

The researchers found that carbon-plated shoes do their magic by acting as a lever to roll the athlete’s foot forward, contributing to the overall performance by getting the runner to roll through the gait cycle more efficiently.

Since the initial use of carbon plates in running shoes in the 90s, shoe manufacturers have rapidly improved on the technology over the last decade. It has quickly turned into a lucrative industry that beginners and even experts rely on to improve their running prowess.

How Much Faster Will Carbon-Plated Running Shoes Make You?

Most of the studies show an improvement in the running economy when athletes wear carbon-plated running shoes. But how does running economy translate to running performance? In a recent study, Kipp, Kram, and Hoogkamer quantified how metabolic savings translates to running performance. They predicted that velocity improvement is around 66.6% or ⅔ of the total running economy.

That said, the 4% improvement in running economy that researchers found when using the Nike Vaporfly translates to around 2.67% of improvement in running velocity. Let us look at the exact figures when applied to 5K, 10K, Half, and Full marathons. 

5K Event

For a 5K event (3.1 miles), the average running time for ages 20-30 for beginners is 31:29. 2.67% of that number is around 50 seconds, which means that using a carbon-plated shoe will reduce the time to around 30:39.

For an intermediate athlete with an average time of 22:31 seconds. A 2.67% improvement will translate to 21:55, 36 seconds faster than the former.

An elite runner on the average 5K time of around 17:40 should have a reduction of 28 seconds which will bring down the time to 17:12.

LevelAverage timeNew timeSaved Time (seconds)

10K Event

For a 10k (6.2 miles) event, the average time it takes to finish for beginners aged 20-30 is 1:05:30. When wearing a carbon-plated running shoe, he is expected to finish 10 km in 1:03:45.

Similarly, an intermediate runner who runs 46:43 seconds should see an improvement of 75 seconds which will reduce time to 45:28.

Lastly, an elite 10K runner with an average time of 36:38 will have their time cut by 59 seconds and have a new time of 35:39.

LevelAverage timeNew timeSaved Time (seconds)

Half Marathon

A beginner half marathon runner aged 20-30 years should have an average running time of 2:24:57. Using carbon-plated shoes, this number will reduce by 232 seconds to a new time of 2:21:05.

For an intermediate runner with a running time of 1:43:33, their time should experience a reduction of 165 seconds, and the new time using carbon-plated shoes will be 1:40:47.

An elite runner with a half marathon time of 1:20:59 can expect a 1:18:49 finish when wearing carbon-plated running shoes.

LevelAverage timeNew timeSaved Time (seconds)

Full Marathon

Beginners who run a full marathon are estimated to finish in 4:57:01. When using carbon-plated shoes, they should expect an improvement of almost 8 minutes to a new time of 4:49:05.

Similarly, intermediate runners who have an average time of 3:34:56 can experience a 5 minutes time improvement resulting in a 3:29:12 finish.

Lastly, an elite-level marathoner averaging 2:49:13 is estimated to improve to a time of 2:44:32 when using carbon shoes. This is around 4 minutes reduction.

LevelAverage timeNew timeSaved Time (seconds)
Elite2:49:132:44:32 271

Also read: Complete Marathon Gear Guide: What to Wear on Race Day?

Short Distance Events

Short-distance events don’t last that much. Thus, the impacts of running economy and 2.67% improvement in running time will be negligible. As such, carbon-plated shoes are not as effective in these events compared to long distances.

Are Carbon Plated Shoes for me?

Long distances runners benefit more from carbon-plated shoes than short-distance athletes. This is because improvement in the running economy has a bigger impact on long-distance events. Thus, a marathoner would benefit more from a carbon-plated shoe compared to a sprinter.

Also, there is a certain speed level that gains the most out of carbon plates. You must at least keep a pace of 14 kph so that desired efficiency is acquired.

Also read: Carbon-Plated Running Shoes: Are They Really Good?

Final Thoughts

Research has found that wearing carbon-plated running shoes results in a 4% improvement in running economy. This translates to a 2.67% improvement in running performance.

Because running economy is more important in long-distance events, endurance runners benefit the most from this type of shoe.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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