These Carbon-Plated Running Shoes Are Like Powerful Strapping Rockets

It’s been nearly five years since Nike released the Vaporfly series, a high-performance, ultra-lightweight, shoe with the latest secret weapon in running technology: a full-length carbon-fiber plate tucked between all that foam to boost spring in every step, amp up energy return, and shave seconds off the clock. Carbon-plated running shoes are now ubiquitous—on the roads, trails, and track—with every major footwear maker touting its current flagship pair.

These Carbon-Plated Running Shoes Are Like Powerful Strapping RocketsThe value of carbon-plated shoes has been validated by rigorous testing and a fresh wave of smashed world records, which can deliver a whopping 4% gain in the running economy. For elite athletes, it might mean the difference between earning a gold medal and missing out for the Olympic team—or between winning a race and breaking a world record.

There’s proof that the plate works: Both men’s and women’s 10K, half-marathon, and marathon records have fallen dramatically (and again) in the last three years, with innumerable fastest times registered by aficionados.

Carbon-Plated Shoes for Faster Times

While all this record-breaking may have sparked a fresh “mechanical doping” discussion (Is carbon-plated running cheating if it helps you take three minutes off a marathon time? ), no prohibitions are in place—and carbon shoes are now predictably popular with runners of all abilities with PBs to pound past. So, which new carbon kicks should you be aware of?

VECTIV - Carbon-Plated Shoes for Faster TimesHoka One One Bondi X and The North Face Flight VECTIV are two new pairs that debuted in summer/fall 2021. People put them both through their paces and are satisfied with the results after 62 miles on the road and trails.

Remember when no-drop minimalist shoes, like those strange rubber-toe-sock-shoe hybrids, were all the rage in the running community?

Those never gained traction with core trail runners looking for a more responsive, supportive, and comfortable fit for high mileage and significant vert over rugged, tricky terrain, but they did prompt The North Face to reply with the Flight VECTIV trail shoe.

The VECTIV Shoes Tick All the Boxes!

VECTIV boosts bounce while decreasing impact caused by rocks, roots, and steep descents thanks to a 3D-molded heel, rockered midsole, 0.23-inch heel-to-toe drop, and dual-density foams. This shoe ticks all the boxes for a top-tier trail runner, with a robust upper, reinforced toe cap, and huge lugs for greater traction.

An athletic girl putting on VECTIV shoesThe carbon-plated material, of course, is the VECTIV’s most notable component, as it contributes to both stability and visible propulsion. The North Face is claiming that this new release is their fastest trail runner yet, which is a bold claim given that its elite athletic team appears to have a competitive advantage based on recent performances.

The VECTIV feels active and sensitive to the rest of us, keeping your legs fresher and longer. On loose, technical singletrack, the increased pop in each step provides speed, while the beefy tread and snug fit add security.

The Bondi X won’t be available until this fall, but we’ve been wearing a prototype pair for many (many) miles this summer.