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  • Writer's pictureJames Diamond

Chasing the Trends: Super Shoes

What are super shoes?

Super shoes are dominating the running world at the moment. In 2023 dozens of College, High School, and American records have been broken, all by runners wearing these shoes. The main feature of these shoes are the carbon fiber plate embedded into the cushioning of the shoe. This creates a rigid lever for the foot, so when the athlete lands, the mechanical energy that would normally be absorbed by the foot is absorbed by the carbon plate. The carbon plate is loaded through the athlete's stance phase and releases that energy when the athlete goes into their next step.

This can help the athlete run faster for two reasons:

  1. The rigid carbon plate can reduce the amount of stress in the athlete’s lower leg, making it easier to run harder for longer.

  2. The carbon fiber plate acts like a spring that pushes the athlete into the next step.

Professional athletes have been using some form of carbon plated shoes since at least 2018. However, it is only recently that an onslaught of records have started to come down. So, it is not just the shoes making people faster, but being able to figure out how to best use them.

When are they useful?

Using super shoes on hard workout days allows the athlete to hit faster paces in training, while doing less damage to their body. An example of why this works would be the following: athlete A & athlete B both complete a tempo run. Athlete A wears super shoes, athlete B wears traditional racing flats. They both hit their pace for the workout, however, since athlete A wore the super shoes, they’re feeling recovered going into their next run. Athlete B isn’t fully recovered, so they need to take their next run easier in order to avoid injury. If all else remains equal, athlete A will slowly pull away from athlete B since one is able to recover faster from high quality workouts.

Should you buy a pair?

There are limitations to this technology. The traditional carbon fiber plate is designed for high end runners in mind. Meaning the effects of the shoes have diminishing marginal returns for slower athletes. In my experience, super shoes typically are built for men who can run a 3:00:00 marathon and women who can run under 3:45:00.

With that being said, there is still a way for you to utilize this technology.

  1. Cushioning- All super shoes use a type of hyper reactive foam that offers significant energy return with every step. This reactive foam is the first step in allowing runners to run faster while taking less of a beating.

  2. Less rigid plates- The rigidity of super shoes can provide a speed boost that can often come at the cost of comfort. Some shoes, however, use a smaller or less rigid plate that makes them more versatile between all run and pace types.

  3. Highly rigid plates- Are pure carbon fiber plates, meant to be used for high velocity running. A certain amount of speed and power is necessary to get the most out of these shoes.

PUMA is a proud sponsor of CARA summer marathon training. To take advantage of cushioning, any shoe with NITRO in the name will give you what you need. For that less rigid ride, the NITRO Deviate 2 is a solid option. For highly rigid shoes, Fast FWD and Fast-R are great options.

Trends come and go, but the new wave of shoe technology is here to stay. Just as Gatorade highlighted the advantages of electrolyte solutions, the shoe companies have shown how valuable this tech can be for performance and recovery.

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