Less than a decade ago road racing shoes were simple things, designed to be as lightweight as possible while providing just enough cushioning that your legs didn’t completely fall apart before the end of your race.

Check out: The Best Running Shoes

That all changed with the advent of the carbon plate super-shoe, sparked by the Nike Vaporfly 4%. Now every brand offers a carbon racing shoe, with most following a similar design where that plate is slipped into a high stack of soft and bouncy foam in the midsole.

Between us we have tested pretty much every major carbon shoe on the market and reviewed them on the channel. Below you’ll find our 2022 round-up of the best carbon shoes available, many of which are still the top option from their respective brands, and beneath that you’ll find our individual reviews for what we consider to be the standout options in 2023.

Check out the YouTube channel for many more carbon shoe vids, including comparisons of shoes plus race tests.

The Best Carbon Plate Running Shoes 2022

Run Tested: Top picks from our carbon plate running shoe reviews

And if you want to see all of the best carbon plate running shoes we’ve tested over the last few months, here’s a selection of our detailed video running shoe reviews, where we cover everything from the design and fit, to how they performed on the run and whether they’re worth buying. Dive in…

Nike Vaporfly 3

Price: £235/$250 | Weight: 206g/7.3oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

The latest version of the Nike Vaporfly is lighter and softer than its predecessor, and is undoubtedly one of the best all-distance racing shoes you can be. It’s light and nimble enough for 5K events, while having the comfort and propulsion for marathons.

While we’re not all 100% convinced that it’s a superior option to the Vaporfly 2, which is also available for a lot less in sales, the Vaporfly 3 is certainly one of the top carbon racers to consider. Just be wary of the redesigned outsole, which we’ve found hasn’t proved very durable during our testing.

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2

Price: £225/$250 | Weight: 213g/7.5oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

The Vaporfly 3 is now available, but some might prefer the slightly firmer feel of the Vaporfly 2, which also comes in cheaper (especially in sales) and has proved more durable during our testing. We’ve done a full comparison of the Vaporfly 2 and 3 to help you pick between them, but whichever you opt for you can be sure you’re getting a great shoe.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

Price: £210/$225 | Weight: 217g/7.65oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

The Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 were good carbon shoes, but they were a bit firm and lacked the bounce of the best racers. The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a major improvement on that front, with a smooth and fairly natural ride for a carbon shoe that also delivers the propulsion you expect from a super-shoe.

It’s a great option for racing at any distance – indeed Run Tester Tom used it to log PBs at almost every distance in 2022 – and a cheaper and more accessible option than the Saucony Endorphin Elite, which has a firmer ride.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2

Price: £270/$275 | Weight: 247g/8.7oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

The Alphafly 2 is a slightly ridiculous but undeniably effective racing shoe, especially for the marathon. It has a huge stack that contains Nike’s Air Zoom pods as well as the ZoomX foam also used in the Vaporfly, and while it’s a pretty heavy shoe, the propulsive ride you get from the Alphafly means it’s as quick or quicker than far lighter options.

It’s expensive though, and some runners will never get on with its size and heft, but for city marathons with plenty of long straights the Alphafly is a hard shoe to beat, and it’s no slouch for shorter races either.

Asics Metaspeed Sky+

Price: £225/$250 | Weight: 209g/7.4oz (UK 9) | Drop: 4mm

The Asics Metaspeed Sky+ is another great all-rounder carbon shoe well-suited to events of any distance, with the hefty stack of FF Turbo foam in the midsole delivering a springy, efficient ride. It’s one of two carbon shoes in Asics’s range, with the Sky+ designed more for bouncing runners and the Edge+ for shufflers, but we tend to prefer the Sky+ across the team as a more energetic and exciting shoe.

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

Price: £220/$250 | Weight: 247g/8.7oz (UK 9) | Drop: 6.5mm

The Adios Pro 3 was not a shoe we all warmed to instantly, with its awkward fit and heavy design being a little off-putting, but over time it’s become established as one of our carbon favourites, and a shoe that’s great for races at any distance despite being one of the heavier super-shoes.

The Lightstrike Pro midsole delivers a responsive ride and the Adios Pro 3 is very comfortable for cruising through longer races in particular. We’re expecting Adidas to update the shoe in 2023 but it’s unlikely to be a major upgrade and the Adios Pro 3 is often in sales now, so it’s a good value carbon option to consider, especially as it’s proved durable in our testing.

New Balance FuelCell SC Elite V3

Price: £220/$250 | Weight: 228g/8oz (UK 9) | Drop: 4mm

The SC Elite v3 is the successor to the RC Elite v2, which was a very comfortable carbon cruiser but lacked the pop of the best racers. New Balance has given the SC Elite v3 a more aggressive feel than its predecessor, with a lower drop and a pronounced rocker, along with using a firmer foam and adjusting the position of the carbon plate to give it a firmer feel at the heel to add stability and move you through your footstrike faster.

All of the changes combine to make the SC Elite v3 a great all-distance carbon racer, though it just falls short of the very best super-shoes we’ve tested.

Hoka Rocket X2

Price: £220/$250 | Weight: 225g/7.9oz (UK 9) | Drop: 5mm

Hoka’s first few attempts at a carbon super-shoe fell well short of the standards of the best available, but the Rocket X2 is a huge upgrade on those shoes thanks to the new PEBA foam used in the midsole. This delivers the punchy, fast ride you expect from a super-shoe, and the Rocket X2 is certainly one of the best new carbon racers to emerge in 2023.

It has a lower-drop than most carbon shoes and a slightly more stable feel, which helps when attacking corners in short races. We prefer it for those short events, with other carbon shoes offering more comfort and propulsion for longer races, though the Rocket X2 is still a good pick for those.

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro

Price: $250/£200 | Weight: 233g/8.2oz (UK 9) | Drop: 6mm

One of the most interesting and impressive new carbon shoes of 2023, the Wave Rebellion Pro’s unique geometry is a little terrifying (especially for heel strikers like Nick, who tested the shoe for our review), but delivers a terrifically fun and fast ride.

Hit the sweet spot of the shoe’s rocker and it’s joyously bouncy and the Wave Rebellion Pro is also one of the more comfortable carbon shoes for long runs. The possible cons are that the strange shape of the shoe won’t work for everyone, and it might not be the most forgiving in the late stages of a marathon if your form goes to pot, but when running well it’s as exciting a ride as any shoe on the market.

Saucony Endorphin Elite Review

Price: £280/$275 | Weight: 219g/7.7oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

The Endorphin Elite takes no prisoners, with the very aggressive rocker on the shoe meaning that it can feel quite harsh for some running styles when racing over long distances, but there’s no doubt that the ride is as fast and efficient as anything else out there.

Overall we prefer the more approachable Endorphin Pro 3, especially as its much cheaper than the Elite, but if you enjoy the ride of the Elite it is a superb racer for any distance.

Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2

Price: £175/$200 | Weight: 227g/8oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8mm

While the Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2 doesn’t quite match the performance of the very best carbon racers, there are a few reasons that it’s still worth considering. One is the price – it’s cheaper than most super-shoes – and another is the excellent Pumagrip outsole, which means the Deviate Nitro Elite 2 handles wet roads and even light trails better than other carbon options.

It’s a pretty natural-feeling shoe as well, and a potentially useful option to have in your rotation as a multi-terrain racer and fast trainer. Puma also has the Fast-R and Fast-FWD carbon shoes in its line-up, with the latter being a lighter shoe for 5K and 10K distances. We rate the Deviate Nitro Elite 2 as the best all-round racing option from the brand for now.

Adidas Prime X Strung

Price: £230/$300 | Weight: 266g/9.4oz (UK 9) | Drop: 8.5mm

We’re generally law-abiding citizens here at The Run Testers, but if you don’t mind skirting World Athletics regulations that dictate road racing shoes shouldn’t have a stack height of over 40mm, then the Adidas Prime X Strung is well worth considering.

Its stack nears 50mm and the Lightstrike Pro midsole contains carbon EnergyRods plus TPU EnergyBlades to add even more pep to your step than you get from the Adios Pro 3, while the futuristic Strung upper is made from individually-placed yarns to add structure.

The downside of the towering midsole is that the Prime X can be a little unstable, and its heavier than any other top-tier carbon racing shoe, so for the most part we still prefer sub-40mm shoes even if you’re not fussed about the regs, which are mainly for elites anyway.