Carbon fiber has found its place in our shoes too. Carbon-plated shoes have generated a lot of interest in the running community. As the costs are coming down, the shoes are finding more and more start lines even among average or hobby runners. When Eluid Kipchoge broke the 2-hour barrier for a marathon, everyone started focusing on the carbon-plates shoes as he ran on one of them. Let us find out what it means and are there any benefits?
Where and Why of Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber running shoes have a thin plate made out of carbon fiber and are inserted in the midsole. This is a thin but strong filament made out of carbon. We all know that carbon fiber is stronger than steel and lighter than other alloys which could have been used to provide stability in the stride. This plate is embedded inside an energy foam. The fiber plate acts as a blade. When you run, these blades preserve kinetic energy at the moment of foot strike and then transfer stored energy for faster and stronger forward propulsion. Thus a simple objective of the technology is to increase return energy. Return energy can be defined as the energy which a shoe returns when a runner takes a stride. The lesser the return energy, the more our muscles will have to work to move forward.
Besides the return energy, these shoes provide higher cushioning on the heel and an excellent heel-to-toe drop. This helps reduce the load on the knees, ankles, and hips. Less fatigue, faster recovery, and injury prevention are immediate results.
Should You Buy One?
It depends on the running pace and distance. Carbon fiber shoes may not feel very comfortable at a slower pace. However, the results are amazing at a higher pace. This does not mean that if your pace is slow, you need to avoid them. It will take time for you to adapt to the shoe because of the way it feels both when static and when in motion. The shoe is also amazing if you are returning from an injury. People who want to lose weight and have been told to avoid running due to the high load of their own weight can also use these shoes and start running. As the load reduces, there is less to a negligible chance of injury.
The drawback is that these shoes are expensive and the benefit does not last for longer than a maximum of 400 km or so. With the distance and usage, the cushioning and return energy keeps reducing.
Brands Using This Technology
There are many brands using this technology. Reebok was the first brand to introduce this technology in shoes. Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Saucony, and Asics are among a few other manufacturers who not only have adopted the technology but with further research improved both in terms of stability and durability. The technology is still evolving and there are experiments and trials going on worldwide to further improve it.
There is also a talk going around that if it is legal to use them? Since they help a runner run faster due to technology advantage, it places runners not using the shoe below the one’s using it. Hence in a race, human efficiency is not on the test but the technology which defeats the aim of a racing event.