Road tested: go-faster trainers

Turbo-charge your performance with these carbon-fibre-plate racing shoes

“A great performance trainer”: the Saucony Endorphin Speed, £155
“A great performance trainer”: the Saucony Endorphin Speed, £155 | Image: Saucony

Performance running brands are putting stiff yet lightweight carbon-fibre plates to work in the midsoles of their racing trainers for improved energy return. The results, they claim, will knock minutes off a runner’s marathon time. Here’s our selection of shoes to track down if you’re looking for an upgrade…

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, £240
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, £240
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Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%

Are you searching for a trainer that will give you a great chance of achieving your personal best? Nike’s Next% design certainly did the trick for Eliud Kipchoge, who wore a prototype version of the Alphafly for his sub two-hour marathon record. Weighing a mere 190g, the Vaporfly is immensely light yet still offers great comfort and performance. It has a carbon-fibre plate with a very lightweight foam that offers great energy return – the results, in fact, are brilliant. The semi-opaque minimal upper is supportive (with offset laces for added comfort), plus there’s an extra touch of foam inside the heel. £240, nike.com

On Cloudboom

Designed with hollow “clouds” on the soles, the Swiss brand’s new trainers are testament to its innovation, integrating a stiff carbon-fibre plate running the length of the sole with a layer of “clouds” above and below it. This creates a lightweight trainer (225g) that offers a firmer and more responsive ride but with a good springy feel. The minimal design is built for speed work – when you’re looking for that personal best or to perform on race day. The upper mesh is perforated and highly ventilated, with reinforcement around the lacing for added support, and it has a really nice grippy outsole that’s good in the wet. £170, at on-running.com and Browns, Mr Porter, Pro Direct and The Running Works

On Cloudboom, £170
On Cloudboom, £170
Hoka One One Men’s Carbon X, £160
Hoka One One Men’s Carbon X, £160

Hoka One One Men’s Carbon X

This versatile trainer will perform as well on training runs as on race days. With 32mm of light, resilient foam under the heel and 27mm under the forefoot, it is comfortable yet springy courtesy of its carbon-fibre plate. It has a lightweight engineered mesh upper, which offers a nice level of support, and the gusseted tongue prevents it from moving around. At 246g, it’s on the heavier side, but the extra level of comfort more than compensates for this.£160, hokaoneone.eu

New Balance FuelCell TC

An ideal choice if you’re looking for a performance-orientated running shoe for your first marathon or a frequent long-distance training companion. It’s comfortable, with a generous sole that offers a nicely cushioned ride yet retains a performance edge, thanks to its carbon-fibre footplate. It is the heaviest in weight in this selection (281g for men, 222g for women), but once you’re up to speed, those extra few grams will go unnoticed. £180, newbalance.co.uk

New Balance FuelCell TC, £180
New Balance FuelCell TC, £180
Asics Metaracer Tokyo, £180
Asics Metaracer Tokyo, £180

Asics Metaracer Tokyo

These trainers sit nicely between pure speed-focused, minimal flat-soled trainers and those designs that dial up the super foamy cushioning. They’re lightweight, at 190g, so you won’t be surprised to hear that the upper material is super thin, and with a nice level of cushioning and built-in rocker, you’ll be poised nicely on your toes for running. Good for short and interval runs as well as race days. £180, asics.com/gb

Saucony Endorphin Speed

If a carbon-fibre plate is too aggressive a proposition for you (or you’re simply on the hunt for a daily training companion), these trainers have a slightly more forgiving nylon plate and – although not the speediest on paper – make for a great performance trainer. Weighing just 221g, they’re lightweight and, coupled with a generous stack of 35.5mm of cushioning under the heel, they’re seriously comfortable. These trainers are ideal for the less seasoned runner too.£155, saucony.com/UK

Saucony Endorphin Speed, £155
Saucony Endorphin Speed, £155
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