Should you wear a shoe with a CARBON FIBRE PLATE?

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30 Aug

Should you wear a shoe with a CARBON FIBRE PLATE?

Should you wear a shoe with a CARBON FIBRE PLATE?

By Steve Manning – The Footman

Back in 2004 Darren Stefanyshyn from the University of Calgary published a paper about how increasing shoe bending stiffness could increase sprint performance.  While a number of running shoes have utilised this design feature over the years it was not really popularised until the Nike 4% shoe began to make an impact at the front of races.  In the next year, almost every brand will have its own running shoes with carbon plates in the midsole.
 
Why?…  because these shoes are being worn as the PB shoe… the ones to make you run faster.  
 
While it might seem like a simple matter of just buying one of these shoes in order to achieve a PB, it is not that simple. Stefanyshyn found that “The stiffness each athlete required for his or her maximal performance was subject-specific but was not related to subject mass, height, shoe size or skill level.”  Individual differences in biomechanics and force in the calf muscles may determine what is the appropriate shoe stiffness for each runner to achieve maximal performance.  
 
In some cases, excess stiffness may decrease performance or add to injury risk. I had a patient recently who ran in a carbon plate shoe at the Gold Coast Marathon and ended up with a foot injury.  On examination, she had a functional restriction of her big toe joint when it was loaded during propulsion.  The combination of her restricted range of motion with a stiff shoe led to an overuse injury in an adjacent joint. 
 
How will you know if a carbon fibre plate shoe will work for you?
Here are some key questions when considering buying one of these shoes:
1.  Will you be running fast enough to get the benefit of a shoe with extra midsole stiffness?
2.  Do you have a structural issue that could prevent the shoe from working and lead to an injury?
3.  Is the improvement of good value for money considering the cost of these shoes versus their reduced durability?
 
The options of carbon plate shoes are about to boom with NB, Hoka, Brooks and Saucony all about to bring out new shoes.  There are now multiple studies showing the advantage of carbon plate shoes.  You may need to try a few different models to find the one that suits your biomechanics the best.  
 
Article By Steve Manning, Podiatrist & Running Coach, and founder intraining Running Centre
 
Back in 2000 when the Australian Runners World launched its magazine, Steve wrote many articles under the tagline of FOOTMAN. He has a special interest in footwear. In particular, he has a special interest in footwear biomechanics which focuses on how the foot and shoe interact while running. If you have any questions about footwear, running and injuries you can email him [email protected]
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