Going fast is fun. Whether in the car, on the bike or sprinting during a workout, nothing beats the race that comes with speed. For runners, your shoes play a key role in how fast you can really be. And when you’re in the thick of a race, whether it’s a marathon or a simple 5k, every second counts.
To get the most out of every step, you need shoes that work with your speed, rather than against it. You don’t put winter tires on a dragster, do you? To help you stay in that competitive lane, check out our top picks for taking on your next race.
A word about carbon fiber
Most of the running shoes we picked feature a carbon fiber toe plate. This technology creates a rigid base that promotes responsiveness and energy return. Additionally, carbon fiber is a lighter material, helping to reduce weight for a sleek profile designed to really put some spring in your step.
It’s worth noting, however, that while these carbon-infused runners may boost your top speed, they’re not the best for everyday running. Due to their stiffness, shoes with carbon fiber foot pegs can be hard on your muscles and joints, which can become uncomfortable with prolonged use. Instead, take these pups out for speed work or race day, and opt for a more cushioned running shoe during other training cycles.
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BEST OVERALL RUNNING SHOE
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit
- Rigid carbon plate for propulsive walking
- The most expensive shoe on our list
Based on the prototype that gave the world its first marathon under two hours, the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit features responsive foam and two – count them – two Zoom Air units for the best feedback. energy of Nike’s running line. A full-length carbon fiber footplate gives your stride the snap it needs, while a wider forefoot gives this speed demon surprising stability.
BEST IMPROVED RUNNING SHOE
Hoka One One Carbon X3
- Unique colorways give this runner plenty of room to stand out
- Upper material, while comfortable, may feel baggy in some places
In Hoka’s words, “the support you want and nothing you don’t.” The third installment of the Carbon X silhouette features a performance knit upper while retaining its elastic carbon fiber plate and symmetrical underfoot feel of previous versions. A 5mm heel-to-toe drop also helps you stay lower to the ground, while keeping the pace – and picking it up – towards the finish line.
BEST BUDGET RUNNING SHOE
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
- Speedroll technology feels natural for faster running, not harder
- Not as stable as other options on this list
Although you’ll feel like you’re fast enough to run out of your trainers, Saucony’s Endorphin Speed 2 keeps you in your kicks with an updated, slimmer heel cup and Formfit upper. . The rocker style of the Pwrrun PB foam can help propel you forward and a responsive nylon plate gives your steps quick energy return to shave off those precious seconds.
THE MOST VERSATILE RUNNING SHOE
Brooks Hyperion Elite 2
- Lightweight, breathable upper adds comfort to this speedy silhouette
- Outsole can become slippery when wet
Having made its debut in 2020, it’s clear the Hyperion Elite 2 has proven its toughness. Ultralight DNA Flash cushioning is infused with nitrogen for a ride that’s as light as air. The carbon fiber footplate pairs well with the wider midsole, easily propelling you forward so you can save energy in the tank for the home stretch. All in all, these quick kicks can give you a great blend of responsiveness and cushioning for any upcoming run or workout.
BEST RUNNING SHOE FOR STRIDE RUNNERS
Asics Metaspeed Sky
- Roomy upper, ideal for runners with wide feet
- Lace adjustment can be tricky if too tight
Built around Asics’ energetic Flytefoam Blast Turbo cushioning, these responsive runners are perfect for runners who extend their stride and higher speeds while maintaining a more consistent cadence. And with a 33mm stack height at the heel, you’ll be comfortable enough to keep going as soon as you rev the engine. A full-length carbon fiber plate guides your foot through your step for an extra boost of energy.
BEST ZERO-DROP RUNNING SHOE
Altra Vanish Carbon
- Rocker geometry promotes a natural stride
- Waxed laces can be difficult to adjust
While these shoes are definitively Fast, the Vanish Carbons don’t compromise speed for foot health – an essential dedication to the Altra brand. The lightweight Ego Pro midsole provides a spongy base, but still retains that propulsion and lets you move naturally through your route. Pair that with Altra’s signature FootShape comfort, giving your toes plenty of room to flare out naturally, and you’ve got a winning runner that’s sure to improve your next running performance.
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