Super shoes have revolutionized the sport of running. Since their introduction in 2016, athletes wearing them have broken every world record from the 5,000 to the marathon launching a technological arms (foot?) race amongst competing global footwear companies. Innovations in foam, paired with the propulsive effects of a carbon fibre plate embedded in the midsole, have carved out a new class of shoes—the Super Shoe. The result is a never-before-seen combination of race-day speed with the cushioning of an everyday trainer.
So how did we get here?
Do you need a pair?
What are the options for you?
Lighter was faster.
Historically, the best racing flats of the past were all designed under the assumption that fast meant lighter. It wasn’t that long ago that Mizuno released the Wave Universe. I still remember getting my hands on a pair and thinking the box was empty. It was by far the lightest racing flat on the market and epitomized footwear technology at the time. They weighed just a little more than a pair of socks and you barely noticed they were on. They were so minimal, lightweight, and flexible that you could almost fold them up into your back pocket.
Traditionally, big stacks of foam and rubber often made running shoes softer and more suitable for high-mileage training, but those same properties also made shoes heavier. So, instead of plodding around marathon courses in training shoes, running companies made thinner, more responsive racing flats for the big race. The more minimal, sleeker, and lighter the company could design the shoe, the faster it would take you from point A to point B. This approach dominated the market for years — pushing footwear companies to find, source and create lighter models than ever before.
Nike Redefines Fast.
Then in 2016, the evolution of racing flats took a drastic turn. Nike released the Zoom Vaporfly 4%, a revolutionary new running shoe that paired a new foam compound (Zoom X) with a full-length carbon plate (intended to minimize energy loss and improve propulsion) that together claimed to make runners 4% more efficient than previous marathon shoes.
The thick, chunky midsole was a massive departure from what racing flats looked and felt like in the past. The shoe received instant validation as Eliud Kipchoge ran a blistering 2:00:25 marathon, nearly breaking the 2hr barrier as part of Nike’s Sub 2 attempt. The industry standard was set and a new recipe for fast was born. The race to create a legitimate competitor to the 4% was on.
Everything shifted: fast no longer meant just light and flat
Nike proved that fast could become synonymous with efficiency, in particular improving the runner's running economy. The Zoom Vaporfly earned the moniker 4% after improving runners' economy by (you guessed it) 4% compared to previous racing flats. Lab tests, numerous major marathon victories, and a marathon world record backed up Nike’s claim that the shoe made runners 4 percent more efficient—and proved that big shoes could go fast. Together, the full-length plate and the bouncy new foam gave runners an unprecedented taste of efficiency forcing every other company into catch up mode.
Flash forward to today, and just about every company has created their own super shoe to rival the Vaporfly.
Using a similar recipe (super light responsive foam + carbon fibre plate) and sprinkling a little of their own flavour to the mix, just about every company has a super shoe. The cool thing (shoe nerd cool) is that these technological advances have trickled down to create different types of super shoes. Now you don’t just have your super shoes to race. Companies have also created similar shoes to train in and for everyday mileage — all still harnessing the technological advances made from the original 4%.
So why do you need a pair of super shoes?
For myself, it’s gotten to the point that if you’re not wearing these shoes to race in, you are at a significant disadvantage to your competitors. The combined effects of the new foam compounds, with the carbon fibre plate, provide unparalleled effects never before seen in traditional racing flats. The shoes provide significant advantages in running economy (making you more efficient) and help improve your recovery time during and between big sessions.
- Improve efficiency
- Improve recovery
- Reduce stress on feet and joints
= Make you faster
If you want to go faster, further, easier…super shoes are the way to go.
What Super Shoe options are available at Rackets and Runners?
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next % 2: Coming soon
The latest evolution of the Vaporfly line, the Next % 2. Hold tight— these rockets are still on their way (arriving within the next week). Word on the street is that they're very familiar to the original Next% with the only alteration being a new occurring in the upper. Trust me, they'll be well worth your wait.
Nike Vaporfly Next %
The original ZoomX Vaporfly Next%. The chosen shoe on race day- these were almost banned for good reason. We're getting to the nitty gritty on sizing at Rackets and Runners so best grab yourself a pair before it's too late.
Saucony Endorphin Pro
The Saucony Endorphin Pro is Saucony’s answer to the Vaporfly Next% and one of the best models to rival its capabilities on race day. Engineered with elite athletes and built to give everyday runners a fair advantage at the starting line. Plus $100 less than a pair of Nike's equivalent. I personally think it's one of the best alternatives for your money. Carbon fibre plate, light, super response— it's tough not to run fast in these shoes.
Saucony Endorphin Speed
The Saucony Endorphin Speed is Saucony’s FAST training day shoe. Engineered to be more versatile, the Speed is built with a nylon plate compared to the carbon fibre one found in the Pro, making the shoe perfect for tempos, long aerobic intervals, even track sessions. If you aren't racing and looking for a fast shoe to train in, the Speed is your match. Voted best shoe in 2020—it is kind of a big deal.
Saucony Endorphin Shift
The Saucony Endorphin Shift is a dream shoe for your everyday mileage. Designed with a thick midsole, complete with PWRRUN cushioning to keep you protected, and a thin layer of PWRRUN+ to keep you feeling fast. The Shift is the ideal shoe to pile all the miles on and a great complement to the other super shoes in your lineup.
New Balance Fuelcell TC
Engineered to meet the demands of marathons and training runs alike, the New Balance FuelCell TC men's running shoe combines a fast and fierce feel with impressive durability. The FuelCell midsole is designed to deliver high rebound, and it’s complemented by an internal carbon fiber plate that helps to provide an engaging ride. The sleek, breathable upper is designed to help keep feet cool and dry from 5K to 26.2.
Hoka One One Carbon X2
The Hoka One Carbon X2 is the epitome of long range weaponry. Positioned as an endurance racer, the Carbon X2 delivers the same propulsive speed as its predecessor in an adaptable silhouette that is geared for training and racing alike. Engineered with a responsive, carbon fiber plate and aggressive Meta-Rocker, this performance shoe is a formidable competitor. If you're looking to get a bit more mileage out of your super shoes, these are the ones. Get ready for an inherently soft, stable and responsive ride.
As always the Rackets and Runners team is here to help you chose the right shoe for you. Book a fitting to see if a super shoe might be your next favourite running shoe.