Going fast is fun. Whether in a car, on a bike or sprinting through a workout, there’s nothing quite like the rush that speed delivers. For runners, your shoes play a key part in how fast you can truly be. And when you’re in the heat of an important race – whether that be a marathon or a simple 5k – every second matters.
To get the most out of every step, you need shoes that work with your quickness, rather than against it. You don’t put winter tires on a dragster, right? To help you stay in that competitive lane, check out our top picks for taking on your next race.
A Word on Carbon Fiber
Many of the racing shoes we’ve chosen feature a carbon fiber foot plate. This technology helps create a rigid base that promotes responsiveness and energy return. Additionally, carbon fiber is a lighter material, which helps cut weight for a sleek profile designed to truly put some spring in your step.
It should be noted, however, that while these carbon-infused racers can tack up your peak speed, they’re not the greatest for everyday running. Because of the rigidity, shoes featuring carbon fiber foot plates can be hard on your muscles and joints, which can get uncomfortable over prolonged use. Instead, bust these puppies out for speed work or race day, and opt for a more cushioned running shoe during other training cycles.
- Stiff carbon plate for a propulsive step
- The most expensive shoe on our list
Based off the prototype that gave the world its first sub-two hour marathon, the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit boasts responsive foam and two – count 'em – two Zoom Air units for the most energy return in Nike's racing lineup. A full-length carbon fiber foot plate gives your stride the snap it needs, while a wider forefoot gives this speed demon some surprising stability.
- Unique colorways give this racer plenty of room to stand out
- Upper material, while comfortable, can feel baggy in some spots
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 springy carbon fiber plate and symmetrical underfoot feel from previous versions. A 5 mm heel-to-toe drop helps you stay closer to the ground, too, as you keep the pace – and quicken it – toward the finish line.
- Speedroll Technology feels natural for faster, not harder running
- Not as stable as other options on this list
While it might feel like you're fast enough to run out of your sneakers, the Endorphin Speed 2s from Saucony ensure you stay in your kicks thanks to an updated, snugger heel fit and Formfit upper. The rocker styling of the Pwrrun PB foam can help propel you forward and a responsive nylon plate gives your steps that snappy energy return for shaving off those valuable seconds.
- Lightweight, breathable upper adds comfort to this speedy silhouette
- Outsole can become slippery when wet
After making its debut in 2020, it's clear the Hyperion Elite 2 has proven its staying power. The ultralight DNA Flash cushioning is nitrogen-infused for a light-as-air ride. The carbon fiber foot plate marries nicely to the broader midsole, easily propelling you forward so you can save some energy in the tank for the home stretch. Overall, these fast kicks can give you a great blend of responsiveness and cushioning for any upcoming race or training session.
- Roomy upper, great for wide-footed runners
- Adjusting the laces can be tricky if torqued down too tightly
Built around Asics' energetic Flytefoam Blast Turbo cushioning, these vibrant racers are great for runners who extend their stride and higher speeds while maintaining a more consistent cadence. And with a 33 mm stack height in the heel, you'll be comfortable enough to keep going at once you've revved up the engine. A full-length carbon fiber plate guides your foot through your step for that added boost of energy, too.
- Rocker geometry promotes a natural stride
- Waxy laces can be difficult to adjust
While these shoes are definitely fast, the Vanish Carbons don't compromise speed for foot health – a dedication pivotal to the Altra brand. The lightweight Ego Pro midsole provides a squishy base, but still retains that propulsion and keeps you moving naturally through your route. Pair that with Altra's signature FootShape comfort, giving your toes enough room to splay out naturally, and you have a winning racer that's sure to improve your next race performance.