For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Training days are an investment—putting money in the bank, building equity. But on race day you cash in those chips. It is also when you refuse to compromise your performance by running in shoes that hinder you in any way. Respecting the tremendous effort devoted to training, you owe it to yourself to race in the shoes that will most likely escalate your performance.
That’s why we’ve selected a variety of racing shoes that capitalize on the super-shoe revolution, combining three typically modern elements from the most recent speedy shoe boom: First, a mega dose of rebounding foam in the midsole with a mega stack height; second, a rocker shape to get you quickly onto your toes; and third, a rigid fiber plate to stabilize the action of the fat layer of foam.Section divider
Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF
Weight: 8.2oz (Unisex)
TL;DR: Drawing from the brand’s agile trail running roots, the Phantasm is tuned on high for quick turnover and energy return to help propel you while allowing for some lateral stability should the course require cornering or hard turns.
Quick transitions have a lot of meaning when you are focused on time spent in T1 or T2. The same can be said when considering heel-to-toe-off gait flow. The Phantasm’s curved midsole geometry plays on the French-grown ski heritage, applying a reverse camber to pop you right into launch mode, using a midsole foam that combines EVA and Olefin for rebounding return stabilized by a stiff composite fiberglass plate. The 35mm-26mm stack heights are lower than most super shoes but what they lack in rebound they make up for in encouraging higher cadence. And, as one might expect from a company known for trail products, the outsole uses flat, wide lugs for an adhesive grip, even on the wet pavement that can often plague aid stations. The upper fit is true to size, foot-hugging and uses a traditional lace instead of Salomon’s speed lacing.Section divider
Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3
Weight: 8.1oz (Unisex)
TL;DR: Using lateral carbon rods to stabilize the Litestrike Pro midsole, Adidas’ most resilient foam, the Adios Pro 3 boasts a big-based expanded footprint with generous cushioning that doesn’t require a sub-six pace to reward a user with performance benefits.
Conjuring images of Tesla’s Cybertruck, the Adios Pro 3’s dramatic midsole/outsole cutouts and design geometries leave a lasting impression. The updated “Energyrods”—carbon fiber rods that run from heel to forefoot—supplant a carbon fiber plate, stiffening the ride so that the compression of each foot strike feels firm, with little noticeable compression and release, unlike the more dramatic spring-like action of Nike’s Alphafly Next% or Altra’s Vanish Carbon. But the firm ride is extremely even, and the wider forefoot with expanded foam (enough for a 39.5mm stack height) supplies an even platform. Unlike earlier versions of the shoe, it rolls evenly onto all the toes, not just the medial ones. The shoe gained a slight amount of weight from the increased midsole, but it was barely noticeable in action. The Continental rubber tread fares well on wet asphalt.
Curious about these kicks? Take a deep dive into the Adidias Adizero Adios Pro 3 with our extended review.Section divider
Altra Vanish Carbon
Weight: 7.3oz (M) 6.2oz (W)
TL;DR: With a perky underfoot experience—especially for a lower stack height—the Vanish Carbon’s natural flex, lack of drop, and wide toe box is a highly efficient super shoe that coaxes you to quicken your pace, even off the bike.
The Vanish Carbon has one of the best action/reaction-type experiences that really pops with a fun underfoot experience—especially at a higher cadence. It makes you want to run faster and faster, similar to the experience of how riding an unmuffled motorcycle or driving a muscle car incites engine revving. Altra’s combination of EGO Pro super foam, a forked Carbitex, flexing forefoot carbon fiber plate, and rockered geometry make for an efficient, exciting racer, one with surprising spring, given its relatively low 33mm stack height. The lower ride helps for cornering, as does the zero drop. The EVA foam outsole and lack of rubber save weight but at the cost of durability and traction. Although Altra is known for its wide toe boxes, the Vanish Carbon is much narrower than the brand’s normal fit, so those with higher volume feet should try on a pair to get the sizing right.Section divider
Brooks Hyperion Elite 3
Weight: 8.1oz (Unisex)
TL;DR: With a new knit upper and better fit, the Hyperion Elite 3 carries forward Brooks’ super shoe line with a pair that is elite but not elitist as it accommodates a variety of paces—bringing life to bike-heavy legs.
The Hyperion Elite bottom unit went unchanged between the second and third versions of the racer, with its nitrogen-infused DNA Flash midsole for long-lasting, lightweight recoil. The sculpted midsole is enhanced with a rolling technology to move the stride action smoothly and quickly from landing to launch and increase turnover. The carbon-fiber plate with a unique spine construction adds structure to keep the super foam from feeling squishy. The upper also got a remake with an integrated tongue, adaptive, stretchy knit material, updated heel and collar, and 100% recycled polyester laces that are scalloped to help them stay tied. This all improves the fit, takes pressure off the Achilles, and eliminates hot spots, but it doesn’t do much to change the general feel of the shoe. The overall ride on the Hyperion Elite 3 is a stable and lively one, even when running at slower than race pace.Section divider
Craft Ultra Carbon 2
Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)
TL;DR: These shoes bring efficient speed to all but the gnarliest of trails by tweaking the super-shoe package of thick, rockered rebounding midsole foam with a carbon plate to make it off-road friendly.
Just as gravel bikes are now almost on par with road bikes, Craft’s Ultra Carbon 2 approaches the speed of asphalt-specific racing shoes. The stack height of 40mm is right at the legal limit but they can still handle gravel with a three-piece lugged outsole that is non intrusive on smoother surfaces and pavement but has traction for looser ground—just like the knobby tires of a gravel grinder bike. The dual-density midsole is made of “Ud Foam,” a durable, light EVA-based foam with a blended combination of proprietary compounds and Craft-embedded tuned carbon fiber plate—split for torsion and variable energy return. Craft also incorporates an “Ultra Rebound” insole directly under the foot for immediate feedback and step-in comfort. The integrated bottom unit makes for a smooth, stable, and propulsive ride. The one-piece mesh upper has a snug fit around the heel and saddle but also includes an expanded toe box for toe splay. The sizing is more Euro, and those with higher-volume feet should go up a half size.