It seems like there are new trends in running shoes each year that we hadn’t heard of the previous year, then all of a sudden it’s the must-have feature of 2023!
You’ll often see the latest trends in running shoes being showcased by some well-known athlete at Worlds, or in every social pic they post. I’m pretty sure the 2nd most viewed pic from Berlin Marathon 2022 – when Eliud Kipchoge smashed his marathon world record by 30 seconds – was his Nike carbon racing shoes!
But how much of it is driven by research, how much of it is just hype/marketing, and which trends do you need to follow? More importantly, which current trends might actually harm you, leading to injury and frustration?
Here are the major trends in running shoes for 2023 and how they’re being rolled out in late 2022 models, ready for 2023’s most popular product lines.
Making shoes lighter isn’t a new trend – they’ve been getting a few grams lighter for years. But the big shift for 2023 is actually a major leap forward in technology and the impact on the weight of the shoe is massive.
One line of running shoe is suddenly getting 30g/one ounce lighter from the 2022 to the 2023 model, while keeping many of the same features. The biggest weight savings are being made in the midsole (cushioning foam) with some additional savings in the upper materials. That change to the upper material and midsole composition may come at the cost of lifespan, but more on that in the next point.
Take the Brooks Launch 9 as an example. The 2022/23 Launch 9 model is 2mm thicker in its midsole than the Launch 8, yet it’s ~23g lighter (that’s about a third of an ounce).
Not all models are getting lighter though.
Some models have decided to stick with a proven recipe for success and are largely the same as their 2021/2022 versions, with a subtle color change to encourage new sales.
Other models have decided to use their spare weight budget on new features, adding new features to their 2022/2023 version to bring it up to the previous weight but with more to offer.
For every upside, there has to be a downside… Lighter materials just don’t last as long as their older and heavier counterparts.
Now, I acknowledge that’s a broad statement and some newer materials can be lighter AND last as long or longer. But the majority of new materials are designed for performance, not durability.
We’re getting a lot more feedback on woven uppers ripping after only 200-300kms, and outsoles (grip) coming unglued or detaching after a few weeks of use.
That’s not in fringe brands either, it’s some of the biggest and most popular players that are suffering from a performance mindset. But all brands seem to be chasing performance and lightweight materials, so it’s hard to single out any brand as being more durable than others.
That reduced durability might be why we’re encouraged to use trail shoes for any off-road action, and to save our racing shoes for races only. Which brings us to the next trend…
Gone are the days of the “one shoe to rule all others” (Lord of the Rings reference, for anyone confused). In years gone by, one shoe would be workable for interval sessions, long runs and the occasional trail.
In 2022/23, it’s about purpose-built shoes. Most running shoes are so specialised in their purpose that they just couldn’t perform other roles without risking damage to the shoe (or the runner).
Your short/speed/interval shoes are so light and low profile that they wouldn’t be comfortable for a long run.
And your road shoes are so delicate that they wouldn’t survive a technical trail run.
Your trail shoes may be durable, but the grippy lugs would disintegrate on road.
So one of the biggest trends in running shoes for 2023 is that you need lots of them. Lots!
At a minimum, you’ll need short and long run shoes, with separate trail shoes for off-road. Some models of trail shoes offer some functionality for road running, such as HOKA’s Challenger ATR, but you wouldn’t use them for a majority of road running as they’re more suited to trails.
Trail runners are more likely to find one shoe for all trails, but there’s a growing divide between aggressive (but not very protective) short run shoes and thicker (but bulkier) long run or ultramarathon shoes.
This isn’t a new trend, but it’s taken a slight deviation from its previous path. Almost every brand has embraced the Maximalist trend thanks to World Athletics rules governing the maximum stack height of shoes for road racing.
All runners at the top level of competition must have shoes no greater than 40mm heel height for road (from December 2021) and 20mm for track (from November 2024).
So the previous 30mm-ish heel heights of major brands like Nike, Brooks and Asics have jumped straight to 36-40mm. Thanks to the lighter midsole composition, the shoes aren’t heavier for their extra plushness.
HOKA have been playing in the chunky midsole space for a lot longer, having lead the charge for the last two decades. Funnily enough, they’ve been gradually reducing their stack heights over the last 10 years.
For 2023, you can expect to see most shoes having a few extra millimetres in stack height added to their profile, particularly now that the materials have got lighter.
Carbon plates (& injury risk)
Carbon plates have been the talk of the town ever since Nike’s 2hr marathon project and certainly one of the emerging trends in running shoes of the last few years.
They’ve grown from a few select Nike shoes with plates to a huge range of shoes in most racing brands, from full carbon plates (eg. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next) to partial carbon plates (eg. Asics Glideride) and nylon plates (eg. Saucony Endorphin Speed).
But carbon- and nylon-plated shoes come with a word of caution – they’re a racing shoe, not an everyday training shoe!
What we’re learning from Physiotherapy patients that we’re seeing is that switching to carbon shoes for every run may feel great initially (you’re faster, what’s not to love!) but eventually the additional dynamic load on tendons and muscles leads to injuries in most runners.
Embrace the one of the sexiest trends in running shoes with carbon, but just be careful – the feeling can be addictive but it’s not a wise move to use them exclusively.
Side note: the exclusive switch to carbon-plated shoes brings back memories of the “barefoot revolution”. A little bit of barefoot running is helpful in many running programs, but switching exclusively to barefoot running was a dangerous game, and most runners ended up broken and demoralised. The same moderation is required for carbon-plated shoes, but the lure of speed can be hard to resist…
Need expert advice to get the perfect shoe?
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This app, on Android and ios, offers expert advice on running footwear.
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It then matches that with your needs and your injury history to recommend the perfect shoe (or shoes) for you.
The app can also diagnose injury and suggest running sessions that won’t flare up any current niggles.
It’s advice, for runners, from experts, when you need it most.
Disclaimer for Latest Trends in Running Shoes
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