Running shoes don’t normally make the headlines, but the story of World Athletics considering a ban on the Nike Vaporfly running shoe has caught some attention. You might be wondering why Nike apparently has a monopoly on this kind of technology – can’t any other major sportswear company compete with them?
The evidence so far suggests not. Hoka One One has released a few shoes with carbon plates (the Evo Carbon Rocket and the Carbon X), but none were designed to be thoroughbred marathon runners and New Balance’s first carbon shoe has was designed for one-mile road races.
However, there were rumors that good marathon running shoes with carbon plates had been in the works from several brands for some time, and Brooks was the first company to take cover with the launch of the Hyperion Elite. (opens in a new tab).
A prototype of the shoe has been used by elite athletes at Brooks for a few years – Desiree Linden won the Boston Marathon in 2018 wearing a blacked out version of the Elite – but it will be available for purchase for the first time. times on March 1. Like the Vaporfly, it will come at a hefty price tag – £210.
There are also several other similarities to the Vaporfly. The high stack of lightweight cushioning for one, although Brooks’ DNA Zero EVA foam isn’t as springy as the ZoomX foam Nike uses in the Vaporfly. Then there is the carbon plate, which provides stability and propulsion. And the shoe is topped with a very light upper, so the Elite weighs less than 200g, which Brooks said Coach was a primary focus when designing the shoe and a reason the midsole isn’t as springy – Brooks traded energy return for less weight.
After running 30km in the shoe – a good chunk of its claimed longevity, with Brooks telling us it’s only at its best for 50-100 miles (80-160km) – I think Brooks did the wrong choice with this compromise. There is very little bounce on the Hyperion Elite and it feels like a classic race flat, just with a higher stack height. In my opinion, a little more weight to implement more bouncy foam would have improved the Elite as a marathon runner.
I did two hard descents in the Hyperion. The first was a 16km progression finishing a little slower than marathon pace, and the second a fartlek session with two laps 5/4/3/2/1 minutes ahead, one minute behind. The former was more of a marathon workout and the latter a standard speed day, so the Hyperion Elite should have been in its element in the former. However, the opposite was true. The shoe’s firm ride left my legs feeling beat up and made pace progression difficult, even for just 10 miles; the Elite felt much more natural in the short, sharp reps of the fartlek session.
As a result, I can’t really imagine picking up the Hyperion Elite for a marathon, in the same way that I wouldn’t wear the old Brooks Hyperion race flat. I prefer a little more cushioning when attacking 42.2 km and I am definitely looking for more energy return from the midsole. The Vaporfly provides both in spades and Brooks’ EVA foam midsole just can’t compete with the springy feel of the ZoomX foam used by Nike, which is made of a material called Pebax.
Considering its high price and short lifespan, the Hyperion Elite is a very tough sell. You can pick up a classic running flat like the Hyperion, Saucony Type A9 or Nike Zoom Streak 7 for £100 or less and enjoy a similar ride. Or, if you want a more cushioned shoe for long-distance runs, like me, there are several better options even if you don’t like the Vaporfly.
Brooks has announced one himself – the Hyperion Tempo, on sale April 1 for £140. Billed as a training shoe to complement the Elite, the Tempo doesn’t have a carbon plate, but the DNA Flash midsole is infused with nitrogen to make it a bit more springy than the DNA Zero foam of the Elite. It’s still very light too, and in my testing I found it to be faster and more bouncy on long, hard runs than the Elite. A Brooks shoe with a carbon plate and DNA Flash midsole foam would be a better long distance runner in my book and I expect to see something along those lines come out next year.
In short, the Elite is a swing and a miss as a Vaporfly rival. It’s a good short distance running shoe, but you’ll find equally fast and more durable options for much less than £210. For long-distance events, the simple but damning verdict is that even if the Vaporfly didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be using the Hyperion Elite for my marathons, and it wouldn’t even be my first choice of shoes from Brooks.
Buy from Brooks (opens in a new tab) | £210