Thursday, March 21, 2024

Diadora Gara Carbon Multi Tester Review: The Italian Sports Car of Marathon Super Shoes! 4 Comparisons

Article by Ben David, Derek Li, Ryan Eiler and Adam Glueck

Diadora Gara Carbon ($300)


Ben: The Gara was my first foray into Diadora shoes and what an introduction it was. The Gara runs as smooth as it looks. It’s just delightful: breathable, fast, streamlined and silky-smooth. If people can get around the price, they’ll find themselves in a carbon-plated racer that is as peppy, propulsive and as wearable as anything on the market. 

Derek: This is the second Diadora shoe I have tested, after the Equipe Atomo in the fall of 2021. Back then, Diadora was still mostly focusing on EVA-based midsoles and the Equipe Atomo had a more traditional underfoot feel and sat squarely in the daily trainer category. Here with the Gara Carbon, Diadora is finally throwing its hat into the carbon-plate shoe game and it is an excellent first execution.

Adam:  This is the first Diadora shoe I’ve tested, but as Ben says, it is a fantastic introduction.  The Gara Carbon features a lot of my favorite ingredients:  an airy Matryx upper, grippy laces, and a thick PEBA foam sandwiching a carbon plate.  These ingredients do not guarantee a good shoe, but Diadora has combined them to create a versatile, efficient, and fast carbon racer that doubles as a versatile uptempo trainer


Light, breathable, generous fit for a race shoe (Ben/Derek/Sam/Adam)

Midsole’s excellent balance between stability and propulsion (Ryan/Sam/Adam)

A fairly versatile high-performer (Ryan)

Pleasant, easy-to-use ride quality (Ryan/Sam/Adam)


Price, slightly heavier than most competitors (Ben / Derek/ Ryan/Adam)

Overlay durability (Ryan)

Could use a touch more forward roll from midfoot (Sam/Adam)


Approx. Weight: men's 7.7 oz  / 218g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s   7.5 oz / 212g US8.5, 7.97oz / 226g US9.5

Stack Height: men’s 39 mm heel / 34 mm forefoot ( 5mm drop spec) 

Platform Width: 77mm heel / 49mm midfoot / 112mm forefoot

$300  Available now.

Most comparable shoes

Asics Meta Speed Sky+ (Ben)

Hoka Rocket X 2 (Ben)

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (Ben)

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 (Derek) 

New Balance SC Elite 4 (Derek)

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Ben: The Gara offers a generous fit as far as racers go. It is relatively broad and has an ample toe box. 

The Matryx upper which includes Kevlar fibers (dark below around the midfoot and tongue) is flexible to the touch and breathable. The shoe looks as good as it feels on foot. The Italian genes and craftsmanship here are instantly evident. 

Upon step-in, there is noticeable support from the structured heel cup and relatively broad base, neither of which are inevitable when one thinks of the current market of carbon-plated marathon shoes. 

There is a very soft feeling underfoot, perhaps reminiscent to some of the Asics Meta Speed Sky+. 

In spite of coming in slightly heavier than many of its competitors, the Gara feels absolutely great and simply feels ready to run fast. I felt quite effortless working out in the shoe (200 on / 200 float one week, 3 x 5 minutes the next week). My legs felt great throughout the run.

Derek: As Ben has already mentioned, the fit of the Gara Carbon is on the generous side, and step in feel is fairly roomy by racing shoe standards. It is quite clear from the first step that this is a soft and bouncy shoe. Aesthetically, it is elegant in its simplicity, and probably in line what the kind of designs we have come to expect from Diadora. Nothing too flashy or radical. The fit is true to size length wise, but the high volume gives the impression that one might want to size down if you normally go with thin socks. The materials used are very comfortable and pliable. The padding around the ankle is quite minimal, as one would expect with a racer, and the heel cup is quite soft.

Ben has already described the upper quite well so I won’t re-hash that. There are 6 rows of lace eyelets, which is plenty, but there is no extra eyelet for heel lock lacing. I think most people won’t need it anyway but it is just something to be aware of. The laces are the now popular ridged laces, first seen on the Nike Alphafly 1, and now adopted by many top end racers, including the ASICS Metaspeed range. 

I generally like these laces as they grip better than traditional laces in a knot, but just be careful not to over-tighten them as they have the tendency to narrow when taut and can really bite into your foot in a way other laces might not. This is especially so with this shoe because the tongue is just a thin layer of fabric. One last thing I want to point out is the internal toe guard. This contributes to the toe-box volume in a big way. 

This zoom-in photo illustrates quite well how the toe-guard, with its more rigid laminate, is propping up the toes at the front; without this you can potentially get a very low and snug toebox. (Think Nike VF Next% 1)

All in all, I think the upper gives a comfortable fit, and while my personal preference is for a snugger racier fit, I know there are plenty of runners out there who don’t necessarily like that so this shoe is a good option for them.

Ryan: I largely agree with what the others have noted, especially regarding the comfortable but high-volume fit. The experience from the moment of step-in to the first stride is very pleasant, with a non-intimidating lace-up and plenty of friendly finishes throughout. Unlike many others in this category, its aesthetic isn’t desperate for attention, and the Gara instead focuses on a clean, quality design. 

The upper material consists of a strong but supple type of mesh, which conforms to the foot nicely and is smartly assisted by a toe guard to give it structure. Fit tends toward the voluminous end of the spectrum which is perfectly fine for a distance-oriented shoe like this. While it makes the shoe feel less racy than most other carbon-plated options, it delivers a delightful and relatively mellow on-foot feeling, even at aggressive paces. However, if you’re looking for a shoe with lockdown worthy of a hard 5k/10k, this may not be the ticket. A moderately padded and brushed heel collar ups the comfort factor even more. 

The upper isn’t as breathable in the toe box as many of its competitors, although the material is more perforated on the lateral and medial midfoot. The tongue is fairly traditional, although on the lean side, and works well to provide comfortable lockdown. The one concern I had regarding the upper was the durability of its overlays, as the medial ones started to peel on both shoes after only about 80 miles. 

Fit was true to size for me, although again, the fit tips toward above-average volume.

The minimal overlays and Matryx upper combination performs fantastically with this shoe.  Given the relatively high stack height, the upper is tight enough to control the stability of the midfoot, but gives the toes room to move.  Overall the breathability is excellent, and the grippy laces hold lock down very well.  I appreciate the padding of the heel for longer runs, and found the comfort of the upper to be super


Midsole & Platform

Ben: One of the tricks the Gara seems to play is to “appear” a lot like a daily trainer. The base is broad and supportive, more so than the Vaporfly 3 for instance. 

The Anima PBX is a supercritical PEBAX foam; it is highly responsive, offering a strong rebound and great propulsion. The foam works beautifully; and is certainly not too stiff or pillow-like in despite of its ample quantity. 

Derek: This year is the first year Diadora is using PEBA-based foams in their lineup. In the Gara Carbon, we have a curved carbon plate sitting in the middle of what appears to be a single density midsole construct. The sides of the midsole are still very soft to touch, telling me that the plate is on the narrower side, at least at heel and midfoot. The foam is soft with very good rebound, reminding me a lot of Nike’s ZoomX foam, but in a slightly denser formulation. Vibration dampening is very good, and at no point does the foam bottom out. I measured the stack at 39/35 so it’s close to the upper limit here, and with the 35mm forefoot stack, it is right in the same ballpark as the NB SC Elite 4, Nike AF3 and ASICS Metaspeed Paris models for forefoot cushioning. 

Ryan: This was my first Diadora, so I didn’t know what to expect in terms of performance, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this Gara Carbon midsole. To state the obvious: the plate makes for a stiff shoe, although it isn’t quite as stiff as some of the other heavy-hitters, and the soft character of the midsole dramatically tempers the aggressiveness of the plate. 

I’d characterize the foam’s softness as a bit firmer than Nike’s ZoomX, but not as soft as New Balance’s SC Elite Fuelcell.

 Despite its softness, it remains remarkably stable given its stack height. It is this nicely formulated balance of softness and stability that I see as the standout attribute of this shoe. A nicely balanced and conservative geometry also makes it versatile and suitable for all types of runners. 

I was able to run the shoe for mile repeats, which felt smooth and powerful, as well as for some moderate, sub-threshold runs where the plate’s stiffness was still welcome and not at all overbearing. There’s a great deal of softness and protection delivered by this hefty midsole stack, although its energy return isn’t quite as high as the purebred racers.

Adam:I have ran a lot of racing shoe foams varying in stiffness, from the cushiest foam in the New Balance RC Elite V2, to the incredibly responsive but firmer Flytefoam Turbo in the Asics Metaspeed Sky.  This foam falls on the softer side of the spectrum, but just enough firmer than the NB Fuelcell that it feels remarkably efficient at high speed.  I’m a taller and larger runner (6’ >200 lbs), so some of the softer foams compress a lot for me and lose their efficiency.  

The carbon plate is firm, but when sandwiched between layers of foam it makes the shoe snappy without being overly harsh.  I’ve run this shoe for some track workouts to test it at the limit for speed (not its intended use case), and it’s definitely more comfortable at distances of more than a mile.  However, it feels fast and responsive in a 400 which is an achievement for a Marathon designed cushioned shoe.  Overall it’s less aggressive than a Metaspeed Sky or Vaporfly, but more than fast enough for 10k+ race distances with excellent comfort. 


Ben: The outsole is simple, offering full coverage in ways that are reminiscent of the beloved Alpha Fly 3. This makes for an especially smooth roll-off on the run. The outsole also seems highly durable and long-lasting and, after fifteen miles, showed almost no wear. 

Derek: The outsole uses a simple web of mostly blown rubber for coverage. The rubber is grippy and works well even on damp roads, but my main concern with this softer compound would be durability. It feels very similar to the forefoot rubber used on the New Balance RC Elite 2, and interestingly in the Gara Carbon, even the heel rubber is of the soft variety. 

Ryan: There’s nothing fancy going on here, and that’s a great thing. I agree with Derek in that the softness of the rubber provides excellent grip, yet is worrisome on the durability front. I’ve already noticed some significant graining after about 60 miles. 

The outsole performs very well at both the front and rear of the shoe, with plenty of cutouts to prevent it from restricting the soft midsole’s movements.

Adam:  The outsole on this shoe is solid, lightweight, but not so flimsy that I’ve noticed any durability issues so far.  My testing has primarily been on track and mixed dirt/pavement bike paths, so I’d defer to other reviewers on that front.  I always like slightly more grip on my shoes (for versatility with dirt trails), so I like the softer compound, but considering the resiliency of PEBA and the durability of Matryx, it wouldn’t surprise me if the outsole was the first thing to wear out on this shoe. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Ryan: In a nutshell, this is a super high performer in a very comfortable, inviting package. It excels at moderate to hard efforts on long, fast roads thanks to its buttery ride and soft but stable midsole. There’s no learning curve or ‘getting used to’ here — it’s eager to please without any notable peccadillos. Transition is fluid throughout the entire stride, although it could use a touch more rocker to work through the soft foam and engage the plate up front. It favors the style of runner who likes to mash into the midfoot and pop off vertically, rather than roll from heel to toe.

As noted above, the upper is a delightful material which won’t bother any type of foot shape thanks to its supple nature and high volume. 

The midsole is a very nicely balanced interplay between stability and softness, and it plays very nicely against the backdrop of the stiff plate inside. Outsole grip is fantastic, despite some concerns about durability.

Where things unfortunately go off the rails is when the topic of cost comes up. At $300, it’s undoubtedly overpriced, and I don’t see Diadora’s rationale for trying to market it at this level — nobody is going to believe it outperforms a Vaporfly, Adios Pro, or SC Elite just because of a premium price. It’s an excellent showing by Diadora, but a bit of a stumble right before the finish line.

Ryan’s Score 8.1 / 10 (Big deduction for price, also for weight and durability of upper and outsole)

Adam: My thoughts here tend to echo Ryan.  This is a fantastically comfortable and versatile racer/trainer, and clearly a very well engineered shoe.  My concern with it is what its niche is.  For a true racing shoe, I wish it had a slightly more aggressive rocker and firmer foam.  

As a trainer, it’s fantastic for long runs and uptempo, but at $300 and with unknown outsole durability, that’s a hard purchase to justify compared to rotating several cheaper tempo shoes.  

It’s a beautiful and well engineered shoe that performs well, but I struggle to see the value for its niche and price point as a personal purchase.  That said, seeing Diadora entering the PEBA/Carbon plate racing shoe market with such a strong contender, comfortable upper, and lively ride is exciting and I can’t wait to see what else they’re working on.  

Adam’s Score:   8.7/10 😊😊😊😊

Ben This is a uniquely fast and wearable shoe, making no sacrifices when it comes to breathability or comfort. While the price tag may be a deterrent, this is a shoe that is ready to compete with the carbon-plated heads of state (Nike, Asics, Adidas…) In my opinion, its comfort actually propels the Gara to near the top of this list for marathons or long workouts. There is no harshness or overly aggressive feeling here; it is soft as they come with a truly generous fit. 

While perhaps awkward at slower paces, it feels great at faster speeds. 

We have here a kind of sleeper from a brand that is still working to make headway in the running space. Don’t sleep on the Gara!


All smiles for me; this is a great, fun, snappy shoe. If you can get around the price tag, this is as good as it gets.

Derek: I have used this run for mostly moderate effort medium distance runs up to 20km, as well as some threshold effort type of workouts. As the volume of the shoe is on the higher side, I went with thicker socks for the faster stuff, to get a racier fit. (Darn Tough are my go-to thicker socks, even here in Singapore, for those who are curious).

The low drop, and milder forefoot rocker, are quite apparent in this shoe. As such, I found that at slower paces, transitions felt ponderous and I had to work the calves a bit more to keep things ticking along. At faster paces, the shoe becomes a lot smoother, and the rebound from the forefoot also amplifies significantly. I also note that the plate feel is not very strong in this shoe, which is to say, the shoe is not overly stiff. 

Stability is also generally quite good as the shoe has very consistent and predictable response no matter where you land. I think the shoe works best for the runner with higher volume feet, and who is more of a forefoot or midfoot striker. 

Heavier runners might well find that that shoe is a little too soft. Pure heel strikers might struggle with the lower drop and milder rocker. This degree of softness and mild rocker makes the shoe ideal for marathoners in the 3-4 hour range, if they can handle the lower heel-toe drop. I think the shoe is stable enough for most runners, but this is more of a neutral shoe. 

I’m not very sure about how many Diadora will sell at this $300 price point. If history is anything to go by, a high price-point tends to attract the more discerning buyer, but if your goal is mass market sales, then unless it is something truly unique, it might struggle to sell.

Derek’s Score 8.73 / 10

Ride (50%): 9 Fit (30%): 8.5 Value (15%): 8 Style (5%): 9.5

Smiles score 😊😊😊😊

4 Comparisons

Hoka Rocket X 2 (RTR Review)

Ben: To me the Gara is more propulsive and has a far more supportive heel collar, even if it is a shade heavier. It has more significant cushioning, holds up better on longer workouts and almost certainly would for the marathon as well. The toe box is slightly more generous in Diadora. I’d go Gara. 

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. The Rocket X 2 is a softer but lower stack shoe, giving it more ground feel. The rocker does not work particularly well for me as I just can’t seem to keep on my toes consistently with this shoe, and when I land farther back, the whole transition stalls. The Diadora, despite having a similar low drop, seems to be more versatile over a wider range of paces, and the shoe is overall more cushioned and enjoyable for me. I prefer the Diadora Gara Carbon. 

Asics Metaspeed Sky + (RTR Review)

Ben: I haven’t yet tested the Meta Speed Sky Paris so this comparison will have to suffice. I think these shoes are actually relatively close actually. Both are highly wearable with similar fit. Both feel fast from step-in without the harshness of some competitors. I imagine that for speed alone the Asics wins out, but for a shoe that is more wearable and forgiving over the length of a marathon, I’d take the Gara. 

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. The Sky+ is another low drop shoe, but with a firmer forefoot than heel. The foam is overall much firmer than the Diadora, and it is harder to generate the rebound and propulsion in this shoe. The Diadora is softer and easier to navigate, and I imagine for most amateur runners, the Diadora is a much better running shoe in general, and specifically, a better marathon shoe for the 3-4 hour crowd.

ASICS Metaspeed Edge Paris (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. The Metaspeed Paris range is noticeably softer and bouncier than the + range, and while both the Edge Paris and the Gara Carbon have low drops, the Edge Paris has a more aggressive sweep to the curvature of its carbon plate. Coupled with an earlier rocker, the Edge Paris transitions significantly faster than the Gara Carbon, especially at faster paces. I find both shoes to be similar in terms of cushioning. The Edge Paris has the racier upper fit. I think people with high volume feet and maybe people on the slower end of the marathoner spectrum, should stick with the Gara Carbon. For everyone else, the Edge Paris is likely to be the faster and more assistive marathon shoe.

Nike VaporFly 3 (RTR Review)

Ben: The VF wreaked havoc on my Achilles and ankles. To me the Gara offers more support, a broader base and a much more upbeat ride. The VF 3 felt much too narrow, especially in the heel. I’d choose the Gara for virtually any distance. 

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both models. The VF3 is quite different from the Gara Carbon as it has a more traditional 8mm drop. The forefoot feels noticeably thinner in the VF3 vs the Gara Carbon. Forefoot strikers might well prefer the Gara Carbon, but I think in general, faster runners would prefer the stiffer and more propulsive VF3, while slower runners would benefit from the mellower rocker and softer foam of the Gara Carbon.

Index to all RTR reviews HERE  

RTR Editor Sam Winebaum compares 2024 Diadora Gara Carbon, Frequenza, and Cellula

The Gara Carbon is available now at Diadora HERE
and at our partner

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Tester Profiles

Ryan Eller A hopeless soccer career led Ryan to take up running, and after taking a decade-long break from competing, he is back racking up mileage whenever he can.  He calls the 2018 Boston Marathon the hardest race of his life, where he finished in 2:40, barely remembering his name at the finish line.  Rya more recently has a PR of 2:14:23 from the 2024 Boston Marathon finishing 3d American and 15th overall, a  2:17:16 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, from the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon after two other 2:18 efforts in the last year.

Adam is a cross country skier, runner, cyclist, and fan of outdoor adventures.  He grew up in New Hampshire, where he competed at NCAAs for Dartmouth Skiing, but is now based out of the Bay Area in California, where he enjoys the trails, cuisine, and engineering.  Adam enjoys running and racing track, road, and trail over a variety of distances.  He is 24 years old, 6ft /183 cm tall, and 197 lbs/ 89 kg.  Check out my Strava

Ben is the Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA. A cancer survivor, he has run 21 marathons. He holds PRs of 3:15 for the marathon and 1:30 for the half. At 46, he still enjoys pushing himself and combining his running with supporting a variety of causes. Follow him on Instagram: @RabbiBPD or Twitter: @BDinPA 

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Jon said...

I have raced a couple of marathons in the Rocket X 2 and enjoyed it but I always wished it had a little more cushioning/held up a little better at that distance. How is the Gara's sizing vs the Rocket X 2?

70's Teen said...

Sounds like a great shoe but why would I buy it when the Sky Paris has the same stack, is much lighter, far broader at the midfoot (= more stable) at 64mm, and cheaper?