Editor’s Message: On January 30th, we updated our footwear choices to confirm availability and included additional high-performing footwear from our latest round of testing. As new models are released throughout 2024, we will update our selection.
Running a marathon requires endurance, resilience, grit… and an excellent pair of running shoes.
High-mileage footwear needs to offer the perfect combination of comfort, durability, and support to see you safely through training and race day.
Not only will the right marathon running shoes give you the speed and confidence you’ll need to shave minutes off your PB, but they’ll also help you maintain your form and prevent discomforts like ankle pain and blisters as you clock up the miles.
With plenty of strong contenders on the market right now, it’s not always easy to pick the very best marathon running shoes for your particular needs.
I’ve road-tested each and every one of these shoes, putting dozens of miles into each one, and have surveyed runners that use them in my running shoe store.
The Best Marathon Running Shoes
- Fastest Marathon Running Shoe: Nike Vaporfly 3
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- Best for Speed and Stability: Saucony Endorphin Elite
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- Best for Forefoot Strikers: Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
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- Best for Trail Marathons: Nike Ultrafly Trail
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- Best for Neutral Runners: Saucony Triumph 21
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- Best for Overpronators: New Balance Vongo
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- Best for Rule Breakers: adidas Prime X Strung v2
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Things to Consider When Choosing Marathon Running Shoes
The most important consideration when you’re about to run 26.2 miles is – of course! – comfort.
This is subjective, however, and there are several factors that contribute to it.
The best marathon running shoes will offer plenty of space in the toe box to accommodate your swelling feet as you rack up the miles.
That said, they shouldn’t be wide enough for your feet to move around too much, as this will cause chafing and blisters.
You’ll need a thumb space between the shoe box and the end of your longest toe, too.
If not, your toe will repeatedly slam into your shoe, causing stress to the nail that can lead to swelling and pain.
Key to comfort, cushioning also impacts your form, so it’s important to find a shoe that offers just the right balance.
If it’s too soft, you may end up sinking into it, which would require extra energy for propulsion and lead to faster muscle fatigue.
Too little cushioning, however, means less protection from the impact of landing, which can be very tough on your joints over longer distances.
Moderate cushioning is the best choice for most runners, although you may want to consider a shoe with more cushioning if you have a heavier build.
Breathability is an important feature in any running shoe and is particularly important for your comfort during a marathon.
A shoe that keeps your foot as cool and dry as possible will help minimize swelling and prevent blisters.
#4. Your Gait
Your foot shape and arch height affect the way in which your feet strike the ground when you land, so it’s important to have adequate support if – and where – you need it.
If you have high arches, however, neutral shoes will likely be more comfortable as they will help take advantage of the spring in the arch.
The 7 Best Marathon Running Shoes
#1. Fastest Marathon Running Shoe:
Nike Vaporfly 3
Weight: 7.4 oz, Stack Height: 40 mm, Heel Drop: 8 mm
|Soft midsole springs back to shape
|Very thin outsole wears quickly (save for racing and speed sessions)
|Upper tends to bunch if laced tightly
The winner of Marathon Handbook’s Best Racing Shoe Award, the undisputed king of marathon shoes, and leading podium places globally, the Vaporfly 3 features a full-length carbon plate to boost your forward momentum and plenty of ZoomX foam to improve your running efficiency.
Lightweight, fast, and super responsive, it offers the stability you need to handle sharp turns with ease and has a Waffle outsole pattern for excellent traction whatever the weather.
The slim upper hugs the foot and feels a little more supportive through the arch than the previous version of the Vaporfly, while the open-knit mesh upper is one of the most breathable around.
The heel is nicely padded – keeping your foot securely aligned – and the toe box is comfortably spacious with plenty of height.
#2. Best for Speed and Stability:
Saucony Endorphin Elite
Weight: 7.2 oz, Stack Height: 39.5 mm, Heel Drop: 8 mm
|Aggressive toe spring
|Outsole lacks durability
|Light, fast, and responsive
|Limited ground feel
|Plush PWRRUN PB sockliner
Saucony’s Endorphin Elite uses the brand’s new PWRRUN HG foam, which is a little firmer and more stable than Nike’s ZoomX, offering excellent rebound and greater durability, too.
This is a shoe built for speed assistance and here it really excels, featuring a slotted carbon plate for an adaptive toe-off and an aggressive forefoot rocker for a very lively and propulsive feel.
Breathability is excellent, too, with cutouts in the sides of the midfoot to disperse heat, a perforated tongue, and porous mesh in the mid- and forefoot.
The toe box is roomy and the midfoot strap provides a secure lockdown.
While there’s no heel counter, there’s a small pad at the top to keep the rearfoot in place and the upper overlays wrap around both sides.
#3. Best for Forefoot Strikers:
Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro
Weight: 7.7 oz, Stack Height: 39 mm, Heel Drop: 4 mm
|Uses ‘Smooth Speed Assist’ technologies for powerful propulsion
|Lack of medial support can cause a little instability on turns
|Responsive and bouncy
|Tongue is very thin
Mizuno’s Wave Rebellion Pro features an exaggerated heel bevel and dual layers of responsive Mizuno Wave Enerzy Lite+ and Enerzy Lite foam, a design that focuses the foot’s gait on a midfoot strike and propulsive toe-off.
If you already land on your midfoot, that translates to a level of forward propulsion you simply won’t experience with any other shoe!
The carbon-infused nylon Wave plate disperses impact forces to a wide area providing some stability, although the underfoot cut out on the medial side can make turns feel a little wobbly and means the shoe may be less than ideal for overpronators.
The grip is excellent – the small lugs biting into the road well in both wet and dry conditions – the thin upper feels very breathable, and the non-gusseted tongue features two slots for the laces that help secure it in place.
#4. Best for Trail Marathons:
Nike Ultrafly Trail
Weight: 10.6 oz, Stack Height: 38.5 mm, Heel Drop: 8.5 mm
|Unsuitable for muddy ground
|Durable, with woven fabric wrap to protect foam from abrasion
|Lightly padded tongue, heel collar, and heel tab for comfort
Nike’s Ultrafly was anticipated by many to be a trail version of the Vaporfly.
While it comes with a carbon Flyplate layered between soft and springy ZoomX foam – along with the all-important slim Litebase Vibram outsole – it’s less aggressive than the Vaporfly.
Instead, the focus is on comfort over longer distances – precisely what you need in a trail marathon shoe.
The chevron lug pattern of the trail-specific outsole, meanwhile, provides excellent grip on uphill climbs and downhill descents in both wet and dry conditions.
#5. Best for Neutral Runners In Marathon Training:
Saucony Triumph 21
Weight: 9.8 oz, Stack Height: 37 mm, Heel Drop: 10 mm
|Plush, comfortable cushioning
|Higher heel drop may be unsuitable for forefoot strikers
Saucony’s most popular neutral cushioned running shoe for over 21 years (and our top cushioned running shoe of the year), this model boasts a deep stack of PWRRUN PB (PEBA-based) foam in the midsole that gives the perfect level of energy return and bounce while effectively absorbing impact.
The new, flat-knit upper is breathable and feels insanely comfortable, too.
Flexing smoothly with each step, it features a seamless heel that won’t irritate your Achilles plus lots of comfy cushioning around the heel counter and collar.
Despite providing a soft and enjoyable ride, the Triumph 21 remains lightweight and stable during steady-paced runs, assisted by a roomy toe box that allows your toes to splay.
It also offers excellent traction, with directional cuts in the XT-900 carbon rubber outsole ensuring it grips well on a variety of surfaces, both wet and dry.
#6. Best for Overpronators Training for Marathon :
New Balance Fresh Foam X Vongo v6
Weight: 10.7 oz, Stack Height: 38 mm, Heel Drop: 6 mm
|Fresh Foam cushioning with a supportive medial zone
|May not be ideal for narrow-footed runers
|Light, springy feel
|Tailored, adaptive fit
Just like the very popular New Balance 1080, the Vongo features the brand’s fabulous Fresh Foam X cushioning.
But it also uses gradient stability technology, which means that the foam is denser on the medial side and offers greater support. This adds stability and helps limit overpronation.
Tailor-made for the high-mileage demands of marathons, it feels responsive, too, giving you a bouncy feel rather than the sensation of sinking into the shoe.
The hyperknit upper has a glove-like fit, but with enough stretch for comfort, while the heel collar is nicely cushioned and keeps your foot well aligned.
#7. Best for Rule Breakers:
adidas Prime X Strung v2
Weight: 9 oz, Stack Height: 50 mm, Heel Drop: 8.5 mm
|Excellent speed assistance
|Illegal stack height
|Knitted tongue makes it hard to pull on
With a stack height 10mm in excess of that permitted by World Athletics rules (built, as Adidas describes it, ‘without the constraints of world race regulations’), the Prime X Strung v2 is a highly responsive, bouncy shoe that feels incredibly fast.
This version of the shoe (actually the 3rd iteration) offers a lot more stability than its predecessors – it uses two carbon plates instead of Energy Rods and is now wider in the midfoot and rearfoot.
Between the plates are 3 layers of Lightstrike Pro foam and an energy core, creating a pretty stiff-feeling shoe with very little flex in the midsole, allowing you to take full advantage of that aggressive rocker.
The upper uses Adidas’ computer-woven Strung technology, with stronger threads in the heel for support and fewer threads across the midfoot and towards the toes for greater flexibility and breathability.