Our group of runners and reviewers have gone out to the market and road-tested the best marathon running shoes for 2020 – and here’s their pick.

Whether you’re a marathon virgin or a veteran, selecting a pair of shoes for your event can be a tough task.

Sometimes you have a favorite style which suddenly isn’t available, or sometimes you need to upgrade your old kickers.

Let’s look at what you should be looking for in marathon shoes – and share with you our recommendations for the best marathon running shoes!

What I Look For In Marathon Running Shoes

As I detailed in How To Choose Running Shoes, the number one factor when trying out shoes is simply comfort

It almost sounds too simple, but it’s true.

Any shoe you don’t find comfortable when trying on is not going to get any more comfortable once you’re out running with them.

And sometimes you can only discover that a pair of shoes are uncomfortable after running around in them.

Here are some more pointers for what to look for when picking your marathon shoes:

  • You want a thumbspace between the longest toe and the shoe box.  This avoids the repetitive motion of the toe hitting the toebox, which leads to sore toes / lost toenails.  At the same time, if the shoe is too big your foot will move inside it and your toes will strike the toebox anyway.
  • Pick shoes that suit the terrain of the marathon.  Trail marathons have very different underfoot conditions to city marathons.   (And don’t forget to train in the same environment as you are running! 
  • Seek advice from a reputable running store.   Avoid stores where the assistants aren’t runners themselves.
  • Stick to what has worked.  If you have a brand or model you’re familiar with, there’s often no need to even change your marathon training shoe.

How Long Should You Trial a Pair of Marathon Shoes For?

Two months gives me plenty of time to train in my marathon shoes, ‘kick the tires’, and discover any small complaints.   

It sometimes takes a few 15 mile + runs to figure out that you don’t actually like a pair of shoes!

MarathonShoes2

How Many Pairs of Marathon Shoes Should You Buy?

If you’re in training mode for a full marathon, consider buying 2 (or even 3) pairs of the same shoe. (Only do this once you’re confident you’ve found the shoe).

Why?

Running shoes gradually lose their support and ‘bounce’.   You should look to change out a pair of running shoes every 300 – 500 miles.

At the same time, running shoes need to be broken in.   A brand-new pair of running shoes need a few miles on them before they are race-ready.

When it comes to marathon preparation, here’s how I like to do it:

I buy two identical pairs of running shoes.

Then I wear my first pair for almost all of my training – by the time the marathon comes, they are a little worn and dull.

As for the second pair (my ‘marathon shoes’), I save them until around 4 to 5 weeks before the marathon, then introduce them into the mix.   I’ll alternate the 2 pairs, until the marathon shoes have around 50 miles in them. Then they’re ready. 

Best Marathon Shoes for Men

Here are a selection of my top marathon training and running shoes for the guys:

ASICS Nimbus Gel 21

– Great for rookie runners

– Rates high for comfort

The Asics Nimbus line have been a favourite of aspiring marathon runners for decades now.   

This well-supported, well-cushioned shoe is very forgiving – which can be advantageous as you increase the mileage.   The Gel 21 model is slightly narrower than previous models.   

But if a you want a shoe that is total comfort, this is the one for you.

Saucony Ride 10

The Saucony Ride 10 is well-regarded for distance running – it is known for its comfort, flexibility and reasonable price.

It is designed as a neutral shoe, and the mesh exterior gives a lot of breathability. 

Overall, a good shoe to try out for your marathon training.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 15

The Mizuno is a great shoe that offers a ton of support and cushioning – which may be too much for some people.   

It includes a 12mm drop (the difference in height between the toe and the heel) which is quite pronounced. 

The Wave Inspire 15 offer a lot of stability, and the mesh upper makes the shoe breathable.

NIKE Air Zoom Pegasus 36

I’m continually impressed by how well Nike manages to make shoes that are both ‘lifestyle’ everyday shoes and great distance running footwear.   

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 is the shoe which is currently my top pick of the Nike running range!   

It’s durable, super-light, and comfortable to boot. Last year I clocked up most of my miles in their predecessor, the 35 model.

Best Marathon Shoes for Women

And here’s my pick of the top marathon training and running shoes for the ladies:

Asics Gel Venture 6

Offering support and a firm sole, the Gel Venture 6 is rugged enough to be used on either the road or the trails.   

It includes a lot of support, including the long heel collar – making it very versatile.   

If you’re used to running in lightweight shoes however, you may find this one a bit clunky.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20

With an engineered 3D mesh upper, and forgiving cushioning, the Adrenaline GTS 20 is well-suited for runners looking to increase the mileage.   

The guide-rails structure are designed to protect the knees from over-use injuries.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36

The Zoom Pegasus 36 offers a great distance running trainer.   

It’s lightweight, it’s comfortable without drowning your feet in cushioning, and its responsive.  The flymesh upper is awesome too. 

 The Nike range are known for being great running shoes that also look good and are comfortable enough you find yourself wearing them all the time!

Asics Gel Kayano 26

This shoe gives a very stable run – it provides plenty of support where you need it. 

It’s also comfortable and versatile enough that you’ll find yourself wearing it to the gym.   

The Kayano 25 features a wider toe box, which allows your toes to splay out naturally – good if you have big toes!

New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V2

NB’s Fresh Foam range is all about combining tons of cushioning with lightweight – two features that haven’t traditionally gone together.   

The result is this dynamic range of versatile shoes, that look good whether you’re out for a half marathon, or in the gym!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.