Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition

Our group of runners and reviewers have gone out to the market and road-tested the best marathon running shoes for the 2021 running season – and here’s their pick.

Whether you’re a marathon virgin or a veteran, selecting a pair of shoes for your marathon training and 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 shoes!

What I Look For In Marathon Running Shoes

best marathon running shoes

As I detailed in my article How To Choose Running Shoes, the number one factor when trying out marathon running 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 to find the best marathon shoes for you:

  • You want a thumb space between the longest toe and the shoe box.  This avoids the repetitive motion of the toe hitting the toebox, which leads to sore toes/runner’s toe.  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.
  • If you’re used to running with running insoles, take them to the store to use when you test out your new shoes.

Confused by the different types of running shoes available? Check out our Guide to Running Shoes: Running Shoes Types, Explained.

Related: Here’s Why Running a Marathon Without Training Is a Bad Idea

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 12 mile + runs to figure out that you don’t actually like a pair of shoes!

How Many Pairs of Marathon Shoes Should You Buy?

best marathon running shoes 2

If you’re in training mode for a full marathon, consider buying 2 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.

So for your marathon shoes, you want to be like Goldilocks – don’t run in brand new shoes, but don’t use old, tired shoes either.

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

I buy two identical pairs of running shoes.

Related: What To Wear When Running

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. 

Related article: How To Run With Your Phone: The Best Options For Carrying Your Phone While Running

Best Marathon Shoes for Men

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

Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition 1

ASICS Nimbus Gel 22

– Great for rookie runners

– Rates high for comfort

The Asics Nimbus line has been a favorite of aspiring marathon runners for decades now.   Many runners are Nimbus loyalists, buying every new model as it’s released – and the 22 is regarded as one of the best in the line.

This well-supported, well-cushioned shoe is very forgiving – which can be advantageous as you increase the mileage.   The Gel 22 model is slightly narrower than previous models.   

If you want a shoe that is very reliable and gives total comfort, this is the one for you.

 best marathon running shoes saucony freedom ISO 2

Saucony Freedom ISO 2

The Saucony Freedom ISO 2 is my shoe of choice for marathon training and racing this season. I’ve run marathons and a couple of ultramarathons in this shoe, and I love it!

The Freedom ISO 2 is lightweight, super-comfortable, and fits like a (very breathable) glove. The shoe 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 great shoe that can carry you through all your marathon training.

Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition 2

Mizuno Wave Inspire 16

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 16 offer a lot of stability, and the mesh upper makes the shoe breathable.

best marathon running shoes Nike Pegasus 36

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:

best marathon running shoes women asics gel venture 7

Asics Gel Venture 7

Offering support and a firm sole, the Gel Venture 7 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 tad clunky.

best marathon running shoes women brooks adrenaline GTS20

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.

Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition 3

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!

Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition 4

Asics Gel Kayano 27

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

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam Arishi V2 best marathon running shoes

New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V3

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.

16 thoughts on “Best Marathon Running Shoes: 2021 Edition”

    • look awesome but

      – expensive
      – the carbon fiber plate seems to give you a springy boost which is gonna speed you up
      – however, you wouldn’t want to get used to running in them all the time. Running with that carbon fiber plate all the time would make you more dependent on it. So if you’re an advanced runner looking to shave 5 minutes of a PR, consider getting a pair and training in them sporadically.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  1. Just purchased a pair of woman’s Asics GT-2000 9 .. will let you know how they work out. Most comfortable after trying several pairs at a running store. I bought a pair of wide, they were the best for me and end of big toes, and the back of my heels.

    Wouldn’t have recognized the name if hadn’t read your article above.

    Reply
  2. Have you tried the adidas adizero boston 9? I’ve heard it compares nicely to the Pegasus and is better in some areas.

    Reply
    • Hey Charles!

      I’ve seen them around but yet to try them out – they’re clearly a marathon shoe. If I get my hands on a pair I’ll get back to you!

      Thomas

      Reply
    • Hey Annie,
      yep – the Speed Endorphins come with a carbon plate in them, which gives your run a snappy spring – basically making you faster.
      To me, these are a fun performance booster – and it takes time to get used to them.
      If you wanted to use them, say to get a new PR, then go for it – but I’d probably recommmend you don’t use them exclusively, or your body will get used to that extra spring.
      Thanks!
      Thomas

      Reply
  3. Hi Thomas

    Nike Zoom X Invincible. This shoes is meant to be Nike’s most comfortable for marathon training shoes to date. Any views Thomas.

    Reply
  4. Any suggestions for those of us with wide feet? I generally wear a 3E or 4E. The only running shoes I have found in that width is the Brooks Beasts.

    Reply
    • Hey Nick!
      Here are some shoes I know come in the 4E size (although you may have to hunt around to find them):
      New Balance 1080 v10
      New Balance 860
      Brooks Ghost
      Brooks Adrenaline GTS

      Im a fan of the Adrenaline GTS!

      Hope this helps 🙂
      Thomas

      Reply
    • Hey Nathan!
      Yep – I’ve been running with minimalist shoes for 11 years believe it or not!
      I haven’t trialled Xero, but have had a couple pairs of vivobarefoots over the years.
      Currently my go-to’s are New Balance MT10s; zero drop, lightweight, little cushioning, but a little more rigid than what they used to be. I go running roughly once a week with them.

      Why are there no minimal shoes on this list?
      Running in minimal shoes is something that takes time to get accustomed to, and needs to be done very gradually. Most people who are in marathon training mode probably won’t want to add in the extra complication of transitioning to minimalist style running; it increases the risk of injury if not done correctly.

      Also – due to the lack of cushioning, support, and bounce in minimalist shoes, you run slower in them. Something not many people realise until they try it. When in marathon training mode, most runners are aiming for a specific pace or finishing time, so are happy to choose a shoe that is easy to reach it with.

      Hope this helps!!

      Hey – if you’ve any minimalist shoe models for me to check out, let me know! I’m always keen to test different shoes.
      Thanks,
      Thomas

      Reply

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