When I started running longer distances a couple of years ago, it became clear that one piece of equipment would be more expensive than any other. Yes, a good backpack to hold water is great. And no one likes a chafing sports bra.
But without a shadow of a doubt, what you wear on your feet is the most important part of your running fit while marathon training.
There is no single best marathon running shoes. I have my personal favorite sneakers (which are on the list below), but the shoes that work best for my arch, the width of my foot, my stride, it is completely individual. The best marathon shoes are usually pretty pricey, so you want to be careful in choosing.
Marathon running in general is absolutely brutal on your body. While I was in the midst of my first marathon training, I had blisters, aches, pains, and due to a pair of outdated sneakers, I had a stress fracture in my left foot. I ended up being totally fine to race, but if I’d been more conscious of my shoe choices, it could’ve been avoided.
When you get to race day, you will feel a range of emotions. Anxiety, excitement, adrenaline, feel all the feelings. The last thing you want to feel is a pinch from your marathon shoes.
Top Tips For Choosing Running Shoes
Here are some of my best tips sorted by the most frequently asked questions, as well as a list of my most favorite running shoes. We’re looking at durability, injury prevention, and of course, style.
What’s the Difference in Running Shoes?
There are a couple of different factors that decide the right running shoe for you. I like to think of most running shoes in one of two categories: a carbon fiber plate sneaker vs. a regular running trainer.
Besides the rubber outsole, these shoes are about as different as they get.
Carbon fiber plates are mainly used by intense, fast-paced runners. It’s not to say you can’t use them if you’re on the slower side– by all means, do– but they are less comfortable and much more expensive. You might be asking yourself in that case, then why buy carbon fiber sneaks?
Basically, a normal trainer is kind of like brakes for your feet. They absorb energy with each step. This is great for protecting your bones and keeping your feet from heavy pounding. But it’s not so great for high speed.
Carbon fiber plates are much stiffer than a normal sneaker, which reduces speed loss. So if you are running anything faster than 9:30 splits, carbon plate running shoes could be great.
If not, I suggest a regular trainer. I myself do run faster than 9:30 splits, and I still don’t run carbon fiber plates. They just are so uncomfortable. Plus, not many companies make them. As someone who pretty much wears athleisure everywhere I go, I want to be able to wear my running sneakers out and about too!
How often should I replace my running shoes?
A typical beginner marathon training plan lasts four months. If you buy a pair of great sneakers (any from this list) right before you start, then they’ll last all training long.
In a nutshell, you should wear your shoes 300-500 miles before buying a new pair. That might sound ridiculous, but think about it like tires. You don’t want to skid off the road on balding tires, and you certainly don’t want to trust balding sneakers while running hundreds of miles while training.
Any insole advice?
Yes, in fact! I have pretty bad feet (sesamoditis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures), but in my most recent marathon, my life was absolutely saved by Sweet Feet sole inserts. They are very easy to use, and pretty much cured me of my foot issues.
Just make sure you wear them around a bit around the house before going on a run. It can take a little to get used to.
Friends of mine have had great success with Corex Insoles as well. These are great for high arches.
Not everyone needs insoles, and the majority of my runner friends don’t use them at all. Check with your podiatrist before you decide to get a pair– they are surprisingly pricey!
Why do sneakers matter?
When you decide to carve aside time to exercise, no matter what form of exercise that may be, you are deciding to take care of your body and your mind.
If running is your preferred form of exercise, it’s essential you do so safely. Otherwise, it’s not self care at all! Sneakers are the first defense you have against any form of energy while training for your marathon, and are the best piece of running gear you can invest in.
12 Best Running Shoes for Your First Marathon
Again, there is no one right marathon running shoes because everyone is unique. Here are some of my and my runner friends’ absolute favorite running sneakers to keep you happy, healthy, and one step ahead of the race!
1. Saucony Endorphin Speed
Longtime runners have always known about Saucony. Me, I’m a little newer to the comfortable running shoe game. I had no idea how versatile this pair of Saucony Endorphin Speed sneakers are.
The foam lining of these shoes is extra lightweight, which means that you’ve got a high level of comfort with efficiency. The more cushiony the shoe, the lower the efficiency. So these will give you great energy return if speed is important to you.
The upper tongue is equipped with an ankle lock, which will help hold your foot in place. The form fit design is built for more of a narrow foot, so keep that in mind too. Another good option is Saucony Kinvara.
One other thing I love about this shoe, and about Saucony in general, is that it is made of 100% recycled and vegan material. Gotta love some good ol’ sustainability!
2. Nike Alphafly 2
I can’t lie. I am one million percent the type to drink the Nike kool-aid. Everything they touch just turns out looking so MF cool. The Nike Alphaflys not excluded, of course.
There’s many things to love about the Alphaflys. For starters, they are absolute rocket ships attached to your feet. These are cushioned running shoes built with much more cushion than a typical Nike Zir Zoom, and of all the Nike running shoes, these are probably my favorite aesthetically– I love the design of the sole.
The two things you want to marry in a good marathon running shoe are speed and comfort. The Alphafly is a great shoe for both.
While it doesn’t come with carbon plates, the cushion on these is super lightweight, meaning a very high energy return weight. They have a gel structure along the toe, which will give extra bounce with every step. Just don’t forget to try these on before you purchase– Nike is known for running very narrow.
3. Nike Pegasus
The Nike Pegasus is the best of the best for runners with foot issues. These racing shoes are the best marathon shoes for a 5k and 10k, partly because of the fact they are for beginngers.
These are a sort of bread and butter shoe that you can wear on any run from a tempo run to a long distance. They’re not as specialized as something like a Nike Vaporfly, which is designed for breakneck paces on distance runs. More of a raceday specific, endorphin speed shoe.
The heel lock on this shoe is fantastic. I hate shoes with slippage, so that is a major plus with the Pegasus. You absolutely will not be sliding in and out of place.
The Pegasus is specially designed for runners with flat arches and toe issues. They have flat arch support as well as padded toe foam. Super helpful for someone like me who can’t seem to get her feet to behave.
The design of this shoe is super sleek. It’s definitely giving Hoka energy in terms of a higher stack height, side, tall platform and a plain, monochrome mesh. But there are a couple super fun and creative color choices to choose from that will help you stand out.
4. Asics Magic Speed
Ahhh, the Asics Magic Speed. These are one of the first road running shoes I ever tried. While they aren’t my top sneaker, they definitely are up there in terms of the best racing shoe I’ve worn.
One of the factors that makes stability running shoes like these so great is that they encourage an even running stride. These are specifically designed for neutral pronation aka are considered neutral running shoes if that’s advice you’ve been given!
Pronation is basically how much your foot twists and shifts while you run. I tend to pronate quite a bit, but a shoe like this is supposed to correct that by holding your foot in place and discouraging pronation. I never quite got the hang of it, so these were always a little uncomfortable to me.
If you have a super typical foot (no arch, toe, or heel issues), then this is a good shoe for you. It is made to be evenly distributed across the foot, so if you are worried about protecting certain parts of your foot, look into something a little more specific.
One final thing I find super helpful is the sock lining of this shoe. Made with a sweat-wicking material, this will help to prevent blisters. TOTAL gamechanger in the summer especially..
5. Adidas Adizero Adios
I am more of an Adidas pro when it comes to street style (I love me a good pair of sambas), and less when it comes to running sneakers.
However, I’ve heard great things about the Adidas Adizero Adios in particular, mostly for the features they have. One cool thing about the Adizero Adios is the fingerhold on the back. Running shoes can be difficult to get on, so I really appreciate this seemingly small feature that allows you to peel your foot into the shoe.
One other thing I love, love, love is the design. It’s a very unique looking shoe, which is something I appreciate. Picking out workout fits is half of the fun of running in the first place. The asymmetrical sole, the bright colors, I think these are so fun.
One last thing about the soles– while these shoes aren’t carbon plated, the foam soles are carbon infused, meaning they will have a higher efficiency than other similarily comfortable sneakers.
6. Saucony Endorphin
The Saucony Endorphin are so wickedly cool. From the space-martian design of the sole to the side cutouts on the meshed lining, Saucony is just one of those running shoe brands that definitely takes risks.
The design is built to keep your foot super fresh, so I would say these are the best shoes for a marathon in climates like the desert or perhaps extreme humidity. Definitely not the shoes for a rainstorm.
These are also the first carbon plate shoes aka super shoes on the list. They have a propulsive carbon plate in each sole that will give you a super loaded jump off of each step. The shoe is designed to push your weight into your toes. This is great for speed, but just be aware that it could be uncomfortable in the toe box if you have bad feet like I do.
There are a couple of different types of Saucony Endorphin shoes to choose from that range in speed levels as well as road vs. trail, so be sure to check all of them out before landing on your decision!
7. Brooks Ghost
This is the part of the list in which I lose my mind over how much I love these shoes. Brooks Ghost are – in my humble opinion– the best marathon shoes for women, best marathon shows for beginners, best marathon shoes for slow runners, best marathon shoes for anyone who is asking.
My journey with Brooks Ghost began after my first foot injury while training for a 10k. I was told my feet were too wide for Nikes, and I began a search for the most comfortable sneakers for wide feet.
I wear these sneaks on virtually all of my runs, and they have cured many of my foot problems. I am absolutely obsessed.
I found a full review on these Brooks shoes that actually come in a wide size. That pretty much changed the game for me. These shoes are incredibly durable, and are one of the most comfy shoes I’ve ever worn, sneaker or not.
Plus, they can be found on Amazon, and are an amazing Prime Day deal most years.
8. On Cloud Cloudultra 2
For the years I lived in San Francisco, I couldn’t go a day without hearing someone preach their love of On Cloud sneakers. They are beloved not only for their high level of shock absorption, but specifically in the Bay because these are a trailing running shoe.
Trail running shoes are of less importance to me because I prefer running on roads. After tripping and injuring myself near the McCloud Falls, I just stick to asphalt now.
For those who do run trails, On Cloud sneaks are the way to go. The sole is built for all terrain, meaning you can scurry up muddy cliffs or feel safe climbing down rock walls. They’ve got you covered.
The shoe itself is very lightweight and has a knit, sock-like tongue for a snug fit. It is waterproof throughout, which is especially helpful in the San Francisco fog.
If you have ankle or calf mobility issues, the higher heel-toe drop on these suckers will be great for you.
9. Hoka Clifton 9
There is no way to go wrong with Hoka running shoes. Hokas are known for being the best daily trainer with tons of cushioning while also being super lightweight and less of a heel drop. They are also super cute, which never hurts.
I am definitely a Hoka fan. I have a pair of the Hoka Clifton 9s I wear for all my hot girl walks or if I’m too lazy to change out of athleisure for the grocery store. I don’t typically run in them because I am clumsy AF. The stack height on Hokas is super tall, and I almost always roll an ankle when I run in these.
But that really is a me problem.
These are among the best marathon running shoes because of how well they take the shock of pounding out of your foot and into the shoe. They’re known for being a great sneaker for anyone prone to stress fractures for that reason exactly– they absorb all impact. Hoka Mach is another popular option, but I haven’t tried it myself so do with that what you will!
Plus, Hokas are made of 100% recycled material. Sustainability is becoming less and less of a goal of mine while shopping, and more of a necessity. It just feels so much better to me.
They have a compression foam midsole to provide comfort and support to all areas of your feet. The sneaker is made of a super breathable material, so no swamp foot concerns here.
10. Asics Gel
While I haven’t tried them out myself, I’ve heard such good things about the Asics Gel shoes. They have a very experimental design, and rely on a gel sole system to provide shock absoprtion.
I wouldn’t necessarily vote these as the best running shoes on the list, and again I haven’t tried them yet, but they’re on the list mostly for how funky they are. Most advanced runners suggest owning more than one pair of shoes to cycle in through training to ensure you don’t pound on the same part of your foot.
This could be an awesome pair to cycle in, particularly for shorter distances. They’re super ~in style~ too, so I could even wear them with an actual outfit out and about. If you have flat feet, I suggest looking into a stability shoe like the Asics Gel-Kayano.
11. New Balance Fuelcell Supercomp Trainer
The Fuelcell was the absolute top of my Christmas wish list. These are being touted as one of the best sports shoes, running sneakers, basically anything you need sneakers for, these work.
Part of what makes these special is the New Balance fresh foam. The foam midsole creates a really supportive shoe that should feel like you’re running on a cloud.
And while they don’t have carbon plates, these shoes have a TPU plate, which is basically a plated system that’s twice as comfortable but propels you in exactly the same way. Plus an engineered mesh upper that helps your feet breathe!
12. Puma Deviate Nitro
To finish out the list of best shoes for marathon training, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Puma Nitros. These shoes are known for being super flexible and responsive. While super comfortable, they should feel light, as though you’re barefoot and nearly zero drop.
One of my favorite things about this shoe is the sole. It uses grip rubber, which is super helpful if you are in a rainier climate. The amount of time I’ve almost eaten shit on a rainy run is too much to count. A grippy sole can save you a lot of time on injuries.
The cushioning and support is very solid on these. They’re a good sneaker for shin splint victims and anyone with sensitive feet.
New Balance has a 30 day trial period. This is so clutch if you’re a new runner because you can try them out and see whether or not it’s a good fit. I definitely recommend taking advantage of this feature!
Whether you want to get into running for the first time or you’re preparing for your millionth marathon, good shoes matter. I cannot motivate myself to run unless I feel like I’ve got the proper equipment. And for a sport like running, the most important piece of equipment is a pair of sneakers.
Sneakers are so much more than shoes in running. They’re self-expression, self-care, and a way of taking care of your body while you work out. Being out of breath is fine, muscle soreness is fine, but your body and feet shouldn’t hurt while you’re running.
My biggest piece of advice is to try the sneakers out before you buy. Run around your Fleet Feet or REI, walk around in them, and have your foot measure. They’re definitely an investment, so you don’t want to buy prematurely.
Just remember– you’re investing in yourself! And that future amazing marathon time.