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The Best Marathon Running Shoes For Training And Racing

Eliud Kipchoge and others running in the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge running in the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% (Image credit: Nike)

There are many times in life when hunting out the cheapest option is a good idea. Buying marathon running shoes to train and race in is not one of them. Even beginner runners will probably log over 300km in total while training for a marathon, while more experienced people will rack up over 1,000km, so opting for a budget shoe that feels horrible and falls apart after 150km is no-one’s idea of savvy shopping.

What defines a great marathon shoe will differ from runner to runner, and while many of the shoes below also feature on our best running shoes list, we’ve included a wider range of options to suit all comers. Whether you’re a keen bean with a few shoes in your wardrobe and want the fastest possible option for race day, or a new runner who wants a comfortable pair to wear for every run up to and including the marathon itself, we have you and your feet covered.

Because we run so many miles in so many shoes and want to draw your attention to the really special shoes, we’ve marked them out with the Editor’s Choice badge or an award. 


New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

(Image credit: New Balance)
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Best marathon shoe for first-timers

Specifications

RRP: $149.99 / £135
Weight: 9.5oz / 271g (UK 8.5)
Stack : 30mm heel, 22mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile and comfortable
+
Durable
+
Stable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the lightest
-
Heel design can rub

The Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a shoe built for comfort, which is an essential quality if you plan on wearing them when tackling your first marathon. It will handle the many miles of training and the race itself, helping to protect your body (somewhat) from all that impact. However, it’s more than just a comfy cruiser. The 1080v11 is surprisingly light and has a spring in the sole that will help you pick up the pace in your races and faster training sessions. 

Read more in our New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 review


Puma Velocity Nitro

(Image credit: Puma)
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Best marathon shoe under $130/£100

Specifications

RRP: $120 / £100
Weight: 9.7oz / 276g (UK 9)
Stack: 33.5mm heel, 23.5mm forefoot
Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

+
Superb value
+
Versatile and comfortable ride
+
Outsole provides great grip

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most cushioned shoe
-
A touch heavy for speedy running

Puma has come out all guns blazing in 2021 with an all-new line-up of shoes designed to satisfy a range of runners. There are two carbon shoes – the Deviate Nitro and Deviate Elite – but it’s the plate-less Velocity Nitro we’re recommending here just because of the excellent value it offers. The shoe has Puma’s Nitro foam in the midsole, which is a lightweight, nitrogen-infused EVA that is soft enough to log many miles in while still being responsive enough for fast training and racing. The outsole is built to last too, with a generous layer of PUMAGRIP rubber that grips well in all conditions. The Velocity Nitro is a great all-round option for your marathon training and the race itself, and the low price is the cherry on top. 

Read more in our Puma Velocity Nitro review


Brooks Glycerin 19

(Image credit: Brooks)
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Most comfortable marathon shoe

Specifications

RRP: $150 / £140
Weight: 10.6 oz / 303g (UK 9.5)
Stack: 31mm heel, 21mm forefoot
Drop: 10mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable ride
+
Plush padding on upper
+
Durable outsole

Reasons to avoid

-
Too heavy and cumbersome for fast running
-
Not much of an update on the 18

If you’re not especially fussed about chasing finishing times and just want a shoe that is a joy to run any distance in, we recommend the Glycerin 19. Brooks’s DNA Loft cushioning is luxuriously soft, with the padded collar and tongue on the shoe only adding to the extravagant comfort. There’s more of that cushioning in the 19th version of the shoe than ever before, but Brooks has also found a way to make it a bit lighter. While it’s never going to be suitable for running at speed the latest Glycerin has improved on that front, but really the appeal is that plush feel.

Read more in our Brooks Glycerin 19 review (opens in new tab)


Hoka One One Mach 4

(Image credit: Hoka)
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Best value marathon running shoe

Specifications

RRP: $130 / £125
Weight: 8.3oz / 236g (UK 9)
Stack: 35mm heel, 30mm forefoot
Drop: 5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable and fast ride
+
Versatile option for training and racing
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of a full outsole reduces durability

The Mach 4 is a great all-round running shoe with a ride that provides the right balance of softness and speed. You can rack up all your long and easy runs in the shoe, including your marathon itself, knowing your body is well-protected from the impact while also being able to turn up the pace if desired thanks to the Mach 4’s lightweight build. It also works as a great training partner to a carbon plate racer, if you do have a couple of pairs in your rotation.

Read more in our Hoka One One Mach 4 review


Saucony Endorphin Speed 2

(Image credit: Saucon)
Best for training and racing

Specifications

RRP: $160 / £155
Weight : 8.1oz / 231g (UK 9)
Stack: 35.5mm heel, 27.5mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth and efficient ride
+
Almost as fast as a carbon shoe
+
Comfortable enough for easy runs

Reasons to avoid

-
Outsole can slip on slick surfaces
-
Too unstable for some

We rate the Endorphin Speed as the best all-round shoe available full stop, offering a fast enough ride to race in while still being cushioned enough for all your training runs. That goes for both the first and second versions of the shoe, with Saucony merely tweaking the upper on the Endorphin Speed 2, so we recommend buying the original if you can find it reduced somewhere.

The Speed has a nylon plate in the midsole, rather than a carbon one, which makes the shoe a little less stiff and more comfortable than a full-blown racer, while still providing almost as much propulsion. The Speed also uses the same bouncy, PEBA-based PWRRUN PB foam as Saucony’s carbon racer, the Endorphin Pro. If you use only one pair of shoes for your running but still want to shine in your marathon, the Speed is the perfect pick.

Read more in our Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 review


Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

(Image credit: Nike)
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Best shoe for smashing your PB

Specifications

RRP: $275 / £259.95
Weight : 8.1oz / 232g (UK 9)
Stack: Not given
Drop: 4mm

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, springy ride
+
Protective over long races
+
Improves running efficiency

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks stability
-
Expensive
-
Heavier than some carbon shoes

The Nike Vaporfly 4% was a game-changer and prompted every other running brand to develop its own carbon plate racing shoe. Despite the competition, Nike has managed to stay at the front of the pack with the Alphafly, which we rate even more highly than the latest Vaporfly model, the NEXT% 2.

With Air Zoom pods under the forefoot, the Alphafly provides even more pop than the current Vaporfly, and while the huge stack of bouncy ZoomX cushioning can make the shoe slightly unstable on corners, it also helps protect your legs so you’re able to finish strong at the end of a marathon.

There is a case for opting for the Vaporfly or the Asics Metaspeed Sky if you want a racing shoe for all distances, as both are lighter and nimbler than the Alphafly, so they do a better job over 5K or 10K while still being great long-distance racers. But if you want the very best shoe for a marathon, pick the Alphafly.

Read more in our Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% review (opens in new tab)


New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2

(Image credit: New Balance)
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Most comfortable carbon racing shoe

Specifications

RRP: $219.99 / £219.99
Weight: 7.9oz / 225g (UK 9)
Stack: 39mm heel, 31mm forefoot
Drop: 8mm

Reasons to buy

+
More comfortable than other carbon shoes
+
Fast
+
Works well for training and racing

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks stability
-
Heavier and less agile than some carbon racers

The original FuelCell RC Elite was a great racer but had a lower stack than many of the other carbon plate super-shoes on the market, and some found the ride a little too harsh for the marathon as a result. New Balance has gone in the opposite direction with the second version of the shoe, packing the midsole full of its soft and bouncy FuelCell foam to create a supremely comfortable ride.

While shoes like the Alphafly and Asics Metaspeed Sky are also highly cushioned underfoot, the RC Elite v2 takes it up a notch, making it a better choice for runners who want the propulsive benefits of a carbon plate while still having a comfortable ride over 42.2km.

Read more in our New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 review (opens in new tab)


Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2.0

(Image credit: Adidas)
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Best value carbon racing shoe

Specifications

RRP: $220 / £180
Weight: 8.1oz / 231g (UK 9)
Stack: 39mm heel, 30.5mm forefoot
Drop: 8.5mm

Reasons to buy

+
Cheaper than many carbon shoes
+
Fast, efficient ride
+
Improves running efficiency

Reasons to avoid

-
Midsole cut-out leads to instability

The Adios Pro 2 is not cheap at £180, but given that most top-tier carbon racers cost more than £200, it’s a relatively affordable option for those who want some of the fastest shoes in the world on their feet come race day. 

Rather than a full carbon plate, the Pro 2 has a smaller plate at the back and Adidas's carbon-infused EnergyRods under the forefoot. These rods deliver the same kind of spring and efficiency gains as a full plate – while also being reminiscent of Wolverine’s claws. 

The rods and plate are paired with Adidas’s bouncy Lightstrike Pro to complete the super-shoe package. It adds up to a comfortable, smooth and fast ride, and works particularly well for longer events like marathons. Just note that the midsole cut-outs on the shoe can create instability, especially when you’re running slower than your race pace.

Read more in our Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2.0 review (opens in new tab)

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.