Finding the best marathon shoes can be tricky at times with so many options to choose from and it not always being easy to spot the differences between endurance footwear and regular trainers.
However, marathon shoes are the key to unlocking your peak performance across longer distances compared to some of the best running shoes around, so we'd say they're well worth having at your disposal if you're a keen distance runner.
What makes marathon shoes so important is that they tend to feature lightweight uppers, absorbent foam midsoles, and, on occasion, carbon-plating designed to shave valuable minutes off your personal bests.
With that being said, we've put together a list of our top picks based on price, reviews, and, perhaps most importantly of all, any unique features, like the ones mentioned above, that make these trainers stand out for endurance racing.
Whether you're looking for something packed with foam, like the Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%s, or you're searching for a slightly cheaper set, like these Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22s, we've got you covered right here.
We've also answered some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding marathon shoes to help you figure out what exactly it is you need from a top pair of endurance trainers. With that in mind, let's get into our list...
Best marathon shoes
- Best all-round marathon shoes - Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
- Best budget marathon shoes - Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
- Best marathon shoes for beginners - New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11
- Best marathon shoes for experienced runners - Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%
- Best marathon shoes for wide feet - ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23
Best all-round marathon shoes - Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
The Endorphin Speed 2 looks to be a great choice for marathon training thanks to its lightweight mesh upper combined with SPEEDROLL technology, designed to propel you forward effortlessly to help you run faster, not harder.
Moreover, this shoe comes with PEBA-based PWRRUN PB cushioning and a nylon plate in the midsole, as opposed to a carbon one, which should make the shoe a little less stiff and more comfortable than an out-and-out racer.
It's also worth noting that they're made from fully vegan materials and contain recycled content in the uppers in case you were after something built sustainably as well.
All in all, we feel the Endorphin Speed 2 is well worth considering if you're after a well-rounded running shoe that can also shine during marathon training.
Best budget marathon shoes - Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
This offering from Brooks looks to deliver all the essential ingredients of a top marathon shoe, but at a relatively inexpensive price compared to some of its competitors.
In fact, Brooks boasts its Adrenaline GTS 22 provides the right amount of stability and support during road running thanks to its GuideRail system. The technology is said to reduce excess shin and heel rotation, thus minimising the risk of injury.
On top of that, you get DNA Loft cushioning coupled with the Segmented Crash Pad which should deliver an extremely soft and smooth ride, plus an easier flow from landing to toe-off.
As far as budget picks go, we feel it's hard to look past the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 marathon shoe.
Best marathon shoes for beginners - New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V11
New Balance is one of the leading manufacturers of sportswear around and its Fresh Foam 1080 V11s look to be a showstopping example of its expertise.
Essentially, this shoe has been built with comfort in mind, which is ideal if you're a beginner as you may become demotivated if your footwear is uncomfortable to wear during endurance training.
This is achieved via the huge Fresh Foam midsole packed with padding, designed to deliver an ultra-cushioned and lightweight ride which, in our opinion, also makes them some of the best shoes for CrossFit as well.
On the whole, the Fresh Foam 1080 V11 looks to be an excellent choice if you're looking for a pair of shoes to start your marathon running journey.
Best marathon shoes for experienced runners - Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next%
As worn by Eliud Kipchoge during his sub-two-hour marathon, the general release version of the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% looks to be an excellent pick if you're an experienced runner looking to take your skills to the next level.
This trainer comes with a ton of ZoomX foam which should deliver exceptional support, plus a uniquely designed Air Zoom pod on the forefoot which is engineered as a firmer block to deliver a bit more punch off the toe.
Furthermore, it features Nike's latest Flyknit technology, helping keep these shoes as light as possible and to provide you with a bit of flexibility for when your feet get hot during your run.
Ultimately, for serious endurance training, the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% looks to be a great choice for you to consider.
Best marathon shoes for wide feet - ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23
ASICS is one of the leading brands in the running space, and its Gel-Nimbus 23 looks to be a real standout from its running shoe range.
What we like about this shoe, particularly for wide feet, is that it features a lightweight, multi-directional mesh upper which is said to be both flexible and highly ventilated, ideal for long-distance endurance training.
You also get GEL cushioning and FlyteFoam Propel technology, designed to deliver excellent shock absorption and supreme bounce during each stride.
Overall, these trainers appear to be well worth considering if you're after a top pair of shoes and a comfortable fit.
Frequently asked questions about marathon shoes
With so many different kinds of marathon running shoes available, you probably have a number of questions about them, but we're here to clear up some of the most common queries.
What should you look for from a pair of marathon shoes?
One of the key factors in choosing the right marathon shoes is comfort.
If your trainers are uncomfortable before you even begin to exercise in them, then they're unlikely to get any more comfortable whilst you run which may, in turn, demotivate you and potentially cause injury.
Generally speaking, Clarks recommends leaving about a thumbs-width of space between your longest toe and the end of your shoe to help ensure a secure and comfortable fit. We'd argue this can be applied to marathon shoes as well.
It's also worth keeping an eye on the cushioning as you'll probably want something well-padded to absorb some of the shocks felt during each stride. This should also protect your joints a little to minimise any long-term damage and injury.
Nike, for instance, includes Air units in the midsoles of its running shoes to cushion your feet as you run.
Finally, keep an eye out for how much the shoes in question weigh. A study Rodrigo-Carranza et al. found adding 100g per shoe impaired running economy and performance in trained runners. Therefore, we'd recommend going for something as light as possible, especially for marathon running.
Fortunately, most running shoes are made from knitted fabric these days to become as light as possible.
How long do marathon shoes last?
Given marathon training is a highly-intense endurance exercise, your feet, and subsequent footwear will likely end up absorbing a lot of punishment.
However, marathon shoes should withstand a fair amount of miles before they become unusable.
Some suggest your training shoes can last between 300-500 miles, but this number may be slightly lower in racing shoes which are typically lighter and could wear out slightly quicker.
There have been some studies that have tried to determine when exactly running shoes need replacing. For example, research conducted by Verdejo and Mills found structural damage to running shoes took place after 750km of wear whilst running. It's hard to judge for marathon shoes though due to the sheer distance involved in the sport.
Are marathon shoes worth it?
To answer this question, you should probably first decide if running is a form of exercise you enjoy and want to take a step further by training or even competing in a marathon.
If the answer is yes, then in order to keep your body safe and to help you progress, marathon shoes will likely be worth it as they offer you a number of key features tailored specifically for endurance running.
For example, they typically come with large foam midsoles to absorb most of the shock felt when your foot collides with the road, and to keep you comfortable during your long-distance training.
Do you need to clean marathon shoes?
It's important to clean your marathon shoes to help them maintain their grip on the ground and for hygienic reasons given their primary use is for endurance exercise. Therefore, we'd recommend regularly cleaning your trainers to maximise your performance.
With that in mind, we'd argue the simplest way to clean them is with warm water, a little bit of shoe cleaner or a neutral detergent, and a soft-bristled brush.
Simply use the brush to remove the dirt across the uppers and soles. To tackle some of the harder-to-reach areas, use an old toothbrush with a bit of the cleaning solution and scrub the difficult area in small circular motions.
Once clean, leave your shoes to dry naturally and away from direct sunlight to avoid damaging them. For more information and top tips on this, check out our guide to cleaning running shoes right here.
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