Whether you’re hoping to run your fastest marathon or your first, investing in a quality pair of racing shoes can make or break your race. When shopping online, it can be particularly difficult to figure out what shoe is the best fit for you. Our recommendation? Get properly fit in your local running store. Then, you can still online shop confidently once you know what to look for. To help you out, we gathered up some of the most popular, top performing marathon racing shoes available in 2024. With energy-returning carbon plates, and bouncy, high-tech foams, these shoes are designed to help you race your fastest—and keep your feet as happy as they can be the whole 26.2 miles.
If you’re not ready for the full marathon racing shoes, you might like the best running shoes for half marathoners.
How We Selected the Best Marathon Racing Shoes
To find the best best marathon running shoes of 2024, we started by considering the most popular models on the market. We then cross referenced our own experience testing shoes as well as shoe reviews left by customers that bought and loved (or didn’t love) these shoes in real life.
We also selected shoes that cover a range of different budgets. Shoes for various running styles. And shoes for different running preferences to give a wide selection of the best shoes for racing a marathon.
Looking for a daily trainer? Here’s our picks for 6 great daily marathon training shoes.
How to Choose A Marathon Racing Shoe
When looking for the best marathon shoes for racing, there are a four features that are important to consider. Look below for a guide on what to look out for.
It’s arguable if an ounce or two of extra weight will really make a difference for most runners. It’s definitely something to look out for when shopping for a racing shoe.
We recommend buying a racing shoe between the weight 6 oz to 7.5 oz. You can find shoe weight on any product description page.
The drop is how far the heel sits above the toe when in the shoe. This matters more to some runners than others and is a matter of preference and running form. For many racing shoes seem to sit around the 4 to 8mm mark. That means the heel is slightly elevated, but will allow you to run pretty much with your natural gait.
You want your cushioning to be comfortable for long distance running. However, you also need the shoe to be lightweight and responsive to your stride. Shoes made specifically for racing today are designed with the most responsive foam. You’ll fine these described as “max-cushioned daily trainers.” You will have to be more conscious if you plan to run a full marathon in a trainer in a training shoe.
Carbon plates are essentially springboards for your feet. They are the reason why “super shoes” (aka carbon plated shoes) feel so fast. The downside is – because of the energy return they’re designed for, they may be rough for some runner’s shins and joints depending on your form. When considering investing into carbon-plated running shoes, practice with them on longer training runs before committing to using them during the full-length marathon.
Here’s our picks for the best marathon racing shoes of 2024:
- Best Overall: Nike Alphafly 2
- Most Comfortable: Asics Metaspeed Sky+
- Most Stable: Hoka Rocket X 2
- Best for Toe Runners: Mizuno Wave Rebellion
- Best Max-Cushioned: Adidas Adizero Prime X Strung
- Best Without a Carbon Plate: Brooks Hyperion Tempo
- Best Daily Trainer: Saucony Triumph 20
- Best on a Budget: Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2
The Best Overall Marathon Racing Shoe: Nike Alphafly 2
Nike Alphafly 2 Specs:
Heel Drop: 8mm | Weight: 8 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes | Price: $275.00
Simply put, when it comes to racing shoes, Nike is tough to beat. The Alphafly 2 is Nike’s top tier distance racing shoe. It excels at being both comfortable and one of the fastest racing shoes on the market.
It uses a combination of Nike ZoomX foam and Zoom Air pockets in the forefoot to give it an extremely cushiony yet bouncy feel. When you combine this bounce with the responsiveness of the carbon fiber plate, it creates the highest energy return we’ve experienced. You almost don’t feel like your feet are hitting the ground.
This newest version of the Alphafly also updated the upper. Instead of Flyknit which was used previously, it now uses Atomknit. This is Flyknit’s lighter, more breathable cousin.
Arguably, what helps Nike stay at the top of the game is their attention to minute detail. They even thought of notched laces to prevent any loosening while you race.
Nike’s racing shoes are the most expensive on the market. The Nike Vaporfly 3 will cost you $250 as well. But, they’re worn by the highest performing elite athletes and have been worn during major record breaking runs like Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-2 hour marathon.
Most Comfortable: Asics Metaspeed Sky+
Asics Metaspeed Sky + Specs:
Heel Drop: 5mm | Weight: 7.2 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes | Price: $250.00
But, everyone I know that has run in the Metaspeed series by Asics has had only good things to say—myself included.
Something I’ve found with many carbon plated shoes is that they are just not that comfortable—especially when you have to stand around in them a bit. And at this point, I am not willing to sacrifice comfort for speed. Luckily, with this shoe I don’t have to.
The Metaspeed+ is light and unbelievably snappy. It works for everything from mile races to marathons, which in my opinion makes it worth the buy. If you’re going to spend $250 on a racing shoe, why shouldn’t you expect a smooth ride at every distance?
This shoe works particularly well if you have a narrow foot and specifically a narrow heel—comme moi. While I’ve found that most other carbon racers left me sliding out the back, this one fit like Cinderella’s slipper, making it one of the best ASICS running shoes.
I’ve also found this to be particularly grippy even on wet and slippery roads. The mesh upper is breathable and quick drying—making it a great choice for rainy weather races.
Most Stable: Hoka Rocket X 2
Hoka Rocket X 2 Specs:
Drop: 5mm | Weight: 8.3 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes | Price: $250.00
Carbon plated shoes are known for being fast. But stable…not so much.
When carbon technology has a baby with the comfort-centered brand Hoka however, you get something wonderful—the Rocket X 2.
When I refer to stable in this sense, I don’t mean arch support. If you want a racer with arch support, you will be hard pressed to find one—and your best option will be to add in an insert.
But if you are a slight over-pronator, or just find that your form tends to get sloppier as you get deeper into the marathon, this could be a great option for you.
Like most Hokas for half marathon runners, this shoe has your foot sitting part way down into the foam. This helps to prevent any side to side movement, and is designed to help prevent mild pronation. The midsole itself also flares quite a bit particularly under the toe box. This helps give you a solid landing with every step. It also prevents your foot from falling over the side of the shoe – which is a problem when running some carbon plated racing shoes with high stack height.
Best for Toe Runners: Mizuno Wave Rebellion
Mizuno Wave Rebellion Specs:
Drop: 4mm | Weight: 6.9 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes | Price: $250.00
If you are a heel striker, this is not the racer for you.
However, if you strike midfoot and up, this is an incredibly aggressive racer that could be just the shoe you need for your next PR.
The non-existent heel is like a rocker in that it forces you to roll through each step transition in an economical way which saves energy and can help reduce pounding. It also features a newly designed Wave Plate. The plate helps to disperse impact to a broader area while increasing stability and allowing for a softer feeling cushion.
This shoe also has a minimal drop at only 4mm. It uses a high-grip outsole placed only where you need it, so it’s designed to be light with no unnecessary weight.
Best Cushion: Adidas Adizero Prime X Strung
Drop: 8.5 mm | Weight: 9 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes (in energy rod form) | Price: $300
It’s pretty easy to tell just by looking at it that this shoe offers pretty much unparalleled levels of cushion when it comes to marathon racing shoes. It’s not just the marshmallowy sole that sets this shoe apart.
The Prime X approached responsiveness in a different way than most super shoes. Instead of a carbon plate, Adidas opted for 5 carbon infused energy rods which are designed to mimic the movement of the metatarsal bones in the foot. This allows for you to still have maximized energy return while maintaining a more natural bio-mechanical running movement than a standard carbon plate design.
If you like the idea of the energy rods but want a shoe with less stack height, the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2 is also a great option with the same technology and feel.
When I tried these out at this year’s Boston Marathon Expo I was shocked at how light and natural these felt to run in despite their clunky appearance—and how quickly and comfortably I was able to get up to 5k race pace (especially on a treadmill).
The other unique feature of this shoe is the upper which is constructed of a layered thread material that creates a snug and cocoon-like feel around the foot. While, simultaneously also allowing for maximum airflow to help keep you cool during warm races.
Best Without a Carbon Plate: Brooks Hyperion Tempo
Brooks Hyperion Tempo Specs:
Shoe Drop: 8mm | Weight: 6.7 oz | Carbon Plate: No | Price: $150.00
Plated racers have soared in popularity since the Breaking 2 event in 2016, and now you almost feel out of place if you toe the line without carbon under your feet.
But the truth of the matter is, carbon plated racers aren’t always the most comfortable. They’re expensive. Which goes against the ideology of running being the ‘cheap sport’.
Whatever your reason for wanting a carbon-free shoe, the Hyperion Tempo is a great option. It is incredibly lightweight at only 6.7 ounces for a women’s shoe, and it has an ideal balance of cushion and ground feel. It uses Brooks’ DNA flash foam which is designed for maximum speed and energy return while still maintaining a softness that helps keep it comfortable as you pound out the miles. This is also designed as both a training and racing shoe, so it’s a great option for everything from speed-work to race-day.
Best Daily Trainer: Saucony Triumph 20
Saucony Triumph 20 Specs:
Drop: 10mm | Weight: 9.7 oz | Carbon Plate: No | Price: $160.00
Whether you are running a marathon more for enjoyment than a PR or you need a slightly more substantial shoe, the Saucony Triumph is a great option. When training for the 2024 Boston Marathon—which was coincidentally also my first marathon—I knew that I wanted a shoe that would give me the cushioning I needed while still providing energy return over the 26 miles. The Triumph more than delivered.
The reason it’s so great for the marathon is largely due to the PWRRUN PB Foam+. This TPU bead foam is lightweight, responsive, and incredibly durable. Not only does it last well into the 400-500 mile range as far as wear, but they maintained the same level of bounciness from the first to last step of the marathon.
My one complaint—in both pairs that I have owned (size women’s 9.5) the laces are just a tad too short for my liking.
Saucony has a few other shoes that also made our runner up consideration like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 and the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, but my personal experience with the Triumph 20 made the difference here.
Best Budget: Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2
Puma Deviate Nitro Elite 2 Specs:
Drop: 6mm | Weight: 7.4 oz | Carbon Plate: Yes | Price: $200
While $200 may not seem like a budget price, it is when your competitors are dipping over the $250 range. This shoe is great for runners that prefer a bit more ground feel as it doesn’t have a towering stack height or overly plush cushioning. Despite its modest appearance, it is still a very fast shoe.
It has a light but firm thermo-formed carbon plate sandwiched between Puma’s Nitro Elite foam. This gives it a particularly springy feel without feeling too far from a traditional running shoe, or changing your gait too much.
It also has a grippy rubber sole which makes it better in wet conditions that some competitors, and if you are looking for some validation from the field, this is the choice racer for Olympian and Puma athlete Molly Seidel.
Frequently Asked Questions about Best Marathon Racing Shoes
The most important feature of a good marathon racing shoe is making sure that it fits properly and that it is comfortable on your foot—if you are going to get blisters, cramps, and hot-spots, you won’t have a good race even if it is a ‘fast’ shoe. Otherwise look for carbon plates and a responsive, lightweight midsole.
Unless you are an experienced runner and have a couple half marathons under your belt, you may want to forgo the super shoe and opt for your trainers. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is something you are comfortable in, and never try something new on race day.
Well if you look at the fastest marathon runner of all time, Eliud Kipchoge (and many other top marathon finishers), the Alphafly 2 tends to be the shoe of choice—though you will generally see a range of carbon plated shoes across top finishers.
As long as you were able to successfully complete workouts and a couple double digit long runs in a carbon plated shoe, it’s definitely a useful tool for racing your best.
Though you don’t absolutely need to have a shoe rotation for marathon training, it is recommended. The more miles you rack on per week, the better it is to switch out shoes as it will alter your gait ever so slightly and make sure that you aren’t stressing your body in the same exact way every day.
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