The 13 Best Marathon Shoes of 2021, According to a Running Coach

Comfortable sneakers are a must for this ultra-distance race

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Our Top Picks
Best Overall for Men:
Brooks Ghost 14 at Amazon
Features high-energizing cushioning that can withstand long training runs and provides responsive bounce back with each step.
Best Overall for Women:
ASICS Gel-Nimbus 23 at Amazon
Offers the dependable cushioning and roomy fit that distance runners need while FlyteFoam technology offers shock absorption.
Best Budget for Men:
Saucony Cohesion 14 at Amazon
With reliable impact absorption, they reduce pressure so your feet are comforted and supported with every stride at a budget.
Best Budget for Women:
ASICS Gel-Excite 8 at Amazon
Asics’ rearfoot GEL technology and its Amplifoam midsole cushioning provide excellent responsiveness and plush comfort.
Best for Stability:
New Balance 940v4 at Amazon
Has the right combination of arch support and stability with T-BEAM technology for torsional stability and motion control.
Best for Overpronators:
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 at Amazon
The shoe’s support system helps to stabilize your stride, so your feet don’t roll inward as you’re running.
Best for Flat Feet:
Brooks Glycerin 19 at Zappos
Known for being one of the best cushioned running shoes, the shoe provides the plush comfort and support that flat feet need.
Best for Plantar Fasciitis:
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 at Amazon
A plush, soft midsole offers comfort and shock absorption for long distances with a precise, supportive fit.
Best for Trail Marathons:
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 at Zappos
With a balanced bed of cushion, the shoe offers a stable and comfortable base, so you feel confident on the trails.
Best Minimalist:
Altra Rivera at Zappos
Provides a minimalist shoe experience for natural running feel, but still features good impact protection and responsiveness.

Determination alone won't get you to the finish line when you're running a marathon. That's why it's important to have the right running shoes to safely and comfortably help you go the distance. When searching for the best marathon shoes, you should look for ones that are comfortable and supportive, but also take into account your running gait. Durability is also key since your shoes will take a beating when they hit the pavement.

Choosing a running shoe is an individual endeavor since each runner has personal preferences and needs. "Some may want race shoes while others may want recovery shoes," says Paul Ronto, ultra-runner, gear expert, and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat.com. We sorted through a variety of options for both seasoned and new distance runners.

We chose the best marathon shoes by researching reviews, top running shoe lists, and details about more than 60 running shoes from 12 trusted shoe manufacturers. We looked at performance, features, materials, technology, design, and durability, and also read dozens of articles on the latest models of running shoes. We also consulted distance runners and coaches for recommendations on shoes for marathoners and reviewed the American Podiatric Medical Association's list of shoes that have received its Seal of Acceptance.

Here are the best marathon shoes on the market, according to a running coach.

Best Overall for Men: Brooks Men's Ghost 14

Brooks Men's Ghost 14
Pros
  • Well-cushioned

  • Lightweight and breathable

  • Works for short or long runs

  • Flexible

Cons
  • Limited wide and narrow options

  • Runs small

Marathon runners will appreciate the Brooks Ghost for its exceptional cushioning, lightweight feel, and support. A popular pick among neutral runners, the shoe features high-energizing cushioning that can withstand the pounding of long training runs and provides responsive bounce back with each step. While it’s perfect for long runs, the Ghost’s flexibility and grippy outsole also make it a dependable shoe for faster workouts like tempo runs

The breathable engineered mesh upper is lightweight yet durable, offering a comfortable fit that will keep your feet blister-free. This versatile and well-rounded shoe comes in narrow, medium, wide, or extra-wide widths and in men’s sizes 7 to 15.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: DNA Loft foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best Overall for Women: ASICS Women's Gel-Nimbus 23

Asics Women's Gel-Nimbus 23
Pros
  • Stellar cushioning

  • Roomy fit

  • Good shock absorption

  • Durable

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Limited colors in wide sizes

The ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is a durable, well-rounded running shoe that provides the dependable cushioning and roomy fit that distance runners need. Its signature GEL padding in the heel combines with the soft and springy FlyteFoam to absorb shock and cushion your feet, no matter how far you’re running. Additionally, the gender-specific TRUSSTIC device provides well-placed support to allow for a balanced stride and smooth transitions.

Designed with comfort and breathability in mind, the shoe’s upper is made of engineered mesh that’s ideal for long runs. The shoe’s OrthoLite X-55 sock liner enhances the overall comfort, providing marathoners with a responsive stride. Available in women’s sizes 5 to 13 and in medium or wide widths, the GEL-Nimbus is a versatile shoe that feels great right out of the box.

Materials: Synthetic and mesh upper | Cushioning: GEL technology, FlyteFoam | Closure: Lace-up

Best Budget for Men: Saucony Men's Cohesion 14

Saucony Men's Cohesion 14
Pros
  • Affordable

  • Lightweight and breathable

  • Good cushioning

  • Roomy toebox

Cons
  • No narrow sizes

  • Limited colors

With excellent shock absorption and cushioning, the Saucony Cohesion running shoe can handle the high mileage that marathoners log each week. The VERSARUN cushioning provides reliable impact absorption and reduces pressure so your feet are comforted and supported with every stride.

Saucony running shoes are known for their roomy toebox, so there’s plenty of room for a wide toe splay that will help improve your stability and power transfer. The rubber outsole is grippy and durable, making the shoe a good fit for road running.

The shoe’s light, breathable upper mesh keeps feet comfortable and dry, while a padded collar and tongue enhance comfort and support without feeling constricting. With a lower price tag than many comparable high-performance running shoes, the Cohesion is a high-quality, affordable option for marathoners. They come in men’s sizes 7 to 15 and in medium or wide widths.

Materials: Synthetic and mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: VERSARUN | Closure: Lace-up

Best Budget for Women: ASICS Women's Gel-Excite 8

ASICS Women's Gel-Excite 8
Pros
  • Stylish

  • Affordable

  • Excellent cushioning

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Limited choices for wide sizes

  • Runs narrow

If you’re looking for a reliable, everyday trainer that’s comfortable and affordable, check out Asics’ GEL-Excite 8 running shoes. Despite the reasonable price, these shoes boast many of Asics’ popular features and technology that are beneficial to marathon runners. The combination of Asics’ rearfoot GEL technology and its Amplifoam midsole cushioning provides excellent responsiveness and plush comfort.

Durable and breathable, the GEL-Excite’s mesh upper is combined with no-sew overlays that increase support without adding any bulkiness. Plus, the injection rubber outsole is sturdy and durable, while the strategically placed flex grooves allow for good flexibility. Available in women’s sizes 5 to 12 and in wide or medium widths, they’re stylish and can be worn post-run for comfortable, all-day casual wear.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: GEL technology, AmpliFoam |  Closure: Lace-up

Best for Stability: New Balance Women's 940v4

New Balance Women's 940v4
Pros
  • Good support and motion control

  • Breathable

  • Lots of width options

  • Well-cushioned

Cons
  • Thin mesh not good for cold weather

  • Limited colors

If you overpronate, or your feet roll inward as you run, the New Balance 940v4 running shoe has the right combination of arch support and stability for you. They feature a high-density medial post and T-BEAM technology for torsional stability and motion control. The cushy ABZORB midsole foam keeps your feet comfortable, no matter how many miles are on the schedule, and they’re well-suited for road running.

Additionally, the breathable mesh keeps your feet from overheating, so they stay dry and blister-free. Available in a variety of widths, from narrow to extra-wide, the 940 can accommodate wide feet as well as custom-made orthotics. The shoes come in women’s sizes 6 to 13 and in a variety of colors.

Materials: Synthetic mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: ABZORB midsole foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best for Overpronators: Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21 Running Shoes

Brooks Women's Adrenaline GTS 21
Pros
  • Lightweight support and stability

  • Very breathable

  • Good cushioning and shock absorption

  • Stylish

Cons
  • Narrow toebox in medium width

  • Expensive

Known for its high-quality, well-made running shoes, Brooks provides an excellent option for overpronators with its Adrenaline GTS 21. The shoe’s support system helps to stabilize your stride, so your feet don’t roll inward as you’re running. Additionally, the Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA cushioning throughout provides protection, good responsiveness, and soft comfort without feeling too cushy.

The Adrenaline GTS is surprisingly lightweight, given its stellar stability and cushioning. The streamlined, engineered mesh upper with 3D Fit Print offers a dependable, supportive fit without a bulky feel. They’re also very breathable, so they’re a good option for long runs in warm weather.

Available in a range of fun and neutral colors, various widths, and women’s sizes 5 to 13, the Adrenaline GTS is a durable, supportive shoe that marathoners can count on to go the distance.

Materials: Engineered mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: BioMoGo DNA and DNA Loft | Closure: Lace-up

Best for Flat Feet: Brooks Women's Glycerin 19

Brooks Women's Glycerin 19
Pros
  • Excellent cushioning

  • Durable and protective

  • Versatile for short or long runs

  • Breathable and lightweight

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Limited color options for wide feet

If you have flat feet or low arches, the Brooks Glycerin is a solid pick when you want extra protection and comfort for the long runs. Known for being one of the most cushioned running shoes, the shoe provides the super-soft, plush comfort and support that those with flat feet need. Despite the luxurious cushioning, the Omega Flex Grooves also deliver good midsole flexibility, so the shoe doesn’t feel bulky. There’s also plenty of room for orthotics or insoles if you need them.

The light, breathable mesh upper provides a snug, comfortable fit, and the silky fabric covering the heel cup helps to avoid blisters. Available in a variety of colors, widths, and in women’s sizes 5 to 13, these versatile, durable shoes are a solid choice for runners, or anyone looking for a comfy and supportive all-day wear casual shoe.

Materials: Mesh upper | Cushioning: DNA Loft foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best for Plantar Fasciitis: New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080v11

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
Pros
  • Stellar cushioning

  • Wide toebox

  • Various widths

  • Stylish

Cons
  • Runs small

  • Limited colors for narrow and extra-wide sizes

Plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the plantar fascia, is a common complaint among marathoners-in-training, but wearing running shoes with plenty of cushioning can help. With a plush, soft midsole, the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 is a great choice for runners who need excellent comfort and shock absorption for long distances. You’ll notice the cloud-like feel from the time you step into the shoe to the final strides of your long run.

The stretchy knit upper gently hugs the foot, allowing for a precise, supportive fit, while the Ultra Heel technology keeps you from sliding in the shoe. Sleek and stylish, these versatile shoes can easily go right from a long run to a post-workout casual brunch. The 1080 comes in women’s sizes 5 to 13 and in four different width options, including narrow, medium, wide, and extra-wide.

Materials: Jacquard upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: Fresh Foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best for Trail Marathons: Hoka One One Men's Speedgoat 4

Hoka One One Men's Speedgoat 4
Pros
  • Well-cushioned

  • Excellent traction

  • Stable and protective

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Medium may be too narrow for some

For exceptional comfort, traction, and protection, you can’t beat the Hoka One One Speedgoat trail runner. With a balanced bed of cushion, the shoe provides a stable and comfortable base, so you feel confident on the trails. The breathable yet rugged mesh upper with 3D printed overlays increases the midfoot support for a more secure feel.

The wide forefoot adds to the overall comfort and stability, especially when tackling hills. Trail marathon runners will also appreciate the shoe’s traction and durability, thanks to the Vibram MegaGrip high-traction outsole and multi-directional lugs.

Available in men’s sizes 7 to 14 and in medium or wide widths, the Speedgoat costs a bit more than some other trail running shoes, but they're worth the investment for their stellar performance and comfort.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning:  EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best Minimalist: Altra Men's Rivera

Altra Men's Rivera
Pros
  • Minimalist feel

  • Soft and flexible

  • Good for racing

  • Lightweight and responsive

Cons
  • No wide or narrow sizes

  • Run small

While some marathon runners like a shoe that provides a natural running feel, they still need some cushioning to keep them protected on the long runs. The Altra Rivera running shoe provides that minimalist shoe experience, but still offers good impact protection and responsiveness. With a low profile and a soft and flexible AltraEGO foam midsole, it allows for balanced transitions.

An engineered mesh upper is light and breathable and the wide forefoot allows for ample toe splay and natural flexibility. Available in a range of color options and in men’s sizes 7 to 15, they’re ideal for anyone looking for a lightweight, flexible shoe that’s supportive without feeling bulky.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: AltraEGO foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best for Neutral Runners: Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 25

Mizuno Women's Wave Rider 25
Pros
  • Very responsive

  • Good cushioning

  • Flexible

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Runs small

  • Feet get cold during frigid weather

The Mizuno Wave Rider is a long-time reliable training partner for marathoners who appreciate its comfort and durability. The shoe’s springy Enerzy foam propels you forward with each stride and feels cushioned and plush on landing.

Mizuno’s Wave Plate technology in the midsole helps to disperse impact and supports smooth transitions from heel to toe, giving you dependable protection and performance mile after mile. As a neutral runner with high arches, I appreciate the Wave Rider’s cushy support and responsiveness for both long- and short-distance training runs. The lightweight feel and excellent breathability enhance the overall comfort and help keep feet cool and blister-free.

A carbon rubber outsole and grippy treads make this a durable, sturdy shoe for both road and non-technical trail running, even in slick conditions. The Wave Rider is available in women’s sizes 6 to 12 and in medium and wide widths.

Materials: Engineered mesh or Waveknit upper, carbon rubber outsole | Cushioning: Enerzy | Closure: Lace-up

Best Cushioned: Hoka One One Women's Clifton 8

Hoka One One Clifton 8
Pros
  • Superb cushioning

  • Lightweight

  • Flexible

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Some don’t like the thick sole

When it comes to plush cushioning and superb shock absorption, it’s tough to beat the HOKA One One Clifton 8. Like other HOKA styles, the Clifton 8 features HOKA’s signature thick EVA foam, for a comfy, energetic ride. The Clifton is flexible and lightweight, so your feet won’t feel constricted or heavy when you run. Foam padding around the ankle collar and under the tongue adds to the overall comfort and custom-like feel.

Versatile and durable, this shoe works well for fast and short runs, as well as long, easy distances—making it an ideal choice for marathoners. The ample cushioning and rubber outsole also provide good shock absorption and protection from issues such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis, which can sometimes derail marathoners’ training efforts.

The Clifton is available in women’s sizes 5 to 11 and in medium and wide widths.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole, foam insole | Cushioning: EVA foam | Closure: Lace-up

Best Carbon Plated: Nike Women's ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2

Nike Women's ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 Running Shoes
Pros
  • Carbon-plated

  • Lightweight cushioning

  • Great for marathon racing

  • Roomy fit

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Limited color choices

A leader in the development of carbon-plated “super shoes”, Nike definitely has a winner with its latest version of the Vaporfly Next%. The elite technology of a full-length carbon fiber plate creates a responsive feel that propels you forward and quickens your transitions. 

Compared to its predecessor, this version is more stable and has a wider upper, so your toes have more room to move around. Lightweight and breathable, they also feature Nike ZoomX foam for exceptional comfort and energy return. Flexibility grooves on the rubber outsole provide stellar traction for all types of weather conditions.

Available in women’s sizes 5 to 12, the Vaporfly Next% is ideal for anyone looking to put an extra spring in their step for marathon racing and speedwork. They’re more expensive than some high-performance running shoes but worth every penny according to fans.

Materials: Synthetic upper, rubber outsole, foam insole | Cushioning: Nike ZoomX foam | Closure: Lace-up

Final Verdict

With the features and performance you want in a marathon running shoe, the Brooks Ghost 14 (view at Zappos) earns our top pick for men looking for a high-quality, dependable shoe.

For women, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 (view at Amazon) offers the perfect combination of support and cushioning that runners need in a dependable, well-rounded shoe for marathon running.

Both shoes keep runners comfortable and supported for long-distance runs, but also serve them well for shorter recovery or tempo runs.

What to Look for in Marathon Running Shoes

Foot Type and Gait

Runners should consider their arch type and running gait when choosing a shoe. “There are neutral shoes, stability shoes, and motion control shoes for varied levels of pronation,” says Ronto. He explains that knowing what you need is a good place to start.

“Most running stores can help analyze your running gait while on a treadmill,” says Melissa Prestipino, PT, DPT, a physical therapist in Sparta, NJ who treats runners and triathletes. “You can also consult a running coach or a physical therapist who specializes in runner’s gait.”

Comfort

Comfort is a matter of personal preference, but it’s important to know what you prefer in a running shoe. Some runners like minimal cushioning while others prefer a more responsive, springy feel.

“If the shoe meets your initial criteria, such as your running type and pronation, then it mostly comes down to comfort,” says Ronto. “You'll run more if your shoes are comfortable than if they are not.”

Durability

Marathon shoes definitely take a beating, since you’ll be running through tough conditions and rough surfaces. Look for shoes from quality, dependable brands, like the ones included here, and choose ones made of sturdy materials.

Where you’ll be doing most of your mileage is a big factor in selecting the right running shoe for you. For instance, if you primarily run on trails, you’ll need a shoe with more traction and stability than shoes that are designed for road running.

Weight

Lightweight shoes are good for racing and speed workouts, while heavier, more cushioned ones are preferred by some runners for long runs. You may decide you want two pairs of running shoes for marathon training, depending on the type of run you’re doing.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to break in running shoes before a marathon?

    “Today’s running shoes should feel great right out of the box,” says Rob Conenello, DPM, FACFAS, FAAPSM, a New York-based sports podiatrist. “That being said, I would suggest testing shoes out on several long runs before committing to the race day shoe.”

    There's a common misconception that all shoes require a break-in period, but according to Dr. Conenello, if your running shoes don't feel good the first time you put them on, you should find a different pair.

  • Do I need to size up on my marathon shoes?

    Marathon runners should wear running shoes that are a half-size to a full size bigger than their regular shoe size. Having some extra room in the toebox will help prevent foot issues such as blisters and bunions that can happen when feet swell during long runs.

  • How long do marathon shoes last?

    “Most running shoes are designed to last 300 to 400 miles,” says Brent Pease, a head coach of runners and triathletes for Dynamo Multisport. “There are some that will be a little less and some that can last up to 500 miles.”

    It’s important to regularly replace your running shoes to prevent overuse injuries that can occur from running in shoes that have lost their cushioning and support. Be sure to check your shoes for wear and tear.

    “Inspect the outsole to see if the tread has worn away and the midsole is being exposed, and look for any significant, uneven wearing that’s making the shoes unstable,” says Ronto. He explains that excessive creasing in the midsole is also a sign that the shoe is losing its original cushioning and response.

  • How many pairs of shoes do I need for marathon training?

    Some runners use two to three different pairs of shoes for marathon training and run in different shoes, based on the type of runs they’re doing. For instance, they might use a lightweight trainer for speedwork and a heavier, more cushioned shoe for longer runs. “I always suggest buying multiple pairs of shoes from different manufacturers with different components,” says Dr. Conenello.

    “I actually like buying four pairs of shoes at the start of each year so that I can rotate the pairs I am using,” says Pease. “This mixes things up a little and helps the shoes last a little longer.”

    Even if you don’t rotate shoes, you’ll most likely need to replace your shoes during your marathon training because they’ll be worn out.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Certified running coach and fitness writer Christine Luff has spent years researching, testing, and recommending fitness and athletic products and knows that the right gear can tremendously improve performance and comfort.

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