Shoes to Wear for Walking a Marathon

Rear View Of Woman Walking On Road
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If you've decided to start training to walk a marathon, your first step is to get the right shoes. They are your most essential gear, and you'll likely be spending many days and miles in them over the next few months. Your same old sneakers probably aren't the right choice. The day you make a commitment to training for the marathon, commit yourself to find good footwear.

Choose Shoes With Cushioning and Support

Save the minimalist shoes for shorter-distance workouts—they aren't appropriate for walking a marathon. For the long slow distance days in training and for the 26.2-mile marathon itself, you need shoes with adequate cushioning.

Look at shoe ratings for the recommended distance for each shoe model and discuss it with your shoe dealer. Cushioning will reduce the leg and foot fatigue you feel during the event. Your marathon shoes also need to provide good support as your gait will get sloppy as you tire at long distances.

Shoes vs. Boots

Marathon walkers in Europe often wear hiking boots for long-distance walks. This may have evolved out of the military traditions of their longer walking events. For walking overland on trails, lightweight boots or trail shoes may be a good choice. But for road race marathons, a flexible running shoe with moderate support is the best choice for most people.

Check the course of the marathon you plan to walk and see whether it will be mostly on streets and paved paths. You shouldn't need trail shoes or boots unless it is going to be on gravel or dirt paths. Because you probably won't be carrying a heavy pack on marathon day, you won't need heavy hiking boots.

How to Shop for Marathon Shoes

Your best bet is to find a local athletic shoe dealer that caters to serious runners and walkers. Tell the salesperson about your marathon goals and mileage plans. They will check to see if you overpronate and need a motion control shoe or not.

Then they will work to get you into a pair of shoes that are properly fitted. Remember that your feet will swell with distance walking, and you may need wider and bigger shoes for the marathon. These local stores rely on repeat customers and they will work to ensure you have the right shoes for an endurance event.

Rotate Your Shoes

Many serious runners and walkers recommend having two different pairs of shoes in which to train and trading them off each training day, never wearing the same shoes twice in a row. This extends the life of the shoes. A day off also allows the shoes to fully air out between sessions.

Some marathoners recommend training in two different models of shoes. The advantage of this is that the muscles and joints get variety in their workouts rather than falling into one pattern. Others don't think this is necessary. It's your choice.

Replace Shoes Often

Most athletic shoes wear out after 300 to 500 miles. Expect that you will need to replace your marathon training shoes at least once during training. Once you find a model that works well for you, buy an extra pair or two so you can be sure to have a fresh model when the older pair begins to lose its cushioning and support.

It is best to have a pair with only about 100 miles of wear on them for the marathon race itself. You want shoes that you have worn several times but that are still fully supportive and have full cushioning. The rule of "nothing new on race day" applies, especially to your shoes, as well as any insoles or orthotics you are used to using.

If you are traveling by air to your marathon event, don't trust your race shoes or race gear to checked luggage. Bring them on board in your carry-on luggage or wear them on the plane.

Avoid wearing your marathon shoes the day before the marathon. You want them to be fresh for race day. If your race has a timing chip to attach to the shoe, attach it carefully the night before so you don't forget that important step. Now you are ready to lace them up on race day and go the distance.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rethnam U, Makwana N. Are old running shoes detrimental to your feet? A pedobarographic studyBMC Res Notes. 2011;4:307. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-307

  2. American Podiatric Medical Association. What is a foot or ankle sprain or fracture?.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.