Top 5 Best Marathon Running Shoes 2021 Tested

You know a big part of my philosophy is that you need to rotate your running shoes, which means having shoes for different kinds of runs. Today we’re talking about marathon running shoes.

What’s going to have enough cushion, enough structure and enough life to get you through training.

More than that, there’s something that gives you a mental boost when you find the right shoe. It just feels good to put it on, it carries you through the miles and come race day you’re confident in that running shoe.

Lucky for you I’ve run in all of these models, but more importantly have over 3000 of you participating in weekly Instagram Polls giving me additional feedback on what you love and has help fellow runners complete 26.2 with happy feet.

Best Marathon Running Shoes

While every runner is different, there are a few commonalities that will make most runners legs feel better in distance running events like moderate cushion, a little flexibility and good breathabilty. We also want to ensure there is plenty of room for our toes to move as our foot swells during the race.

And of course, it’s important to know when to replace your running shoes!

While one pair could get you through all of training, it might be run down enough that you don’t want to wear it for race day.

If you’ve found a pair that you love during training, then grab a new pair about a month before the race.

What to look for in marathon running shoes?

  • Do you have pronation issues that you can’t correct with strengthening exercises?
  • Do you want a pair specifically for race day that are lighter? (consider them your race shoes)
  • Heavier runners or those with a larger frame (hello my very tall male friends) may want a more cushioned shoe.
  • Do you need a wide shoe? (feet swell the farther we run and in heat, so know your foot)

A major factor is understanding how running shoes should fit.

Go through those key pieces before selecting any shoe from the list of ideas that follow.

I’ll be sharing one from each of the major running shoe brands. Each brand has a slightly different fit and feel, so if you’ve tried a shoe from them previously now you’ll know which model will go the distance.

Click on any marathon shoe name below to see complete details.

Cushion + Structure


You’re in luck because I recently tested out this shoe and did a full review! It’s been a long running favorite for many, which is why they’re up to the 28th model.

It’s a more structured and cushioned shoe that for many strikes the balance of cushion, fairly light and enough structure to keep their foot strike in line.

  • Stability running shoe
  • Higher heel to toe
  • Long time favorite to many runners
  • Cushioned, but not overly soft

Do you need to buy the most current model? What if an older model is cheaper??

Assuming the shoes have been stored correctly (i.e. not a boiling hot warehouse) then I’m a fan of saving $50 whenever possible, knowing that I’ll need to keep buying more shoes.

Just checkout the reviews to see if anything major changed between models. As we all know we may love one version and not so much the next in the very same shoe.

Lower Heel Drop + Cushion

Hoka Clifton

I ran in the very first model of this shoe and was surprised just how much I loved the maximal shoe.

It was cushioned without being heavy and and feeling clunky. But a real bonus of Hoka shoes is that the maximal style while being a neutral shoe with a lower heel drop, is by default more stable!

Yes that means it could make your knees and hips feel hoka for road running

I’ve now tested about 5 or so models of Hoka shoes, including the most recent Clifton. You can see how the Hoka running shoes comparison in this post.

Suffice to say that if you are looking for a marathon training shoe, this would be my pick for getting cushion without it being too soft.

  • Current model is the Clifton 8
  • Neutral running shoe
  • 5mm heel to toe
  • Great cushioning
  • 7 oz

In fact, since then I’ve tested out and compared Hoka models many times over the years.

Cushion + Style

Nike Pegasus

A lot has been said about the Vaporfly 4%, but they aren’t the shoe I’d recommend for most runners. Some folks seem to run in to trouble with the carbon fiber plate.

Assuming this uses the same foam as the React, I LOVE the cushioned feeling it provides.good distance running shoe

The Pegasus is a long time shoe for Nike, which to me is always a signal of a great model.

  • Current model is 37
  • Neutral shoe
  • Improved cushioning
  • 10mm heel drop
  • 10 oz

Meanwhile, I’m on pair 5 of the Nike Epic React because I love it so much…however, I’ve realized it’s probably not my best shoe over 13.1.

Solid Support

Brooks Ghost

I’m starting to get embarrassed by how many of these shoes I have currently or have run in, but the Ghost is also on the list! In fact, this is my exact shoe in the photo!long run shoes

These feel like a shoe with a lot more structure and while cushioned, they don’t have the plush feel of some shoes.

This is useful to many runners who end up with low back pain in a too cushioned shoe.

  • Current model is Ghost 14
  • Neutral running shoe
  • 12 mm heel drop
  • 9 oz

Softer Cushion + Support

Saucony Ride

I’ve seen some folks mention the Kinvara for marathons and the truth is I used to run in them NON-stop, but I never was 100% sold on them actually be great for my runs over 17 miles.

The Ride is going to provide you with some additional cushion and structure. Again it’s a shoe I’ve spent many miles in and find really long run shoe

  • Current model is the Ride 14
  • Neutral running shoe
  • 8mm heel to toe
  • 9 oz
  • Great padding around heel and tongue

How long before the marathon to buy new shoes?

If you’ve found a pair of shoes that you love during training, then get a new pair about a month before the race.

This gives you a chance to wear them on a few shorter runs and one long run.

Remember the NOTHING NEW on race day mantra. You want to take your race day shoes out for a few runs just to make sure there are absolutely no issues with blisters or the shoe fitting slightly different.

However, if you’re not feeling good about the model you’ve been using then two months before the race I’d be on the hunt for something that feels good. This gives you a chance to take it on multiple long runs and the shoe will still have plenty of life left in it for race day.

Why your marathon running shoes matter?

The reason the right running shoe matters so much is because over the miles it’s really easy to have issues like ankle pain while running or knee pain while running.

Not simply from weak hips and glutes, but from shoes that aren’t right for you!

You’ll want to find a shoe that:

  • has enough room in the toebox for your feet to spread and potentially swell over the miles
  • allows you to change the lacing to provide more room or lock in your heel
  • keeps your arch from dropping in which places pressure on knees and ankles

How many running shoes should you have?

I cover in depth why you need to rotate running shoes, but for the sake of time say a minimum of two pairs of shoes for marathon training.

And yes, that’s two different styles for during training and then a new pair coming up on race day. If you’ve only done a 12 week training plan, then maybe you won’t need a new pair for race day. But most of us start training in an older pair and pile on the miles.

Those fresh shoes will have better structure and cushion, which we absolutely want when running 26.2 miles.

If this is your first marathon, don’t forget to checkout these beginner marathon training tips and my new Couch to Marathon Training Plan.

Looking for more reviews to find the best things for your run?

Checkout our full page of my must have running gear reviews and guides to save you time searching and money! I share what’s worked for me and fellow runners, along with what wasn’t worth the price tag.

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Best Marathon Shoes

Top 5 Best Marathon Running Shoes 2021 Tested is written by amanda for

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