Best long-distance running shoes

by Solereview editors

The tongue flap of the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.

This article has been updated with current models for October 2021. The adidas Boston 9, New Balance Fuelcell Prism, Reebok Floatride Fun Fast 2, and the Saucony Kinvara 11 have been replaced with their updated versions. The adidas SL20, Asics Metaracer, Brooks Hyperion Tempo, New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2, and Skechers GoRun Razor Excess are new additions. The Asics DS Trainer 25, New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo, Reebok Floatride Energy 2, Saucony Freedom 3, and Skechers GoRun Razor 3 have been removed.

To manage expectations, we’d like to clarify what ‘long-distance’ means here. We view any distance that’s over 10 miles as ‘long-distance’. In metric terms, that’s 16 km; not the kind of mileage you do daily without rest days.

That may sound like a wide range if the starting point is only 10 miles. After all, a shoe that works for a 10 miler may not be comfortable enough for a marathon or an ultra.

This guide contains running shoes that are recommended for distances between a 10K to a half-marathon. If you want an ultra-cushioned running shoe for marathons (and longer), then reading this guide should help. On the other hand, if a soft running shoe is all that you need, then our recommendations are here.

So what kind of long-distance running shoes are being discussed here?

If there’s one thing that we’ve realized after replying to thousands of reader comments, it’s that no two runners are the same. A shoe that works perfectly well for one person may not suit the other.

For example, experienced runners have a higher cushioning tolerance. They are perfectly ok with low-profile running shoes for high-mileage runs.

Others prefer shoes with plenty of cushioning. In this category are running shoe models with cushioned midsoles that make long runs comfortable. In both cases, the upper needs to breathe well and accommodate the temporary increase in foot volume; long-distance runs tend to do that.

So this is how it’s going to play out for this guide: two camps of runners = two shoe categories.

We’ll begin the guide with the low-profile trainers first. While these shoes aren’t as punishing as the ones meant for 5K runs, they aren’t fleshed-out cushioned trainers either. So there’s a fair bit of overlap between the products mentioned on our ‘shoes for 10K’ guide.

The shoes within the second group have a softer ride when compared to the low-profile trainers. However, for this guide, we’ve steered clear of standard running shoes like the Asics Cumulus, adidas Solarglide 4, or Brooks Ghost. If the running distance is shorter than a half marathon, then you should be able to increase speed without the chunky midsole getting in your way.

There are no max-cushion shoes either; please refer to this guide if that’s an area of interest.

In their place, we’ve included cushioned running shoes with a bit of snap in them. That way, the cushioning won’t slow you down during fast, high-mileage runs. Highly cushioned speed shoes like the adidas Boston 10 use transition-friendly components like Nylon tubes for a speed-friendly character.

This guide is equally divided into two groups of five shoes.

Though the shoes are listed alphabetically, our top picks from the low-profile group would be the Skechers GoRun Razor Excess and Reebok Floatride Run Fast 3. Within the cushioned pacer category, we recommend the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.

Category 1: Low-profile running shoes for long distances

1) Adidas SL 20 V2

Our recommended list is sorted in alphabetical order, so it’s fortuitous that the adidas SL20 features first.

The SL20 is a unique running shoe that mates a low-profile ride with soft ride comfort and a 10 mm heel-to-toe offset. Its $110 retail price isn’t a sticker shock either. Under the mesh and foam exterior lies a basic running shoe that works for fast days as well as everyday runs.

There’s no Boost inside the midsole, but a basic EVA foam that adidas calls Lightstrike. Its medium-soft density is what makes it versatile; it’s comfortable enough for up to a half marathon and peppy enough for timed tempos. The Continental rubber outsole adds durability and grip for swift transitions.

The upper is based on the adizero form factor, which is a euphemism for narrow and short sizing. You’d need to buy at least a half size up if you value interior space.

One of the changes that make the SL20 V2’s fit narrower than the V1 is the new set of loops that connect to the laces. To free up space, lace the shoe without threading them through the first three rows of the side loops.

2) Asics Metaracer

Sometimes, running shoes do not behave the way we expect them to.

The Asics Metaracer is a racer with a Carbon plate, but a softly cushioned one. The split design of the Carbon helps it blend inconspicuously into the Flytefoam midsole, so all that’s felt under the foot is the comfortable stack of foam.

Toe spring of the Asics Metaracer

The Asics Metaracer’s soft midsole conceals a segmented Carbon plate.

The plate is located at the bottom, so it works effectively as a transition device without affecting the cushioning quality. This way, the Metaracer manages to deliver ample comfort for up to a half marathon.

On the top, the soft upper is extremely well ventilated – something that’s useful to keep the feet cool during a long-distance run. Our full review has everything that one needs to know about the Metaracer.

3) Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Sometimes, it’s easy to conflate the terms ‘soft’ with ‘cushioned’. Cushioning exists in many shapes and densities, so a running shoe can be firm yet cushioned. There are so many examples of such shoes, ranging from the Saucony Endorphin Shift, Ride 14, or the Asics Hyper Speed.

The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is one such shoe. The ‘Tempo’ part of the name suggests that it’s a speed-friendly running shoe, and it is. Many features help build its case as a speed trainer.

Midsole material of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo

The DNA Flash midsole foam is cushioned yet firm. That’s good news for speed runs.

Its CO2-infused EVA foam makes the Hyperion Tempo incredibly lightweight. Even with a generous serving of extra-grippy outsole rubber, the Hyper-T weighs only 7.2-ounces or 207 grams.

The combination of the lightweight foam and firm transitions produces an excellent mix of mileage-worthy comfort and speed day pep. Do you want to know more? Our review dives deep into the inner workings of the Hyperion Tempo.

4) Reebok Floatride Run Fast 3

adidas recently divested of the Reebok brand, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen to some of their performance running shoes. For example, the Floatride Run Fast 3 is a product that we’d like the new owners of Reebok to keep and update.

The Run Fast 3 is a very special shoe, and we’re hoping to stock up on a few pairs while we can.

Unlike most other running shoes (Nike Vaporfly, Saucony Endorphin) that usually feature the lightweight PEBA foam within an extremely thick and cushy midsole, this Reebok uses Floatride foam (PEBAX) in a low-profile set up. By the way, we also love the featherweight Run Fast Pro racer.

Reebok_Floatride_Run_foam

The Reebok Floatride PEBA foam has a high cushioning to weight ratio.

Floatride delivers an exceptionally high cushioning-to-weight ratio, and thoughtful features like the EVA frame keep the ride supported. The single-piece rubber outsole has a satisfying bite while protecting the soft foam from damage.

There’s just enough PEBA foam to make the ride very comfortable for half-marathons. Features like the EVA rim and rubber outsole work together with the low-profile stack to help the Run Fast live up to its name.

The ride experience is made even better by a breathable and lightweight upper that disappears over the feet.

5) Skechers GoRun Razor Excess

In many ways, the Skechers GoRun Razor Excess resembles the Brooks Hyperion Tempo. Like the latter, the midsole is made of a Nitrogen-infused EVA foam (Brooks has CO2 infusion) that results in a firm and lightweight cushioning. Skechers calls this material Hyperburst, and it debuted on the GoRun Razor.

The GoRun Excess is a slightly more cushioned version of the Razor, but the term ‘cushioned’ should be consumed with a grain of salt. The midsole has a firm ride that’s comfortable enough for half marathon distances, yet feels quick when needed. A firm Goodyear rubber outsole is split into multiple pieces for smoother transitions.

A snug and plasticky upper has always been a Skechers quirk, and it’s no different on the Excess. There’s not much to say about the upper, except that’s snug, secure, and doesn’t distract during runs.

Category 2: Cushioned running shoes

1) adidas adizero Boston 10

Over the years, the adizero Boston has built its reputation as a tempo-friendly shoe with a ride that isn’t hard on the feet.

It’s a little different this time around. Instead of a minimal Boost foam midsole with a supportive EVA frame, the Boston 10 combines two different kinds of foam and a set of Nylon tubes.

adidas adizero Boston 10 midsole

The high-tech midsole is softer than before, but it’s speed capable.

The Boston 10’s midsole uses the new ‘Lightstrike Pro’ foam (a kind of TPE, we assume) along with the tried-and-tested Lightstrike EVA foam. This makes the Boston 10 very different than the V9 or V8; the increase in cushioning is very noticeable. With these changes, the Boston is better suited for long-distance runs than the previous model.

However, the higher level of softness doesn’t impede the speed-friendly nature of the adizero Boston. The Nylon tubes and Lightstrike EVA add the necessary stiffness and support to build up speed. The ultra-grippy Continental rubber outsole also helps with the quick touch and go.

adidas adizero Boston 10 toe-box

The Boston 10’s upper design is a nod to the past.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, that would be the classic racer upper. The Boston’s synthetic suede and mesh upper is a nod to its racing roots, and modern updates like the choice of mesh and lining add a lot of comfort. It’s an adizero performance shoe, so the upper is narrow – no two ways about it.

We took a closer look at the Boston 10 recently – here’s where you read it.

2) New Balance Fuelcell Rebel 2

Until last year, the Fuelcell Rebel used to feature the same foam as the Prism – a soft midsole material that’s comfortable, but nowhere as lightweight as the foam from the RC Elite.

That changes for 2021; the Rebel V2 gets the same foam as the RC Elite. This completely transforms the Rebel’s character, and is the reason why this shoe is our favorite pick.

The side view of the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2.

The Rebel V2 packs a lot of cushioning and ride comfort for its 7.2-ounce/204-gram weight. The responsive nature of the midsole makes it a great choice for quick workouts, whereas the cushioning softness makes everyday runs enjoyable.

Do note that the Rebel V2 has a shorter sizing. One needs to buy at least a half size larger (buy 10.5 instead of the usual 10). Other than that, the upper is excellent – the racer tongue has a softer super flap, and the soft heel is gentle on the Achilles.

Are there any drawbacks? Based on online chatter, long-term durability appears to be an issue. The flimsy upper has weak points, and the exposed outsole section of the soft midsole is susceptible to wear and tear.

Also see: The New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo – a Tempo trainer with a Fresh Foam EVA midsole and secure upper.

3) New Balance FuelCell Prism V2

The Fuelcell Prism is an interesting shoe with very few equals. We’re not talking about the comfortable low-profile cushioning with its raised sidewalls. We’re also not referring to the soft and lightweight upper either.

The Prism V2 has a tiny quirk; there’s a hint of medial side support in the form of a micro medial post. This firmer wedge foam doesn’t make any difference at all, except for giving the shoe ‘stability’ optics.

Regardless of the medial post, the Fuelcell midsole has mileage-friendly cushioning in spades. If the 10.2-ounce doesn’t give it away, we’d like to stress that the Fuelcell foam used here isn’t the same as the one used on the Rebel.

Nonetheless, the semi-rocker shape of the midsole facilitates smooth and quick transitions.

A firm rubber outsole is laid out in a horseshoe pattern under the heel, whereas the forefoot uses a large piece of soft blown rubber. The firm outsole sections contribute to the ride stability and transitions, while the forefoot inlays make the landings and take-offs easy on the feet.

Like most New Balance shoes in this category, the comfortable upper is form-fitting and half a size short.

4) New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon V3

Ah, the Beacon. A couple of years ago, New Balance’s then-new shoe quickly gained a cult following because of its versatile nature. It was lightweight, yet cushioned. It was cushioned, yet speed-friendly.

In retrospect, the Beacon V1 made itself useful in a shoe rotation by serving as a middle ground between minimal racers and heavier daily trainers. The Beacon V3 still has the lovable ride quality that makes long-distance endeavors fun and comfortable. However, calling it a ‘fast’ shoe would be a stretch.

The jury is out on the wacky heel design, though. Though the upper fits narrow, that’s something an optional 2E (wide) width will easily fix.

5) Saucony Kinvara 12

Our review echoes the view that the Kinvara 12 is an excellent shoe.

Having said that, its redesign includes a firmer ride that some runners may find harsh for half-marathon distances. If that’s you, buy the Fuelcell Rebel 2 instead.

The side profile of the Saucony Kinvara 12's midsole.

The firm midsole is cushioned and quick.

On the other hand, if you were a fan of the retro Kinvara’s firm ride, there’s a lot to like about the K-12. The firm EVA midsole (Pwrrun) is excellent for faster paces while keeping the foot adequately cushioned over longer distances.

Saucony Kinvara 12 Topsole

The ‘Topsole’ contributes to the ride comfort.

The low stack isn’t bereft of comfort. In addition to the main midsole, there’s a layer of Pwrrun+ (E-TPU) and a removable insole just under the foot.

The conforming interiors are very well-ventilated and soft, all while fitting true-to-size. That’s just the kind of upper fit needed for long-distance runs.

And why not the Saucony Freedom 4 instead of the Kinvara 12?

The Freedom 4, for all its technological superiority (PEBA midsole and all), feels flat and unresponsive. The upper is also tight due to all the layering.

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