To better manage expectations, let’s begin by clarifying what ‘long-distance’ means here.
The definition will depend on the fitness level of a runner. That said, we view any distance that is longer than 10 miles as ‘long-distance’. In metric terms, that’s 16 km; not the kind of run you do daily without weekly rest days.
It may sound like a wide range if the starting point is only 10 miles. Because a shoe that works for a half-marathon may not possess the ride comfort needed for a marathon or an ultra.
The running shoe models that follow are recommended for distances between a 10K to half-marathon. If you want an ultra-cushioned running shoe for marathons (and longer), then reading this guide should help.
So what kind of long-distance running shoes are we talking about 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 high-volume midsoles that make long runs comfortable. In both cases, the upper needs to breathe well and accommodate the temporary change in foot volume; long-distance runs lead to a swelling effect.
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 lower-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 with the products mentioned on our ‘shoes for 10K’ guide.
The second group packs more foam underneath as compared to the low-profile runners. However, for this guide, we’ve steered clear of standard running shoes like the Asics Cumulus, the adidas Solar Glide, or the Brooks Ghost. The reason? If you’re running anything less than a half marathon, you should be able to dial up speed without the midsole getting in your way.
There are no max-cushion shoes either; please refer to this guide for options 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 when you want your high-mileage runs to be fast. The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 is an exception. After all, we did name the first-gen model the best running shoe of last year. The V 2.0 has the same midsole, so there’s no change in the ride quality.
Category 1: Low-profile running shoes for long distances
1) adidas adizero Boston 9
Over the years, the adizero Boston has built its reputation as a tempo-friendly shoe that also goes easy on your feet.
A narrow-fitting secures the foot inside the upper. Below, the midsole combines the use of firm EVA rims along with a Boost foam midsole and full-contact outsole. As a result, the shoe feels stable and fast while being cushioned enough for high-mileage runs.
You also get a lot of useful life out of the Boston due to its durable Continental rubber outsole.
That said, we preferred the older outsole design with more rubber coverage under the forefoot. The redesigned outsole on the Boston 9 (and even the adios 5) has larger windows exposing the Boost foam, thus making the ride softer and reducing the grip and transition quality.
2) Asics DS-Trainer 25
Amazingly, the DS-Trainer is one of the very few ‘mild-stability’ pacers sold in the market today. The New Balance 1500 and Saucony Fastwich exist too, except that the DS-Trainer predates them by many years.
What’s unique about the DST is its dual-density midsole that incorporates a firmer medial post. However, that doesn’t lead to a pronounced cushioning bias. The DS-Trainer 25 feels like any other speed-friendly trainer with a cushioned ride, because that’s exactly what it is.
The Flytefoam midsole feels fast while being comfortable during long-distance runs. The small outsole lugs under the forefoot grip tenaciously for a quick touch and go.
Last year, the DS-Trainer 24 completely redesigned the upper to make the interiors much smoother. The DS-Trainer 25 has a similar upper; the fit is snug and the knit mesh covering feels soft and seamless over the foot.
3) New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo
The similarity applies to both the ride quality and upper fit. A full-length Fresh Foam midsole delivers distance-friendly comfort in a 6 mm heel to toe drop. This low-profile layer of cushioning is also speed-friendly, so the Fresh Foam Tempo combines the best of both worlds.
Covering the foot is a smooth and snug mesh upper with a supportive heel. The Zante had a short sizing, and so does the Fresh Foam Tempo.
The Tempo isn’t exactly a Fresh Foam 1080 but it has adequate cushioning comfort for up to half marathons. If you want more distance between the foot and the ground, may we suggest the Beacon V3?
4) New Balance FuelCell Prism
If the FuelCell Prism looks familiar, that’s because its silhouette resembles the New Balance FuelCell TC. But that’s where the similarities end; the Prism is an entirely different running shoe.
The Prism neither has an internal Carbon plate or an astronomically high price tag. What it does have in spades is mileage-friendly cushioning, delivered by the full-length foam midsole that New Balance calls ‘Fuelcell’.
The soft foam midsole also has a semi-rocker shape, a design that facilitates smoother (and faster) transitions. The Prism also has a tiny quirk; there’s a hint of medial side support in the form of a micro medial-post. We don’t think it makes any difference at all, except for giving the shoe ‘stability’ optics.
A firm rubber outsole forms a ring on the outer edges, whereas the forefoot uses a softer 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 (like the Tempo), the upper is form-fitting and soft with some plushness in the rear.
5) Reebok Floatride Run Fast 2
This shoe must be tired of featuring in almost every ‘best shoe’ list. But you know what? The Reebok Run Fast 2 deserves it. The 2020 model gets an updated upper with a classic Reebok ‘vector’ logo.
The various features of the Run Fast come together to produce a speedy yet cushioned ride. This is the only shoe on this guide to have a Pebax foam-based midsole, thus creating a unique shoe that weighs less than 7 ounces.
A high cushioning-to-weight ratio is also made even better by a breathable and lightweight upper that disappears over your feet.
6) Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper
We thought that the bar had been raised with the Reebok Run Fast. Hold my beer, says the Skechers GoRun Razor 3.
While the Razor franchise has established itself as a road-racer with credible chops, this model from the last year uses a new Hyper Burst foam midsole. So what has changed?
The thickness and composition of the Hyper midsole makes the ride sufficiently cushioned for long-distance runs while maintaining a speed-friendly persona.
Category 2: Cushioned running shoes
1) 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 due to 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 thin racers and slightly weighty daily trainers. The Beacon V3 still has the lovable ride quality that makes long-distance endeavors fun and comfortable. Calling it a ‘fast’ shoe would be a stretch
The jury is out on the wacky heel design, though. And the upper still fits narrow, something that an optional 2E(wide) width will easily fix.
2) Saucony Kinvara 11
Is your idea of a distance running shoe a lightweight trainer with a low heel drop? The Kinvara 11 fits that description, and we can’t praise it enough. Things took a turn for the better with the last year’s Kinvara 10, and the 11 carries forward most of that goodness without much change.
The EVA and Pwrrun+ midsole with a 4 mm drop has the cushioning to take you to half-marathon distances in comfort. The upper is breathable and has ample toe-splay room without being too loose.
3) Saucony Freedom 3
The Freedom 3 is a low-offset running shoe with denser cushioning than the Kinvara. When compared to the latter, the Freedom has better outsole durability and a narrower fit. The ‘Crystal’ rubber used on the Freedom lasts forever – and longer than adidas’s Continental rubber. That’s saying something.
For 2020, the Freedom 3 gets a new Pwrrun+ midsole (vs. the firmer Everun of the Freedom ISO 2), thus making the ride softer and more lively. The dense and responsive cushioning will draw comparisons with the adidas Boston 9. However, the Freedom has more cushioning along with a higher level of upper comfort.
There is one thing that the Liberty has in common with the Boston 9 though. Both shoes balance cushioning comfort with a sense of quickness that is perfect for higher-paced, long-distance runs.
The soft upper fits slightly narrow, as befits a tempo-friendly shoe. On the bright side, it leaves behind the ISOFIT strapping system and acquires a cleaner-looking exterior.
There’s another shoe similar to the Freedom 3 in many aspects – it’s called the Liberty ISO 2. That’s the shoe with a more supportive ride and upper fit.
4) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2
We rated the first generation Floatride Energy quite highly, and we hold a similar opinion of the second version as well.
With the same sole as the last year’s model, the 2.0 shares the superb ride quality. The e-TPU midsole strikes a fine balance between cushioning comfort and transition efficiency, thus making it suitable for long-distance endeavors without punishing your feet.
The upper gets a few changes. The new Achilles lip collar and a softer tongue are the noteworthy tweaks. And look – the Delta logo has been swapped with the stylish Reebok vector logo.
Though we prefer the more minimal upper construction of the Floatride V1, some runners will find the softer lining materials and asymmetrical lacing a welcome change.