Best running shoes for marathons

by Solereview editors


This article has been updated with current models for October 2020. The Brooks Ghost 12, Hoka Clifton 6, and the Saucony Triumph 17 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Adidas Solarglide 3, Nike React Infinity Run, and Nike Zoom Fly 3 are new additions. The Nike Vaporfly Next% and Nike Pegasus 37 have been removed.

These are unusual times. So when we use the word ‘Marathons’, we mean it in spirit.

Most marathons across the world – and running events in general – have been canceled for the foreseeable future. But that shouldn’t stop us from training; with most of the world (except for the Southern Hemisphere) heading towards the cooler seasons, it’s an opportune time for long-distance runs.

With that end in mind, this guide contains running shoe recommendations that work for long-distance training. The kind that can also be used as race-day shoes when marathon events eventually resume.

If you didn’t know it already, Marathons are hard.

Many years ago, we remember talking to someone about his first marathon. And this person didn’t even train for one, he just decided to run a major – think it was the Boston – marathon on a whim. Didn’t ask how he managed to qualify though – perhaps he got in through the charity route. But his story checked out.

He remarked that his lower body was ‘destroyed’ after that marathon; he hobbled for a week after the race. But here’s the thing – he wasn’t out of shape. In fact, being a recreational but borderline competitive climber, he was supremely fit by most standards. He had a strong core with exceptional upper and lower body strength.

And he worked for a major shoe brand, so he wore the best running shoe available at the time. That didn’t help either.

Aha – you’d say. It’s the runner and not the shoe, after all. Our friend made it obvious (and painfully so) that being accomplished in one sport doesn’t mean you can run 26.2 miles without training – even with the best running shoes. Long-distance runs are a feat of endurance and not brute strength, thus requiring a completely different training regime.

Most of us have also seen elite runners break marathon PR’s in a pair of racing flats that are nothing more than a thin piece of foam glued to a mesh upper.

So if running shoes make no difference at all, then what’s the point of this guide?

Let us ask you something – and be honest here. If you’re a non-elite running a marathon in a pair of flats, don’t you crave more cushioning under your feet after mile 10? The kind of running shoe that goes easy on your feet? And an upper with enough room for your toes instead of squeezing them in a vice-like grip?

Even if you’ve trained religiously for over six months before running a marathon, every bit helps – even running shoes.

While many experienced runners have no problem whatsoever running longer distances in flats, most of us will appreciate the extra comfort.

Thus, this guide focuses on cushioned running shoes. If you rather prefer flats or products of a similar nature, you could try the shoes from our guides for 5K and 10K races.

If this guide was compiled in 2014, it would have looked completely different. Save for a few Hokas, there weren’t many maximal cushioning shoes available. Midsole foam tech was also limited to e-TPU and EVA variants.

Back then, we would have featured cushioned trainers such as the adidas Supernova Glide, the Nike Pegasus, and the Saucony Ride. The likes of these have always been dependable, do-it-all options – something that doesn’t change in 2020 either. As you scroll down this page, you’ll notice that the guide has models such as the adidas Solar Glide and Brooks Ghost.

Hoka does what it does best, so the Clifton features here. Asics has been the surprise inclusion of the year. The Japanese brand has recently upped their running shoe game, so the Glideride and Novablast are featured here.

And if you don’t see models such as the Saucony Endorphin Speed Pro, that’s because we don’t have miles on them yet. They are also a bit hard to procure.

The same goes for the Nike Alphafly Next%. Though we own a pair and have miles on them, they are very difficult to find. So what’s the point of including something that not everyone can buy?

Unlike most of our guides, our top marathon shoe picks are arranged in the order of Solereview’s preference.

1) Hoka One One Clifton 7

The V7 is the best version of the Clifton ever. There, we said it. This popular trainer from Hoka has been tweaked to get the max-cushion formula right. The V7 feels a lot like the Clifton OG, and what makes it even better is the redesigned upper.

After several iterations over the past many years, Hoka has managed to iron all the crinkles out of the upper. The forefoot is spacious with a broad toe-box. The spacer mesh is soft and spongy, a trait that makes the interiors extremely comfortable and smooth. There’s even a gusset holding the tongue in place.

In the back, the Achilles lip is soft and semi-stretchy for easy in and out. Combine all the upper goodness with a deeply cushioned ride, and here’s a shoe that makes short work of marathon distances.

Also see: The Hoka Bondi 7.

2) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080V10

The V9 was the turning point for the 1080 series. After years of cushioning mediocrity, the updated Fresh Foam midsole finally delivered what it had always promised – a soft, responsive, and smooth ride.

The 2020 model takes the overall ride quality further – in a good way. The midsole has tweaked the ‘Fresh Foam X’ (feels like an EVA blend) to make the ride softer and livelier. And it’s not just the midsole.

Even the outsole goes the Fuelcell Propel way by using blown rubber and areas of exposed EVA foam. The split outsole layout gives the midsole a greater range of movement.

It’s not a surprise then, that the 1080 V10 makes high mileage affairs extremely comfortable. It’s also enjoyable as it produces the cushioning softness without coming across as lazy.

The redesigned upper will divide opinions. Runners who prefer a roomy forefoot will love the V10 due to its stretchy mesh. The 1080 also trades one imperfect heel cup design for another. The V9’s heel fit wasn’t great, and the V10’s outwards flaring collar is a love it or meh affair.

All being said, both the 1080 V9 and V10 are great picks for long-distance runs and marathons.

3) Nike Zoom Fly 3

Though the Vaporfly Next% continues to be an excellent choice for running marathon distances due to its unique midsole geometry, its availability is iffy. So if you can find the Vaporfly, great.

If not, may we suggest the Zoom Fly 3?

Just like the Vaporfly, the Zoom Fly 3 has a carbon plate for forward-biased springiness. The only difference is that the Zoom Fly 3 uses Nike’s React foam instead of ZoomX, thus making the ride much firmer.

While runners won’t find the characteristic soft bounce of the Vaporfly, the ZF3’s firm ride makes the shoe more stable – something that is an issue with the softer Vaporfly. The transitions also benefit from the firm midsole. The heel-to-toe drop of 11 mm is versatile enough for beginners as well as seasoned pros.

There’s plenty of comfort available for long-distance runs. The lightweight sleeved upper has a secure fit and helps keep the weight below 10-ounces.

4) Asics Novablast

The Asics Flytefoam has come a long way since its first iteration on the Dynaflyte and Metaride.

From being a firm ‘fiber-infused’ midsole foam, the present-day Flytefoam offers a range of cushioning characteristics. It delivers a very traditional-type cushioning on the Nimbus and the Kayano 26 in the form of the Flytefoam ‘Propel’. On fast trainers like the DS-Trainer 25 and the Dynaflyte, a firmer variant helps with quick transitions.

And now you have the ‘Flytefoam Blast’ on the Novablast – a new entrant that has quickly become a crowd favorite.

The Novablast isn’t an original idea, of course. There’s a lot of Hoka-ness to be seen and felt here. The thick midsole has a pronounced rocker shape so the ride is cushioned and efficient at the same time.

This new foam isn’t mushy and yet there’s ample comfort for long-distance runs and marathons. Simultaneously, the high toe-spring (rocker) of the midsole helps the foot roll through the gait cycles quicker.

If there’s a negative, it’s that the heel stability isn’t great.

5) Asics Glideride

Asics sailed into previously uncharted waters as it evolved out of its trusted Gel + Trusstic shank form factor.

Sure, you still have a lot of traditionalism within Asics’ line-up; the GT-2000 and Nimbuses continue to receive annual updates. On the other hand, products like the GlideRide and the Novablast are attracting new -and returning – patrons who had parted ways with the brand after 2012.

If the Novablast was all about an all-foam ride delivered by a high toe and heel spring, the Glideride takes the rocker concept quite literally. Here, a stiff Nylon plate acts as an actual rocker.

Understandably, the Glideride isn’t as cushy as the Novablast but is enjoyable – albeit in a different way. The stiff undercarriage allows the foot to roll over during transitions, so the shoe feels surprisingly effortless for its bulk. There’s plenty of cushioning too, so long-distance comfort isn’t an area of concern.

It’s worth highlighting the difference between other plated shoes (eg. Nike Vaporfly) and the Glideride. Other running shoes with embedded Carbon plates produce a ‘springboard’ effect under the heel to launch you forward. The Asics Glideride does no such thing – the forefoot plate just makes it easier for the foot to roll ahead.

6) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo V2

Unlike the 4% and Next%, the Pegasus Turbo 2 doesn’t come equipped with a Carbon plate. Nor does it have ZoomX foam in a full-length setup; there’s a layer of React foam underneath.

But what the Turbo has in spades is an anti-fatigue ride quality, and that works great for marathons. It is very lightweight too, and the new upper has an improved toe-box fit.

7) Saucony Triumph 18

The last year’s Triumph 17 was a milestone in the evolution of this popular model. The midsole swapped the firm and dense Everun foam for a softer and more response Pwrrun+.

On paper, both the cushioning technologies shared the same material – expanded Polyurethane. And yet the Triumph 17 felt markedly different than the preceding Triumph ISO 5, a difference that translated into a plusher ride which tapped deep into the high-volume midsole.

The Triumph 18 has a lot of the Triumph 17 in it. The midsole packs enough comfort for runs of double-digit distances, all while being springy in its cushioning delivery.

The upper plushness remains unchanged. There’s more forefoot room when compared to the narrow Triumph 17, so that’s a good thing.

8) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2

Instead of rotating several shoes, it makes sense to get just one running shoe to do it all. The Reebok Floatride Energy 2 could very well be that shoe.

This model is an update to the last year’s sleeper hit. The midsole uses the tried-and-tested expanded Polyurethane foam that has proved to be a durable and reliable workhorse. adidas uses it, and so does Saucony. Reebok’s version (Floatride) balances distance-friendly comfort and a low-profile cushioning that also makes a great daily trainer.

And if you already have the V1, just know that the 2020 model has the same midsole and outsole. The only thing that has changed is the redesigned upper which makes several improvements towards the fit and feel. More details can be found in our full review.

9) adidas SolarGlide 3

The SolarGlide 3 is a neutral trainer with a versatile ride character. The soft Boost midsole core produces a plush ride from the heel to toe and is comfortable up to marathon-level mileages.

Unlike the much softer Ultraboost, the Solarglide 3 is an exercise in moderation. Though there’s plenty of softness packed within the heel, the EVA rims work with the plastic Torsion shank on the outsole to add firmness where needed. The full-length Continental rubber outsole helps with the transition and grip.

While there are no widths available on the SolarGlide 3, the upper feels seamless, padded, and fits true to size.

10) Nike React Infinity Run

The way we see it, the React Infinity Run is the Epic React without the rough edges. In the sense that the upper is more comfortable without the narrow fit, and the ride is cushier.

Even the outsole is a full-coverage kind, and that’s very unlike the selective application of rubber on the Epic React. These qualities make the shoe suitable for long-distance endurance runs. A Urethane clip on the top of the midsole creates a convenient ‘cupping’ action under the heel for stability.

One of the things we love about the React Infinity is its flared midsole. The forefoot has a wide base, and so does the rear. So no matter how (or where) ones lands, there’s lots of padding available under the foot.

11) Brooks Ghost 13

Unlike many others here, the Brooks Ghost 13 doesn’t have a high-volume midsole. Nor does it have a ride quality with high levels of soft bounciness.

It does, however, have a smooth and cushioned ride that is versatile enough for most run distances. The Ghost comes with an upper to match too – it fits securely, comfortably, and true-to-size.

The Ghost 13 also has something that the Ghost 12 did not. It has a single-density midsole rather than a dual-density design with a separate crash pad. This turns the Ghost 13’s ride softer and smoother, all while retaining the cushioning comfort necessary either for every day or high-mileage runs.

Also see: The Brooks Glycerin 18.

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