The Best Shoes for Marathon Training and Racing

If you’re (seriously) training for a marathon, you’ll ‘need’ at least 3 pairs of shoes.

There are thousands of shoe options these days, and while that can be overwhelming, one of the benefits is there are now unique shoes for unique purposes.

Purposes such as: recovery, speed, racing specific, etc.

In our marathon training plans, we schedule in 7 different types of training runs, each with a specific goal in mind.

Your shoe selection not only aids in the functional completion of those types of training runs, but also in your recovery, and even injury prevention.

Before getting into exactly what shoes we might recommend, here are a few FAQ to consider:

How often do you need new running shoes?

300-500 miles.

Apps like Strava, Garmin, and others allow you to upload your shoes and assign them to runs you’ve performed. This will help keep track of the mileage attached to every shoe you own.

Generally, when a shoe gets to 300-500 miles, it needs to be replaced.

Another indicator that a shoe needs to be replaced is simply how your legs feel. Sudden fatigue in your ankles, knees or hips? Might be time for a new pair.

What types of shoes do you need for marathon training?

  1. Recovery / easy run shoes
  2. “Fast” tempo/race pace shoes
  3. Race shoes

Recovery / easy run shoes

This type of shoe is going to make up the majority of the shoe market. These are shoes designed as daily beaters. They can take a pounding, have some support and cushion, but not overly so and are devoid of ‘high tech’ items like carbon plates, etc.

These are your ‘Toyota Camry’ of shoes. They’ll last a long time, be reliable, and generally look ok too.

Some of the most popular recovery / easy run shoes are:

  1. Nike ZoomX Invincible (Men / Women)
  2. Nike Pegasus (Men / Women)
  3. Hoka Mach 4 (Men / Women)

“Fast” tempo / race pace shoes

This type of shoe mimics some of the technology from ‘super shoes’, but often come in cheaper because they’re slightly heavier.

They’ll have lots of very responsive cushion, maybe a carbon plate, and may only last for 250-400 miles – but they’re perfect for mimicking what you’ll be wearing on race day at (sometimes) half the cost.

Some of the most popular fast shoes are:

  1. Nike Tempo Next% (Men / Women)
  2. Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 (Men / Women)
  3. Nike ZoomFly (Men / Women)

Race shoes

Ah yes, the super shoes. These shoes are what top elite marathoners and weekend warriors alike wear when they want to perform their best.

(Virtually) every marathon winner in the last few years has been wearing one of these 3 shoes.

They are generally only worn on race day (maybe 1-2 training runs to break them in), have a short life span, but provide maximum benefit for speed on race day.

Some of the best racing shoes for marathons are:

  1. Nike Alphafly Next % (Men / Women)
  2. Nike Vaporfly Next % (Men / Women)
  3. Adidas Adizero Prime X (Men & Women)

How do you get the most out of your running shoes?

These shoes can be expensive, and the thought of buying a new pair every few months is prohibitive for many runners.

One of the easiest ways to make your shoes last, is simply to have several pairs for different workouts (like above) and do whatever you can to avoid wearing the same shoe two days in a row.

Shoes need time to recover. Specifically the foam in the midsole. A shoe worn every single day won’t get that chance, and will break down faster causing more fatigue and joint pain, compared to one that recovers properly.

If you’re going to buy two pairs of the same type of shoe, default to the ‘recovery’ shoe.

These are the shoes you’ll put the most miles on each week between easy and long runs. Buy 2 pairs of what you like, and alternate them, and you’ll be more likely to stretch their use all the way out to the 500 mile mark vs the 300 mile one.

If you can only buy one type of shoe, buy this one

I’m well aware that saying “just go buy 3 pairs of shoes” can still be a recommendation to spend $600+ – and for many, that’s just unreasonable for a fitness hobby.

If you can only buy one pair, buy a solid pair of ‘recovery / easy run’ shoes. The ones listed above are versatile, can be pushed a bit more for speed, and will last hundreds of miles under foot.

So if you can only afford to buy one pair, pick something like the Pegasus, or ZoomX invincible to get you through your marathon training and onto that start line.