Best Shoes For Marathon Walking

The marathon is the ultimate test of endurance. Whether you’re training for your first marathon or are an experienced runner, it’s important that you pick the right pair of shoes — not only for comfort and protection, but also for speed.

The best shoes for marathon walking will have a combination of excellent cushioning and a snug fit to keep you going mile after mile without discomfort or injury. These shoes should be lightweight and flexible so that you can easily pivot and change direction during your race.

Best Shoes For Marathon Walking – Men’s

BEST FOR: The neutral runner who wants an affordable and durable shoe with ample underfoot cushioning and good traction.

This is one of the most popular options among marathoners, and it’s easy to see why: It offers plenty of cushioning underfoot while still being light enough to fly through the streets of New York City, Chicago or Boston. Plus, it’s available in both men’s and women’s sizes so you can find the perfect fit for your foot type.

BEST FOR: The neutral runner who wants a stable shoe with ample underfoot cushioning and good traction.

Best Shoes For Marathon Walking

High-mileage runners ask a lot of their shoes. You need something soft enough to buffer unforgiving pavement, firm enough to provide adequate push-off mile after mile, and burly enough to take an hours-long pummeling—yet light enough to keep the word “slog” from darkening your thoughts. Durability and comfort will also take on new importance, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in these shoes, and you don’t want to buy a new pair every month. Whether you’re training for a marathon or just upping your mileage for the joy and challenge of it, these are the best shoes for the job as determined by our testing.

The 10 Best Long-Distance Running Shoes

  • Gel-Nimbus Lite 3AsicsRead More$160 AT AMAZON
  • Phantom 2Topo AthleticRead More$139 AT AMAZON
  • Mach 5HokaRead More$140 AT HOKA.COM
  • Wave Rider 25MizunoRead More$98 AT AMAZON
  • Air Zoom Pegasus 39NikeRead More$130 AT NIKE

What to Look For

The best long-distance running shoes share standout features with the best running shoes overall in terms of comfort, longevity, and value. However, more time on your feet could mean that your foot benefits from a wider toe box and a more expansive upper in case of swelling. Typically, we also find that very experienced runners will fare better than newbies in more minimalist shoes, as well-honed gait mechanics can help lessen the need for added cushioning. First-time marathoners, on the other hand, usually appreciate the extra padding of a heavier trainer and its help in getting them to the starting line injury-free.

shoe lab

Shoes undergo thorough mechanical testing at the RW Shoe Lab. 

TREVOR RAAB

We supplement a shoe’s lab data with our own on-the-run impressions.

TREVOR RAAB

Since you’ll be putting in a lot of miles, a durable outsole will also be key: Solid rubber tends to last longer than the more flexible blown rubber, though the latter can add to the softness and cushioning of the shoe. At the midsole, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) foam can provide more longevity than ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, though will usually add more weight to the shoe overall. For this reason, many shoe brands have developed their own proprietary blends that incorporate a mix of both foams. Currently, one of the lightest and most responsive midsole materials is a polyether block amide elastomer, usually referred to as Pebax. You’ll find it used in higher-end foams like Nike’s ZoomX and Saucony’s Pwrrun PB—the drawback is that it’s expensive. Here’s more if you want to go deep on what makes a good running shoe.

How We Tested

We’ve devoted a boatload of miles to finding shoes that strike just the right balance of cushioning, support, and responsiveness. We test hundreds of pairs each year between our staff and wear-test team, which is comprised of more than 250 local runners of all ages, speeds, and experience levels. As our testers gather their detailed on-foot impressions, we also evaluate those same models in our RW Shoe Lab where we perform a battery of mechanical tests for midsole softness, flexibility, and energy return. We utilize both our testers’ feedback and lab data to determine the areas in which each shoe on this list excels. Keep scrolling for the models that deliver protection from the pavement, but also feel fast and perform well, so you can run longer and think about your feet less.

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—MOST VERSATILE—

Asics Gel-Nimbus Lite 3

Weight: 9.2 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)
Drop: 10 mm (M), 13 mm (W)

Gel-Nimbus Lite 3

Asicsamazon.com

$159.95

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  • Taller heel-toe drop helps ease strain on the Achilles
  • Grippy, resilient outsole

  • Some testers wanted softer forefoot cushioning

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You can’t have an Asics Gel-Nimbus without the gel. The Lite still packs some in the heel and forefoot but you don’t see it poking out. And it has a surprising amount of rubber underfoot still, which boosts durability. Those two elements can quickly weigh a shoe down, but haven’t impacted the sensation of the Lite 3. “The overall weight is its best feature,” one tester reported back. “It feels fast and nimble on runs, and is at home during speed workouts. But on longer runs it doesn’t wear out my legs because I’m not carrying heavy shoes over time.” The shoe isn’t overly cushy, however, and some testers wished for a little more softness under the forefoot. (If you really want that plush sensation, look at the standard Nimbus.) But the Lite’s livelier ride here comes from FlyteFoam, which is noticeably lighter than traditional EVA.


—BEST FOR WIDE FEET—

Topo Athletic Phantom 2

Weight: 10.3 oz (M), 8.5 oz (W)
Drop: 5 mm

Phantom 2

Topo Athleticamazon.com

$138.89

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  • Supportive cushioning
  • Wide toebox

  • Upper material is a little heavy

Preserving the original’s traits, the new Phantom provides an accommodating fit with a generous amount of toe room. Some testers scoffed at the appearance of such a wide toebox but appreciated how its odd shape prevented black toenails and blisters. But the standout feature is the two-piece midsole, which provides firm cushioning and shock absorption—perfect for high mileage and runners with an aggressive cadence. “I found the cushioning to be top-notch from front to back,” said one tester who’s a self-described heel striker. “It was like running in a soft moccasin that held your foot secure without any unwanted motion.” The Phantom’s coziness puts it in the same class as the Brooks Glycerin and Altra Paradigm. Throw in some stability features—an external TPU heel counter, wider platform, and secure lacing system—and you have a well-rounded trainer that locks in your foot and guards against ankle rolling.


—LIGHTWEIGHT CUSHIONING—

Hoka Mach 5

Weight: 8.2 oz (M), 6.8 oz (W)
Drop: 5 mm

Mach 5

Hokahoka.com

$140.00

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  • New Profly+ midsole is plush and more responsive
  • Lighter than the Mach 4

  • Little traction in wet and wintry conditions

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After testing out the shoe’s fourth version, runner-in-chief Jeff Dengate jotted in his notes that the Mach 4 is “the best Mach yet.” The 5 picks up right where its predecessor left off. For this update, Hoka tinkered with the midsole construction to give the shoe some more giddy-up. Now, the Mach uses bouncy Profly+ foam, a tweaked formulation of the previously used Profly material. The switch improves energy return and feels slightly more responsive at fast paces. The early-stage Meta-Rocker (a curved sole shape) hasn’t changed; it still rolls you through heel-to-toe transitions quickly. This makes for a shoe that’s generously cushioned, but won’t turn your run into a slog. Some will want an oversized heel pull tab (like what’s used on the Mach Supersonic) to make it easier to slide your feet in, but the omission helps the 5 drop nearly a half ounce in weight.


—RESPONSIVE AND DURABLE—

Mizuno Wave Rider 25

Weight: 9.7 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)
Drop: 12 mm

Wave Rider 25

Mizunoamazon.com

$139.95 

$97.97 (30% off)

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  • Enerzy midsole feels softer, smoother, and more responsive
  • Very durable outsole rubber for high-mileage training

  • Some testers found the tall 12mm drop a bit obtrusive

Twenty-five marks a huge milestone for the Rider, and that’s not just because Mizuno has now filled a quarter century with models of this shoe. One longtime tester pegged this one as his favorite yet, and another said it’s definitely the softest and most cushioned. Part of that is because the brand delivered on the promise that it teased us with in the Rider 24: a full-length midsole layer of luxuriously soft Enerzy foam. In previous Rider midsoles, Mizuno mixed-and-matched a handful of foams—ranging from its firmer U4ic to U4icX—both above and below the wave plate. Though comfortable underfoot, the combination of multiple foams could make the shoe’s ride feel a bit disjointed with messy transitions. Strictly Enerzy foam throughout makes the ride smoother and more consistent—especially when paired with the 25’s new castor bean-based wave plate. Built at a higher amplitude (the Rider 24’s plate was flatter), it helps return more energy with each footstrike, and more comfortably matches the shape of the arch. “Smooth and springy, this shoe makes a comfortable ride for endurance work and longer runs when you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet,” one tester said.


—BEST UPDATE—

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

Weight: 9.5 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)
Drop: 10 mm

Air Zoom Pegasus 39

Nikenike.com

$130.00

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  • Versatile for long runs and uptempo efforts
  • Looped eyelets and gusseted tongue secure the midfoot without creating hot spots

  • More expensive than the Pegasus 38

The 39th Peg upholds its legendary descriptor as a capable “workhorse with wings.” Like the Pegasus 38, this version uses a React foam midsole; it’s not as light and bouncy as ZoomX, but feels medium soft, and moderately flexible. The big change to the midsole is that Nike added an air unit in the shoe’s heel to accompany the one in the forefoot. It delivers more lightweight cushioning, while also helping the shoe shed some of the weight it gained in the 38th version. Now lighter, the Peg 39 feels more capable for both the daily miles and uptempo efforts in your training cycle. “Overall, this is a durable trainer for any distance or workout,” one tester said. “I wore the Peg shoe for long, easy runs (10-12 miles at 8:30 pace), fast speed workouts (sub 7:00 pace), and everything in between. To me, the 39 actually felt a bit softer than the previous version. My only complaint is that the toebox feels narrow and pretty tight.”


—BEST DAILY TRAINER—

New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 v12

Weight: 10.4 oz (M), 8.7 oz (W)
Drop: 10 mm

Fresh Foam X 880v12

New Balanceamazon.com

$134.95

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  • Very roomy toebox
  • Soft cushioning and smooth ride

  • Heavier than the 880v11

Professional steeplechaser Emma Coburn told us recently that the Fresh Foam 880 is her all-time favorite running shoe for daily miles, and it’s easy to see why. The 880 is everything you’ll want in a workhorse trainer: It’s built to last, comfortable, and delivers a snug fit. A new two-layer midsole makes the 12th version softer than ever, the upper is comfortable and accommodating for wide feet, and the generous blown rubber outsole handles high-volume marathon training well (especially if the bulk of your runs are on slick roads and sidewalks). It’s not the lightest shoe, but it’s still nimble enough to keep you cruising without clunkiness through double-digit mileage. Plus, New Balance recently tweaked the durometer (a measurement of firmness) of the Fresh Foam X cushioning, which makes it feel a little softer this time around. If you regularly bounce from your daily run to long hours on your feet, this is a great candidate that can keep up for both. “The 880 takes the prize for being my favorite line of shoes,” one tester said. “I also like the 1080 v12, but I prefer the more traditional upper in the 880 v12, compared to the 1080’s knit material,” added Dengate. You’ll also appreciate the 880’s smaller price tag; you’ll lose some cushioning, but we found it is still plenty plush.


—BEST FOR TRAILS—

Salomon Ultra Glide

Weight: 10.1 oz (M), 7.8 oz (W)
Drop: 6 mm

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Ultra Glide

Salomon

$140.00

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  • Softer than previous Salomon trail shoes
  • Excels on easy trails and technical singletrack
  • Quick-lacing allows for fast adjustments

  • Slips a little on flat, wet rocks

The Ultra Glide is by far Salomon’s most cushioned trail shoe but, don’t be fooled, it’s not the squishiest ride around. We found it’s plush enough to impress our Hoka fanatics, thanks to a lightweight midsole that combines EVA and Olefin for a more forgiving ride. That combo of compounds makes the foam durable and springy. While many tall-stack shoes can feel unstable on technical terrain, the Ultra Glide feels incredibly planted. Even with its high stack—38mm in the heel and 32mm up front—the shoe doesn’t squish and roll over rocks and roots like you might expect. It still feels as stable as racier shoes like the S/Lab Ultra 3, even with the extra 12mm of cushion. “The first time I wore the Ultra Glide was on day five of a 327-mile FKT run in April,” said video producer Pat Heine. “The upper provided enough protection for my tired feet when I inevitably kicked rocks and roots, while the rocker design and extra cushion underfoot took the sting out of pavement and extra-rocky sections—enough for me to make it through the final 75 miles.


—MOST STABILITY—

Brooks Glycerin GTS 20 Stealthfit

Weight: 9.7 oz (M), 8.7 oz (W)
Drop: 10 mm

Glycerin GTS 20 StealthFit

Brookszappos.com

$159.95

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  • Works for both overpronators and neutral runners
  • Bouncy and plush cushioning

  • Less suited for racing and speedwork

The Glycerin GTS, Brooks’s most cushioned stability shoe, is not just some colossus reserved for slow and steady runs. Today’s model is more dynamic, more streamlined, and more responsive. For added support, it uses midsole guide rails. (The guide rails serve as bumpers for the foot, which helps prevent the knee from erratically moving side to side.) Brooks offers two versions of the Glycerin GTS 20, giving runners a choice between a traditional engineered mesh upper and this knit version, dubbed “Stealthfit.” Thin and stretchy, the material adapts better to your foot’s shape, and according to gear editor Amanda Furrer, doesn’t rub your heels like earlier knit upper versions.

The Glycerin GTS 20’s midsole now uses DNA Loft v3, a bouncier version of the nitrogen-infused foam found in the brand’s racing shoes. This change provides more energy return and rebound on an even softer platform. But, even with that high-powered foam, it’s unlikely you’re going to reach for the Glycerin GTS on race day. It does, though, perform admirably on easy runs that turn into spirited dashes back home. “The cushioning is the shoe’s highlight,” said one tester who previously liked zippy neutral shoes like the Mizuno Wave Rider 25 and Asics Magic Speed 2. “It’s soft and cozy, and easy to forget on long runs.”


—BUDGET DAILY TRAINER—

Brooks Trace 2

Weight: 8.6 oz (M), 7.6 (W)
Drop: 12 mm

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Trace 2

Brooksbrooksrunning.com

$100.00

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  • Lighter than the Trace v1
  • New upper mesh improves fit and comfort
  • Well-cushioned and durable

  • BioMoGo midsole is soft, but not as bouncy as Brooks’s more premium foams

The Trace checks off all of the important running shoe boxes: adequate cushioning, some flex for toe-off, a responsive midsole, and all-around comfort. It’s also more affordable at $100, making it an ideal shoe for penny-saving new runners who want to reap the benefits of a supportively cushioned trainer. And, it’s durable. Testers noted how well the shoe’s first version held up after strenuous workouts in tempestuous winter weather. For the v2, Brooks kept that much consistent—the biggest change is a new 3D-printed air mesh upper. The switch makes the Trace 2 lighter, and also aims to resolve an issue some testers experienced in v1: the upper material became slightly rough when wet, resulting in hot spots in the toe box.

“The Brooks Trace is an extremely reliable trainer. The first thing I noticed about the Trace is how light it is. That lightness, however, does not detract from the outstanding comfort and cushioning,” one tester said. “I tested the shoe on roads and on the crushed rock paths, and on both surfaces, the shoe worked very well for daily runs and completing tempo or speed workouts. I feel that the Trace is both lightweight and comfortable enough to race the half-marathon distance, as well.”


—BEST MARATHON RACER—

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

Weight: 7.3 oz (M), 6.1 oz (W)
Drop: 8 mm

Endorphin Pro 3

Sauconysaucony.com

$225.00

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  • Exceptional energy return and responsiveness
  • Good outsole grip and durability

  • More expensive than the Pro 2

The Pro 3 has the thickest stack yet in Saucony’s Endorphin series—it measures 39.5mm under the heel, nudging right up to the allowable limit under World Athletics rules. Despite the towering platform, it’s actually lighter than both the original Pro and the Pro 2. The ride is bouncy and propulsive, thanks to the carbon-fiber plate and Pwrrun PB midsole. (Pwrrun PB is Saucony’s most premium, highest-energy-returning foam made from Pebax.) According to gear editor Amanda Furrer, who’s run in every version of the Pro so far, the shoe feels its softest and springiest yet.

The 3 provides support with a secure fit, but the upper itself is super minimal. “The upper is less like mesh and more like a plastic web that allows for the best imaginable breathability,” one tester said. “The tongue is an extension of that minimal wrap, and you can barely tell it is even there. Still, it did a good enough job of keeping my foot in place. The only issue I came across was that the collar dug into my heels on some steep downhills.”

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