How far do you want to run? Everyone has to start somewhere, but with perseverance, dedication, and time – and the best long distance running shoes – it’s possible to join the growing community of marathon runners.
There’s a reason why long-distance running is such a popular sport. The cost of entry is remarkably low. With most other sports, you need to either purchase or rent specialized equipment, you may need to pay fees to join a team, and you have limited areas where you can play. With running, all you need is a dependable pair of shoes. There’s a whole world out there where you can run for free.
Are you ready to start long-distance running? The key to getting started is picking the right running shoes for your specific needs and goals.
In this guide, we’ll be checking out the best shoes for running long distance.
- What Kind Of Shoes Are Good For Long Distance Running?
- Running Long Distance Means Changing Your Shoes More Often
- Where You Run Determines What Kind Of Shoes You Need
- Why You May Need More Than One Pair Of Running Shoes
- The Best Shoes For Running Long Distance
What Kind Of Shoes Are Good For Long Distance Running?
The best long distance running shoes are ones that feel comfortable. Everyone has unique needs for their feet. Maybe you have high arches, or your foot gait is off. Either way, what feels good to one runner might not feel good for another, so make sure that you leave the store with the shoes that work best for you. Don’t be shy about taking them for a test run before buying; a couple of laps between the aisles should let you know if the pair will cause any issues like pain, pinching, or blistering.
As you will be wearing the shoes for long distances, you want durable sneakers. Running shoes come in many styles and types for different purposes: lightweight racing flats for optimizing speed, trail running shoes for rugged, outdoor terrain, etc. Where you plan to run is also a factor for consideration (more on this below).
Since running long distances means being on your feet for long periods, you probably want something with at least some cushioning (how much is really up to preference).
Cushioning in the midsole and heel offers shock absorption, helping alleviate some of the pressure on your foot, muscles, and joints while running. That pressure, over time, can lead to injuries and other problems, like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendonitis.
These are all conditions caused by repetitive strain on the lower body. Other issues, like heel spurs and hammertoe, are directly aggravated by wearing inadequate footwear, and if the conditions get bad enough, they can require surgical intervention to correct.
The trick to picking out a good pair is figuring out what you want and need. Asking a knowledgeable salesperson is a good start. They should be able to help you determine your size and help you identify any possible foot posture or gait problems.
If you find that you have pain during and after running in your current shoes, it can be a sign that there’s an issue, like overpronation or supination, that you need to address. When you run longer distances, minor aches and pains can get exponentially worse!
Keep in mind that you want your shoes to last as long as possible too. Lightweight shoes are popular right now, but often, they aren’t as durable as the more general-purpose road running shoes.
Conversely, heavier shoes may have added benefits like added traction and stability (like basketball shoes), but that comes at the cost to running economy. The heavier the shoes are, the more energy you burn to move them while running. This means that lighter shoes can improve your run-time — but too light and they may wear out faster.
Running Long Distance Means Changing Your Shoes More Often
As mentioned above, running shoes have an approximate lifespan of 300 to 400 miles. Studies show that after prolonged use, the structural integrity of running shoes degrades, which leads to various issues. For example, uneven wear on the outsole can make foot posture problems worse and reduced shock absorption can increase the chances of developing injuries like Plantar Fasciitis or shin splints.
When you start running longer distances, especially if you stick to a regular training regime, you may notice your shoes are wearing out quicker. This is only natural, given that you’re hitting that 300-mile milestone a lot quicker.
If you find you seem to be going through your shoes at a faster-than-expected rate, it might be worth investing in a different model. Remember that running shoes need to be broken in so if you’re buying a different style than your current running shoes, it’s wise to get used to them first before taking a five-mile run.
You also might benefit from exploring reasons why your shoes might be wearing out quicker. Are you using them for the environment they were made for? A trail runner, for example, is highly durable, but its sticky outsoles, which are great for traction on softer surfaces like mud or dirt, aren’t meant to hold up to hot asphalt, and as a result, will wear down more rapidly if worn on roads. Similarly, a lightweight pair of running shoes intended for undemanding use, such as running on a treadmill, may get torn or otherwise damaged from the hazards of running on a trail.
Finally, take care of your running shoes to get the maximum lifespan. If your shoes get wet, you should dry them properly. Also, clean your shoes of mud before it dries — otherwise, the drying mud will pull moisture out of the material, making it more rigid and weak.
Where You Run Determines What Kind Of Shoes You Need
Where you want to do your long-distance running is a major factor to consider when picking out the best long-distance running shoes.
If you think you’re primarily going to be running at the gym, you probably want a comfortable pair of lightweight shoes. Treadmill versus outdoor running offers a gentler experience that puts less stress on your body and shoes. You can get the best lifespan out of lightweight running shoes in this environment — and because shock absorption is less of a concern, you don’t need as much cushioning, which typically adds weight.
If you want to be running on the roads, you should get a more durable pair of running shoes that can handle some abuse! Not only are roads made of hard and sometimes hot asphalt, but you may encounter some wet weather. Look for running shoes that feel comfortable and supportive. Cushioning is a must-have for a long distance running shoe on roads.
Good drainage is also beneficial if you plan to run in the rain.
If running in the wilderness is more your style, then trail running shoes are the way to go. These are similar to general running shoes but with added features to optimize running on uneven terrain. A trail running shoe features deed treads called “lugs” (think shorter, softer traction cleats) that help grip surfaces like mud.
Some even feature a rock plate in the midsole to protect against stepping on sharp rocks! These are some of the most durable, hardy running shoes on the market, but they can also be less flexible and heavier. They also won’t last as long if you run with them on the roads.
Why You May Need More Than One Pair Of Running Shoes
Most people are interested in variety. To keep things interesting, you may want to experiment with where you run, or perhaps you’re training for a race. Maybe you like to keep track of and then challenge your own personal best. All of these are great reasons to have more than one pair of running shoes.
If you want to alternate running on roads and running on trails, it makes sense to have a separate pair for both. It might seem excessive, but it’s the most cost-effective strategy!
The thing is, road shoes will wear down faster when worn on trails, and trail shoes will wear down faster on roads. While you could try to find good multi-purpose shoes that can do both, chances are you will have mixed success. The faster you wear down the shoes, the more often you have to buy new ones. By having two pairs designed for maximum longevity, you can get more use out of them.
Even if you don’t plan to run on both roads and trails, there are benefits to owning more than one style of running shoes. High-level athletes often have two different pairs of running shoes: a training pair for heavy, everyday use, and a lightweight pair used for racing. Since studies suggest that shoe weight slows performance, it makes sense to wear a lighter pair of racing flats when speed counts.
You wouldn’t want to wear lightweight shoes for long-distance running every day. Not only would they wear out faster, but also the lightest shoes generally offer less cushioning, making them inadequate for continuous, prolonged use – and more likely to lead to issues like plantar fasciitis.
But for shaving 40 seconds off of your personal best?
For that, racing flats are perfect.
The Best Shoes For Running Long Distance
The Brooks Glycerin 19 is the latest in a popular line of comfortable marathon shoes. These sneakers offer plush cushioning that’s a pleasure to run in, even for hours at a time. Even the tongue is padded, making this one of the most supremely soft options on the market.
The shoes offer neutral support, which is ideal for road running, and the shoe is surprisingly light, given the amount of cushioning it provides. The racing shoe is also very durable; the outsole is made to last a long time. This pair is one that you could likely stretch past the 400-mile rule, assuming you take good care of them. This is not the fastest shoe, thanks, in part, to that ample padding, and it’s still too heavy to be considered a “lightweight” running shoe. Still, this one is a joy to run in.
If you want a shoe you can use for training and racing, the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is your best bet. This shoe is not for rugged use — keep off the trails with this one. Some reviewers have noted that the shoes have a bit less traction on slick surfaces than some other options on the market, but this is a small price to pay for a lightweight shoe that has the durability of a trainer and the speed of a racing flat.
The Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is one of the best all-around options for long-distance running. It’s a comfortable ride yet still feels light enough for optimal speed. The Speed 2 (and also the original version) features a unique nylon plate in the midsole that helps provide propulsion. Unlike other racing flats that use carbon plates, the nylon midsole offers additional flexibility, making the run feel more natural and comfortable.
Adidas has been around for a long time, but the company is still making some of the best shoes on the market. The Ultraboost 22 is the latest in a long line of iconic runners legendary for their comfort and performance. The upper is so light, it’s almost sock-like, while the instantly-recognizable midsole and outsole. That springy BOOST technology offers a unique mix of cushioning and bounce, helping you to keep moving on those long runs.
As a bonus, the Ultraboost 22 is at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic. In other words, the shoes are helping to combat ocean pollution by repurposing plastic waste from oceans and beaches. That’s something we can all feel good about!
Asics makes one of the most versatile trainers on the market with the Gel-Nimbus LITE 3. While the LITE 2 was on many best-of lists for its durability and support, the LITE 3 takes things to the next level. The gel in this shoe makes for an ultra-comfy ride; while earlier versions of the Gel-Nimbus LITE verged on being too squishy for some, the latest model has found the perfect balance of cushion and support for long-distance running.
This Asics shoe is also notable for its weight. Thanks to the materials used in the outsole, this is one durable running shoe that should hold up to those long-distance runs; yet, the weight isn’t nearly as hefty as you’d think from the appearance.
Like the Ultraboost, this is another shoe that’s an eco-friendly option for those trying to help the fight against climate change. Not only is the shoe’s upper made from at least 50% recycled materials, but the sockliner is dyed using a process that reduces water usage and carbon emissions. This is also just a very cool-looking shoe.
Hoka is famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) for their ultra-cushioned shoes, like the Bondi, which boasts a massive-looking midsole. For everyday long-distance running, however, you can’t go wrong with the Hoka One One Carbon X 2. Released in November of 2021, the shoe reflects the very best lightweight cushioning technology. This pair of running shoes is one that even people with problem feet can wear comfortably for long runs. It’s packed with the company’s innovative PROFLY X foam, which offers a ton of shock absorption without a lot of weight.
The Carbon X 2 is another trainer built for speed. It features a carbon plate for propulsion, which helps you keep going. It feels fast, despite the 8.4 oz weight. This show is, by no means, the lightest out there, but it does have a great design that balances the need for cushioning with the need for speed.
Some runners with foot posture issues or other health concerns do best in shoes that offer stability and support; luckily, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 offers both while still being a comfortable ride for long-distance running. This sturdy pair is balanced to help keep runners on the track. The added structure, the company’s GuideRails® Holistic Support System, is designed to minimize unwanted movement, so it can reduce the pain associated with overpronation, like shin splints and back tension. This shoe was granted the APMA Seal of Acceptance and is even a certified PDAC A5500 Diabetic shoe.
Even runners who don’t overpronate may prefer this shoe. When we get tired, we can sometimes adopt bad running posture. The structure in these shoes can discourage that, keeping you in your preferred stride. If you find you are getting easily fatigued during your runs or have been experiencing pain, this could be a great option for a more enjoyable running experience.