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The best marathon shoes for every type of runner in 2023

Need the perfect shoes for running 26.2 miles? Here’s our guide to choosing the best marathon shoes for every ability level

If you’ve signed up to tackle that 26.2 miles, then aside from realising you now have to put some serious training in, you also need to find the best marathon shoes for the job. Picking the perfect shoes can help you get through those long Sunday runs and the race itself with all the comfort and support you need to stay injury-free.

Before you splash out, it’s essential to consider your own running ability and how quick you want to complete the course. You’ll also need to pick out a pair that’s built to hold up for the huge amount of running time, rather than simply using your best gym shoes, since you’ll be putting in up some hard yards up to and including the big day. If you can’t afford two pairs of shoes, it pays to pick carefully.

There are a lot of shoes out there that proclaim to be the ultimate marathon shoe. In this article, we’ve picked out the best shoes for going the distance whether you’re looking to go super quick or you just want something to comfortably get you to the finish line.

READ NEXT: The best cheap running shoes you can buy

Best marathon shoes: At a glance

How to choose the best marathon shoes for you

How do I make sure I get the right size?

An obvious one for buying any shoe, but if you’re planning to buy a shoe to run a marathon in and train for it too, there are some additional things you need to consider. Pay attention to the space you have in the toe box, for instance. Your feet swell during runs, which will impact on fitting, so you want a shoe that gives you room to accommodate that.

Pay attention to the padding at the heel as well as the tongue and laces. You want to ensure that the shoes lock your heel and forefoot in place while providing enough room to wiggle your toes, and you want to avoid pinch points that could cause issues on longer runs or the latter stages of a marathon.

Is it worth getting a gait analysis?

Gait analysis is available in many running retail stores and sports physio locations – it’s a wise move if you’re attempting this volume of running for the first time. Gait analysis will cost as much as a good pair of shoes, but it’s well worth doing to determine your pronation, which is the way your foot rolls as it lands on the floor when you run.

This analysis will help you determine if you have a normal (or neutral) pronation or if you under or overpronate. This will make it far easier to determine the type of shoes that will (and won’t) be the best choice for you.

How important are support and cushioning?

When you’re running longer distances, having plenty of cushioning under your foot can help to absorb the impact of hitting the ground with your feet over and over again. It improves comfort, too, which is ideal when the legs start to tire. There are shoes that go minimal with cushioning to keep you closer to the ground, but most of the shoes we recommend here offer moderate to maximal cushioning.

The same consideration should go into the level of support the shoe offers you for the marathon distance, especially if your gait analysis reveals you overpronate and a stability-type running shoe is likely the best option for you. This will give you a shoe to help compensate for that overpronation and absorb shock in the right places to help protect your feet over distance.

How we test marathon shoes

When it comes to testing marathon shoes, it’s important to get a sense of how such shoes will perform over distance at a pace you would expect to run in a marathon.

We start by running 10 plus miles at easy, tempo, and our usual marathon pace, repeating those runs several times. Where possible, we’ll also run an actual marathon in these shoes, to understand whether the feel of the shoe remains consistent over distance. In that vein, we’re considering the feel of the midsole and the level of comfort and protection it provides, assessing whether there are any changes to the fit and the hold over the distance of a run. We also pay close attention to outsole wear, which may provide an indication of how long the shoes may last before they need to be replaced.

READ NEXT: Our selection of the best running shoes for overpronation

The best marathon shoes you can buy in 2023

1. Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% FlyKnit: Best marathon shoe for speed demons

Price: From £182 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Pro Direct Running

This is the shoe that’s on the feet of the fastest elites, and there’s a reason for that. There is now an AlphaFly Next% 2, but it’s even pricier. Shop around and you can find its predecessor retailing well below RRP, making it a little cheaper for quick runners to reap the benefits of one of the best marathon shoes you can find.

Nike plants its ZoomX foam and Zoom AirPods in the forefoot underneath a full-length carbon plate, and the result is a bouncy, enjoyable ride. The carbon plate aids stability, while those AirPods provide big energy returns to keep even tired legs powering through every one of those 26.2 miles.

A stretchy FlyKnit upper provides the support and structure while keeping the overall weight of the shoe down. It’s not a shoe that everyone will love, and the sheer amount of cushioning means that it can feel slightly unstable. It wears quickly, too, so is one to save for race day and those key marathon training sessions.

If you’ve got some speed in the locker and you feel like you can maintain that speed over longer distances, the Alphafly is one for you.

Key details – Weight: 210g; Drop: 4mm; Pronation: Neutral; Midsole foam: ZoomX

Buy men’s from Pro Direct Running Buy women’s from Pro Direct Running

2. Puma Velocity Nitro 2: The best marathon shoe on a budget

Price: From £72 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from Amazon

At the other end of the scale you have Puma’s Velocity Nitro 2, a shoe that proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get through training and race day. The Velocity Nitro 2 is built for comfort and feels just as good coasting along as it does when you pick up the pace.

The upper is really snug and comfortable, there’s plenty of padding in the key areas, including the tongue and heel collar, and a TPU heel piece improves stability and control. Puma’s Puma Grip rubber outsole works well in dry and wet conditions and feels durable to hold up for big mileage.

The special ingredient here is Puma’s nitrogen-infused Nitro midsole foam, which offers a soft, bouncy feel but also feels responsive when you need to up to the tempo. That foam boosts the Nitro 2’s versatility and makes it a good choice for both short and long distances.

If you shop around, you can even pick up the Nitro 2 for less than £100. You could also look at the original too, but that extra load of foam you get in the Nitro 2 makes it feel better suited to marathon training and race action.

Key details – Weight: 257g; Drop: 10mm; Pronation: Neutral; Midsole foam: Nitro foam

3. New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12: Best marathon shoe for beginners

Price: £145 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from SportsShoes

The New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 is a great option for anyone tackling their first marathon. It provides a good level of comfort and cushioning, and is durable enough to survive training and get you through the marathon course as well.

The Fresh Foam X midsole foam offers good protection for your legs over long distances and provides enough bounce to make sure they’re fun to run in, too. There’s a wonderfully supportive upper, with the stretchy HypoKnit upper wrapping the feet up in a snug fashion, and the toe box is spacious.

The blown rubber outsole is tough enough to endure a lot of running time, especially if you’re sticking to roads and pavements, and also emphasises the bounce you get from that Fresh Foam X midsole.

This shoe has all the right ingredients to help you get through your first marathon: it’s fit for steady paces and offers a very consistent, stable ride that’s ideal for long distances. If you need to take a break or two, they’re fine at walking pace, too.

Key details – Weight: 292g; Drop: 8mm; Pronation: Neutral; Midsole foam: Fresh Foam X

Buy men’s from SportsShoes Buy women’s from SportsShoes

4. Saucony Endorphin Speed 3: Best non-carbon marathon shoe

Price: £165 | Buy men’s from Saucony | Buy women’s from Pro Direct Running

The Endorphin Speed 3 is the latest version of one of the standout running shoes of 2021. It’s a speedy daily trainer that can go the marathon distance.

It packs the same PWRRUNPB midsole foam and Speedroll technology as the Speed 2, and the result is a shoe that lets you go through the gears and keep pushing forward. There’s no fancy carbon in use here, but the nylon plate has been tweaked to deliver big energy returns as you rack up the mileage – it also makes it a more stable shoe to use for training.

Down below is a rubber outsole that’s made for road running, and the areas that do the most pavement pounding are reinforced to make sure they’ll be in good shape come race day.

The Endorphin Speed 3 is a shoe that can quickly move from steady to faster paces. The improvements made from the Speed 2 should make it a better training partner, and it’s a great pick for the marathon if you want to go quick but don’t want to spend big.

Key details – Weight: 229g; Drop: 8mm; Pronation: Neutral; Midsole foam: PWRRUNPB

Buy men’s from Saucony Buy women’s from Pro Direct Running

5. Saucony Ride 15: Best marathon shoe for wide feet

Price: £130 | Buy men’s | Buy women’s from SportsShoesThe Ride 15 is a shoe designed for eating up daily training miles that’s also fit to tackle a marathon. It’s an especially good choice if you need something with a more accommodating fit.

While the Ride 14 felt a little on the narrow side, that’s changed with the 15, which comes in both regular and wide fit size options. There’s a more eco-friendly upper that offers good space at the toes, and the cushioned sockliner provides a more comfy ride than its predecessor.

Saucony still uses its PWRRUN cushioning tech, and the new softer compound gives a plusher feeling to help boost comfort over longer runs. These are shoes which can pick up the pace when you want to, but always feel best suited to moderate, coasting speeds.

The Ride 15 is a good shoe for neutral runners that feels lighter than its chunky looks might suggest. If you’re looking for a marathon shoe that offers plenty of cushioning and support for slower paces, this is one of the best.

Key details – Weight: 249g; Drop: 8mm; Pronation: Neutral; Midsole foam: PWRRUN

Buy men’s from SportsShoes Buy women’s from SportsShoes

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