10 Best Long Distance Running Shoes in 2021

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
10 Best Long Distance Running Shoes in 2021

Going for anything longer than a 10K calls for the most reliable, comfortable, and durable running shoe. As the stress on your body increases, so do the demands from a pair of running shoes.

We have taken over 100 shoes on a long-haul run to find out which ones will stand the test. They also went through our lab tests before making it to the top selection.

You might be after a faster shoe, or a max-cushioned marathon shoe, or an extra protective trail shoe for a 100K ultra. We’ve got our top picks in various categories to help you choose the one that fits your needs.

How we review our long-distance running shoes

No need to read 1500+ shoe reviews when you’re at RunRepeat. It is our mission to test every single long-distance shoe on the market and let you know about the best options.

We’ve been in the running shoe game since 2014 and are now equipped with our own shoe testing lab to put every new release through the wringer. Here is our process:

  • Buy a shoe with our own funds to avoid bias
  • Run 30-50 miles in each pair
  • Cut the shoe open and take it into pieces (literally)
  • Mease over 30 parameters that contribute to the shoe’s performance
  • Consider all available feedback from runners, shoe experts, and regular users
  • Summarize it all into comparable data

In the end, each shoe receives a CoreScore. It is a number from 0 to 100 that indicates how good this shoe is against all others.

Best overall

It’s an all-star for race day and fast tempo sessions! After putting it through the paces, we can say this is a shoe that can be a standalone - comfortable and durable enough for the long miles, fast enough to outrun the competition, and versatile enough for training runs. 

If you want to blast through all of your runs and last long on the roads, take the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2. 

The shoe is off to a good start - it’s light (8 oz vs. the average 9.4 oz, in our lab testing). So if you don’t want to have tired legs while raking up miles and miles on end, the Endorphin Speed 2 has got you covered! 

The shoe has a nylon plate which provides a flexible yet responsive ride. To balance out its rigidity, it’s coupled with light and cushy foam for comfort. And thanks to the shoe’s rockered shape, you can roll through effortlessly. 

The party doesn’t end here. What’s surprising about the Endorphin Speed 2 is that it fits better than its race sibling - the Pro 2 - that we’ve also tested!

Hands down, the Endorphin Speed 2 is a rockstar! If you want one shoe that can handle anything, buy this.

See our full review and facts

Fun is not even the best way to describe the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run. It’s CRAZY bouncy, it made us feel like we were running on a trampoline!

After testing all the Next% shoes, we can confirm that the Invincible Run is their plateless little sibling. Why is it still super responsive then?

The ZoomX foam (Nike’s state-of-the-art tech) takes care of that. It literally sent us bouncing through the streets.

The benefits don’t stop there. ZoomX envelops the foot with plushness and it comes in a generous amount, preventing the foot from feeling beat up after long, hard sessions on the pavement!

It’s NOT going to beat PBs, nor is it for super fast training sessions. But if you want to make the most out of the ZoomX, it can push the pace too.

A good-fitting Nike shoe (they tend to be narrow)? Now, that’s great news! Even with wide feet, we can say it fits excellently. No constriction, no slippage. Just the right wrap.

On paper, the shoe is not light (9.8 oz), almost tipping our scales for heavy shoes. But all that added weight is in the name of more protection.

So, if you want a super fun, exciting ride on your next high-mileage effort, buy the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run!

See our full review and facts

Best for race

We just can’t get enough of the Asics MetaSpeed Sky. It even got to our list of best running shoes! And it’s here to take the spotlight yet again for long-distance shoes.

We rarely say this, but the Asics MetaSpeed Sky is the best shoe that we’ve ever tested. Period.

Having a great fit is always a bonus for a long-distance shoe. Even more, it’s a COMFORTABLE fit. It doesn’t rub against the skin, it just stays locked-in real nice, and there was plenty of room up front!

And wow, what a midsole! Cushy in all the right places, and rebounding in each stride. The FlyteFoam Blast is literally a blast to run in!

In our durometer test, the shoe measured at 27.3HA (21% stiffer than the average), which means it’s a winner against the ZoomX Invincible Run (14.2HA) when it comes to stability.

The rocker screams efficient and seamless roll through. So, no need to push the shoe, IT will push you.

As a race shoe, it weighs just right (6.7 oz). It’s light on paper, and it sure does feel like it on the run. After several high-mileage testing, our legs felt fresh!

This is a bold statement, but the Asics MetaSpeed Sky can beat the Swoosh any day. For a top-performing race day shoe, it’s worth every penny in that $250 tag!

See our full review and facts

The first version of the Endorphin series was so good, we just had to beg Saucony to release a new version.

Less than a year later, and voila! We have the Endorphin Pro 2 - the line’s premium race-day shoe.

It’s a shoe that screams fast, and fast we went! The shoe, just like other racing flats, has a carbon-fiber plate that’s there to propel you forward. While stiff, it is accompanied by the brand’s PWRRUN PB foam that gives that extra plushness and bounce (stored in a lightweight package).

And whoa, it couldn't be more effortless than this! Because the shoe has a SpeedRoll tech (rocker geometry), the heel-to-toe transitions are just *chef’s kiss*!

This shoe is not for everyone, though. If you want to take it out for some jogs or walks, it can be uncomfortable.

In our tests, we have gathered that it’s significantly stiffer (94.3N) than that of the Vaporfly (83.7N) and MetaSpeed Sky (62.9N). Compared to the average, non-plated shoe (36.8N), it’s just WAY up there.

If we were to rank all the race day shoes for long distances that we’ve tested, the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 falls second to the MetaSpeed Sky (falling a tad short on stability).

Overall, it’s a speed devil that will bolt you through the blocks!

See our full review and facts

Best for ultra

Long days on varied terrain? Take a look into the Altra Olympus 4.0!

There’s a lot to write home about the Olympus. But one that stood out to us is its superb traction. On gravel path, dirt single-track, beat-up forest roads, technical rocky climbs, mud, and wet, loose trails, the shoe was a BEAST!

The shoe’s Vibram outsole is the star of the shoe. Apart from its unrivaled latch to varied terrain, it also takes durability up a notch. It can outlast any shoe in your rotation!

Its platform follows the shape of the foot (an Altra signature), meaning there’s enough room for toe splay and the base is wide for stability. On uneven ground, the shoe gave us the confidence we needed to tread through.

Even when going downhills and when cornering, we were more than confident. There was none of that unsteady sensation AT ALL. 

If there’s one thing we didn’t like about the shoe it’s that it lags behind in responsiveness. But comfort makes up for that! There’s just enough padding in the shoe’s sidewalls and the midsole is plush. Not something that you would expect from a trail monster. 

Despite being oh-so plush, the shoe is the most breathable Olympus yet! So even during long hauls on the trails, our feet stayed cool and dry.

While it’s borderline expensive at $170, it’s a great buy if you want one shoe for everything. It can eat up miles without being fazed by all the harsh trail elements.

See our full review and facts

Running ultras has never been this stable! Say hello to the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4.

We won’t lie to you, it’s not a Hoka-soft shoe. But if it’s all for the sake of a highly supportive and steady ride, we’d take the Speedgoat any day!

Add in the wide midfoot and forefoot of the shoe, chances of dealing with slippage are slim to none.

A good bite on the trails? Oh boy, this shoe is the next Mike Tyson! It’s very lugged - and it’s lugged deep. Crushing downhill sessions is easy peasy. If we had to pick the best part of the shoe, the highlight is easily the Vibram outsole.

For a shoe that packs so much grip and protection, it tips our scales at 11 oz. It’s heavy on paper, and it’s heavy on foot. That’s a caveat we simply can’t move past.

Expect to rake up some miles in this shoe. After all, it’s built to withstand any distance and any terrain, and it does so fabulously. 

At $145, it’s a solid (literally) choice to tackle some of the unfriendliest trails out there!

See our full review and facts

Best for flat feet

Already in it’s 21st edition, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS sure fits the bill for runners who overpronate (foot rolls inward excessively) and suffer from foot conditions like flat feet.

Choosing the wrong shoe can mean pain, and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 does its job so handsomely, it can do anything but that. It’s supportive in all the right places, and that’s without skimping comfort.

It’s cozy and hugs the foot nicely without being restricting, which we highly appreciate.

The magic happens in the midsole as it is the home of the Guide Rails (sidewalls that keep the foot centered). It is not obtrusive nor is it harsh -  it is only activated when the foot starts to move too far on the sides.

Because of this, it’s even suitable for neutral runners who just need a little more support.

And true to its Brooks lineage, the Adrenaline GTS 21 is a tank! After several wear tests, the shoe still looks untouched, and the midsole is not packing out. We are estimating it to last well between 400-500 miles.

Yes, it’s heavy (10.2 oz), but we are not displeased. With such features, it’s a justifiable weight. And hey, Brooks is going the right direction. The past iterations of the Adrenaline GTS were WAY heavier.

If you want a shoe that’s simple but has all the makings of a heavy-duty stability trainer that can last hundreds of miles, buying the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 is a no-brainer.

See our full review and facts

We meet again, Kayano! You just can’t stay lowkey, can you? After making it to our list of best running shoes, the Kayano is here yet again to make a name in the long-distance category.

Nearing its 30 years in the running shoe scene, the Kayano has definitely earned a sweet spot among runners’ arsenal - more specifically runners in need of extra stability.

And to confirm if it’s still worthy to put in our rotation, we just couldn’t resist putting it to the test. And 50 miles later, the Kayano is everything we want in a long-distance stability trainer.

It’s not your typical stability shoe - it’s soft and bouncy, not brickish. Definitely a plus if you want to log serious miles on the road. But it’s also not mushy you feel your feet sinking into the shoe. It’s got the right blend of support and comfort.

And after some rough tests, we are happy to report, the Kayano 28 withstood everything we threw at it. It even looks brand new after tens of miles!

It also does what past Kayanos didn’t - it flexes. And it flexes well. It does so effortlessly, contributing to the overall peppy ride of the shoe.

And the running shoe gods have finally heard our prayer. The Kayano is now lighter (10.6 oz)  - half an ounce lighter than its predecessor. It’s safe to say, Asics is moving in the right direction, and the Kayano is surely building itself up (or down, in this case) to compete against lighter stability models.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

A workhorse for $120? Yep, you read that right!

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 remains a good value-for-money running shoe if you want one shoe that does it all. It can be your easy day shoe, tempo shoe, and even your gym shoe! The Pegasus is literally a shoe that screams “save your money and take me!”

It has the right amount of comfort if you want to take it slow, and has the right pop if you want to  run with speed. Some time in the gym perhaps after some light jogs? Pick up the Pegasus 38.

It’s been around for more than 3 decades, and testing the shoe made it clear to us why it remains a fan-favorite. Apart from being versatile, it’s also very durable. We are sure it can last around 400-500 miles!

Even though the React midsole is 18% softer than the average (in our lab tests), it isn’t showing any signs of early wear nor bottoming out. It’s dense and can last for miles!

If you’re looking for a marathon contender, this can do the job too. And we assure you, it will do it pretty well. It has done so in many years, and we don’t see that changing in this version.

We LOVE everything about the Pegasus 38, but just can’t write off its heft. The average daily trainer weighs in at 9.6 oz and the Pegasus is at 10.25 oz. It’s heavy alright!

See our full review and facts

Pick it up any day, any run - ladies, and gentlemen, the Asics Gel Cumulus 23! It’s a jack-of-all-trades.

If you want one shoe for your daily runs, jogs, gym sessions, walks, 5K or marathon races, we can’t recommend the Cumulus 23 enough!

It’s a simple shoe (quite surprising for a shoe that does everything). It doesn’t have the bells-and-whistles of its more advanced contemporaries, but it sure does have everything it takes to go head-to-head against them!

It’s pillow-like comfort is what makes it an outstanding long-distance trainer! The Gel just takes all that impact shock in each step, leaving the foot well-cushioned and protected.

It’s well-padded in every place. Although this comes on the downside of having a warm sensation during summer runs, it’s not a deal-breaker for us for the comfort it provides!

A special shoutout to the flex grooves - among the few heroes of this shoe. Because of them, the shoe is bendy and twisty, allowing smooth toe-offs. But if you’re expecting buttery smooth as a rockered shoe, we would like to temper your expectations.

And what is an Asics shoe without a durable build, right? Is it still even Asics? And true to how it’s billed, the Asics Gel Cumulus 23 is built to last! After several wear testing sessions, we have arrived at 700 miles for its life expectancy.

Overall, the Asics Gel Cumulus 23 is a shoe that’s good at everything, but excels at nothing. And that’s not bad! It’s definitely a bang-for-the-buck purchase if you want one shoe to run them all.

See our full review and facts

How to get the right pair of long-distance running shoes

Either you are doing a 10K race or ultra-marathon, there is no one perfect shoe that fits everybody’s feet. Depending on the distance, the preferences will change. The shoe you wear for a 10K race will not work efficiently when used for ultra-running. 

Here are some tips that will help you find the best long-distance shoes:

10K

10k.png

Not as cushioned as marathon shoes. It can even be a race flat for experienced runners.

For beginners, a light speed trainer is the best choice.

Example: Hoka One One Mach 4 (a lightweight speedster for 5-10K)

Half-Marathon /Marathon

Marathon.png

Cushioned shoes are preferred.

For forefoot/midfoot strikers, look for shoes with added forefoot support and lower drop.

For heel strikers, wear a shoe with extra heel padding.

For competitive marathoners, consider high-end shoes with innovative technologies, like a carbon plate (aka “super shoes”).

Example: Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 (an elite carbon-plated racer with a super-light, responsive foam)

Ultra running

ultra running.png

Get a shoe with a durable outsole (opt for solid rubber than blown rubber).

For rough, uneven terrain, a good grip is necessary.

Cushioned shoes will keep you comfortable.

For rocky off-trail runs, wear shoes with a rock plate.

If you plan to swap shoes along the way, get a bigger size (1.5-2 sizes up) to accommodate the swelling.

Make sure you get a tried-and-tested pair of ultra running shoes.

As you can see, the number of required features grows with the distance. The longer the race, the more equipped you need to be:

Comparison.png

Arch support in long-distance running shoes

Having the right kind of support is crucial when you go the distance. Your feet will be exposed to constant ground impact for a long period of time.

Start by checking your arch type and pronation with the chart below:

Recommended road running shoe according to arch type.png

If you are not sure, go with a neutral running shoe (has no added arch support).

To learn more about the kind of support that would work best for you, see our guide on pronation.

neutral-stability-motion-control.jpg

neutral shoe (left) vs. stability shoe (center) vs. motion control shoe (right)

Breathability or waterproofing?

Unfortunately, a good compromise is rare. Depending on the conditions of your upcoming race, you have to decide which one is the priority. 

For dry and warm weather, always pick a well-ventilated shoe. We made sure to check which long-distance shoes stay breathable on the run.

For wet, rainy, and muddy conditions, consider shoes with a Gore-Tex membrane for full protection. Or slightly more breathable shoes with water-repellent uppers.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.