7 Best Competition Running Shoes in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
7 Best Competition Running Shoes in 2024
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With speed written all over them, the best running shoes for racing are light, snappy, and crazy responsive. With so many competition running shoes to choose from, it can be a challenge to pick the right pair - let alone, the best pair. 

But don’t fret, we have tested competition running shoes one by one just to have the answer which one is the most ideal for you. We brought them in our actual mile-logging. After we evaluated them during our runs, we took them for more testing inside our lab. Finally, we were able to set apart the most incredible pairs from the run of the mill. 

How we test running shoes

To ensure the objectivity of our review and assessment, we do the following:

  • Buy shoes using our own money. We make sure that every cent comes from our pockets.
  • Talk about shoes that we tested ourselves. We hit the streets with these shoes and we maximise their use by running for 30 to 50 miles before we log our observations.
  • Bring the shoes to our lab. We cut the shoes in half and we examine every bit of the shoes. We measure different parameters using our tools and equipment. One of which is our durometer which determines the gym shoes' midsole hardness. 

 

Best competition running shoes overall

Nike Vaporfly 3
88
Great!

What makes it the best?

We flew to the finish line with this insanely responsive, lightweight, and surprisingly comfortable shoe. It has all the speed-enhancing features that justify its £250 price tag. With its unmatched energy and high-performance level, Vaporfly 3 works best for PR chasers — making it our ultimate pick for competition running. 

Our lab results speak for its speed yet our feet lived to tell the tale. Its Pebax foam felt incredibly springy and soft — like launching off a diveboard in every toeoff and landing home with its cosy platform. Our durometer confirms its plush touch, measuring 29.1% softer than average. 

This racer could keep up even if we pushed our paces to the limit. It performed best at faster speeds! Our 90º bend test confirmed this and showed it's 88.3% stiffer than average! Keeping each turnover effortless and efficient is the shoe’s carbon plate and light weight. At 6.7 oz (190g), it’s much lighter than the average racer (7.5 oz / 214g). 

Complementing the performance-driven midsole is a well-ventilated upper that scored 5/5 on our breathability test. Shoes rarely get a perfect score here! There’s no need to worry about hotspots or wet socks in this pair.

We discovered that VF3 performs best in longer distances (10K+). Because of its focus on adding comfort, it may lack the quick-release sensation that some 5K/10K runners are looking for.

Pros

  • Exceptionally breathable upper
  • Outstanding ZoomX cushioning
  • Superb choice from the mile to the marathon
  • Impressively low weight
  • Enhanced stability
  • Plush, cloud-like foam
  • Upgraded outsole for better grip

Cons

  • Uncomfortably large tongue
  • The heel is still too narrow
Full review of Nike Vaporfly 3

Best competition running shoes for marathon/ultra

Nike Alphafly 3
85
Good!

What makes it the best?

The third iteration of Alphafly is a super shoe marvel with its overwhelming energy return, cushioned platform, and unexpected stability. After hours in the lab and miles on foot, it's our top marathon/ultra-shoe, which provides heavenly comfort, extra support, and tonnes of energy for endurance runs. 

This racer comes to life and feels more natural at faster paces. Our cut-in-half shoe reveals the rigid FlyPlate and Air Pods integrated into the midsole. These provide a consistent stream of energy that shines in longer distances. Our 90° bend test reveals a solid 144.7% higher stiffness than average. 

Alphafly 3 features the dynamic ZoomX midsole that offers world-class responsiveness. What sets this shoe apart is its dual-density setup. Our durometer shows the top layer is 23.6% firmer than average to enhance stability and control, while the bottom layer is 23.3% softer than average for impact protection. Both elements work together to save our legs from fatigue, especially in the latter miles when extra support is needed.

Despite the sky-high stack, the shoe is surprisingly light (7.1 oz / 201g). What also amazed us was the immensely breathable Atomknit upper that assures we won't have hotspots or blisters.

The outsole may be less resistant to abrasions since the rubber is 1.3 mm thinner than average. We recommend saving this shoe for race days.

Pros

  • Remarkably lightweight despite its broad size
  • Best-in-class breathability
  • Excels in the marathon distance
  • Repositioned Air Pods offer a better ride than the v2
  • ZoomX foam delivers massive energy return
  • Aids in forward momentum, especially when legs begin to fatigue
  • Better than ever for 5K/10K racing
  • Finally smooth transitions!

Cons

  • Heel strikers might wear down the outsole quickly
  • The arch could still be a challenge for some
  • The sock-like tongue might not suit everyone
Full review of Nike Alphafly 3

Competition running shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

We experienced the best of both worlds in the AP3! This racer ticks the boxes of a supershoe with its lightning speed, comfy ride and airy nature. While its counterparts tend to be unsteady, it's the exact opposite because of its wide landing platform and balanced midsole. This makes it our top stability competition shoe.

Exceeding the standard racer, AP3 has a balanced cushion and a wider-than-average landing base in the forefoot - an additional 6.2 mm. This promotes stable landings for forefoot and midfoot strikers. Even when cornering at high speeds, we remain steady and in control.

It blends comfort and speed in perfect harmony through its mega-stack and rigid platform. The underfoot feels delightful and is dense enough so that we don’t sink into it. Our durometer confirms it’s 12.9% softer than average. Every stride feels powerful with its insane energy return. Our flex test validates this as AP3 ranks 49.5% more resistant than average. A higher resistance springs back up more power.

AP3 is a breath of fresh air. The breeze flows in and out freely and our breathability test confirms this with the highest rating. It’s only 7.7 oz (218g), as light as other racers.

Watch out, heel-strikers! The heel area may feel tight since it’s 6.1 mm narrower than average.

Pros

  • Supreme stability... in a supershoe!
  • World-class energy return and cushioning
  • Feather-light and agile
  • A dream come true for marathoners
  • Wonderful breathability
  • Top-notch grip, even in wet conditions
  • Outstanding outsole durability
  • Accommodates wide feet

Cons

  • Risk of heel slippage
  • Lacing can be tricky
  • Not suited for heel strikers
Full review of Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3

Best competition running shoes for heel strikers

What makes it the best?

Massive energy rebound, heavenly cushioning, and a refreshing feel—these are just some of the many qualities that make Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 the top competition shoe for heel-strikers. Our runs feel effortless and supported by the vibrant midsole that combines comfort and speed perfectly.

At 38.1 mm, the Endorphin Pro 4 provides supreme heel cushioning for any distance. Our cut-in-half shoe reveals two distinct foams: a plush 18.5 HA top layer for protection, and a firmer 22.0 HA bottom layer for stability, ensuring confident strides even as fatigue sets in.

Embedded in the soft and bouncy midsole is the super stiff carbon plate. Our flex test reveals it needs a force that’s 137.5% higher than average to bend to 90 degrees! This translated to insane responsiveness and the feeling of being propelled forward effortlessly.

Despite all the cushioning and support, EP4 remains a featherweight 7.8 oz (220g), 17.3% lighter than the average road running shoe. The ride feels like a breath of fresh air since the upper is extremely breezy. It showcased superior performance in our breathability tests, earning a well-deserved 5/5 score. We had no worries about hotspots and blisters and could purely focus on our performance.

Although this racer is very responsive, other elite counterparts may feel faster since they focus more on speed and performance than comfort.

Pros

  • Durable upper and outsole
  • Spacious upper fit
  • Enhanced midsole comfort
  • Great value at $225 for a supershoe
  • Versatile across all paces
  • Ideal for heel strikers
  • More stable than ever

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than v3
  • Less suited for forefoot strikers
  • Competitors may feel quicker
Full review of Saucony Endorphin Pro 4

Competition running shoes with the best durability

What makes it the best?

Already in its name, Deviate Nitro Elite 2 deviates from the usual outsole of a supershoe. While other racers focus on speed and light weight, DNE 2 combines these qualities with a tough outsole — making it our most durable competition shoe.

DNE 2 finds the equilibrium between durability and traction. Our durometer shows the outsole's rubber is 74.8 HC vs. the 80.0 HC average of running shoes. This shows its unparalleled grip as it's soft enough to cling to the ground — keeping us steady on slippery surfaces. The rubber stands 2.5 mm thick (most racers are sub-2.0 mm), showing it’s more resistant to damage and wear.

This shoe is elite in power and speed, launching us forward with its stiff carbon plate and rocker structure. As a more durable shoe, it can be used for training speed intervals. Our flex test confirms it’s 23.3% stiffer than average, translating to responsiveness in our runs.

This racer keeps things light with its feathery 7.6 oz (214g) and its breezy upper. Its weight is at par with other racers while its breathability score in the lab is the highest 5/5. 

DNE 2 is stacked in the heel, leading to a 9.1 heel-to-toe drop, which may feel too steep for some forefoot strikers.

Pros

  • Amazing durability
  • Plush foam
  • Excellent PumaGrip outsole
  • Better for heel strikers
  • Responsive PWRPLATE carbon plate
  • Accommodates medium-to-wide feet
  • Perfect for tempo runs

Cons

  • Heavier than v1
  • Still lacks race-day vibe
Full review of PUMA Deviate Nitro Elite 2

Competition running shoes with the best comfort

What makes it the best?

Metaspeed Sky+ helps us soar to the finish line with its superior combination of speed and comfort. It’s a breath of fresh air with limitless power and a delightful cushion. This premium supershoe is our most comfortable competition shoe. 

The platform consists of a 33.5 / 30.8 mm heel and forefoot stack (both higher than average) that supports our legs. That’s a significant amount of cushion to mute the impact of landing and to prevent fatigue. While higher stack heights are usually wobbly, Metaspeed Sky+ remains stable with its firm foam. Our durometer confirms it's 17.5% denser than average.

Peak performance is a given with the stiff carbon plate’s insane responsiveness. Its pronounced rocker structure fosters buttery-smooth toe-offs and efficient turnover. Our flex test validates it’s 119.7% more resilient than average. This unwavering resilience translates to springier runs.

This shoe keeps things airy, weighing 7.2 oz (205g), and is even lighter than other racers (215g). With a perfect score on our breathability test, its upper is well-ventilated. It feels breezy even on warm days.

We don’t expect this racer to last long. At only 2.0 mm thin vs. the 3.4 mm average, it’s more prone to wear and tear.

Pros

  • Fast as hell
  • Buttery smooth transitions
  • Protective cushion
  • Comfy for long miles
  • Stable when cornering
  • Very very breathable
  • Heel lockdown is awesome
  • No more heel rubs
  • Fits just right!
  • Grippy on wet roads

Cons

  • Stiffer than before
  • Outsole lacks durability
  • Expensive
Full review of ASICS Metaspeed Sky+

Best competition running shoes for triathlon

What makes it the best?

Supported by our lab tests and actual runs, we discovered the Noosa Tri 15 is a light, airy, and comfortable shoe that can go fast and be worn sockless! As eye-catching as it looks, it offers unique qualities that make it the best for triathlon races.

Our runs feel easy on recovery days to running race pace. It sits at a light 7.7 oz (218g), levelling with runners designed for racing (7.5 oz / 213g). It requires less effort to lift each foot, keeping our momentum strong during brick runs. Adding to the comfort is its non-resisting midsole, which emerged 30.4% more flexible than average in our flex test.

The cushion provides much-needed support to accomplish the third sport. Our durometer measured the foam to be 21.8% softer than average — balancing comfort and stability well to ensure the foam doesn’t bottom out.

Noosa Tri 15 feels like a breath of fresh air as the breeze brushes through our toes. Our breathability test confirms this with a perfect score. Its seamless mesh makes it comfortable to wear even without socks — which many triathletes do to save time.

Unfortunately, the absence of a carbon plate means this shoe lacks the explosive energy that some triathletes are looking for. If insane speed is the top priority, we recommend looking elsewhere.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Well-cushioned for long runs
  • Works well across various paces
  • Specifically designed for triathlons
  • Unique design
  • Breathable and comfortable upper
  • Long-lasting outsole
  • Suitable for sock-free running
  • Excellent value at $130

Cons

  • Limited energy return
  • Tongue might be too thin for some
  • Not the best for heel strikers
Full review of Asics Noosa Tri 15
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.