7 Best Ultra Running Shoes in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
7 Best Ultra Running Shoes in 2024
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Finishing an ultra is a great feat. And behind every successful run is an excellent ultra running shoe that has ample cushioning, support, and grip packed in a rugged shoe. 

We know it’s a tedious job to go through all the ultra running shoe models on the market. So, we’ve decided to test them out ourselves and see which ones are the pick of the bunch from across categories. We've pushed them on long-mileage runs and we tested them in our lab. Check out our top picks in ultra running shoes!

How we test running shoes

When we assessed the ultra shoes on this list, we got down to the tiniest details to make sure they aren’t a letdown. We purchased them ourselves to prevent bias and examined them thoroughly in our independent shoe testing lab. 

We also carefully follow these steps throughout our tests: 

  • We run at least 30-50 miles in each shoe. We report everything that we feel and encounter while wearing the shoes during our real-life runs, both indoor and outdoor, especially during long-distance sprints.
  • We cut them into pieces to scrutinise their parts. We also measure each part through 30 different parameters.

Best ultra running shoes overall

What makes it the best?

A cushioned, stable, and grippy ride is what we need for conquering ultras, and that’s exactly what Hoka Mafate Speed 4 delivered in our runs. Our lab reveals its Vibram outsole and Traction Lugs make it highly competitive on a variety of trails, while the dual-density platform supports our legs during endless grueling miles.

The highly esteemed Vibram Megagrip Litebase rubber delivered a durometer reading of 85.8 HC, a good indication of durability. It includes 3.9 mm lugs that are variously shaped to serve as brakes on steep inclines. As we ran through loose gravel and wet rocks, we felt confident because we had ample traction to cross safely.

Mafate Speed 4 stands 38.0/30.8 mm tall, giving us tons of impact protection no matter where we land. This erases ground feel almost completely so we can just soak in the foam’s plush nature. Our dissected shoe reveals dual-density layers: the top is a soft 17.5 HA for comfort while the bottom is a firm 28.0 HA to enhance stability. Surprisingly, this Hoka feels light for such a cushioned shoe. Our scales reveal its 10.4 oz (293g) build is even lighter than the average trail shoe.

Unfortunately, the heel design disrupted our runs as small rocks tend to get in. Best to avoid paths with debris that can get through the gap.


  • Cushioned and comfortable
  • Excellent grip across diverse terrains
  • Outstanding Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Noticeably lighter than previous models
  • Robust and long-lasting upper
  • Delivers a responsive and impressively stable ride
  • Adaptable to multiple paces
  • 100% ready for ultras
  • Enhanced flexibility compared to previous versions


  • Ankle collar design favours debris intrusion
  • Excessive foam exposure might be a concern
Full review of Hoka Mafate Speed 4

Ultra running shoes with the best fit

What makes it the best?

We ran for countless miles and lab-tested for countless hours and found the ultra-running shoe with the best fit: the Saucony Xodus Ultra 2. Befitting of its name, it has a responsive midsole with subtle supportive features that make endurance runs feel like a breeze, literally! 

Our feet found a cozy place in the XU2 as we were locked down snugly in a breathable space. Embraced by a bootie tongue, debris could not sneak in and kept us protected. Meanwhile, the light upper allows air to flow freely, as our breathability tests confirm with a 4/5 score. 

The ride feels responsive which had the miles melting away. Upon dissecting the shoe, a dual-density PWRRUN PB foam unfolds. Our durometer shows most of it is 27.5 HA for springier strides, while the second foam under the heel is a firmer 29.5 HA for stability and protection. Together with the midsole sidewalls, XU2 provides gentle support without being intrusive.

Underfoot, we found the PRWTRAC outsole’s grip to be excellent on most terrains, further enhanced by the 4.6 mm chevron lugs. The lugs in the heel and forefoot area are facing opposite directions to improve control on inclined surfaces.

Unfortunately, those who prefer an ultra-plush feel for long miles won’t find that here. We found XU2 to be on the firmer and more supportive side.


  • Snug, secure fit
  • Highly breathable
  • Enhanced lacing from v1
  • Responsive midsole
  • Upgraded durability
  • Solid, stable feel
  • Long-run-ready cushioning


  • Bootie upper might feel odd to some
  • Slightly heavy for its size
  • Firm cushioning
Full review of Saucony Xodus Ultra 2

Best lightweight ultra running shoes

Hoka Tecton X 2

What makes it the best?

We conquered endurance runs on off-the-beaten paths with ease thanks to the most lightweight ultra racing shoe — Tecton X 2. Both our lab analysis and actual runs prove this lightweight champion has so much to offer: stability, cushion for long miles, grip for various terrains, and the finest MATRYX upper.

Despite the height, we felt surprisingly light and nimble. Upon checking our scale, this shoe weighs only 9.1 oz (257g). Adding to the airy feeling is the premium MATRYX upper, which is a rare combination of breathability and durability. It exceeds the standard on both our breathability and Dremel lab tests.

We found Tecton’s features to be very well-suited for trail racing and endurance runs. It feels balanced overall despite being a cushioned shoe and we never lost control on slippery slopes with the 3.6 mm lugs. 

Tecton's clever combination of dual-density foams and two parallel carbon plates in between translates to a dynamic and protective ride. Our durometer shows the top layer is a soft 21.8 HA, dampening the impact of demanding distances. Whereas the bottom foam is a firmer 26.1 HA for more protection and stability. Its stack boasts an above-average 37.4/31.8 mm height, making it cushioned for all footstrikers.

We warn caution that the toebox feels tighter than average, and it is at 96.0 mm. Best to size up to allow some room for the feet to swell, especially for ultras.


  • Incredibly speedy and enjoyable ride
  • Breathable yet sturdy upper
  • Reliable traction across various terrains
  • Exceptionally durable upper and outsole
  • Surprisingly lighter
  • Perfect for speedwork and racing on mild to moderate trails
  • Sufficiently cushioned for ultra-distance comfort
  • Accommodates all types of footstrikes effectively


  • Limited space in the toe area
  • Lacks energy return from the EVA midsole
  • The £230 price tag might be steep for some buyers
Full review of Hoka Tecton X 2

Ultra running shoes with the best speed

Nike Ultrafly

What makes it the best?

In our lab tests and actual endurance runs, we can confirm Nike Ultrafly goes the distance with strong energy return, immense cloud-like comfort, and exceptional stability. We don’t feel our feet counting the miles because this performance-driven shoe gives all the power, TLC, and support we need. No doubt, it’s our top speed ultra running shoe.

Even as a trail shoe, Ultrafly stands out by giving a plush and bouncy platform. Our 9.8 HA durometer measurement is one of the softest in our lab. That’s a mindblowing 63.7% softer than average. Together with its thick ZoomX stack, this pair saves our legs from the harshness of ultras.

Our runs feel far from dull, with the full-length carbon plate promoting fast and efficient strides. Our bend test confirms it's 31.5% stiffer than average. This stiffness drives consistent energy return, which greatly helps us sustain long-haul efforts.

The midsole’s rigidity and vastness contribute to a ride that feels steady and stable. We didn’t have any issues with awkward ankle rolls thanks to Ultrafly’s supportive platform. It ensures steady landings and generous room for wide feet by giving 122.1/93.4 mm room in the forefoot and heel areas.

All the comfort and support come at a heavy weight of 10.6 oz (299g). Runners who prefer lighter shoes should check other options.


  • Optimised for trail races
  • Accommodates wide feet with ease
  • Full-length, responsive Pebax midsole
  • Equipped with a Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Ideal for long-distance training
  • Offers outstanding comfort
  • Remarkably stable
  • Suitable for 100-mile races


  • The Vaporweave upper could be more durable and breathable
  • Heavier than expected even for a trail racing shoe
  • The £270 price tag might be steep for some
Full review of Nike Ultrafly

Ultra running shoes with the best comfort

Brooks Caldera 6

What makes it the best?

We go fast and far from the roads to the trails while sporting Brooks Caldera 6. Our lab shows it’s suitable for endurance runs with its maximum cushion, lasting comfort, and grippy, stable ride. As an effective impact dampener, it offers the best comfort for ultras.

Caldera 6 encourages us to run an extra mile or two with its plush and bottomless cushioning. Its 38.4/26.3 mm stack is ideal for long miles as it’s an excellent shock absorber and shields us from harsh terrains. Our durometer backs up our sensation with a low reading of 17.0 HA, 35.4% softer than average, providing relief for countless hours of running.

Its airy and flexible nature does a favor of keeping our legs fresh. Its upper utilizes a road-running material for breathability but incorporates additional protective elements for breathability. 

Despite its height, the ride remains surprisingly stable. The more obvious source is the outsole’s TrailTack technology and deep 3.5 mm lugs that offer reliable traction on mixed terrains. The second source, we only discovered upon dissecting the shoe: the cushion is shaped like a bathtub so that it embraces our feet for additional support.

Because of its size, it lacks the agility and speed for faster running through technical terrains. If speed is a priority, we recommend checking less bulkier options.


  • Enhanced, maxed-out protection
  • Excellent grip on dry surfaces
  • Remarkably stable despite its massive height
  • Ideal for heel strikers
  • Perfect for road-to-trail transitions
  • Ultra-comfortable for long runs with DNA Loft v3
  • Lighter compared to the Caldera 5
  • Superb heel support
  • Extensive upper TPU protection


  • Still too heavy
  • Excessively wide platform for technical terrain
  • Too much exposed foam on the outsole
Full review of Brooks Caldera 6

Ultra running shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

Overcoming ultras require an effective impact dampener to sustain long-haul efforts and we find Salomon Ultra Glide 2’s cushioning to be the best among ultra running shoes. It provides comfort not only through its velvet foam, but also through its light, airy, and free-flowing nature. 

Housing an energyFOAM, we’re spoiled with excellent cushioning and a bouncy ride. It feels buttery-smooth, as validated by our durometer to be 34.3% softer than the average trail shoe. Its 30.6/23.4 mm stack sits right below average but still has enough foam to protect our feet. This gives the advantage of a better ground feel, and therefore more stability.

Creating a more effortless ride is the midsole that moves with our feet without much restriction. Our flex test validates it’s 33.4% more adaptive than its counterparts, giving us more agility and control. 

UG2 is literally a breath of fresh air. Its 10.1 oz (286g) weight is lighter than the 10.4 oz (296g) average and is more breathable than most trail shoes. It scored 4/5 on our breathability test in the lab. Trail shoes rarely reach this score.

Its focus on light weight sacrificed durability. Its outsole is only 1.6 mm thin vs. the 2.7 mm average, making it more prone to wear.


  • Breathable upper
  • One heck of a lockdown
  • Soft and protective cushioning
  • Good energy return
  • Very smooth, fun ride
  • Comfy for roads, good traction on moderately technical trails
  • Outstanding for daily miles and (very) long runs
  • Also works for faster efforts


  • Poor outsole durability
  • Using lace garage can get frustrating
  • Long tongue has a tendency to cause some rubbing
  • Maybe too narrow for some
Full review of Salomon Ultra Glide 2

Best budget ultra running shoes

What makes it the best?

Looking for a trail shoe that’s cushioned, grippy, and fits the budget? A combination of lab tests and actual runs helped us choose the most budget-friendly ultra-running shoe. Hello, it’s Merrell’s Agility Peak 5! At £150, it’s more affordable than the £170 average of ultra-running shoes.

With a nearly 40-mm stack, 39.2 mm to be exact, we have bottomless cushioning to conquer endurance runs. Not only is it high, but feels so delightful underfoot, muting out the impact of repetitive landings. Our durometer confirms its plush nature, emerging 16.3% softer than average. Despite its height, the ride feels surprisingly stable on uneven terrain.

Protecting us from slips and mishaps is the world-class Vibram Megagrip outsole, which has a track record in our lab of blending grip and durability seamlessly. It effectively kept us surefooted as we ran through mixed terrains with its 4.5-mm sticky lugs. They vary in shape and direction to further enhance traction in inclines. The rubber proves its long lifespan as it showed less damage than average in the Dremel test.

The forefoot doesn’t match the heel and maintains a humble 25.8 mm profile. The resulting heel drop is 13.4 mm which may feel too steep for runners who don’t heel-strike.


  • Outstanding Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Easily handles tough trails
  • Performs well on both downhills and uphills
  • Extremely durable upper with numerous TPU reinforcements
  • Suitable for year-round use
  • Loads of recycled, eco-friendly stuff
  • Great for long-distance runs thanks to its cushioning
  • Wonderful for heel strikers
  • Excellent all-terrain shoe


  • Heavier than expected
  • Actual drop deviates significantly from what's stated
  • Could be more affordable
Full review of Merrell Agility Peak 5

Choosing the best ultra running shoes

Every ultrarunner has at least one foot-related horror story. Running in the wrong shoes is perhaps the biggest cause of ultramarathon DNFs, resulting in rolled ankles, painful blood blisters, blackened toenails, and feet simply too fatigued to take another step.

Stretching in Tecton X

The features of the best ultrarunning shoes

Ultrarunning is defined as any run or race exceeding a marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 kilometres) in distance. Official ultramarathons typically begin at the 50 km distance and go up to 200 miles or even more.

There are road ultras, track ultras, and trail ultras, and the best ultrarunning shoes vary widely among each. But ultrarunning involves long distances and a lot of time on your feet, no matter the surface, and the best ultrarunning shoes all share a few key design features.


Ultrarunning involves many tens of thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of steps in a single go. Your shoes must be capable of protecting you from the accumulative effect of those impact forces, so the best ultrarunning shoes are highly cushioned, with most featuring a heel stack height of 30mm or more.


Small hot spots or minor discomforts that may be tolerable on shorter runs can morph into race-ending problems over ultra distances. Whether on the road, track, or trail, ultrarunning shoes must be extremely comfortable. They should be breathable, provide excellent heel lockdown, and have extra room in the midfoot and toe box for swelling feet.



Deep into an ultramarathon, your running form will begin to disintegrate as leg muscles succumb to extreme fatigue. Supportive and protective shoes will help prevent the rolled ankles and stubbed toes that become more common late into races.

The best trail ultrarunning shoes

Trail ultrarunning shoes have different traction, protection, and fit geared towards specific trail terrain.


Trail ultrarunning shoes feature lugs and sticky rubber outsoles to provide the necessary traction over steep terrain and variable surfaces.


Trail ultrarunning shoes for wet, muddy trails, like Saucony’s Peregrine and Xodus Ultra, will have deep, aggressive lugs. Trail shoes for dry and relatively smooth trails, like the Hoka Tecton X and Salomon Ultra Glide, still have lugs and solid traction, but don’t have the bite you will want on wet trails. Light trail shoes are, however, light and nimble, making them excellent choices for ultramarathons on more runnable trails.



Like lug size and outsole construction, different trail ultrarunning shoes provide different levels of protection. For ultramarathons featuring mountain scree or rooty and rocky trails, look for trail shoes with rock plates and toe guards to ensure the longevity of your feet.


On less technical terrain, it is possible to get away in shoes with scaled-back protective features, like the Nike Wildhorse and Hoka Challenger. These shoes are lighter, but without sacrificing the cushioning you want to have for ultra distances.


Trail ultras usually include running up, down, and flat on uneven terrain. The wide variety of conditions makes shoe fit even more important. You want shoes with a generous toe box, but without sacrificing a secure lockdown. A roomy forefoot combined with a sloppy fit can result in smashed toes and blackened toenails.

Fit is highly individual, so the best way to get it right is to try shoes on in person, ideally following a long run while your feet are swollen to simulate mid-ultra conditions.


These two shoes have the same size but a different kind of fit


The best road ultrarunning shoes

Trail and ultrarunning have become somewhat synonymous. And although the majority of ultramarathons are trail races, that is not always the case. Many time-based ultras are held on race tracks. The 89 km Comrades Marathon in South Africa, one of the most iconic ultras in the world, is entirely on pavement. 

The best ultrarunning shoes for road ultras don’t require traction, rock plates, or toe guards the way trail ultras do. Instead comfort and fit are the priorities. You can go with high stack, but relatively lightweight road shoes that provide strong lateral stability, like the Altra Via Olympus. Again, a good fit is essential. You don’t want any hotspots or an overly tight fit, as small irritations can balloon into unbearable pain, even on flat and smooth pavement.

The best ultrarunning shoes: what to look for

Choosing the best ultrarunning shoes may feel overwhelming. The success or failure of a big race often comes down to ensuring your feet stay happy and healthy for many, many hours.

Perhaps the hardest part of ultrarunning shoe selection is the inevitability of breaking running’s golden rule of “nothing new on race day”. You should, of course, always test out new shoes on shorter training days, but it is impossible to know what a pair of shoes feels like after 50 or 100 miles until doing it in a race.


When running new ultra distances on new courses, you won’t really know if your shoes are working for you until you’re doing it. It is these unknowns that make ultrarunning so challenging and so alluring at the same time.

These challenges are unavoidable, but it is possible to mitigate the chances of things going wrong by knowing the key features that make for the best ultrarunning shoes. Your shoes should be comfortable and well-cushioned, with protective features to match the terrain you will be tackling. Ensure a good fit, break your shoes in over shorter training runs, then prepare to forge into the unknown.

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.