Good Content from: Team Saucony
When you’re training for a big race, it’s important to get familiar with the shoes you’re planning to race in. Just like you shouldn’t eat something new on race day, you shouldn’t lace up new shoes just before the gun goes off. Your racing shoes should make you feel fast, confident, and most importantly, comfortable.
Picking the right racing shoes can be challenging, because it’s hard to find the perfect blend of speedy and supportive. But while a featherlight flat might work well for a 5K, the same shoe may not be the best choice for a marathon, when your lower legs and feet need more support. A great race shoe should be responsive and cushioned enough for the distance you’re running.
Before the big day, make sure to wear your shoes for a few race-simulation workouts—like mile repeats before a 5K or a long run before a marathon—to check that they still feel comfortable when you’re in race mode. It’s better to have a heel slip or a pesky blister pop up during a workout than midway through a race! (Psst, if you do experience any discomfort during your run, it might be because you have ill-fitting shoes. Read more about proper shoe fit here.)
At Saucony, we design shoes that work just as well for logging miles as they do for racing them. Here, we’ve rounded up our recommendations for the best shoes to race anything from 5K up to ultramarathon.
Best running shoes for 5Ks and 10Ks
Short races like the 5K and 10K require top speed, so you’ll want a lightweight, firm shoe that will propel you forward. These low-profile shoes also perform well for HIIT classes and sprints, where you want a greater ground feel and more spring in your step.
- Fastwitch 9 (shop women and men): For runners gunning for a 5K PR, this super-light (6 oz.), breathable flat will get you there. The engineered mesh upper forms to your foot and keeps you cool, while the special rubber outsole—which provides three times more traction than most rubber—gives you extra power on the pavement. With a 4mm drop, the shoes let your feet flex naturally, while a subtle medial post offers a touch of stability.
- A9 (shop women and men): Like the Fastwitch, the A9 is feather-light (6 oz.) and features an extra-grippy outsole. Runners who prefer low-profile shoes will love the low offset (4mm), which offers a greater ground feel and also extends the Achilles, allowing it to store more energy in every stride.
Best running shoes for half marathon
When you’re picking a half marathon shoe, remember that your legs and feet will feel much different at the end of 13.1 miles compared to shorter distances. Wobbly ankles and sloppy form are usually more common—and more costly—the longer the race gets, so it’s important to choose a shoe that is not only lightweight, but also provides support when the race gets tough.
Our favorite half marathon shoes feature lightweight, responsive PWRRUN foam and come in 4mm and 8mm drops for a snappy run.
- Kinvara 11 (shop women and men): Our O.G. lightweight training shoe works wonders in a 10K, thanks to super-responsive foam and an engineered mesh upper that keeps you locked in place. Weighing in at just 6.7 ounces for women and 7.8 for men, this shoe gives you just a touch more cushion and support than a traditional racing flat without adding any extra bulk.
- Ride ISO 2 (shop women and men): For runners looking for a higher offset and a softer ride than the Kinvara, this shoe offers the perfect blend of responsive cushioning, maximum breathability, and lasting comfort.
- Guide 13 (shop women and men): Runners who crave support and cushioning should consider this all-star shoe, which features just-soft-enough cushioning and a subtle medial post for added stability.
Best running shoes for marathons and ultras
If you’re racing 26.2 miles or more, comfort and support are top priorities when it comes to footwear. Most of the time, the shoes you race in for marathons are the same as (or similar to) the ones you train in. And with good reason: if they get you through weekly long runs comfortably, you know they’ll perform when you need them the most in your marathon.
For a consistently comfortable ride, we suggest shoes with PWRUN+ foam, which maintains its’ plush cushioning all the way to the end of your race.
- Freedom 3 (shop women and men): For fans of the Kinvara who want a little more cushioning for longer hauls, this shoe is a great alternative. It features a low offset (4mm), flexible mesh upper, and loads of plush, responsive cushioning for a comfortable—and fast—ride. And, at 8.7oz it’s a significant decrease from its predecessor.
- Triumph 17 (shop women and men): We made our most-cushioned shoe with our lightest weight cushioning, so you’ll feel premium comfort all the way to the finish line—whether it’s 26.2 or 100 miles away.
If you’re racing a trail marathon or ultramarathon, you should pick a trail shoe that provides support, traction, and trail-specific features. We recommend the Peregrine for races lasting 26.2 miles or fewer, and the Xodus 10 for marathons or ultras on trails.
- Peregrine 10 (shop women and men): This shoe features the same PWRRUN foam as the Kinvara, but with added traction and durability, making for a lively ride over short trail races.
- Xodus 10 (shop women and men): This trail option features plush PWRRUN+ foam, which won’t break down no matter the distance. Built for any terrain, this durable shoe takes the worry out of racing—so the only thing you’re thinking about is what to eat at your next aid station. Plus, a significant decrease in weight than its predecessor, weighing in at 11.7 oz.
It’s go time! While shoes won’t run the race for you, they can help tremendously on the big day. Make sure to test out several pairs in workouts and long runs until you find the ones that make your strides sing. And don’t forget, there’s nothing wrong with racing in your trusted trainers—something fast and shiny isn’t always better than what’s most familiar to you.
Want more Saucony scoop? Be sure to keep checking our blog at Saucony.com for tips and insights about shoes, training, racing, and more.