The Best Running Shoes for Long Distance Runners
+ Shoe Shopping Checklist

Best Running Shoes

What are the best running shoes for a marathoner or half marathoner? 

This is a very common question for any long distance runner and it makes sense why! We are spending hours, upon hours out on the roads and placing hundreds of miles on our shoes.

We want them to be comfortable!

And although running shoes can be pricey, if we pick the right one for us, our running, our form, our footstrike, etc. then we should see a great return on our investment!

In fact if there is one thing a runner should splurge on to find the perfect choice, it should, in my opinion, be their running shoes! 

On this page, let's talk about:

  • The goal of running shoes
  • What to look for in the best running shoes as a long distance runner
  • Shoe shopping tips
  • The case for minimalist shoes
  • The best running shoes for men
  • The best minimalist shoes for men
  • The best running shoes for women
  • The best minimalist shoes for women
  • + I have a free guide to help you with your running shoe choice!

Let's dive in! 

The Goal of your running shoes

Everything serves a purpose, and the purpose of your running shoes is to:

  • Reduce injury
  • Allow you to run faster
  • Reduce impact felt on your body
  • Become a more efficient and economic runner

In a nutshell:

The better your foot is able to function + fewer (if any) injuries, better form, improved running efficiency  = a happier runner. 

What runner wouldn't want that?!


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(Tips + List)

I compiled the best running shoes for men and women + included what to look for in a running shoe + shoe shopping tips into this free guide! Pop your email in the form box below & I will send it straight to you! 

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What to look for in a running shoe as a distance runner

To help you find the best running shoes for you, I've compiled some questions for you to answer that will hopefully direct you to your best running shoe for you!

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF to help you find the best running shoes for you!

How big (chunky) is the heel?

You want to minimize that heel as much as possible.

If you are just starting to transition to minimalist shoes find a shoe that has around a 4mm heel to toe drop and work your way down to a 0 heel drop. Otherwise I like to stay between a 4-8mm heel drop.


How much padding is on the bottom of the shoe?

The less padding the better as this will allow for those mechano-receptors on your feet to do their job in giving your body proper feedback especially in your foot strike and form.


How wide is the toe box?

You need to give your toes enough room to naturally splay outwards.

A great tip from Dr. McClanahan is: Take the shoe insert out of the shoe. Place your shoe on the insert. If your foot fits on it without your toes going past the edges than it is wide enough. If the toes do extend past, it is too narrow for your foot and will undergo modern day foot binding while running.


Is there an arch support?

Try to opt for a shoe that has very little to no arch support.

An arch support weakens the natural job of the foot's most intrinsic muscles.

This causes them to atrophy and not perform as they should and leads to one of the most common running injuries: plantar fasciitis.


Is the length of the shoe big enough?

There should be almost a thumb’s width between the toe and the front of the shoe.

Your feet will be moving around as you run and you want to let them do their thing without having the tip of the shoe interfering.

Also, if there is not enough space you run the risk of developing runners toe ( your toenail turns black and falls off – a common problem with long-distance runners).


How flexible is the shoe?

A more flexible a shoe is in the forefoot area, the better, as it will be able to help dissipate the ground forces.

Highly flexible shoes strengthen your leg muscles and allows your feet to be able to move in their natural gait.

If they are too inflexible they can cause your calf muscles to work much harder leading to problems such as Achilles Tendonitis.

Here is an image for reference on good flexibility in a shoe:


Is the shoe light-weight?

The best running shoes are going to be ones that don't weight much.

The lighter the shoe the better in terms of running economyVO2 consumption (how much oxygen your body needs to keep a certain pace).

Most shoes on the market today are already incredibly light but there are still some heavy weights out there that could slow you down.


Is it comfortable?

Comfort is going to be the biggest factor when finding the best running shoes for you.

There is not one single shoe that can fix everyone's problems. Only you can decide what is most comfortable for you.


Shoe shopping tips to help you find the best running shoes

Try new running shoes on later in the day as your foot tends to swell throughout the day.


When trying on the shoes, lace the running shoes carefully.

If the shoe is too tight it can cause the tops of your feet to become sore during runs and can unnecessarily squeeze your metatarsals (located on the top of your foot).

However if the shoe is too loose you will be more prone to blisters so make sure you get the right balance of tightness!


If you wear socks while running then wear similar ones when trying on shoes. This will give you an idea of how tight the shoe will be when you are running.


Check insoles for rough seams or coarseness. Rough inseams can cause blisters while running (or even just walking!). The arch support should be smooth and transition into the rest of the insole smoothly and evenly.


✓ Depending on what surfaces you normally run on (i.e. trails, gravel, or even on the road) you will want to check for traction on the bottom of the shoe.


Don't be a brand snob. :) Sometimes, in order to find the best running shoes all you need is to just try a shoe from a running brand that you have never worn before.


sign up to Get the free Best running shoes for distance runners guide!
(Tips + List)

I compiled the best running shoes for men and women + included what to look for in a running shoe + shoe shopping tips into this free guide! Pop your email in the form box below & I will send it straight to you! 

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The case for the minimalist running shoes

As a study by D'Aout (2009) stresses:

"Footwear that fails to respect natural foot shape and function will ultimately alter the morphology and biomechanical behavior of the foot."

This is always the goal of minimalist footwear, to allow your foot to function in their natural form.

Therefore, have included some of the best minimalist running shoe options for both men and women below!


Here are some reasons, based off of peer-reviewed journals and backed by science research that might mean minimalist shoes are the best running shoes for you! 

  • Minimalist shoe runners land in a more plantar flexed position at the ankle which means that the peak vertical force that the ground sends up to the body is greatly diminished.
  • Shorter stride lengths - meaning you are able to run faster and reduce impact
  • Ground contact time is significantly shorter which means you are running faster!
  • Increased stride frequency when wearing minimalist shoes
  • A higher VO2max (about 2.8% higher) has been associated with minimalist shoe runners.
  • Increased heart rates and perceived exertion rates (i.e. the amount of effort you believe you are putting forth) are significantly higher in runners who wear 'traditional' running shoes.
  • Minimalist shoe runners use about 5% less energy than 'traditional' shoe runners. This means big efficiency increases in longer running events such as the marathon.
  • Running with a forefoot strike leads to less stress placed on the knee, joints and lower back thereby reducing pain that runners commonly feel in those areas.
  • There is a significant decrease in the impact forces that are placed on the body during each running stride.
  • It has been proven that there is a significant decrease in plantar fasciitis injuries in minimalist shoe populations. This is due to the medial longitudinal arch in the foot being shortened as it naturally should be and the musculature surrounding the fascia being strengthened and taking on more of impact forces distributed from the ground instead of it being solely focused on plantar fascia.

A note on barefoot running:

I don't suggest going completely barefoot for the following reasons:

  • Exposure to sharp objects
  • Un-welcomed surfaces
  • Unsanitary conditions

Now these reasons wont be convincing to everyone so if you really feel that the only way to set yourself free is to completely ditch the shoes then at least wait until your feet have developed some callouses.

This can be done by running increasing longer and longer distances without shoes. 


Some problems that have been associated with non-minimalist running shoes

1. The biggest problem with running in more 'traditional' shoes is that they can diminish sensory feedback from the mechanoreceptors of the foot to the brain.

These mechanoreceptors help in proprioception or notifying the body of where it is at and how it should be landing when it runs and then it adjusts our landing accordingly.

However with the big cushion that is placed on the bottom of the shoes and especially at the heel, these mechanoreceptors are not allowed to functioning properly and are ultimately turned off. 

This therefore, decreases muscle involvement, which creates weak foot musculature which can ultimately lead to injury.  


2. The arch support that is found in ALL traditional running shoes is interfering with the natural movement of the arch to flatten against the ground upon contact.

Manufacturers though have put a lovely little arch 'support' in to help keep your arch up.

This is not how we were made to run.

Upon ground contact our arch naturally tends to flatten towards the ground helping to disperse forces.  What is the result of too much arch support?

An alteration in the natural function of the foot and a weak arch.  

This leads to one of the most common running injuries: plantar fasciitis. 


3. They do not allow the toes to spread out as they naturally would when you are not wearing shoes, due to the limited room in the toe box.

Upon ground impact, your toes should splay out allowing your foot to stabilize itself and to help diminish the concentration of the impact forces.

Think of yourself doing a handstand. Your fingers would spread out over the ground to give you more balance and stability.

It is the same for the foot, except that in traditional running shoes, the toe box is much too small to allow the toes to properly splay out. 

This is especially bad news for the big toe as it is responsible for giving the foot the majority of its stabilization and balance. 


4. Since your toes are undergoing a certain amount of foot binding, this foot binding ultimately pushes your big toe joint out which eventually can cause bunions and a lot of the time very painful bunions.

Did you know that bunions are unheard of in barefoot populations?

If you do notice bunions forming, toe spacers and a more minimalist-styled running shoe  will help to spread those toes out and begin to straighten out your big toe to re-correct the bunion. 


5. The heels on running shoes contract and shorten the muscles in the back of the leg, namely the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

This shortening of the calf muscles causes the foot and ankle to increase its pronation.

This condition that is treated by prescribing even more cushioning, more motion control, more "shoe" and does not allow the foot to heel and return to its normal pre-injured state.


6. There is a large heel to toe drop.

Having a low heel-to-toe drop helps to align your knees, hips, lower back, giving you better posture.

It distributes your weight evenly, it helps you have better form which ultimately leads you to having less impact on your body.

It will help bring your Achilles tendon into play, strengthening it so as to protect it more from common Achilles injuries


Some problems associated with minimalist running shoes


1. Feet are exposed to more undesirable objects on the ground.

You need to get your feet used to sensing, feeling, adjusting and functioning as they were made to function.

When you take a pair of minimalist running shoes out on a run for the first time, you will notice the difference! You will be able to feel every little thing beneath your feet and that does take some getting used to.


2. You have to build strong feet in order to be able to run with a minimalist shoe.

As a runner though, who wouldn't want stronger feet?  You can do this by incorporating some freestyle foot moves to help build strength in your feet or by even just walking around the house barefoot!


3. It takes time to fully transition to running in more minimalist running shoes.

Having an injury-free body, better running form, running economy, and functionality is well worth the effort and time though!

 Read our tips on transitioning to minimalist shoes here and take action with our transitioning plan.


Alright! Let's talk about the best running shoes for men and women! Are you ready?!


Best Running Shoes for Men


Best Running Shoes for Men: Minimalist Edition

Best Running Shoes for Women


Best Running Shoes for Women: Minimalist Edition

What I currently run in

I love having a bit more cushion when running longer distances, particularly the marathon and so I usually opt for a pair of New Balance shoes with anywhere between a 4 to 8mm heel-to-toe drop. 

Currently I run longer distances (and especially out on gravel roads) in either:


For shorter runs, cross training/strength training workouts and track/speed work, I do really enjoy my Xero HFS Running Shoes! They are extremely comfortable for even just wearing out and about! The wide toe box is the best feature! 

However, I do have my eyes on the women's Brooks Ghost 13 running shoes because it's hard to ignore those stellar reviews! Maybe when one of the other running shoes has reached their mileage limit I'll switch to the Brooks!


sign up to Get the free Best running shoes for distance runners guide!
(Tips + List)

I compiled the best running shoes for men and women + included what to look for in a running shoe + shoe shopping tips into this free guide! Pop your email in the form box below & I will send it straight to you! 

.

In conclusion

Remember the goal of finding the best running shoes for you is pain-free-healthy running.

Maybe you aren't able to or don't want to go the minimalist shoe route.

That's ok.

You really need to base finding the best running shoes for you off of those questions that I gave you at the beginning of the page:

  • How big/chunky is the heel of the shoe?
  • Is there a lot of padding between the foot and the ground?
  • How wide is the toe-box?
  • Is there an arch support?
  • Is the length of the shoe big enough?
  • How flexible is the shoe?
  • Is the shoe lightweight?
  • Is it comfortable?

Only you can answer those questions at the right comfort level for yourself. 

From there, check out the options for the best running shoes for men and women. Read the reviews and order a couple pairs to try on.

If you are interested in more minimalist running shoes then I recommend first buying a pair of minimalist shoes just to wear around the house, or even start off with walking around barefoot at home to build and strengthen your natural foot function!  

What you do know is that you are going into the search of finding the best running shoes for yourself with the knowledge that you need! 

I'd love to hear what is your running shoe choice! You can always send a message to me by hitting the "Contact me" button in the top right section of the nav bar! :)



Pages Related to the Best Running Shoes

Supporting Articles

To finish up, feel free to also take a look at these articles that support a return to our natural running form and minimalist/barefoot running.

Why more cushioning in your shoes does not reduce injuries

Barefoot running may be better for you

Lose your shoes: is barefoot better?

To Run Better: Start by ditching your Nikes

Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?

Are running shoes a waste of money?

Minimalist Running Shoes - Dr. Nick Campetilli - video


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REFERENCES 

Chen, Chia-Hsiang, Kuan-Hua Tu, Chiang Liu, and Tzyy-Yuang Shiang. "Effects of Forefoot Bending Elasticity of Running Shoes on Gait and Running Performance." Human Movement Science 38 (2014): 163-72. Web.

D. Casey Kerrigan, Jason R. Franz, Geoffrey S. Keenan, Jay Dicharry, Ugo Della Croce, Robert P. Wilder. The Effect of Running Shoes on Lower Extremity Joint Torques. PM&R, 2009; 1 (12): 1058 DOI

"Dr. Craig Richards." Http://naturalrunningcenter.com/columnists/dr-craig-richards/. Natural Running Center, n.d. Web.

Ferber, Reed, Ph.D. "Running Stride Peak Forces Inversely Determine Running Economy in Elite Runners." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25.1 (2011): 117-23. Web.

Franz, Jason R., Corbyn M. Wierzbinski, and Rodger Kram. 2012. “Metabolic Cost of Running Barefoot versus Shod: Is Lighter Better?” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1519-1525.

Hodges, Adam. "Rethink Traditional Assumptions When Choosing Running Shoes © Alp Fitness  Alpinefitness.com. N.p., May 2013. Web. Jan. 2016.

Lorenz, D. S., and M. Pontillo. "Is There Evidence to Support a Forefoot Strike Pattern in Barefoot Runners? A Review." Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach 4.6 (2012): 480-84. Web.

McDougal, Christopher. 2011. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. New York: Vintage.

Richards, Craig E., Parker J. Magin, and Robin Callister. 2009. “Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence Based?” British Journal of Sports Medicine 43(3): 159-162.

Robbins, Steven E., and Adel M. Hanna. "Running-related Injury Prevention through Barefoot Adaptations." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 19.2 (1987): n. pag. Web.

Rossi, William A., D.P.M. "Why Shoes Make "Normal" Gait Impossible." Why Shoes Make "Normal" Gait Impossible. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.