Marathon Running Shoes

Picking out the right marathon running shoes is a very individual decision. I’ve worn everything from 13-ounce trainers to 8-ounce flats and I’ve had very different experiences with each shoe. I’ve detailed these experiences below and hope that helps you choose the right marathon running shoes for your event.

I’ve read many rules of thumb and other buying guidelines that each hold a kernel of merit. But the bottom line is that you should choose the shoe that’s most comfortable for you. For example, if you use a stability shoe for training, a racing flat could cause a significant amount of pain or injury because it will lack the support that you’re used to. Another factor is body weight. I weigh approximately 155 pounds and by wearing an 8-ounce racing flat in the 2008 Boston Marathon (as you’ll read below), I sacrificed a lot of cushion which my quadriceps had to absorb. Yes, it’s true that shoe weight can be a considerable factor in performance for a 26.2 mile race…but make sure that you find the happy medium between comfort and performance.

Below is a comparison of three different types of running shoes that I’ve worn over the course of my last 12 marathons:

Marathon Running Shoe #1:
The Nike Air Pegasus

I’ve worn this shoe for three of my marathons and it’s a good choice as a light-weight trainer. It would not be my first choice if I wanted to PR, but it would definitely be my first choice for a comfortable marathon shoe for leg comfort and decent racing performance. At just over 11 ounces (+ 28), the Nike Air Pegasus provides a very good mix of cushion and support for a neutral-footed runner that is looking for a lighter performance trainer.

Marathon Running Shoe #2:
The New Balance 833
(replaced by the NB 825)

I really liked this shoe! I’ve run 4 of my 9 marathons in them and my current PR is in the 833s. At 10 ounces, it’s a trainer / racing flat that’s good for 400-500 miles, yet still has enough cushion for a 26.2 mile race. It’s an ideal choice for the small to medium frame runner that’s looking to shave a couple of minutes off of their marathon time without sacrificing too much in leg discomfort. The NB 825 is said to be more durable that the NB 833 which makes it an even more attractive shoe. I’ll likely be running my 10th marathon in the NB 825s.

Marathon Running Shoe #3:
The Nike Air Zoom Marathoner

I used this shoe for the 2008 Boston Marathon and have a twinge of regret. This shoe is a great performance shoe. However, at 8 ounces, it lacked the cushion that my 155 pound body needed for 26.2 miles. I desperately wanted to shave minutes off my PR for Boston, but I really felt those couple ounces less of cushion on the up and down hills. I’ll definitely wear these shoes for ½ marathons and shorter races, and I’m sure that they are an ideal shoe for the 120-pound runners out there, but they came up short for me. Take my experiences for what they’re worth. I got blinded by a marathon shoe-weight mathematical formula…where I should have focused on a few less bowls of ice cream ;-)!

Whatever marathon running shoe that you chose, get it well before your race so that you can wear it for multiple workouts. Try them on a long run, a tempo run, and a hill workout. Marathon race day is an awful time to try out new shoes and get surprised. And don’t panic if the new shoes cause a few blisters or minor skin rubs. I’ve had this experience with many new shoes and it just takes a few dabs of Vaseline and extra calluses to get my feet & shoes better acquainted. Best of luck!

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