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Road Running Shoes • May 16, 2024

Best Race Day Shoes for Running a Marathon (2024)

best race day shoes of 2024

We independently review everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

What You Need To Know

Winners

Our favorite race day shoes for running a marathon, right now

How We Choose

By running and racing in the shoes ourselves

Price Range

$220-$300

You’ve trained for months, maybe even longer. Early mornings in the dark, weekend long runs, countless gels and hydration mixes and probably a lot of sugar cravings. All for one day in the fall or spring, showing what you’re made of for 26.2 miles.

Sure, you could arrive at the start line in that pair of daily trainers (here’s our list of those shoes) that already have 350 miles on them. Or you could look good and feel great in a fresh pair of carbon-plated race day shoes, something that’s both a reward for hard work and a way to harness it all for its full potential. Are you gonna finish either way? Of course. But may as well give it your best shot.

That said, all race day shoes are not created equal. Some are meant for shorter distances, some say they’re meant for the marathon but are really meant for a half marathon (sorry, we love you On Cloudboom Echo 3, but we’re not Helen Obiri), while others just shouldn’t be on the feet of those giving it their best (not naming names, but IYKYK). 

on cloudboom echo 3 side

Great shoe, for a half marathon

The rest that make the cut are all pretty great, but there are some key differences that may affect what you want to put underfoot on race day. That’s why we’ll tell you why we love each shoe, but we’ll also tell you its best use-case and which running preference it’ll suit best.

adidas adizero adios pro evo 1 - feature

The ever-elusive Adidas Adizero Adios Evo Pro 1

This is our list for now, but check back often; we’ll be shuffling things around and updating it as more shoes become available (e.g., the Adidas Adios Pro 3 did not make this list because we’re ready for the next version, which is hopefully coming soon). We also didn’t include the lightest and most premium race shoe ever made (the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1) because it’s virtually impossible to get at the moment.

For reference, the following list is in alphabetical order, with no given preference to any shoe, though you can probably guess which ones are our favorites from the reviews.

Asics metaspeed paris - feature

Asics Metaspeed Edge/Sky Paris

$250

Watch The Review
Key Features

Flytefoam Turbo Plus midsole (Asics’ version of PEBA), Motionwrap 2.0 upper, ASICSGRIP outsole, different design for different runners

Weight

6.4 oz. (183 g) for a US M9 (unisex), both shoes

Stack Height/Drop

39.5 mm in heel, 34.5 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop), both shoes

The past versions of the Metaspeed Sky/Edge were quick and snappy but left a little bit to be desired in the comfort department. Asics listened and delivered with the Metaspeed Sky and Edge Paris, both named after the upcoming Olympics location.The Edge Paris, in particular, gets an extra 3.5 mm of foam in the midfoot, providing a softer landing than even the Sky Paris.

Both shoes feature FlyteFoam Turbo+, a Peba-style midsole material that is both super lightweight and ultra bouncy. While we think Asics should streamline the Metaspeed models into one shoe to eliminate any confusion, there is a difference between the two. While the Sky Paris features a flatter carbon-fiber plate and is aimed toward stride-based runners, we’ve found that it’s actually a bit more of a responsive shoe compared to the softer Edge Paris, which has that extra forefoot foam sitting above a levered, scoop-style plate. It’s gonna come down to personal preference, but whatever you choose, you can know that you’re getting an incredibly lightweight race day shoe that feels fantastic underfoot.

Shop The Sky Paris Shop The Edge Paris

diadora gara carbon - red brick wall

Diadora Gara Carbon

$300

Watch The Review
Key Features

Softer Anima PBX midsole, premium Matryx upper, carbon fiber plate

Weight

8.1 oz. (229 g) for a US M10/UK 9

Stack Height/Drop

39 mm in heel, 34 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)

We’re as surprised as you are that this shoe is on the list. In the past, Diadora has released some decent trainers that double as lifestyle shoes, but they could never seem to nail down the pure running shoe. That’s all changed in 2024, as Diadora has definitely upped their game to the same level as the heavy hitters. Nothing says that more than the Gara Carbon, a carbon-plated shoe with a Pebax midsole that excels on race day.

It’s bouncy, it’s light, and it’s fast. The Matryx upper may feature the most durable construction of any race day shoe. It also looks really good. The only downside? It’s $300. But if you’re looking for style in spades or something that will stand out on race day while still giving you premium performance, then the Gara Carbon may be your bello baby.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women

Hoka Cielo X1

$275

Watch The Review
Key Features

Two layers of Peba foam, smooth midsole rocker, winged carbon fiber plate, snug upper

Weight

9.3 oz. (264 g) for a US M10,

7.4 oz. (210 g) for a US W8

Stack Height/Drop

39 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (7 mm drop)

We weren’t sure what to think of this shoe when we first put it on our feet. We’re still not even sure. Is it a trainer, or is it a racing shoe? Or is it neither? We think it can be all things, depending on what you’re looking for. What we do know is that this is the most fun shoe that money can buy right now.

The accentuated rocker geometry paired with an ultra-high stack of Peba foam around a winged carbon fiber plate (whew, that’s a lot) gives this shoe a trampoline effect if there ever was one. It feels like you’re bounding along with little effort. The upper is also form-fitting and perfectly suited for the ride (even if we didn’t love the laces). Honestly, it feels like a unique shoe that puts Hoka back in the driver’s seat when it comes to cool running shoes. While we wouldn’t race super fast in this shoe, it could be a great choice for first-time marathoners.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women
blue teal and yellow hoka rocket x 2 on a wet sidewalk

Hoka Rocket X 2

$250

Watch The Review
Key Features

Solid stability with wide base, full Peba midsole, carbon fiber plate, rocker geometry, grippy zonal rubber outsole

Weight

8.3 oz. (236 g) for a US M10 / 6.7 oz. (190 g) for a US W8

Stack Height/Drop

36 mm in the heel, 31 mm in the forefoot (5 mm drop)

Not as extreme as the Cielo X1, but certainly more lightweight, the Rocket X 2 is another shoe with a quick turnover thanks to its rocker geometry. It also employs a full Peba midsole wrapped around a carbon fiber plate and has a solid layer of rubber for good grip on the roads. If you’re a fan of all those things and are looking for something that has a bounce and snap on toe-off, then you may want to consider this one. Added bonus: with one of the wider platforms on a race day shoe, it’s surprisingly stable underfoot.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women
mizuno wave rebellion pro 2

Mizuno Wave Rebellion Pro 2

$250

Key Features

Bouncy Mizuno Enerzy Lite+ midsole, carbon-infused plate

Weight

7.6 oz for a US M9, 6.3 oz for a US W7

Stack Height/Drop

39.5 mm in heel, 38 mm in forefoot (1.5 mm drop)

A rulebreaker if there ever was one, the Wave Rebellion Pro 2 actually has a midsole stack of more than 50 mm, and yet— it’s still street legal. That’s because of the angled geometry of the heel, making it only 39 mm where World Athletics (the governing body for pro marathoning) measures it. Of course, most of us reading this can wear anything we want and not get DQ-ed from a race. But if you wanna feel like a bad boy, then this is the way to go.

Obviously, the Enerzy Lite+ midsole provides a ton of cushion underfoot, but the aggressive plate structure within the midsole also provides a quick turnover and snappy feel. The outsole grip is also pretty solid for a race-day shoe, which is a sign of good things to come for Mizuno.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Men

New Balance SC Elite v4

$250

Watch The Review
Key Features

Wide and stable platform, carbon fiber plate, Fantomfit upper, reshaped Peba-based FuelCell midsole

Weight

9.3 oz. (263 g) for men’s 10.5, 7 oz (198 g) for W7.5

Stack Height/Drop

40 mm in heel, 36 mm in forefoot (4 mm drop)

Quite possibly the prettiest race day shoe out there, the SC Elite v4 brings the best of what New Balance has to offer altogether in a single package. Featuring a 100% Peba-based FuelCell midsole and a thinner, rippled carbon fiber plate, this shoe gives back some of the energy that the previous version sucked up with its softness.

With a wide platform, it’s one of the more stable race day options, and the Fantomfit upper is light and breathable and keeps the foot locked in place. The only downside to that security – it is one of the heavier race day options out there, but it may be worth it for the safety features alone.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women
nike alphafly 3 - feature

Nike Alphafly 3

$285

Watch The Review
Key Features

Atomknit 3.0 upper, widened carbon fiber plate, lightest Alphafly ever, integrated eye stays, upgraded Fast Shot outsole rubber

Weight

7.8 oz. (221 g) for a US M10.5,

5.8 oz. (164 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height/Drop

40 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

After a sophomore slump, the Alphafly returns to the glory of the original. The Atomknit 3.0 wraps the foot snugly while providing superior ventilation. It’s the lightest Alphafly ever and it feels like it. Because when it’s on, it’s a rocket headed for the moon, thanks to all the parts coming together.

Those parts include the continuous ZoomX midsole, which allows for a smoother transition than the decoupled heel and forefoot segments of the first two models. The combination of the carbon fiber plate and the dual Air Zoom units form a pop hit that even Taylor Swift would be envious of. It’s a can’t-miss shoe on race day, and with the new Volt colorway, it’ll be hard not to.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women
side of a pink and orange nike vaporfly next% 3 on a black table

Nike Vaporfly 3

$260

Watch The Review
Key Features

ZoomX midsole, breathable Flyknit upper, more padding in heel area, carbon fiber Flyplate, reliable outsole grip

Weight

7.2 oz. (204 g) for a US M10.5,
5.3 oz (150 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height/Drop

40 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

The one that started it all is still the one that can do it all. If you like a race day shoe that’s a straight shooter with all of the punch and none of the distractions, then the Vaporfly is what you want. I just wore it again last night for a workout, and it’s still my go-to for going fast. The Flyknit upper is just about perfect—it’s breathable, it looks fantastic, and the offset lacing locks down the foot as well as you could want. 

The ZoomX midsole and carbon fiber Flyplate are a match made in heaven, giving that perfect balance of cushion and responsiveness. I’ve also somehow taken this shoe out in the rain, from a 20-mile long run to a half marathon, and the grip and performance are both excellent. Turns out, it’s both a fair and foul-weather friend.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women

salomon white running shoe

Salomon S/Lab Spectur

$220

Watch The Review
Key Features

Dual-density midsole (Peba Energy Foam+ on top, EVA Energy Foam on bottom), full-length winged carbon fiber plate

Weight

8.3 oz. (232 g) for a US M8.5 (unisex)

Stack Height/Drop

38 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

There’s something about the S/Lab Spectur that we just love. Maybe it’s the luxurious upper fit. Maybe it’s the midsole sensation, which is both cushioned and responsive thanks to the dual layers of foam in the midsole (Peba Energy Foam+ on top, EVA Energy Foam on bottom) wrapped around a winged, carbon-infused plate.

Salomon designed this shoe for slower-paced marathoners (3:30 and slower) in an effort to provide more cushion and stability without sacrificing performance. We think they nailed it. This is the perfect shoe for going longer, both in time and distance, and we can’t think of a better shoe for a first-time marathoner looking to jump in the super shoe game. Plus, it’s the least expensive race day shoe out there, so you won’t totally drain the bank account (maybe just a little).

Shop The Shoe - Unisex

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4

$225

Watch The Review
Key Features

PWRRUN HG footbed wrapped in PWRRUN PB midsole, Super Responsive Sockliner, carbon fiber plate, Speedroll geometry, lattice outsole

Weight

8.3 oz. (232 g) for a US M8.5 (unisex)

Stack Height/Drop

38 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (8 mm drop)

When it comes to going faster, Saucony’s no dummy. They’re also not beholden to the latest fads and trends and chasing the next competitor. They basically know what they’re doing and apply it to race day shoes, which has been evident from version 1 of the Saucony Endorphin Pro. The fourth version of the shoe carries on that tradition, with a combo bed of PWRRUN PB and PWRRUN HG surrounding a winged carbon fiber plate. It’s not as firm as versions one and two, but seems to blend those versions with the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (also great). 

If you’re looking for something even more aggressive, then you should also check out the Saucony Endorphin Elite, which didn’t quite land with us, but is a cult favorite of other running shoe fans.

Shop The Shoe - Men Shop The Shoe - Women

How We Make Our Picks

All of our recommendations come directly from our feet to your screen. We test countless running shoes here at Believe in the Run, and we let our reviews guide our decisions. However, we also consider other reviews and our BITR community, as not every runner has the same experiences. We also aim to stick with shoes that are currently available so you can give our recommendations a try.

Want to learn more about how our review process works? Check out this guide.

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Authors

Thomas Neuberger
Founder
  • Strava
  • Instagram

As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’s goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be. 

More from Thomas
Shoe Size

10.5

Fav. Distance

26.2

PRs
  • 10:28

    50 Mile
  • 5:43

    50K
  • 3:20

    26.2
  • 1:36

    Half Marathon
Robbe Reddinger
Senior Editor
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

More from Robbe
Shoe Size

7.5

Fav. Distance

13.1

PRs
  • 3:27

    Marathon
  • 1:30

    Half-Marathon
  • 40:36

    10k
  • 19:17

    5K
meaghan nyc marathon
Meaghan Murray
Boss Lady
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.

More from Meaghan
Shoe Size

7.5

Fav. Distance

26.2

PRs
  • 2:45

    Marathon
  • 1:21

    Half Marathon
  • 18:51

    5K
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