Marathoners, long-distance runners, and frequent runners ask a lot from their shoes. Not only must they be comfortable, but they should also be able to withstand high-impact movements and protect you from potential running-related injuries.
What complicates things is that every runner is different in terms of their individual running style, foot shape, and pronation (the way your foot naturally bends while walking/running). Hence, finding the best waterproof running shoes involves knowing your running style and which shoe features best accommodate it.
Thankfully, there is a lot of pre-existing and ongoing research about the role of footwear in running biomechanics and its implications for running-related injuries and performance. Using this information, we can easily shortlist some of the best running shoes for marathoners.
But first thing’s first, let’s understand the specific features that determine whether or not a shoe is appropriate for running.
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Marathon Shoes Buying Guide
What is so unique about high-mileage running shoes? Why can’t you simply throw on the same run-of-the-mill shoes you wear every other day?
The answer is simple: running, whether long or short-distance, is a highly specialized activity.
Accordingly, the shoes that you wear while running must be specialized as well. You need just the right balance of support, comfort, cushioning, and traction. Even the sizing of the shoe differs significantly from non-running shoes.
Let’s take a look at some of these factors in more detail.
The most profound difference between running and non-running shoes is cushioning. Cushioning is an umbrella term for all the shock-absorbing features of a shoe, typically residing in the midsole. Since running is such a high-impact activity, the cushioning in your shoes protects your feet, ankles, legs, and back each time your foot strikes the ground.
However, too much cushioning might also be an issue.
Various studies suggest that super-cushioned, maximalist shoes actually increase the chances of injury. The reasoning behind this finding is that the cushioning interferes with our feet’s natural spring-like mechanism and turns them into shock absorbers instead.
Still, inexperienced marathoners can benefit from medium-to-high cushioned running shoes. But as you bag more miles, you should start relying less on excessive cushioning and more on your foot’s natural protective mechanism. The only safe way to do this is by honing your running form and technique.
Size and Fit
The fit of a running shoe affects not only your performance but also joint and muscle health.
As most runners learn at one point, long-distance running causes your feet to swell. If your shoes have a snug fit, there won’t be any space to accommodate your inflamed feet.
When it comes to running shoes, the rule of thumb is that you should go for a size that is slightly larger than your day shoe. Specifically, you should leave a thumb’s width worth of space between your largest toe and the tip of the toe box.
The outsole refers to the part of the shoe that comes into direct contact with the ground and provides traction.
Hence, you must consider the material and tread pattern of the outsole to maximize your performance and prevent injuries.
When it comes to the material of the outsole, polyurethane (PU) soles are the gold standard. PU is durable, breathable, water-resistant, and well-suited to most terrains.
On the other hand, tread preferences differ from runner to runner based on their running surface. Since marathon runners stick to concrete surfaces or treadmills, they don’t require deep, heavy grooves. But if you like to occasionally train in the great outdoors, jagged treads will keep you sure-footed.
The material of the shoe upper will influence your comfort level while you're on a long-distance run.
As such, your shoes must be breathable and water-resistant.
Breathability refers to how much air or water vapor can escape from inside the shoe, keeping your feet fresh and dry. Knit sneakers, as opposed to sewn sneakers, remain undefeated in terms of breathability.
Similarly, waterproof running shoes keep your feet dry, comfortable, and fresh. Hence, come rain or shine, waterproof running shoes will help you stay on top of your training.
Also read: The 5 Chunky Sneakers You Should Look for in 2022
Top 10 Long Distance Running Shoes for Beginners
Here are the best marathon running shoes to keep you comfortable and safe until the finish line.
1. Loom waterproof running shoes
Whether you’re training for a marathon or getting your daily cardio in, Loom waterproof running shoes will keep you sure-footed and strong-strided. These knit sneakers are comfortable through and through, with a soft Merino-wool-lined interior, a waterproof exterior, form-fitting flexibility, and lightweight construction.
But this comfort doesn’t come at the expense of performance. On the contrary, Loom waterproof running shoes can take on any terrain, with non-marking slip-resistant outsoles and an extensive yet lightweight cushioning system.
2. ASICS Gel-Nimbus Lite 3
ASICS is a long-time frontrunner in the running shoes game, and its proprietary cushioning technology, Gel, carries most of the load. The Gel-Nimbus Lite 3 is among the most popular iteration for long-distance runners.
Despite its Gel-reinforced cushioning, these shoes are surprisingly lightweight, thanks to strategic cushioning and FlyteFoam insole material.
The light weight of these shoes makes a world of difference for high-mileage runs, taking the load off your legs, so your form doesn’t suffer.
3. New Balance Fresh Foam 880 V12
The Fresh Foam 880 V12 offers anything you can ask from a workhorse sneaker. It features moderate cushioning, high durability, effective shock absorption, and a snug fit.
The upper is especially accommodating for wider feet and expands comfortably with increasing foot swelling. And while this version might not be the lightest, it won’t weigh you down on long-distance runs.
But the star of the show is the titular Fresh Foam cushioning, featuring a dual-layer midsole. Hence, the cushioning strikes the perfect balance between shock absorption and springiness.
4. Brooks Levitate 4
True to its name, the Brooks Levitate 4 makes you feel like you’re walking on air.
The Levitate 4 running shoes are notoriously springy, thereby accommodating and supplementing the natural motion of your feet. Moreover, they come with a removable insole which you can easily replace with a customized orthotic. As such, the Levitate 4 is great for preventing injuries when you hit double-digit mileage.
Moreover, these waterproof running shoes are as appropriate for rugged and sloppy terrains as they are for paved concrete roads.
5. Hoka One One Clifton 8
The running community has nothing but praise for the Hoka One One Clifton 8. The waterproof running shoes are extremely supportive and stabilizing, earning them a stamp of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
Designed for neutral runners, the Clifton 8 accommodates a variety of foot shapes and pronation. Their ample arch support stabilizes your gait and prevents strain, soreness, fatigue, and other ugly symptoms of long-distance running.
However, the heavy-duty cushioning is more suitable for beginners than experienced runners.
6. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
The Pegasus 38 is among the lightest versions of Nike’s Pegasus series, second only to the recently-released Peg 39.
With extensive cushioning, unparalleled durability, and maximum performance, there’s no doubt the Peg 38 upholds and honors its namesake, the legendary Pegasus. The shoes offer a responsive ride, adding strength to each stride and making it easier to hold form.
Rest assured, these timeless shoes will keep you sure-footed even when you’ve been running for hours.
7. Altra Torin 6
If you’re a beginner looking for easy-riding neutral running shoes, the Altra Torin 6 is the perfect choice. These plush, lightweight, and roomy shoes offer something for every runner.
The midsoles feature Altra’s EgoMax cushioning technology, creating a smooth and responsive ride. Hence, the shoes are not only suitable for tough miles but also for hikes and treks through mountainous terrain.
Moreover, the mesh lining on the interior keeps your shoes ventilated and feet fresh as you pack on the miles.
8. On Cloudstratus
Cloudstratus is one of On’s most well-cushioned shoes, rendering it the perfect footwear choice for first-time marathoners. Thanks to its dynamic cushioning mechanism and unique outsole construction, the Cloudsratus propels you across the finish line with relative ease.
With double the Cloud technology coupled with a full-length Speedboard outsole, the Cloudstratus easily one-ups other iterations in On’s Cloud series. The double CloudTech softens your landings while the Speedboard springs you forward, thus creating a smooth yet powerful ride.
With that said, the Cloudstratus’s extreme cushioning can be a bit overkill for experienced runners.
9. Karhu Ikoni
The importance of proper fitting can’t be overstated when it comes to running shoes. The Karhu Ikoni acknowledges this sentiment and uses 3D foot scans to create an anatomically-correct fit.
The result is a wide toe box, thin yet flexible tongue, and a snug fit around the heels and ankles for maximum support and stability.
Moreover, the AeroFoam midsole provides just enough shock absorption to protect your joints while also driving you forwards.
10. Mizuno Wave Rider 25
When you’re aiming for double-digit mileage, you need both protection and propulsion. While many running shoes often compromise on one for the other, the Wave Rider 25 by Mizuno strikes the perfect balance between the two.
First the Enerzy foam midsole cushions your landing with every foot strike. Then, the embedded Mizuno Wave plate disperses the impact from heel to toe, allowing you to push forward without putting in extra energy.
Moreover, these knit shoes are highly breathable, keeping your feet fresh and comfortable throughout your run.
When it comes to running footwear, there is no “one size fits all” shoe. Instead, each runner must consider their running style, foot shape, and personal preferences to find the best waterproof running shoes for them.
If you’re a beginner, shoes with medium-to-high cushioning are a good place to start. But as you continue to train, focus on improving your form and technique to avoid becoming over-reliant on your footwear.
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