Best Running Shoes for Ultra Marathons – 2024 Guide
Running an ultra marathon is a unique challenge requiring not just mental toughness but also the right footwear. With extreme distances from 50K to 100 miles across difficult terrain, choosing optimal running shoes can make or break your race day performance and comfort.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to consider from fit, cushioning, stability, durability and more when selecting the best running shoes for your next ultra marathon.
- 1 Demands of Ultra Marathon Running
- 2 Reviews: Best Ultra Marathon Running Shoes
- 3 Choosing the Right Fit
- 4 Prepping Shoes & Feet Pre-Race
- 5 When to Replace Ultra Running Shoes
- 6 Choosing the Best Ultra Marathon Running Shoes
Demands of Ultra Marathon Running
When running beyond the traditional 26.2 mile marathon, your shoes will be put through a grueling test over endless miles of high impact while carrying all your weight. So what do you need from a quality ultra marathon running shoe?
Cushioning and Shock Absorption
With 5x more repetitive foot strikes pounding down over 50-100 mile races than a road marathon, ample cushioning and shock attenuation is essential to prevent impact injuries to joints and tissues.
Lightweight and Breathable
Traversing up and down hills and technical trails for prolonged periods demands highly breathable uppers and lightweight overall designs to keep feet cool while not weighing you down.
Grip and Traction
Varying terrain from mud to rocks means outsoles need deep lugs and durable compounds for traction without excess slippage to avoid falls or instability.
Guarding against bruising trails, the best shoes have protective toe caps, rock plates, and solid constructions to protect feet from repeated blows.
Stability and Structure
With swelling, pronation changes and form adjustments over 50+ miles, stable arch support, structured midsoles and medial posts add control for injury prevention.
Reviews: Best Ultra Marathon Running Shoes
Here are our top picks across categories considering all key criteria for top ultra marathon performance:
Best Overall: Saucony Peregrine 12
Balancing lightweight speed and protection, the Peregrine 12 shines start to finish with its breathable mesh upper, flexible rock plate, and 5mm lugs chewing up technical miles.
Most Cushioned: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
Hoka’s meta-rocker midsole provides soft, responsive cushioning while reinforced uppers and Vibram outsoles offer protection from roots and rocks across ultras.
Most Durable: Altra Lone Peak 6
Known for its cushioning and grip, Altra updates the Lone Peak 6 with durable ripstop mesh, a reinforced toe bumper, and MAXTrac outsoles that stand up to any distance.
Best Stability: Brooks Cascadia 16
Providing structured support ideal for overpronators, the Cascadia 16 delivers mile after mile with its stable guiderails, grippy outsole, and rugged waterproof upper.
Best for Technical Trails: Salomon Sense Ride 4
Aggressive 6mm lugs handle the most rugged terrain as Energy Surge foam and integrated rock plates protect feet across rocky miles.
Best for Road-to-Trail: ON Cloudultra
The Cloudultra brings road-inspired cushioning from its unique CloudTec pods to handle pavement and trails withprotection from its durable grippy rubber wrapping the length of the shoe.
Choosing the Right Fit
Beyond flexibility, cushioning, and protection also consider:
Choose drainage ports, protective membranes or materials, reflectivity and possible spikes based on heat, rain, night running segments.
Determine pronation control, toe box width, and arch height needs through gait analysis to properly support your foot biomechanics especially with form changes over long distances.
Factor personal fit likes and dislikes around upper materials, lacing styles, padding, rigidity through the midsole and outsole. No blister risks!
Prepping Shoes & Feet Pre-Race
Set your ultra shoes and feet up for success on race day:
- Break shoes in across multiple long runs before race to allow proper adjustment to contours.
- Select moisture wicking socks that eliminate friction while not being overly thick underfoot.
- Fully inspect outsoles and uppers to confirm durable, debris-free state before the ultra.
- Consider aftermarket insoles better suited to your orthotics needs.
- Trim and file toenails and use protective toe sleeves / lubricants to minimize black nails.
- Apply waterproofing sprays to boost water resistance if wet conditions expected.
When to Replace Ultra Running Shoes
With heavy pounding across long distances, monitor shoe wear closely:
- Ideally replace at 300-500 miles – though highly dependent on runner, conditions, model.
- Inspect tread wear, examining lug depth, exposed midsole.
- Assess midsole responsiveness – compression indicates cushioning degradation.
- Watch for collapsing, creased or separated segments in upper materials.
Rotate between 2-3 pairs to extend overall life across training cycles leading up to key ultra races.
Choosing the Best Ultra Marathon Running Shoes
Testing ultra marathon shoes requires determining the right balance of lightweight versatility, protective sturdiness, and responsive cushioning to meet your specific foot shape, gait, and race conditions.
Prioritize models meeting pronation control needs that offer ample breathable coverage cushioning high impact zones without overly stability compromising sensitivity and ground feel across long distances.
I am an accomplished footwear blogger with a keen eye for style and a passion for shoes. My deep-rooted love affair with footwear began at a young age when I would spend hours perusing shoe stores, admiring the intricate designs and imagining the stories they could tell.