The best super shoes for marathon running in 2024: Nike, Adidas, Hoka and more



Nike

The Boston Marathon is right around the corner so we’ve got running shoes on our mind. Whether you’ve just started training for a marathon or you’re gearing up for an upcoming race, you’ve probably heard some buzz (and controversy) about super shoes.

Featuring efficient geometry and advanced materials, these optimized running shoes have become so powerful that nine out of the ten fastest marathon times in history were achieved in a pair of super shoes.

Even if you’re not an elite competitor vying for a new world record, the best super shoes are fun to run in and can give you the boost you need to set a new personal best. So if you want to see what all the fuss is about, these are the best super shoes of 2024 to experience the benefits for yourself.


The best super shoes of 2024 to wear for your next marathon

From the perpetually sold-out Nike Alphafly 3 to the Adidas super shoe that dominated last year’s Boston Marathon, these are the best super shoes of 2024. Just check with the organizers of your upcoming marathon to make sure the pair you want isn’t banned.

Best super shoe overall: Nike Alphafly 3


Nike

The prototype of this Nike super shoe carried the late Kelvin Kiptum to his new world record fastest marathon time last year at the Chicago Marathon. So when the Nike Alphafly 3 first dropped earlier this year, it was no surprise to see it sell out instantly. Each new colorway that has dropped since has sold out just as quickly.

Fortunately, you can find the coveted super shoe available for resale on StockX.

Now, what makes the Nike Alphafly 3 such a covet-worthy running shoe? It takes every element a super shoe should have and optimizes it to add that much more propulsive power.

Where many carbon-plated shoes have a flat plate, the Alphafly 3 adds a gentle curve to help your foot transition smoothly from heel to toe. Nike’s signature ZoomX foam cushions each impact while being lightweight and springy enough that you can bounce into your next stride. The Air Zoom units built into that foam add even more bounce to your step.

It’s everything a super shoe should be and priced to match. The regular retail price on the Nike Alphafly 3 is $285 and you might end up paying above $300 on StockX. But it’s an investment that will pay off. These are PB-breaker shoes.

Top features of the Nike Alphafly 3:

  • The full-length carbon plate is curved for a smoother transition.
  • ZoomX foam with built-in Air Zoom units offers a lightweight and springy feel that propels you forward.
  • The tall stack of foam cushions impact for a comfortable run.


$285 at Nike


$300 and up at StockX


Best super shoe for stability: Hoka Rocket X 2


Hoka

Debuting last year, the Hoka Rocket X 2 is the brand’s most advanced super shoe yet. Like the Alphafly 3, it offers a curved carbon fiber plate for smooth transitions. On top of that, you get thick, supportive foam that balances springiness with comfort for a cushy ride.

The breathable mesh upper and internal midfoot cage is designed to hug your foot for added support and stability as you run. That’s a feature you’ll appreciate in those last few miles as your stride gets a little wobbly from exhaustion.

While it’s a little bulkier than the Nike Alphafly 3, it’s a worthy tradeoff for the cushier feel underfoot if you tend to experience foot fatigue or pain when running marathon distances.

Get a pair at Hoka for $250.

Top features of the Hoka Rocket X 2:

  • A curved carbon fiber plate makes for a smooth transition from heel to toe.
  • The tall stack of Hoka’s signature cushioning is plush and bouncy to enhance both comfort and speed.
  • Foot-hugging construction helps add stability.


$250 at Hoka


Best super shoe for beginners: Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3


Adidas

For all their benefits, super shoes can be a bit stiff, mostly as a result of that carbon fiber plate that’s acting like a springboard to propel you forward. While it can boost your speed, it takes some getting used to and can feel a little unstable at first.

To get a feel for running in super shoes so you can take full advantage of them come race day, we recommend starting with a pair of Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3.

Rather than the plate most super shoes have, the Adizero Adios Pro 3 has two carbon fiber rods running through the length of the midsole. Designed to resemble the metatarsals in your foot, the purpose of using rods rather than a full plate is to allow for more natural movement of your foot.

This slightly more flexible carbon fiber technology is easier to get used to and still offers plenty of explosive speed.

Built for distance, this super shoe also offers an extra wide base that flares out on either side of your foot to keep you stable. That and the tall stack of responsive foam will keep you comfortable through every mile of your next marathon.

Get the comfortable super shoes directly from Adidas for $250.

Top features of the Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3:

  • Carbon fiber rods, rather than a traditional plate, allow for more flexibility and natural foot movement than most super shoes.
  • A wider base adds stability and comfort for long-distance running.
  • Two layers of responsive foam cushion impact and add a little bounce to each step.


$250 at Adidas


Best super shoe for trails: Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2


Salomon

Whether you’re gearing up for an ultra marathon or you’ve just chosen a marathon that includes some stretches of unpaved roads or forest trails, you need a super shoe that’s built for the terrain. While most super shoes are designed for road racing, Salomon has created the Pulsar Trail Pro 2 to bring all those speed-boosting benefits of super shoes to the trail.

Our favorite trail-specific feature is the 3.5 mm rubber lugs on the outsole. They’re deep enough to grip rocky or uneven terrain but not so deep that they would slow you down on a paved road. Another feature you’ll appreciate on the trail is the stretchy, fitted collar that keeps debris out while adding a little extra support around the ankle.

As for the super shoe technology, the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2 includes a carbon fiber plate through the midsole, a layer of the brand’s bouncy Energy Foam and a rocker midsole. Taken together, those features deliver an energy-efficient design that allows your foot to transition smoothly from heel to toe and then pop forward at the toe-off.

Combining that pop with the grip and stability you need to navigate trails is no easy feat, but we think Salomon has done it with this running shoe.

Get the trail-ready super shoe from Salomon for as low as $120 (reduced from $160).

Top features of the Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro 2:

  • A grippy outsole provides enough traction for dirt, gravel and other off-road conditions.
  • Carbon fiber plate technology gives you the propulsive boost you’re looking for in a super shoe.
  • Salomon’s Energy Foam balances pop with plush shock absorption to protect your feet from rough terrain.

Shop men’s sizes:


$160 at Salomon

Shop women’s sizes:


$120 and up at Salomon


More top-rated super shoes for marathon running


What are super shoes?

While an official definition doesn’t exist, super shoes generally refer to running shoes with carbon fiber plates, ultra-responsive foam and other design elements that help you run faster while exerting less effort as you go.

The biggest benefit of super shoe technology is energy efficiency. The propulsive plate and bouncy foam propel you that much further on each toe-off than you would in a standard pair of running shoes. In short, running faster feels easier.

Another perk of the typically tall stack height of bouncy foam found in super shoes is more shock absorption. With that, your feet and joints aren’t getting worn down by the impact of each footfall as quickly as they would in running shoes with thinner soles.

What are the disadvantages of super shoes?

The biggest tradeoff you make when buying super shoes is in lifespan. While those carbon plates and extra springy foam materials work great fresh out of the box, they gradually lose their responsiveness with every step as the foam compresses and the plate stretches.

While a standard running shoe can usually last for about 500 miles, super shoes can wear out in as little as 100 miles. That’s about four marathons assuming you only wear them on race day and not for training.

On the bright side, worn-out super shoes can still serve as a perfectly average pair of everyday running shoes once they lose their propulsive power. So you can downgrade your racing shoes to daily trainers or recovery shoes once they’re no longer super enough to be called super shoes.

Are super shoes illegal for racing?

The speed boost that runners get from a pair of super shoes is so significant that some races have banned specific models of these high-powered running shoes. There’s no comprehensive list of banned super shoes as every race has its own guidelines, so you’ll need to check with the organizers of your next marathon to find out which running shoes, if any, aren’t allowed.

With that said, these rules generally apply to elite runners who are competing for first place. If you’re running a marathon just for fun and have no intentions of placing first (or even tenth), you’re probably fine. 




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