You’re training for your upcoming triathlon season and you need a new pair of running shoes. Buying the right pair of triathlon shoes for training and racing if you use different shoes is just as important as buying a wetsuit or bike.
After swimming and biking, you’ll want a pair of shoes that will support your feet and doesn’t feel too heavy.
In this guide, I’ll discuss training versus racing shoes, how to buy shoes, and review the top ten shoes for triathlon training and racing.
Best Triathlon Running Shoes in 2020
BEST ALL-AROUND TRIATHLON SHOES
|Hoka One One Carbon X|
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FASTEST TRIATHLON SHOES
|Nike ZoomX VaporFly NEXT%|
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BEST MAXIMAL CUSHION
|Hoka One One Clifton 6|
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BEST EVERYDAY TRAINER
|Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36|
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BEST FOR BEGINNERS
|Brooks Ghost 12|
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Best Racing Running Shoes for Triathlon
1. Hoka One One Carbon X
The Hoka One One is a lightweight and a maximally cushioned shoe. The Carbon X is chunky-looking shoes with the newest technologies and extra cushioning to give you a fully supported run.
The shoes aren’t all fluff and no muscle.
The shoe has a carbon fiber plate that is located closest to the outsole or ground. This ensures that all the shock and bumps in the roads are absorbed in the carbon fiber. So your legs, knees, and ankles don’t feel the vibrations. It helps your legs stay fresh and can power you every step of the run.
The fit is perfect. The wide mid midsole is made for those who have wide feet. Or those whose feet swell a lot during their runs. It will support your feel and offers a stable, big base you can’t miss.
Why does this shoe almost look like platform sneakers?
It’s the technology between the insole and the outsole. Of course, there is the carbon fiber plate just above the outsole. But before getting to the insole you also have a layer called “Profly” and another called “X” which has an Eva compound that is resilient and sits right above the carbon fiber plate.
Triathletes who have bought the shoe didn’t do it for its looks. They did it for the shoe’s technology and how they felt during and after their runs. The rubber sole with the carbon fiber plate gives them a stable base to last for 50+ mile runs and long days in the shoes. This would be a good choice for those who are marathon runners. Many runners and triathletes can train for long-distance races easily since their legs and feet are rarely sore after a long workout. The one drawback is the weight. After a while, it becomes a “chore” to pick up such a chunky-looking shoe.
I recommend this to anyone who needs a lot of support for their feet, legs, and back.
2. Nike ZoomX VaporFly Next%
Nike updated it’s Vapor Fly to be more breathable and relieve any pain you might experience on the top of your feet. And, the shoe can be worn anywhere since there is better traction than its predecessors.
The shoe still has all the technologies similar to Nike’s Zoom Fly Flyknit, but with some technologies that will help you push (4%) harder and make you go (4%) faster.
Nike used feedback from top athletes such as marathon runners and Kona qualified triathletes to make this an all-around shoe for distance and fast runners.
The biggest technology improvement, especially for triathletes, is the increased traction, which will be able to take on any terrain. And, it makes the shoe more versatile for those who like to go on trails to break up the monotony of training.
The upper part of the shoe uses a material that mimics a sailclove (Vapor Weave) that is supposed to be more breathable and flexible. This would be useful since your feet swell, a little while exercising. It will make running long distances more comfortable and your feet won’t hurt.
To keep your legs feeling fresh, Nike increased the support in the midsole, which doesn’t compromise the weight of the shoe. The added support is to help your legs stay and feel strong during the run. This might be especially important for those who race Ironman triathlons. You know your legs are already tired from the bike so having a little more support at the start of the run would be welcome.
And, for those whose heels feel stiff after the bike, the Achilles heel now has a foam pad, which is for relief purposes.
As with other high-end Nike shoes, this one has a full-length carbon fiber for increased stiffness and support. This would be important for those who are going the distance and sometimes over different terrains. You want the shoe to absorb most of the shock and bumps in the road.
Triathletes who have bought the shoe like it because it is lightweight. And the added midsole support is great for those who feel like they need more cushion in the middle or even end of the run. The traction is great for the shoes. Most triathletes feel that they can trust the shoe in the wettest conditions. Or, if they want to go on a trail run they can do so.
I recommend this shoe for those who need support for their whole foot instead of just parts. This shoe will cushion and aid you as you make your way to the finish line.
3. HOKA One One Clifton 6
If you’re a middle-distance, this might be a good option for you. It’s supportive, comfortable, yet light and speedy.
Triathletes have experienced neutral stability with a moderate amount of cushioning while running in these shoes.
The shoe’s sole is made of EVA foam and rock-like geometry. The foam offers soft and responsive feel to the shoe while the rock-like geometry helps propel you forward. The rock-like geometry also helps absorb some shock which makes your run smoother.
The shoe’s outer sole is also made of EVA foam with some rubber where it is most needed.
The shoe’s upper is made of breathable mesh but doesn’t let any gravel or dust particles penetrate the shoe.
Above the shoe’s mesh, there are overlays, which are thin straps on the base of the shoe (mid-sole). These overlays are placed to give the shoe more structure
In terms of fit, the shoe fits identical to its predecessor. The heel is securely fitted with room in the toe box for most foot widths.
Many triathletes recommended it because the shoe is very versatile due to its cushioning and neutral stability. Personally, I think it’s better suited for middle-distance, I have friends who do Ironman training and even competing in them.
4. Saucony Kinvara 11
The Saucony Kinvara 11, while a well-cushioned and lightweight, gives you the support for your training runs. This shoe is designed for short and middle distances triathletes since it gives your whole foot support.
Saucony uses its PWRRUN top sole construction technology to give you the most energy returns and constant support on your runs. The FORMIT technology will give you contoured footbed, making the shoe versatile for any foot.
Saucony also incorporates engineered mesh to support your foot and give it room to breathe during your run. All while supporting your foot.
This shoe is a good option for short and middle distance triathletes and especially for ones who have neutral pronation.
Generally, I’d recommend this shoe for those who are training for their first triathlon. You can use it in a race as well. For longer distances, I might say this shoe would be good for training and you might need a different shoe for racing.
5. Zoot Ultra TT
Zoot teamed up with Danny Abshire, the world’s leading shoe guru and industry veteran, to create a running shoe specifically for triathletes.
The shoe made its debut at Kona in 2019 and has sold through a limited number of vendors.
The shoe has boasted reviews of being lightweight, supportive, and responsive. The shoe even has Tri-Dry Drainage holes that drain out the water faster than other shoes. This reduces the chance of blisters and keeps the shoe weight down.
The shoe has “Tri-Mechanics” which makes the shoe have a responsive feel and has a quick turnover. The shoe also has features that make transitions even easier and faster. The shoe has elastic laces and heel and tongue loopholes which helps the shoe slip on.
On the inside of the shoe, the foam is firm yet responsive to give shock absorption during your runs. This gives runners a stable and cushioned feel on their feet. For added protection and support, the heel and toe areas have extra cushioning
The outsole of the shoe has a rubber compound that has a high rebound rate. And, this is complemented with a unique tread pattern to create a cushion for your feet. And to make further complement and support the outsole, it was created with a midfoot stabilizer which gives you a balanced feeling.
Triathletes who have bought this pair of shoes like it because it has enough support to keep their feet healthy but light so they can keep their average mile pace down. And, at the end of a long race, their feet don’t feel like lead. The added bonus is the elastic laces and tongue and heel loopholes, these are just a few details that make racing easier. Especially since there is already so much to think about during a race. Triathletes rarely get blisters because the shoe drains the water well and most can still get away without wearing any socks.
I highly recommend this shoe to anyone who is looking for a shoe that will reduce blisters, not retain water, and is light and supportive.
6. Asics Noosa FF 2
Asics designed this shoe with a triathlete in mind and sets it apart from other running shoes you can choose. This shoe goes on quickly, for a smooth transition, provides sock-less comfort, and are light and supportive.
For this model, Asics uses their WET Grip Rubber outsole technology which helps you grip the surface. This might give you more assurance that you can race and train even on the wettest days of the season.
Asics’ FlyteFoam technology also sets it apart from other shoes. This feature helps give you great energy returns for long runs and quick bursts near the end of your races. FlyFoam also helps keep the shoe light and reactive.
I’d recommend this shoe for long-distance triathletes for its grip technology and FlyteFoam to give you an extra boost on your long runs and races. If you want a shoe that is lightweight and efficient, check out this option. You might be happy with it.
Best Training Running Shoes
1. Nike Zoom Pegasus 36
Nike’s Feather-light Flymesh shoe technology gives the middle of your foot and arch support. While the heel is turned away to let your Achilles breath.
This shoe is great for an entry-level triathlete running on any terrain. The shoe’s waffle-inspired outsole provides grip on any surface.
Half Ironman to full Ironman triathletes might pick this shoe for its support without sacrificing speed. Of course, if you need a shoe that supports the middle of your foot, then this shoe would be an option- no matter your distance.
I’d recommend this shoe for middle to long distance triathletes who want a supportive shoe without the added weight.
2. Brooks Ghost 12
The Brooks Ghost 12 is a shoe that is a good option for trainers or racer shoes. It is light and supports neutral gaited feet with a dependable upper. The shoe weighs 12 oz which is considerably lighter than its predecessors. But, it is still heavier compared to other shoe brands.
Compared to the Brooks Ghost 11 this one is less harsh on the foot and has a softer toe bumper so your toes won’t feel squished and you’re less likely to get blisters. The new version also has a more flexible upper which makes toe offs. And, finally, the shoe has a deeper mid foot cavity which is more comforting and supportive to some runners out there.
The upper part of the shoe is made with wide mesh holes that let your feet breathe during the run and they’re less likely to get super sweaty. Although, they will get a little sweaty from all the hard work you’re doing.
The shoe’s midfoot has a pattern of 3D Fit Print which doesn’t squeeze your foot too much but also provides ample structure and support for you.
The midsole is stiff and is supposed to cater to neutral gaited runners. But some found it frustrating that there were so many features that were too light and there wasn’t enough support in some places. Depending on your feet, you might find the midsole to be too stiff for you.
Other runners have noted that the heel is very firm for those who identify as heel strikers but for others, there was too much support in that part of the shoe. Some think it would be nice to have more flexibility in the sole and lose some weight in the heel.
The shoe’s outsole was created with a lot of rubber which is great for traction on slippery surfaces. Some runners feel that the grooves help soften the shock from the road and make their runs more comfortable and flexible. However, some notice that the rubber doesn’t cover the entire midsole and is cut short at the sides.
On the road, triathletes say that the shoe lacks a lot of bounce and a propelling feeling like other racing shoes. And, some even report that the shoe feels stiff especially in the heel. And, most report that the shoe wasn’t especially soft or stiff; it just was a middle ground shoe. It doesn’t stick out as something spectacular, but it works for some who don’t need all the bells and whistles.
Triathletes who have bought the shoes like them because they actually look good aesthetically. Most running shoes look too chunky or the coloring isn’t what they’re looking for. For walking around, the shoe is very comfortable and it has a very breathable upper which is a nice touch. The runners have some issues with the shoe such as being heavier than other racing shoes that they could have bought. And, the heel is very inflexible which is only good for people who are heel strikers.
I recommend this shoe as a training or walking shoe. If you are a heel striker these shoes would be a good option to consider.
3. Saucony Freedom 3
Saucony Freedom 3 upgraded itself from its previous model with PWRRUN+ midsole which is 25% lighter than the previous midsole material, crystalized rubber outsole, and sock-like knit that is flexible and more supportive.
- You can expect the same performance from a previous or different model with these exceptions:
- The shoe is 5.5mm taller because of the added PWRRUN+ technology in the shoe’s sole.
- The crystalized rubber outsole now has grooves cut into it. This adds more flexibility to the shoe.
- The upper part of the shoe is made of sock-like knit which improves breathability and won’t overheat your foot.
- The shoe’s toe box is slightly wider than the previous model.
Most people who run in these shoes say the shoe is the most durable one they’ve owned. Even though the shoe is light-weight runners never felt that their support or comfort was compromised.
I’d recommend this shoe for short- and middle-distance triathletes or those who want a trainer for a neutral pronation. Or, for those who want a durable pair of training shoes, no matter the racing distance.
4. Skechers GOrun Ride 8
Skechers GOrun Ride 8 is a lightweight shoe with superb cushioning and rebound energy for a smooth run. In addition, the shoe breathes and has knit upper which makes it comfortable on your feet. All for an affordable price.
Skechers might come as a surprise as an option to use for triathlon training, but it ranks high for its comfort and support while being very light on your foot.
Hear my reasons for why this shoe might be a great fit for you.
The shoe’s sole has FLIGHT GEN foam material which is designed to be lightweight yet responsive. This would make your runs very efficient and keep your feet secure.
The shoe’s upper part has breathable knit material, which makes it seem nearly perfect. The shoe’s gusseted tongue makes it easy to slip the shoe on and off; making transitions even easier.
The shoe’s upper holds the foot securely in place with room for movement without causing blisters.
I’d recommend this shoe to anyone who wants a good pair of trainers for short distance triathlons or a racing shoe for middle distance. They are compared to the Hoka brand I reviewed earlier, but with a cheaper price tag.
5. Mizuno Wave Rider 23
The Mizuno Wave Rider 23 is a “no-brainer” when it comes to picking a long-distance training and racing shoe. The Wave Rider model consistently delivers a high-performance without much change from its predecessor.
Similar to its predecessor, the shoe’s sole is made of U4ic and U4icX foams which makes it feel softer on the foot. In the heel to the midsole, Mizuno’s parallel wave plate technology makes the shoe feel firm and stable for long-distance running.
The shoe’s upper has made improvements from the previous model. There’s more cushioning for the midfoot and heel which leaves more room in the toe box. However, this new feature can feel tight for the midfoot and heel areas.
I recommend this shoe for anyone who wants a reliable everyday training shoe. It’s best for middle to long distance races if you want minimal to moderate support. If your feet are narrow, the shoes might not feel tight.
6. Brooks Launch 6
The Brooks Launch 6 is a reliable shoe for neutral gait runners that has an updated look to an old line of Brooks Launch model. This shoe is good for short and middle-distance training and middle-distance racing.
The sole’s springy cushioning is from its rubber sole. From toe to heel, rubber is supporting your foot through your entire race or training run.
The Brooks Launch 6 has BioMoGo DNA technology in its sole. This allows the shoe to adapt your unique foot and gait as you break in the pair. This technology also gives more cushioning and twice as much energy return than its previous model.
The shoe’s upper part is made out of breathable mesh, which makes it seem like there’s nothing on your foot. The toe box is also very forgiving and allows for many widths of feet to fit in there.
I’d recommend this shoe for those who are training for sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. Or, if your training runs mostly consist of speed work.
7. On Running Cloudflyer
On is a up and coming brand from Switzerland that specializes in light shoes with a moderate amount of support. The iconic pods on the bottom of the shoe’s sole make not only the shoe but also the brand standout. Their ultra-thin laces also set the company apart.
On to the specifics of the shoe:
- The sole has more durable and lighter foam for the midsole, which makes the shoe incredibly light and responsive to your running style.
- The pods on the bottom of the shoe’s sole are wider than its predecessor, which will help stabilize your foot and help keep you moving forward with ease. However, the pods near the ball of the foot are not as flexible, which may make your foot sore during the “break-in” period.
- The shoe’s upper part looks as if it is an everyday shoe, but with the formfitting support and comfort of a running shoe.
- The shoe breaks out with its unique adaptive v-modeled external heel cap to keep the heel from slipping and supplements the memory foam insole.
- The shoe comes with its own lacing system called star lacing which is supposed to be secure and has an adaptable fit.
On’s heel technology actually straightens your heel in the shoe, which then straightens your ankle and rest of your leg. All of this makes you run more naturally.
I’d recommend this shoe for any training and racing distance. This shoe might be able to take your running to the next level with minimal effort. This shoe can deliver on energy rebound, responsiveness, and stability every time you run.
Best Running Shoes for Triathlon Training and Racing-A Comprehensive Guide
In this guide, I’ll discuss triathlon-specific shoes, training versus racing shoes, how to buy shoes, and review the best shoes for triathlon training and racing.
If you’re a triathlete, you know how much gear you need throughout training and on raceday, notably for swimming and biking. You might think the run is one leg you don’t really have to think about. You throw on your shoes and go, right? Not so fast. When transitioning from the bike to the run, the main goal is to put on your shoes and get out to the last part of the course as quickly as possible. Finding a quality pair of triathlon-specific running shoes can make a huge difference when it comes to speed and overall comfort. If you’re struggling to fit your foot into a shoe or tie the laces, you’ll be spending more time in T2 -- instead of crushing the course. For some, running shoes can be the difference between a personal record and an almost-record.
Triathlon Running Shoe Laces
Of all the unique characteristics of triathlon running shoes, most of them serve one simple purpose: to help you move quickly. The most basic (and some would argue the most important) feature is the type of laces. Unlike typical running shoes, triathlon shoes have elastic ‘speed laces’ that allow you to put the shoes on quickly but securely. Instead of struggling to tie your shoes, all it takes is a simple tug of these special laces and you’re off on the run.
Fast Transitions: Socks or No Socks?
A good triathlon shoe will also have a liner that enables you to run sockless. Not only will this help your speed in transition, but the material will stretch to account for swelling and to cool the feet. Because tri shoes have vented midsoles and drainage holes they won’t retain moisture; they’re designed to allow water/sweat to drain out of the shoe (and not seep in when you’re sloshing through a water stop). In turn you’ll feel lighter and will avoid dreaded blisters and chafing.
Cushion Running Shoes
Depending on the type of runner you are, there are different options for insoles to complement your gait. The level of cushioning varies by model but generally, triathlon running shoes are much lighter and are designed to aid in efficiency. They encourage a midfoot strike and quick turnover while still offering some support. Another small but extremely useful feature? Loops on the heels and tongue. They’re there to help slide the shoes on quickly.
Triathlon Training vs Triathlon Racing Running Shoes
Before I get into details, let’s make one thing clear.
There is not a more difference between a shoe for runners and one shoe that triathletes use exclusively.
However, there is a difference between trainer shoes and racing shoes, which is what you might need to know.
In general, training shoes have more cushioning than racing shoes. They will last longer and you can log 200-400 miles on them. Training shoes will also weigh more than racing shoes.
Conversely, racing shoes have minimal cushioning and support and are very light. They have a specific design and are great if you compete in the sprint, Olympic or half Ironman triathlons.
For a full Ironman or any running above that distance, you can use your trainers or have a second pair that you keep “new” for race days.
You can always use your trainers for short-course triathlons too if you’re on a tight budget.
However, once you get more competitive, it might be worth it to have a second pair.
Remember, at the end of the day, it comes down to what works best for you.
If you want to train in and compete in the same shoes, for now, that is ok, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing so.
Now, that you know the difference between racing and running shoes, let’s talk about how to buy them.
How to Buy Triathlon Training and Running Shoes
Before you buy triathlon running shoes, you need to answer two questions:
- What type of race will you be training and competing in most regularly?
- What type of gait do you have?
Don’t know the answer to these questions?
I’ll give you a brief overview to help you!
Types of Racing
Determining what type of races, you’ll be doing most regularly is important and affects your comfort level during the race.
Short distance triathlons are typically sprint and Olympic distances.
In those races, you’ll see many elites and professionals wearing a racing flat.
These types of shoes are for those who want a light-weight shoe with minimal support.
In shorter distances, speed and efficiency mean everything. Not just on the course but also in transition.
If you want a triathlon specific racing flat, you can search for ones that have elastic laces, a loophole on the heel so you can slip into your shoes even faster.
Of course, for longer distance triathlons, speed in transition isn’t as significant in the long run.
Half Ironman triathlons fall into the middle-distance category and require a different shoe than sprint and Olympic distance triathletes.
In these races, you’ll have more support and cushion than a racing flat, but still lighter than what you might be training in.
Most elites and professional middle-distance triathletes wear either racing flats or a shoe between a racing flat and trainers. It just depends on their preference.
After the first two legs of the triathlon, you might want more support for the run than you anticipate. It’s different from running just a half or full marathon.
Full Ironman triathlons fall into the long-distance category and therefore require the most support compared to the other two distances mentioned.
You’ll want a shoe with quite a bit more cushioning to get your feet through a marathon after swimming and biking such long distances.
Many experienced Ironman triathletes will go for a very supportive shoe with the maximum amount of cushioning. Or, will wear a shoe similar to the ones in the previous section. Again, it depends on preference.
When you’re buying a shoe for your Ironman, think about how your legs will be feeling. They might be tired and you’d want the extra support over a lightweight shoe.
You may find a shoe that works for both training and racing, especially for middle to long-distance.
In that case, I recommend buying two pairs. Use one for training and the other for races and the initial break-in period.
You’ll want a shoe with more grip when you’re going up and down dirt or rocky paths.
For the cushioning v weight debate, it will, again, come down to personal preference.
If you’re doing long-distance off-road you might want more support than a short-distance race.
Types of Gait
By now, you might have an idea of what type of shoe you will need.
The next step is to determine what type of gait you have. This will help you pick out a shoe that fits your foot.
Don’t worry, no matter what type of distance you do, there is a brand that will suit your type of gait.
If you don’t know your gait, or what a gait is, you’re best off going to your local running store.
Bring your old pair of shoes, tell the store what you’re training for, and the experts will take it from there!
For those who don’t know, a gait is the set of actions and reactions that your foot performs while you’re running with support, cushion, and balance.
At the store, you’ll be told if you have a neutral, overpronation, or supination gait.
A neutral gait means that your shoes have centralized wear, down the middle of the ball of the foot. You’ll be fitted in a neutral shoe with some shock absorption and medial support.
An over pronation gait means that your shoes have been worn down the inside of your shoe’s sole. You’ll be fitted in a stability shoe with firm support for your arch and overall higher stability to a neutral shoe.
Supination (Underpronation) gait meant that your shoes have been worn down on the outer sole of the shoes. You’ll be fitted in a shoe with the most arch support and overall stability compared to other shoes.
By now, you should be more versed with the types of shoes available and what type of gait you might have.
I realize that I’ve thrown a lot of important tips and tricks for buying a good pair of running shoes for triathlons.
Remember, many of the brands I listed above might sound like the shoe for you, but you won’t know until you try it one.
Found out what type of gait you have (neutral, overpronation, or supination).
After you know what gait you have, then you must understand about what your training program and what types of races you’ll mainly do.
Remember, if you’re racing in short-distance triathlons you may not need a shoe with a lot of support.
Or, if you’re doing an Ironman you might be looking for a shoe with the right balance of support and cushion for your feet.
Or, you could be looking for a shoe that supports something between sprint and Ironman triathlon distances.
Most importantly, you need to find the shoe that fits your fit the best and will help you train for your next triathlon.
Good luck with training and racing in your upcoming season or first triathlon!