Running is only 1/3 of the triathlon equation, but that does not make choosing the right gear any less important. In fact, given the demands of the event, triathletes might be even more demanding of their equipment than runners.
It’s not enough for shoes to be comfortable and supportive. They also have to be easy to get into during transition, and provide enough performance to get you to the finish line after your swim and bike legs as well.
We’ve reviewed over 50+ shoes to find the best options for triathletes and multi-sport athletes. Keep reading for our top picks…
Top 3 Best and Favorites
ASICS Noosa FF 2
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Hoka One One Mach
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1. ASICS Noosa FF 2
The Noosa FF 2 is ASICS’ flagship triathlon shoe. It’s a quick, lightweight shoe with a zippy design that dries quickly and goes on and off your feet fast.
The latest men’s and women’s versions have FlyteFoam in the midsole to provide cushioning with energy return. FlyteFoam not only weighs less than traditional foam, but it offers some energy return in the form of added “bounce” as you run.
This shoe features seamless construction in the upper to reduce irritation and friction from seams and stitching. This is especially important when the shoe is wet, where annoying stitching can become even more irritating.
In addition, the 10mm drop shifts body weight forward to reduce stress on the legs. When your body is being pushed to its limits, you need a shoe that can extend the work beyond your legs and help balance your fatigue.
Finally, the Wet Grip outsoles on the Noosa FF 2 enhance traction on wet surfaces, making these a perfect shoe for running in wet or humid environments.
- Secure fit without rubbing
- Fast and light
- Wet Grip outsole
- Size is a half to a whole size smaller than expected
- Colors not as appealing as previous models
2. Saucony Kinvara 12
The original Kinvara was released more than ten years ago. With it, Saucony introduced a lightweight shoe that doesn’t sacrifice cushion or comfort. It was created to be a perfect race and speed shoe for runners, and it’s a great option for triathletes for a race shoe or short training runs.
Fast forward to today, and you will find only improvements in the Kinvara 12. The latest midsole technology combines with a still-lightweight shoe to create an excellent experience for all types of runners.
This shoe features a new PWRRUN midsole. This foam was created to maximize responsiveness with nice energy return. Add this to the seamless fit of the shoe, and you’ve got yourself an excellent ride.
The Kinvara 12 kept the 4mm heel-to-toe drop that is signature to the Kinvara line. It helps to ensure a natural ride and feel. Finally, small rubber pods in high-wear zones on the outsole add durability without any unnecessary weight.
- Extremely lightweight
- PWRRUN cushioning
- 4mm offset
- No over-pronation control, best for neutral runners
- Outer and midsole wear quickly
3. Zoot Ali’i
These ultra-lightweight running shoes feature a custom-designed upper by mixed media artist and Hawaiian native Keith Tallett. The Zoot Ali’i was inspired by Zoot’s hometown of Kona, Hawaii.
The upper features a Boa Closure System for a comfortable, tight fit with or without socks. The Boa system makes tightening and untightening the shoe fast and easy. Adjustments on the fly are also fast. Heel and toe pull-tabs in the upper aid in quickly removing and putting the shoes back on.
The BareFit lining combines well with the breathable mesh upper and internal structure of the shoe to give you an almost glove-like fit with optimal cooling and drainage.
The Carbon Rubber tread gives you nice traction without the weight of bulky lugs. The cushioning allows for a solid rebound in the mid-foot while providing extra cushioning for heel strikes.
These shoes are unisex, so they may feel too wide for some women runners.
- Boa Closure System
- BareFit lining
- Carbon Rubber traction
- Unisex; watch size closely when ordering
- Not good for low arches
- Narrow fit (for men)
4. Skechers GOrun 6
GOrun 6 running shoes are designed for speed and comfort. The nearly one-piece upper is breathable and features a knitted collar for a snug fit. You’ll feel like you’re wearing nicely fitting socks rather than running shoes.
The molded upper has no tongue, so you won’t have to deal with potential blisters from rubbing. A knit bootie around the heel provides a stylish and secure fit.
The shoe has a 4mm drop, like many of the shoes we have featured, for a natural running feel. The cushioning on the GOrun 6 is lightweight but provides enough protection while running.
Finally, this shoe has a pull-tab feature on the heel to help with speed and efficiency during transitions. It also has reflective elements to make you more visible during early morning and late evening training runs.
- Nearly seamless, sock-like fit
- Easy to slip on and off
- Nice, lightweight feel
- Great support throughout stride
- Wide toe-box
- Foot position not kept stable by knitted upper
- Don’t tighten or loosen as precisely as other shoes
- Not ideal for flat feet or low arches
5. Hoka One One Mach
The Hoka One One Mach is slightly heavier than the shoes we have seen so far, coming in at 8.2oz for a men’s size 9 versus the 6oz-range of the others. However, it’s by far the most cushioned shoe, with a fast and zippy design.
Based off the design of the Hoka Clayton, the Mach features a cushioned, fast ride, but offers a snugger fit in the midfoot and toe box. The Mach’s mesh upper provides breathability and reduces weight.
Profly foam in the midsole adds responsiveness and cushioning, giving it a snappier feel than most other Hokas. The Mach is light enough for race day, but offers enough protection for everyday training runs.
Hoka One One is the same brand that created the ultra-popular Clifton model. This shoe is designed to be faster than the Clifton, but still provide the supple cushioning Hoka is known for.
- Supportive and responsive midsole
- Traction control for multiple surfaces
- 5mm offset
- Shoe has a high stack height
- Shock absorption on landing lacking slightly
6. Brooks Launch 8
The Launch 8 is not only a fast, responsive shoe – it’s also one of the best values on the market.
The BioMoGo DNA midsole cushions your foot while also adding a rebounding, springy feeling. The outersole features a mid-foot transition zone that is designed to help you go from heel to toe quickly. The Air Mesh upper adds breathability to the shoe and reduces weight.
The Launch 8 is incredibly responsive throughout your stride. Some consumers described the cushion in the midsole as “cloudlike.” Brooks is taking comfort seriously in the Launch 8 with cushioning and a wide toe-box to boot.
The Launch 8 comes in great colors and style for men and women, but doesn’t give up comfort or support for the look. This shoe is true to size, so you can be confident in your size choice when you purchase.
The Launch 8 is a serious upgrade from its predecessors, and has been incredibly well received in the running community, especially for long distances on the road.
- Wide toe box
- Responsive and energy returning midsole
- Stylish and appealing to the eye
- Not suitable for runners who over-pronate
- Not as cushioned as other running shoes
7. Salomon Sonic RA Pro
The Sonic RA Pro is designed for fast road running with just enough cushioning to keep your feet protected.
The upper is light and breathable. It features standard laces, but the design of the upper makes it easy to slip on and off.
The sole features wet traction and Contragrip, a sticky rubber compound. This is ideal for triathletes who want extra grip on wet surfaces. In addition, geometric decoupling on the sole allows for a smooth and effortless load transition while running.
Vibe cushioning in the midsole works to dampen vibrations from running. This allows for less wasted energy from your feet and legs.
Hot spots are all but eliminated by the Molded Ortholite Sockliner. The liner molds to the shape of your foot to provide durable cushioning.
- Vibe technology for reducing vibrations
- Breathable and moisture wicking
- Excellent traction on wet surfaces
- Ortholite Sockliner
- Minimal cushioning
- Width can feel a bit sloppy for some runners
- Sizes run big
8. Zoot Makai
This is a shoe created specifically for triathletes. It is made for a fast transition and a responsive ride. Unlike the Ali’i, this shoe has midsole posting for runners who over-pronate.
The Z-lock laces offer both speed and standard lace systems to provide a custom fit for racing and training. The molded 3D heel counter features a pull-tab for quick transitioning and the Barefit lining makes this a shoe that works with or without socks. The upper is a breathable mesh that is exceptional for cooling and eliminating hot spots.
The shoe has a great rebound on mid-foot strike, and extra heel-strike cushioning. Carbon Rubber tread provides durable traction while keeping the shoe lightweight.
The Makai is the heaviest shoe we have seen so far, coming in at 9.7oz for a men’s size 9, so if you’re looking for the lightest possible weight, this one might not be right for you. However, the extra comes from added support for over-pronators. That’s a trade-off you might be willing to make.
- Breathable upper
- Responsive, good bounce
- Well-cushioned and comfortable
- Z-lock laces
- Made for triathletes
- Light laces may not tighten properly
- Heavier than others
- No variety of color or design
9. Saucony Liberty ISO
This is the shoe that won the Runner’s World’s Best Debut shoe for Spring 2018. It has a full-length EVERUN midsole for a more upbeat response and smoother transitions.
The 4mm heel-to-toe offset delivers a natural ride. The ISOFIT lacing system contours to your foot and makes this shoe feel custom made. The shoe’s plush cushioning provides impact protection and comfort.
The Liberty ISO features pronation control that adds guidance and support to your stride. It feels lightweight and dynamic despite the added support, likely due to the engineered stretch mesh upper.
Breathability and comfort on the road make the Liberty ISO a great all-around shoe for training and race days. Although this shoe is not water resistant or waterproof, the traction control on the sole can give you peace of mind on all surfaces.
The normal to high arch support is great for ensuring foot cramping doesn’t occur during your race, and keeps feet supported day-in, day-out.
- Great response and support mid stride
- Custom feel to fit
- Breathability in upper is top notch; no hot spots
- Protection for those who over-pronate
- Built for durability and daily use
- Priciest of the shoes on this list thus far
- Short tongue, not comfortable for all runners
10. ASICS Gel-Hyper Tri 3
This triathlon shoe is fast and light, best suited for Olympic and sprint distances.
Excellent water drainage holes in the mid- and outsoles and incredibly lightweight design with pull-on loop on the tongue will speed you through transitions.
These shoes are excellent for tempo running or interval training as well. Long distance runners may have a hard time with the lack of cushioning in the midsole, but even Olympic distance triathletes will like the comfortable upper.
The Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System reduces the shock during impact and guides through the transition. The outsole is made of DuraSponge, which is a blown rubber compound that enhances cushioning and durability in the forefoot.
The seamless upper helps reduce the risk of blisters and irritation.
Finally, the midsole features Guidance Line Technology to help move you through each step transition efficiently.
- Water drains well
- Comfortable support from upper
- Sizes run small
- Heavier than previous models
- Not cushioned well for long-distance running
Triathlon Shoe Buying Guide
You’ll need to know what races you’re most likely to compete in as a triathlete, as this will impact the type of shoe that you need. If you’re participating in short-distance triathlons, you’ll need shoes with less support than if you’re planning to do half or full Ironmans. Knowing what you personally need will help you select the best shoes for you!
Training Shoes vs Racing Shoes
Training shoes and racing shoes should be different for triathletes. Trainers can be a typical running shoe…whatever works best for the triathlete. Everyday trainers tend to have more cushioning than racing shoes, and weigh more as well. You’ll be able to log 200-400 miles on them, and they will last longer than racing shoes.
By contrast, racing shoes should either drain water or dry out quickly—or both— and have quick-tightening laces.
Running shoes for short tris, such as sprint or Olympic distance, should be fairly lightweight and minimal. By contrast, running shoes for half or full Ironman distances will need to have more cushioning and support. You may be able to use your trainers for full Ironman distances and above if needed.
What are the benefits of tri running shoes?
There are a variety of benefits of tri-specific running shoes, because they are designed with triathletes in mind. They are normally seamless so they can easily be worn without socks, allowing for a quicker transition. In addition, they have one strap that opens outwards, making it significantly quicker and easier to take them off.
Tri running shoes also have a pull tab at the heel, making it simpler to pull the shoe on at the bike-run transition. If you decide you will also be cycling in your running shoes, the pull tab gives you a way to anchor the heel of the shoe to the bike to speed up your T1. Finally, tri running shoes have great ventilation, which will keep your feet cool as you prepare to run.
How can I improve my tri running shoes?
There is a simple way that you can improve your tri running shoes (and your transition time)! For just a few dollars, you can add quick-laces. These make it easier to take shoes on and off, ensuring a smoother transition. Quick-laces are stretchy bungee-style laces that allow you to take them on and off without retying every time.
Quick laces are not only helpful on race day, but also during training, as they save you time. The quick-laces will take a little bit of time to set up—probably around 15 minutes—and you’ll have to invest some additional time to make sure that the tightness and fit is right for you, but once you figure that out, you’ll be good to go and will probably never go back to normal laces again!