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Best Distance Running Shoes for Track Athletes in 2020

 

A major mistake that a lot of new track athletes make is assuming that all running shoes are the same. This leads to people going out and buying shoes that are not suited to their specific track events. The final result is decreased performance, discomfort, and even injury.

“Track” encompasses a wide range of disciplines. Even before considering jumping and strength events, a track athlete might be sprinting 60 meters indoors, covering mid-distance, or running a 10k.

These different events have specific shoes that can maximize your performance. Track spikes, used especially by sprinters, are a different topic entirely. But distance runners, like road runners, look for light, comfortable shoes with some amount of support.

The problem is that good cushioning and support aren’t found in the lightest running shoes. There is a compromise made between weight and support. 

So in this article, we’ve found the best distance running shoes that balance weight with cushioning and support. Let’s get started…

track athlete

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Brooks Launch 7

 

  • Lightweight and fast
  • Responsive ride
  • Durable
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ASICS GT-2000 9

 

  • Stable but fast
  • Locked-in feel
  • Nice cushioning
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New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Trainer

 

  • Nicely priced
  • Lightweight
  • Fresh Foam responsive ride
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Best Overall Distance Shoes for Track

1. Brooks Launch 7

For distance track athletes, the Brooks Launch 7 is a versatile trainer for a variety of events. These lightweight shoes weigh in at 8.9 oz for men, and 8 oz for women, perfect for practice or meets for runners new to the team.

With a seamless mesh upper, these shoes provide breathability on hot days, while allowing for a snug and comfortable fit. Without feeling too tight, the mesh provides a sock-like feel, and can wrap well to your feet. Created with a simple design, these non-flashy shoes will silently put in work for you, providing you with comfort and cruisability.

Common in Brooks shoe models is their mid-foot transition zone that gives you the power to pick up speed with more ease due to a quicker heel-to-toe time difference. These are fast but have plenty of cushioning. They are ideal for athletes of all distance events.

Given how durable they are, the Launch 7 comes with a surprising lightweight feel. For maximum shoe life, rotate with another pair (i.e. wear them at practice/meet only).


PROS:

  • Lightweight yet stable, able to go for short to long distances
  • Breathable with single piece mesh upper
  • Good for speed

CONS:

  • The shoes midsole is a bit firm, and takes time to get used to

Best Stability Running Shoe

2. ASICS GT-2000 9

The ASICS GT-2000 9 is a very significant improvement on earlier models, and has become a favorite for runners needing stability. In the past, this shoe was criticized as too stiff and large, but recent improvements have toned down its bulk, and built upon its durability. For men’s, they weigh 10.4 oz, and for women’s, they weigh 8.5 oz.

These shoes are lightweight and fit snugly. They are good options for athletes with mid- to low arches who need added support.

With foam technology called FoamFlyte, these shoes come equipped with a single layer of high-density foam as opposed to their traditional two-layer foam pieces. Under the heel, in addition to the FoamFlyte material, you will find an extra layer of gel cushioning, providing added comfort.

This new model has a much softer landing while also providing more bounce than its predecessors. With this new midsole and improved foam cushioning, going for short to long distances should be no issue.

Common in previous shoes and built upon further in the GT-2000 9 shoes is the rubber traction material on the underside. Wet or dry, road, dirt, or track, these shoes work well for practice and meets. The GT-2000s are built for stability and can take on a variety of conditions along your run.


PROS:

  • New FoamFlyte material with gel cushioning provides soft touchdown
  • Provides stability without the chunkiness
  • Improved and bouncier midsole

CONS:

  • Stiffer than other shoes

 

 

Best Lightweight Trainer

3. New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Solas

Constructed with a total weight of 5.3 oz for men’s, and 4.4 oz for women’s, the Zante Solas are some of the lightest training shoes currently available. The light weight makes it a perfect fit for sprinters and mid-distance runners looking for a trainer for practice.

Meant to fit like a bootie, the Fresh Foam Zante Solas are incredibly comfortable. Some runners stated that they had forgotten they were on during their run.

The Fresh Foam midsole material is made in a single piece, rather than two or more pieces stacked on top of one another. The improved midsole gives further responsiveness.

Made of Hypoknit material, these shoes are very flexible, which further increases their comfort.

With added flexibility, the shoes are comfortable, but might not have enough support for runners with low arches. They may also not have enough cushioning for long distance runners.

But for everyone else, they are a great option – especially with their value price.


PROS:

  • Great budget option
  • Ultra-lightweight, perfect for runners looking to run fast
  • Fit comfortably and snug, wrapping to individuals’ foot

CONS:

  • Not much arch support
  • Soak up water, tending to keep your feet wet in wet conditions

Best Guidance Shoe for Mild Overpronators

4. Brooks Ravenna 11

Athletes who need a touch of support – but still want a lightweight and fast shoe – may have found the perfect fit with the Brooks Ravenna 11.

As a stability shoe, the Ravenna 11 comes equipped with a new Guide Rail Holistic Support System, unique to Brooks. Built on the sides of the shoes, these guide rails are adaptive to each runner, and will provide just enough support. This new guide rail system is great for runners who need just a little bit of support.

With a new upper mesh, Brooks deliberately focused on reducing hot spots, improving overall fit.

Seen in the Launch 7 as well, the Ravenna 11’s midfoot transition zone aids in improving your speed by reducing heel-to-toe transition.


PROS:

  • Stability shoe, yet still lightweight
  • Guide Rail system is very beneficial for overpronators and those with bad knees

CONS:

  • May not provide enough support for runners with very low arches

Best Lightweight Cushioned Trainer

5. Saucony Kinvara 11

The combination of minimal and lightweight design is what gives the Saucony Kinvara 11s the mantle of best lightweight cushioned trainer. Weighing in at 7.8 oz for men’s, and 6.9 oz for women’s, these shoes are fast and nimble.

Good for practice and meets, the shoes are constructed with PWRRUN midsole material. The PWRRUN midsole material provides you with plenty of cushion, and a good bounce on each step. Snappy and responsive, the Kinvara provides a fast ride without sacrificing cushioning.

With a seamless mesh upper, plenty of breathing room for your feet is provided. Great for warm spring practices.

The shoes are made so that your feet and toes do not feel cramped up inside. They are comfortable and should help prevent blisters.

Constructed with a 4mm drop, as opposed to the traditional 10-12 mm drop seen in running shoes, the Kinvara 11s try to promote a more enhanced forefoot strike, followed by a quick turnover.


PROS:

  • Lightweight yet durable
  • Toe room, with a good fit and cushioning
  • These shoes are fast

CONS:

  • Tongue may be a bit too thick
  • Become worn relatively quickly

Best Value Trainer

6. New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Trainer

If you want running shoes that are great fit for track at a great price, then the Zante Trainers from New Balance might just be the perfect shoe for you.

Weighing in at 8.1 oz for men’s, and 7.1 oz for women’s, these trainers are lightweight, yet still provide great comfort. With the Fresh Foam midsole, these shoes provide some extra pep in your step, helping you cruise through practice.

The Fresh Foam cushioning, in combination with the lightweight rubber outsoles, gives you an incredibly compact and confident step, ensuring safety and reduced pressure. The rubber outsoles have patterned treads along them, which provides you with good traction.

The collar construction allows your feet to slide in easily. The mesh upper wraps to your feet, adapting the fit of the shoe to your feet. These lightweight shoes can stay on your feet for hours without any discomfort due to their sock-like design.


PROS:

  • Good value
  • Very comfortable fit
  • Fresh Foam midsole and rubber outsoles provide plenty of support

CONS:

  • Sizes may run too big
  • Minimal ankle support

Best Nike Trainer

7. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

The Nike Air Pegasus has been a favorite for decades, and with good reason. The latest update maintains all the qualities that have made this shoe popular for a generation, while incorporating a few key updates.

As the 37th shoe of this line, there is no question that it has served runners well over the years. This year’s version enhances the breathability and flexibility of its upper mesh, and adds a new tongue. Pairs for men weigh in at 10 oz, while pairs for women weigh in at just around 8.2 oz.

The enhanced mesh and new tongue provide runners with even more comfort compared to past models. In contrast to last year’s model that contained a thicker tongue, the 37’s come equipped with a slimmer, sleeker tongue that reduces the chance of irritation.

Other than these few aspects that were added or enhanced, Nike has kept the general construction of the Air Zoom Pegasus 37 almost the same as the few previous models.

Good for many different track events, these shoes can be used single-handedly as they can withstand the test of time. With these in your arsenal, there will hardly ever be need for any other training shoes.


PROS:

  • Newest model from one of the most trusted lines of running shoes ever
  • Extremely comfortable fit, able to go for long distances
  • Foam midsole with durable outsole provides cushion and energy in each step

CONS:

  • Tends to fit narrow and tight in toe box

 high school high jumper at meet

FAQs About Track Running Shoes

Do I need the most expensive or top of the line running shoes?

No! In fact, the most expensive running shoes are often detrimental to track athletes.

The reason is that the most expensive running shoes are often the most cushioned and softest running shoes. But extra cushioning also adds a lot of excess weight to a running shoe.

Track athletes will do best with a lightweight, responsive shoe. The cushioning found in expensive shoes makes them the opposite: stiff and unresponsive, precisely what you don’t want when running track.

That said, a good pair of trainers should have some cushioning and enough support for each athlete. The trick is to find shoes that balance weight and responsiveness with cushioning and support (the ones we think are best are listed above).

One other benefit of choosing a lighter, responsive shoe is that these typically cost less than their plush cousins. Currently, $90 to $130 are the sweet spot these shoes.

Does it matter if I buy stability or neutral running shoes?

Yes, but it’s less of a concern for track athletes than it is for recreational runners.

First, let’s have a quick primer on the differences between these types of shoes.

A neutral shoe is your classic running shoe with foam evenly dispersed in the midsole.

A stability shoe is stiffer and features a dense piece of foam in the shoe called a medial post that adds stability and support.

A guidance shoe has slightly less stiffness and support than a stability shoe while a motion control shoe has a LOT more support than a stability shoe.

Runners who overpronate – which means their feet, ankles, and knees roll inward while running – do best with a stability shoe. This often goes hand in hand with runners who have low to flat arches. How much athletes overpronate determines whether a guidance, stability, or motion control shoe would be best.

Shoe Choice and Body Weight

Another variable that affects this is a runner’s weight. Heavier runners require a more supportive shoe.

And finally, the distance someone runs impacts the type of support they need. A heavier runner training for a marathon will need more support than a lighter runner training to run a mile.

So how does this impact track athletes?

First, track athletes should get running shoes for their stride and gait. Meaning, an athlete who overpronates will benefit from a running shoe with stability.

But because high school (and even some college) athletes are still growing, they tend to be thinner and lighter than older recreational runners. That reduces the amount of support they need.

And since even distance runners won’t be training for events longer than a 10k, running distances at practices will be relatively short — another reason less support is needed.

Put this together, and athletes who moderately overpronate can do well with a guidance or lightweight stability shoe. Runners with mild overpronation can probably get away with a neutral shoe.

You might be wondering why it matters whether an athlete gets a guidance, stability, or motion control shoe. The answer is weight. Stability shoes – especially motion control shoes – are more substantial than neutral shoes. Track athletes will be happier with a lighter weight shoe.

Do I need track spikes and trainers (i.e. running shoes)?

This will largely depend on how experienced you are at track. Athletes new to track who aren’t sure what events they want to compete in probably won’t need spikes.

More experienced athletes will be able to compete with greater confidence wearing spikes. This is especially true for sprinters and mid-distance runners who will be disadvantaged without spikes. Long-distance runners won’t see a huge benefit from spikes.

While sprinters will likely practice in spikes, it’s still a good idea to have trainers for warming up and running longer distances.

Will I wear my spikes or trainers during practice?

It depends on what events you compete in.

For sprinters, yes, most of your practice will be done in spikes. Maybe for mid-distance runners or jumpers. Probably not for long-distance runners, although it’s a good idea to test them out before your first meet if you’ve never worn them before.

The Wired Runner