We hope that you love our articles and find them useful and informative! In full transparency, we may collect a small commission (at no cost to you!) when you click on some of the links in this post. These funds allow us to keep the site up and continue to write great articles. Click here to learn about our review process and affiliate structure.

Best Distance Running Shoes for Track Athletes in 2022

 

A major mistake that many new track athletes make is assuming that all running shoes are the same.

For example, the best distance running shoes for track athletes won’t be the same as the best shoes for sprinting.

“Track” encompasses a wide range of disciplines. Even before getting to the jumping and throwing events, a track athlete might be sprinting 60 meters indoors, covering mid-distances like the 400 meters, or running the mile.

In meets, you are probably going to be wearing spikes. But in this article, we’ll cover running shoes for distance runners, which can also be used as a daily trainer for all types of track athletes.

These shoes are lightweight, responsive, and fast. But have enough durability to make it through an entire track season.

We highly recommend the Brooks Launch 9. It’s lightweight, contains responsive and comfortable cushioning, and has 2 mm more foam than its predecessor.

Let’s have a look at all our top picks…

track athlete

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Brooks Launch 9

 

  • Lightweight, breathable upper
  • Midsole cushioning
  • Roomy toe box
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7

 

  • Breathable, seamless mesh upper
  • Dual-density midsole
  • Contoured footbed
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

 

ASICS GT-2000 10

 

  • Stable but fast
  • Locked-in feel
  • Nice cushioning
CHECK MEN’S PRICECHECK WOMEN’S PRICE

Best Overall

1. Brooks Launch 9

The Brooks Launch 9 is lightweight, responsive, and a great value, ideal for track athletes.

What We Like

The Brooks Launch 9 has the perfect mix of lightweight and cushioning for a durable, fast ride.

A BioMoGo DNA midsole offers light cushioning to see you through long runs, with a bit of snappiness that means you can pick up the pace.

The Green Rubber outsole not only grips well to multiple different surfaces, but it helps to provide a bit more spring as well.

The shoe is also comfortable, with a newly-designed and streamlined Creel Wrap upper that’s very breathable without losing its structure. A wide toe box provides ample room for your toes to wiggle comfortably.

One of the best things about this shoe is how affordable it is. It costs about 25% less the average running shoe.

Why We Like It

The Brooks Launch 9 is very lightweight and offers a great balance of light cushioning and responsiveness. It’s an excellent choice for distance track athletes who want to be able to do tempo work.

What’s New

There’s an extra 2 mm of foam in the midsole of the Launch 9. The upper has also been revamped to make it more breathable and lighter.

PROS:

  • Lightweight, breathable upper with roomy toe box
  • Midsole cushioning provides a responsive and smooth ride
  • 2 mm more cushion than previous versions
  • Great for long runs but versatile enough to do tempo work

CONS:

  • May not be suitable for those who need extra support
 

Top Value

2. New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7

The New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7 is a classic-looking running shoe that’s light, comfortable, and offers good cushioning and energy return.

What We Like

This shoe is comfortable and looks like a classic, stylish running shoe.

The seamless engineered mesh upper is light around your foot and allows for good airflow to keep your feet cool as you run.

The 680 features a dual-density Fresh Foam midsole, providing comfortable but subtle cushioning and good energy return for responsiveness.

A molded, contoured footbed offers good support for medium to high arches. It can be removed if you need to add a custom insert.

The full-length rubber outsole features softer rubber in the forefoot for better grip during your push-off. There is harder rubber across the rest of the sole for durability.

Why We Like It

The New Balance Fresh Foam 680v7 is a good-looking shoe that offers a good combination of subtle cushion and energy return. It’s more affordable than most shoes. It’s a good choice for those on a budget.

What’s New

The new version has been updated in the midsole, which now features a dual-density piece of foam for better responsiveness.

PROS:

  • Breathable, seamless mesh upper
  • Dual-density midsole cushions and supports every step
  • Contoured footbed cradles your foot
  • Durable rubber outsole provides excellent traction on a variety of surfaces

CONS:

  • These shoes run more narrow than New Balance shoes usually do
 

Best Stability Running Shoe

3. Asics GT-2000 10

The ASICS GT-2000 10 is designed specifically for overpronators, and it’s unusually lightweight for a stability shoe. This is an excellent option if you need a bit of support when you run.

What We Like

The ASICS GT-2000 10 is a lightweight stability shoe to stop overpronators from turning their feet inwards while they run.

You’ll find Flytefoam cushion and Flytefoam Propel cushioning in the midsole, with a layer of Gel cushioning in between for excellent shock absorption.

The original Flytefoam is soft and shock-absorbing, while the Flytefoam Propel offers excellent energy return for responsiveness.

A LiteTruss system has been implemented in the shoe for overpronation support. It’s a firm but unobtrusive medial post that runs along the inside of the shoe in the midsole, providing excellent stability that prevents your foot from rolling.

The upper has been completely updated and now uses engineered knit material instead of mesh. However, this does make the shoe run warm in the heat.

But the upper is comfortable and molds to the shape of your foot, providing good support and structure.

Why We Like It

This is a stability shoe that won’t weigh you down. While it contains stability features and a bouncy midsole, it’s light enough for distance runners or athletes who need a trainer.

What’s New

The GT2000-10 has an 8 mm drop, 2 mm less than the previous version. Both the upper and midsole have been updated, with the shoe now featuring an engineered knit upper and a bouncier midsole.

The Guidance Trusstic System has also been replaced with the LiteTruss system. There are 4 flex grooves on the outsole forefoot rather than 3.

PROS:

  • Plush, comfortable upper molds to the shape of your foot
  • Firm, supportive, and responsive midsole
  • Gel cushioning provides an extra layer of underfoot protection
  • LiteTruss technology guides and supports your foot

CONS:

  • The shoe runs slightly warm due to the knit upper
 

Top Nike Trainer

4. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 is a comfortable, light, and stylish shoe that Nike fans will enjoy wearing on the track.

What We Like

The Nike Pegasus is on its 39th iteration, and it’s still a favorite. The Pegasus 39 is a plush and comfortable distance shoe for track athletes.

The midsole uses React foam, a slightly more responsive foam than what’s used in other Nike shoes.

The Pegasus 39 also features a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot, which gives you a little pep in your toe-off.

The air unit is gender-specific and has been tuned slightly differently for men and women.

There’s also more space in the toe box, with a slightly wider fit than the last version. A thinner tongue increases comfort on the top of the foot.

The heel is slightly beveled, which helps with a smooth and quick heel-to-toe transition.

On the outsole, hard-wearing rubber covers a significant amount of the sole, and should give you excellent grip on many different surfaces.

Why We Like It

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 is plush and comfortable, offering excellent cushion and shock absorption on long runs. It’s also just responsive enough for a fast ride.

What’s New

The only changes to the Pegasus are a slightly wider forefoot, thinner tongue, and a better fit of the upper, reducing the heel slippage issue. It’s also somewhat heavier than the previous version.

PROS:

  • Slightly wider toe box than past iterations
  • React foam in the midsole for energy return
  • Gender-specific Zoom Air unit provides a springy sensation
  • Hard-wearing outsole

CONS:

  • This shoe isn’t highly responsive
 

Best Responsive Trainer

5. Mizuno Wave Rider 26

Those who want a kick on their toe-off will appreciate the Mizuno Wave Rider 26’s Wave Plate action. This shoe is fast and responsive, almost propelling you around the track.

What We Like

The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 offers excellent responsiveness for track athletes who want a shoe that will handle long distances but add some kick.

Mizuno’s classic Wave plate in the shoe’s midsole has been reshaped and wrapped in Enerzy foam. It provides excellent cushioning—especially in the heel—and a peppy heel-to-toe transition.

The shoe has a 12 mm heel-to-toe drop, which some may find too high. However, it does provide exceptional cushioning and shock absorption in the heel.

A soft upper with ample room in the toe box makes wearing this shoe a comfortable and pleasant experience.

The addition of a highly durable X10 rubber outsole makes the shoe durable and can handle many different surfaces safely.

Why We Like It

The Mizuno Wave Rider 26 offers excellent responsiveness thanks to its Wave Plate and energetic foam combination. It offers good cushioning for heel strikers as well.

What’s New

The only real difference between the Wave Rider 25 and 26 is the addition of Enerzy foam in a sandwich around the Wave Plate for more cushion and responsiveness.

PROS:

  • Soft, comfortable upper with rounded toe box allowing your toes to splay
  • Dual-density midsole provides great energy return and bounce
  • Well-cushioned heel helps dampen impact
  • Hardwearing X10 rubber outsole

CONS:

  • The high drop may make it feel like there’s very little forefoot cushioning
 

Top Guidance Shoe for Mild Overpronators

6. Brooks Launch 9 GTS

The Brooks Launch 9 GTS has all the great features of our top pick, but it has a GuideRails to provide support to mild overpronators.

What We Like

Like the neutral Brooks Launch 9, this shoe is lightweight and comfortable. A redesigned upper offers breathability with a spacious toe box.

BioMoGo DNA foam features in the midsole, offering a combination of a peppy stride and cushioned comfort.

Like the neutral shoe, this one has a Green Rubber outsole with flex grooves designed to make the heel-to-toe transition effortless.

The most significant difference is the GuideRails system on this shoe. They’re easy to see on either side of the heel and serve the purpose of adding support to prevent your feet from rolling.

Overpronators, underpronators, and neutral runners can wear these shoes comfortably, as the support will kick in when and where it’s needed.

Why We Like It

This shoe offers excellent support for those who need stability but want a fast, lightweight shoe. The support only kicks in when it’s needed, and the shoe provides some cushioning and responsiveness for great distance runs.

What’s New

Like the regular shoe, this one features an extra 2 mm in the midsole, an updated Creel Wrap upper, and a redesigned tongue.

PROS:

  • GuideRails technology gently guides your foot through your gait cycle
  • Stack height increased by 2 mm
  • Lightweight, springy midsole cushioning that provides great energy return
  • Smooth, effortless transitions

CONS:

  • This shoe runs narrow
 

Best Lightweight Cushioned Trainer

7. Saucony Kinvara 12

The Saucony Kinvara 12 is extremely lightweight, so it will be a favorite for distance track athletes who want one of the lightest shoes around.

What We Like

The Kinvara 12 weighs just 7.5 oz for an average-sized men’s shoe, making it one of the lightest shoes on the market.

As well as being light, it’s quite a responsive shoe, with PWRRUN foam in the midsole and a very flexible outsole, especially in the forefoot.

A beveled heel and toe spring help the transition go smoothly and provide a bit of a pop on the toe-off.

The sole is thinner than other shoes, allowing for good ground feel while adequately protected. A contoured Formfit footbed helps support the foot and absorb shock.

You should also note the Kinvara has a 4 mm drop, which is fairly flat. And because the shoe is so light, it probably won’t last as long as some other models.

Why We Like It

The Saucony Kinvara is incredibly lightweight and easy to wear for any distance or speed. It’s also quite flexible and responsive.

What’s New

The Kinvara 12 is a bit lighter than the 11, with an updated outsole pattern using more durable rubber and a redesigned upper.

In addition, the heel is beveled and includes some toe spring, and there are extra flex grooves in the forefoot.

PROS:

  • Versatile, lightweight daily trainer
  • Breathable mesh upper hugs your foot
  • Formfit topsole molds to the shape of your foot providing extra support
  • PWRRUN midsole is a great balance between shock absorption and cushioning

CONS:

  • Not as durable as other shoes
 

Most Versatile

8. Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2

The Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 is a versatile shoe that offers a good combination of comfort and performance.

What We Like

This shoe offers excellent performance for a wide range of different events. It’s cushioned enough to provide protection for distance runs but responsive enough to pick up the speed when needed.

Full-length Reach foam in the midsole offers both comfort and spring. It has a high stack height, with 33 mm of foam in the heel and 24 mm in the forefoot, great for shock absorption.

The shoe also has a slightly wider toe box and a stable, wide platform that provides some stability.

A TPU clip in the arch area helps overpronators. But neutral runners may notice it, and some may find it uncomfortable.

The Flyknit upper with Flywire technology allows for a solid lockdown and the rubber outsole is durable and offers excellent traction.

Why We Like It

The Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 is a versatile shoe that you can use for a variety of different runs, from tempo runs to distance runs. It’s not as narrow as Nike shoes, providing a good fit for most people.

What’s New

The upper has been updated from a sock-like fit to a traditional fit, and Nike Flywire technology has been added to offer a better lockdown. There’s also slightly more blown rubber on the outsole.

PROS:

  • Wide, stable platform helps provide a soft and very secure ride
  • Versatile daily trainer for varying paces, recovery, long, or tempo runs
  • Slightly wider width in the toe box
  • Durable rubber outsole

CONS:

  • This TPU clip may be uncomfortable for neutral feet
 

Best for Wide Feet

9. New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11

The New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11 is an excellent choice for runners with wide feet who need a supportive and comfortable shoe.

What We Like

The New Balance Fresh Foam 880v11 is naturally wider, which is excellent for those with wide feet, and comes in wider widths, if you need more space.

Fresh Foam in the midsole provides a soft, shock-absorbing landing and good energy return.

The upper now consists of a double layer of jacquard mesh, which is more breathable than the previous shoe but still may run warm.

It has a soft and non-restrictive fit while still providing good support and structure. An internal molded heel counter helps you get the perfect lockdown and stops the rearfoot from deviating.

Generous amounts of rubber across the outsole provide good traction on multiple surfaces. Blown rubber in the forefoot allows you to get a better grip on the toe-off, making it even more responsive.

Why We Like It

This shoe is excellent for wide feet as it provides more than enough room in the toe box and throughout the shoe. The foam also offers a good balance of responsiveness and cushioning.

What’s New

The external heel counter has been moved to the internal heel for better support and comfort. The upper has also changed from knot material to a double-layer of jacquard mesh.

PROS:

  • Soft mesh upper offers a non-restrictive fit
  • Molded footbed cradles your foot
  • Fresh Foam X cushioning is responsive and returns energy
  • Rubber outsole provides excellent traction on a variety of surfaces

CONS:

  • This shoe is not the most breathable
 

Most Cushioned

10. Hoka Clifton 8

The Hoka Clifton 8 is a max cushioned shoe that’s exceptionally comfortable but still quite lightweight.

What We Like

The Hoka Clifton 8 is exceptionally comfortable and has a plush feeling the moment you put it on!

Although the upper is plush, it’s airy and well-ventilated. You’ll find a generous stack of soft and comfortable cushioning, absorbing shock and keeping your feet comfortable while you run.

The EVA foam in the midsole is 15% lighter than the previous version, so the shoe is surprisingly lightweight for its size and maximum level of cushioning.

An early-stage meta-rocker also helps you move through the heel-to-toe transition quickly and effortlessly.

A Crash Pad on the rearfoot of the outsole improves the shock absorption and the durability of the shoe, especially for heel strikers.

Why We Like It

The Hoka Clifton 8 is one of the best distance running shoes for track athletes who like an extra-cushioned shoe. It has a high stack height, soft cushioning, and a plush feeling.

What’s New

The position of the rubber underfoot and the flex grooves in the outsole have changed. Also, the midsole foam is lighter than the previous one. Aside from that, there are no major changes to the Clifton 8.

PROS:

  • Lightweight, airy mesh upper keeps your feet dry and cool
  • Generous amount of foam cushioning
  • Early-stage meta-rocker reduces the load on the forefoot
  • Rearfoot Crash Pad helps dampen impact

CONS:

  • This shoe is not very responsive
 

Buyer’s Guide – Distance Running Shoes for Track Athletes

Responsiveness vs Weight vs Cushioning

The best distance running shoes for track athletes need a good balance of responsiveness, weight, and cushioning.

They should be lightweight but still offer enough cushioning to protect your feet as you run.

More cushioning adds more weight and reduces responsiveness. So you will need to decide which is more important to you.

Durable

The shoes should last at least the entire season—if not longer—before they wear out. Generally, you will need to pay a higher price for better-quality shoes.

Traction

The traction on the outsole of your trainers should be suitable for both the track and other surfaces that you may train on.

Breathability

Breathable uppers are essential to keep your feet cool and dry while you’re running. The upper should have perforations across it to allow for airflow.

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 adults. That reduces the amount of support they need.

And since even distance runners won’t be training for events longer than the two-mile, running distances at practices will be relatively short — another reason less support.

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.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner
Logo