Whether you're gunning for an ambitious PR or the sweet feeling of completion, there's a perfect half marathon racing shoe waiting for you out there.
If you're looking to take on a half marathon, congratulations—you just chose the best race distance. Long enough to feel aspirational but short enough to avoid the complete and utter mental warfare of a marathon, the half is in the racing sweet spot; you can push yourself in training and on race day but still be in the driver's seat throughout the race. Here are the best shoes to ride shotgun with you.
A good half marathon shoe feels comfortable on foot, is lightweight and fast and—most importantly—gives you confidence that you can crush your goal when you step up to the start line, whether that's a new PR or completing the distance. You'll be racing out there for at least an hour and change, so you want something that will feel good over the course of the race.
Based on your goals of the race, you'll want to decide if you want a carbon-fiber plated super shoe for maximum speed or a non-plated trainer that will be more cushioned and supportive. Below, we've broken out our picks into two categories
Carbon fiber plated running shoes are designed to help runners gain efficiency and speed. In the best examples in this category, the plate adds rigidity to a bouncy midsole foam, creating a propulsive and responsive underfoot package. Consider these carbon-plated racers if you have a time goal in mind for the race and are looking to test your speed.
The Vaporfly is the original super shoe, and the third iteration continues the tradition of excellence. A soft bed of ZoomX pairs with Nike's carbon fiber FlyPlate to create a fast and flowy ride. The shoe of choice for elites at marathons around the world, there's no safer choice on race day than the Vaporfly.
The ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ has a responsive and fast ride best for runners who prefer a firmer platform. The FF Turbo foam used in the Sky+ has a firmer feel than other super foams like Nike's ZoomX and Saucony's PWRRUN PB, which in the Metaspeed Sky+ provides a supremely bouncy experience when paired with the carbon fiber plate and steep forefoot rocker. The upper is light and airy, ideal for races where your feet will be heating up the pavement.
If you're looking for a zero drop racer for your half marathon, the Altra Vanish Carbon is the answer to your prayers. It has a bouncy supercritical TPE foam with a generous 33m stack. For extra pop, there's a partial carbon plate in the forefoot, which recreates the traditional super shoe feeling in a zero drop package.
Hoka has been late to the super shoe game, but they opened up this year with a bonafide heater. The Rocket X 2 has a bouncy and responsive PEBA-based midsole foam plus a carbon plate—the tried-and-true recipe for race day success. What differentiates the Rocket from competitors from other brands is that the foam has a softer, squishier feel underfoot. If you rock with Hokas for daily training and appreciate a good stack of cushion, this is a great half marathon option for you.
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a great super shoe option for runners who are picking up their first carbon-plated pair. The Pro 3 has a more stable platform than its competitors due to a wider heel landing area, which is helpful for heel strikers and for keeping a comfortable feel at slower paces. They're also $25 cheaper than most super shoe competitors, though $225 is still a steep ticket.
If you're loyal to the boomerang, the Hyperion Elite 3 is the half marathon shoe for you. Compared to Brooks' greatest daily trainer hits like the Ghost and Glycerin, the carbon-plated Hyperion Elite 3 has a firm feel that's best suited for fast training days and races like the half marathon. It's on the stiffer side compared to competitors, but it's well-suited to the half-marathon distance for Brooks fans who need a carbon fiber option.
The Adidas Adizero Pro 3 has been on the feet of many-a-marathon-winner at some of the worlds' great races. The Pro 3 has a springy and bouncy ride courtesy of Adidas' excellent supercritical TPE–based Lightstrike Pro, the brand's top tier foam. The midsole is reinforced with carbon fiber rods rather than a traditional plate, which Adidas claims allows for more natural foot flexibility and better cornering at speed.
Saucony's Endorphin Elite is the brands' top-tier marathon and half marathon racing shoe, replete with a brand new foam compound and a custom slotted carbon fiber plate. In contrast to the Endoprhin Pro 3, the Elite has a firmer and faster ride that favors speedier runners who forefoot strike. While the Pro 3 can hit the slower paces well, the Endorphin Elite really sings when you get it humming at race pace.
Atreyu is a boutique running brand dedicated to simplicity and affordability. Atreyu's The Artist uses the same formula as big brand super shoes but offers it at half the price—the shoe has a supercritical foam with a full-length carbon plate and thin rubber outsole covering. At a $100 price-point with a ride similar to $250 competitors like the Asics Metaspeed Sky+, there's not much to critique about this Artist.
If you're running a marathon with the goal of completion, or you don't want to shell out $225+ for a pair of shoes, consider a shoe without a plate. Many of the best non-plated half marathon racers use the same high-quality foams found in their carbon-plated peers, sans the metal reinforcement. The usually have roomier, more padded uppers and more stable platforms. Without a plate, they'll have a softer, more forgiving feel underfoot while coming in $70 to $100 cheaper than their plated counterparts. Here are the best options in that category.
The Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 is the non–carbon-plated speed shoe companion to the Endorphin Pro 3. The Speed uses the same soft and bouncy PWRRN PB foam as the pro but with a full-length nylon plate (plastic) rather than a carbon one. The plastic plate provides a gentle consideration of stability, guidance and responsive structure to the midsole without the harsh rigidity of full-on metal. This creates a cushioned and fun ride that excels at everyday training paces as well as race day paces for most half marathon racers.
The Hoka Mach 5 is a lightweight uptempo trainer that's well-suited for faster daily runs as well as races for runners with wide feet. More race day super shoes come in only standard width, which for most brands can be narrow, so the Mach 5's dedicated EE width last is a great option. The Mach 5 has a springy and fun ride, comfortable upper and rubber-free outsole. While it won't have the same pop as a carbon-plated racer like the Hoka Rocket X 3, it's the next big thing for wide foot runners.
The Brooks Launch 9 GTS is a solid race day option for serious overpronators who need traditional stability to hold their foot in place and prevent injury. The Launch has medial post guide rails to do exactly that, plus a springy and responsive foam underfoot. The Launch is also lighter than most stability shoes out there, coming in at a spry 8.6 ounces—perfect for putting in work in comfort and speed over 13.1.
The Saucony Tempus is a great option if you need some support for overpronation but don't need a full-blown stability shoe. The Tempus provides mild stability through the unique approach of using a firmer foam midsole frame to reinforce the platform and guide the foot on landing. For uptempo performance, the Tempus has the softer, springer PEBA-based PWRRUN PB, the same foam found in the Endorphin Speed and Endorphin Pro.
The Altra Vanish Tempo fills a perfectly sized niche: the non-plated zero drop racer. A close kin the Vanish Carbon, the Tempo uses the same upbeat supercritical EGO PRO foam but ditches the plate, a winning formula for a more relaxed and natural ride. While not as fast as its plated peer, this is a good option if you prefer a zero drop shoe and don't want the stiffness of carbon fiber.
The Topo Cyclone 2 is an uptempo non-plated trainer that's designed for comfort and speed. The Cyclone has a low 5mm drop and a wider toebox for natural toe-splay. The midsole is real-deal Pebax, the same compound in Nike's vaunted Vaporfly racers, which in the Cyclone provides a bouncy and responsive ride, even without a plate. If you want a non-plated half marathon racer that's as pleasant to drive as it is poppy, then this is it.
Whether you're looking to break a new round number time barrier for the first time (sub 1:20, anyone?), or you're gunning for the accomplishment of completing a distance you've never traversed, there's a perfect half marathon racing shoe waiting for you out there. Remember you don't need what's on the feet of the elites, unless that's what makes you feel fast and confident. Your training will do the hard work for you on race day, but the shoes will make it that much easier to smash your goals. Go get 'em.