10 Best Ultra Running Shoes Rated & Tested
The key to choosing the best shoes for ultra distance running is to select a brand which has been researched and designed for the purpose. With this in mind, runners want a shoe that they know will meet the required level of performance, comfort, lightness, and durability. For example, if you want a very fast car you buy a sports car, and when you need to haul a lot of stuff around consistently, you get a truck. The same holds true when selecting a pair of running shoes for ultra distance performance.
There are many different running shoes available forultra marathon runners. To decide which pair of ultra running shoes is best to fit your needs, we have put together this list of the best ultra running shoes you can buy.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
- Available in wide and half sizes
- Design and cushioning reduces foot discomfort
10 Best Ultra Running Shoes
1. Brooks Ghost 11
- Available in wide and half sizes
- Design and cushioning reduces foot discomfort
- Soft fabric and mesh components may fray
- Can rub feet and cause blisters if worn without socks, due to design
The Brooks Ghost 11 was designed to meet the needs of neutral runners and under-pronators making this a shoe that a variety of runner can benefit from. Lined with advanced cushioning, The Ghost 11 offers over the top support and is great for those with higher arches. Add all this is durability and all over Ultra design, and you will see why we have ranked this our #1 on the Best Ultra Running Shoe list. Furthermore, the removable foam insole means that runners can customize their level of support.
The removable insole means runners can replace the existing insole when it wears out. The way the upper is designed protects the shoe from the natural elements so it lasts longer. Many customers report having their Brooks Ghost shoes for many years.
This pair of shoes balances affordability with high performance. Depending upon the color and size, this shoe can cost runners more or less than average. For a shoe that's available in half and wide sizes, it's considerably affordable.
2. Saucony Peregrine 8
Solid traction over various types of off-road terrain
Sizing runs a bit small
Designed for rugged trail running, the Saucony Peregrine 8 offers great protection and cushioning. It’s a great ultra running shoe for all kinds of terrain.Read more
The Peregrine 8 was designed to both protect and stabilize your feet. It’s not so rigid that your foot can’t flex as it should, but the shoe’s EBO rock plate will help prevent injuries from rough terrain. The sticky rubber sole has an incredible amount of traction, which is what makes this shoe so versatile. You can wear it while running on rock, dirt, snow, and more with ease. Every landing is very well cushioned thanks to the structural board, heel pad, and midsole cushioning. The balance between stability and lightness found in this shoe is hard to beat.
Many runners find that they run pretty small. The toe box might be small for some with wider feet. The added stability of the structural board can cause problems for those with flat feet. You will likely have to take some time to break them in before you really use them for a long run.
After a year of use, you may notice that some of the rubber around the toe will start to show signs of peeling. The upper mesh can get holes worn into it if it rubs up against anything while you run. Snags, in general, can cause durability issues.
These shoes can get expensive. Their versatility makes them worth it, especially if you are running year-round, but their durability can be an issue.
3. Hoka One One Clayton
Designed for comfort
The Hoka One One Clayton offers what most runners want, a balance between a lightweight running shoe and support that's comfortable to wear for Ultra distance. The Hoka One One Clayton line is a top rated, high performance running shoe with the comfort, stability, and features endurance runners need. It is available in both men's and women's sizes. However, it is not available in narrow or wide widths.Read more
The Hoka One One Clayton is known for comfort. With a firmer front and a softer heel, joints are better protected and runners experience better propulsion. The extra cushioning promotes comfort during long endurance races.
Many marathon runners report that they are able to wear these shoes through both training and many race days. The mix of synthetic and mesh materials on the exterior increase durability. The rubber sole protects feet against the elements.
Hoka shoes are among the most expensive shoes featured on this list. However, ultramarathon runners rave about the shoe and its longevity. Furthermore, when you're doing some serious mileage, a good shoe is more of an investment, making these worth every penny.
4. Columbia Trans Alp FKT II
With the Columbia Trans Alp FKT II, you’ll get a ground feel that allows for road and trail training. These Shoes will take you far on many types of terrain, which is key for an Ultra design. Although these may seem more geared for rearranging rocks, when you are taking on an Ultra, these will give you the versatility of a shoe geared for distance as well. This alone makes them a favorite for more aggressive terrain Ultramarathon runners.Read more
Although the Trans Alp FKT II is not as cushioned as some on the list, their low profile gives a more solid ground connection and feel for those more intense runs. The support they offer allows for the foot to ride softer because it has a more natural flow. These are also a great option for Ultra runners because their 8mm drop is designed well for transitioning from pavement to rocky trails. Columbia made this mid-weight for this reason. The Trans Alp II is a tad heavier due to trail design and that is still light enough for racking up those miles.
Durability is through the roof with the Columbia Trans Alp II. They have rubber and leather overlay reinforcing the shoes and the 6mm rubber lugs can take a lot of abuse. These aren't your typical thin mesh but they are seamless and mesh, which is lined with ripstop patches for great air flow. The interesting mesh design makes for a good dusty run by keeping all that debris out of the shoe. Also keeping the dirt out and protecting your toes - and the shoe - is Columbia’s reinforced toe shield. The shield makes the forefoot that much more durable while adding abrasion and water resistance. And let us not forget the Trail Shield rubber outsole technology surrounding the outer sole of the shoe. The list just keeps going.
Don't let the price tag make you turn your nose up to what could possibly the best ultra Running shoe you've ever slipped your dirt kickers in. The durability and versatile road/trail design is sure to make you feel like you are investing in your running. If you are serious about running those multi-terrain Ultramarathons, we highly suggest looking into the Columbia Trans Alp FKT II. When your done putting in all those miles, you can write back and thank us.
5. Scott Supertrac RC Ultra
Superb on and offroad versatility
More cushion than other trail shoes
Light and agile
Soft material inside the shoe
Loses a bit of support when overly wet
Higher collar design can cause irritation in some
Another hill climber on the list is the Scott SupertracRC Ultra - it has Ultra in the name. This shoe is a solid combination of race, distance and ruggedness. It is lightweight and ready to go for as long as you need and still offers the right amount of support and cushioning to make you feel less like you ran 100 miles and more like you could run another.Read more
Lined with the AeroFoam cushioning and RC insole, the padding is more noticeable than anticipated versus weight on the Supertrac RC. They are also designed the shoe with a race tongue and this helps with the whole lockdown of the shoe. The upper material had a lot of work put in it based on data accumulated from High form athletes and ultramarathoners alike. The Scholler Dynamic upper fabric is water resistant and still breathes well. It doesn't let the small stuff in and allows the water to drain rapidly.
The Scott Supertrac RC Ultra was made for hours of running. No doubt they are a racers shoe. They shed mud and debris due to the diamond-shaped design of the lugs, which are placed to strategically assist in gliding over rougher terrain. The whole shoe design is made with durability in mind, but it doesn't take away from the comfort at all. If you’re going to run Ultra, you're going to need a shoe that can take on those long miles of varied terrain. Rocking 7mm deep lugs the Supertrac offers plenty of grips, which also adds to the durability.
The Scott Supertrac RC Ultra has an average cost for a not so average Ultra running shoe. These are light, comfortable and affordable. They are extra durable so you're not only getting more time for your money, you won't have to worry about beating your shoe through to the finish line.
6. ASICS GEL-Venture 5
Not many available
The ASICS GEL-Venture 5 is a best selling race shoe. It is available in both men's and women's sizes. Its gel-based sole promotes ultimate comfort.Read more
The innovative GEL Cushioning System promotes great comfort for runners. This is great for everyday training sessions or long endurance races. A removable liner allows space for custom orthotic inserts.
Several components of this shoe promote durability. First, a trail-specific outsole means runners can travel on any terrain. High abrasion rubber means rough surfaces won't damage the shoes. Last, a rugged exterior ensures longevity.
These shoes cost less than most comparable versions, from ASICS and other manufacturers. Depending on the size and color, these shoes may cost roughly half of what shoes with similar features cost.
7. Mizuno Wave Inspire 12
- Solid pair of motion control running shoes
- Perfect for runners with overpronation or flat feet
- Affordable price
- May be tight around upper
- Firmer sole
The Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 is an affordable and stylish running shoe. It's available in a wide range of cool tone color combinations. Available in men's and women's versions.Read more
The Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 features a synthetic sole and a breathable upper, so runners don't have to worry about their feet becoming sweaty during long runs. A U4icX stability board improves underfoot comfort. It's also available in wide widths.
Mizuno, as a company, has made shoes since 1906. Part of their longevity is from building high-quality athletic gear. The firmer sole found in these shoes helps to promote durability.
For overpronators or those with flat feet, the Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 is one of the most affordable choices on the market. If you compare its price to competitor versions, it's consistently around 30% or so less in price than the others.
8. Brooks Pureflow 7
Only average traction
Some buyers didn't like the style
Built specifically for women distance runners, the PureFlow 7 is comfortable, light and the whole shoe design is about enhancing your speed. They have a responsive level of shoe support and have speed in mind. These shoes are on our list because of their high performance and the buyer-friendly price tag.Read more
The response is above moderate and consistent, this factor may not be as high as some other brands, but it's all about the response level in this shoe working very well in conjunction with other additional built-in shoe techs. The Midsole is DNA Lite so you will feel the bounce factor which works together with the shoes ability to give the right level of structural support for a long challenging ride.
Your comfort results from the mid-sole area which also serves up support combined with flexibility. Though the shoe feels firm when you need it the bounce factor is also there and reliably consistent.
The needed padding is nicely placed in strategic areas and an innovative ventilation system keeps dryness and comfort consistent.
While you get a light shoe, durability is not sacrificed. The outsole is tough blown carbon which gives good protection while holding back wear and tear. The upper mesh system is constructed from durable materials which mean the shoes gives longevity combined with noticeable structural support.
When you think about the high performance, durability, comfort and nice design, the price is surprisingly friendly for buyers.
9. Inov-8 X-Talon 200
Mud doesn't clump in treads
Very light weight
Invest in gaiters, as debris get in easily
Inov-8 has been designing high-quality footwear for outdoor athletes for years. The X-Talon 200 has been specially designed for running over tough and extreme terrain.Read more
The X-Talon 200 has been designed with a 3mm heel-to-toe drop and injected EVA midsole in order to increase performance and comfort by bringing the foot closer to the ground. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for performance with this shoe. They are very light and highly flexible, encouraging the natural moment of your foot. The rubber studs on the bottom have been designed to prevent slipping even on wet ground. The tough, thick rubber toe dump will help protect your feet from obstacles like rocks and branches. You may need to take some time to break these shoes in before a truly long run, though many runners have found they work great right out of the box. Like many other extremely lightweight ultra-shoes, they run small and close to your foot. The sizes are all for men, so women should figure out what men’s sizes will work for them. These shoes can fit people with wider feet very well. If you need inserts or orthotics, you can fit these inside the X-Talon 200s without making the shoes impossible to get on.
The forefoot mesh allows the shoes to drain fast in order to keep your feet dry. They shed mud really well and will look like new after a wash. All the pieces are attached very well and the rubber studs on the bottom are very durable. You don’t need to worry about wearing them down very quickly or finding some of them tearing loose.
These are pretty budget friendly ultra running shoes. Price varies a bit based on sizes, but they’re easy to find online.
10. On Cloudflyer
Specific design for purpose
Secure/quick lace system
Pay attention to fit/width when you choose your shoe.
The Swiss know about tough and challenging running conditions, and long variable terrain distance running and the outsole of the On Cloudflyer is specifically designed for these purposes. The On Cloudflyer is very durable, and they have just the right amount of flexibility and bounce. These are among our top shoes because the maker has obviously done their research on what runners need for tougher, long-distance running. They designed the Cloudlflyt with all the needed features and performance of a great Ultramarathon shoe.Read more
Purpose built midsole for long runs, light so your energy is not fed into dealing with weight, bounce feedback is reliably consistent and the cushioning designed into the shoe is a result of the makers looking closely at where runners need the cushion for long distance comfort. The Midsole is Eva-Foam and this gives that wanted bounce which works nicely with the structural support designed into the shoe.
Very good shock absorbing capability from a cushioning network which soaks up shock. The entire lower interior of the shoe is cushioned and the EVA shoe tech deals with impact comfortably while you focus on running comfortably. The level of needed flexibility is evident in the combination of a shoe design which avoids restricting your foot.
The sole, like other features in this shoe, is designed to be durable so that tough long distance running on all types of surfaces will not impact the durability, comfort and performance. The overall shoe construction/materials are light and durable, the upper is constructed to give stability and comfort, ventilation for air and the dispersal of moisture is good. Overall this shoe is a very good choice and will meet the personal requirements set by runners who enjoy ultra distances.
Given the built-in shoe tech, the materials, the performance, and the nice functional design, the price sits comfortably as affordable.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Since ultramarathon races are so long, 50-100 miles or more, a shoe's level of shock absorption is hugely important. After all, you're going to be hitting the trail or pavement each and every step of the way, and in order to perform at your best, prevent injury, and feel good doing it you're going to need a good pair of shoes that has excellent shock absorbing capabilities.
With this in mind while we made our top 10 list of the best ultra running shoes we only selected shoes that have a lot of shock absorbing design features built into them, as well as ones that were rated highly by real-world users as being very good at this essential function. Then we assigned each shoe on our list with a score from 0-100 based on how shock absorbing it is. This makes it easy for you the runner to choose a shoe that will be best for you. Especially if you're a heavier runner who needs more cushioning we recommend choosing one of the shoes on our list that has a high score in this category. If you're a lighter runner or don't like a lot of cushioning for some reason, you will see that often shoes scoring lower in shock absorption are more highly rated in other areas. This means you can get more features you do need, without paying for ones you don't.
Our reviewers looked at how firm the shoes are at the front when they are performing on challenging surfaces which are totally different than paved surfaces. We wanted to see toe protection built into the shoes in combination with plates designed underfoot to give solid protection from sharp rocks and tree roots.
We looked for midsoles which offer strong resilience through superb cushioning and capability to take the shock levels created through hard strikes or landing on rocks while still giving stability on challenging descents. The provision of sturdy protective materials built as overlays into the shoe for defense against sharp thorns.
Running in the wilds means streams, wet mud, rain-soaked surfaces and this means that the designers needed to consider very good wick-ability, defense against water penetration and water drainage features for the shoes, how did they do this? Which features did they engineer into a shoe and which types of combined materials? Much consideration was given when looking at the shoe traction/grip, how diverse and innovative were lug systems for providing maximum grip and angular stopping power? Ideally, we looked for soles which allowed for traction on soft muddy surfaces through innovative lug layouts and we wanted to see that the design ensured that sticky mud would not stay clinging to the sole but can be dispersed away from the sole.
We looked at support through stiff solid shoe build design in the uppers, the use of internal shanks all of which give a runner the edge on surfaces which can be very unstable. Very tough challenging environments require the shoe to go a step further in features, whereas foam midsoles offered in tough polyurethane for greater durability. Did the shoe designers look at providing more stoutness in the shoe which will result in better torsional rigidity especially as a runner is very likely to be on ground which is difficult to predict and barely ever even or flat?
Did the shoe designers consider providing more durability through hard quality grippy rubber or even softer grippy rubber for tackling wet wood and rocks? They clearly understand that there are many different types of challenges on different sorts of trails and there are many different types of runners feet and personal shoe preferences and needs. The lace systems designed into the shoes were interesting to look at as well, looking at how well the systems serve towards contributing towards the fit and stability of the shoe. Our researchers found that ultra shoe designers give a lot of careful thought into how they design running shoes for long challenging distance running in tough environments. They clearly understand that there are many different types of challenges on different sorts of trails and there are many different types of runners feet and personal shoe preferences or needs. Therefore the shoes offered are designed for a wide array of difficult running conditions while cleverly staying focused on key requirements.
The last thing we want is for you to spend your hard earned money buying a pair of shoes that falls apart before you can get your money's worth out of them. And since you're reading this because you're looking for a pair of shoes to run 50-100 miles in, you need a shoe that can hold up to that kind of mileage during training as well as the race.
Speaking of which, since practice makes perfect, and perfect practice makes for perfect performance, we actually recommend doing what the pros do and buy two pairs or more of the same ultra running shoes so that you have one to train in, and one to run the actual race in. During training your feet will adapt to your shoes, and your shoes to your feet. The last thing you want after all that hard work training is to slip on a new and different pair of shoes for your race only to find they don't fit as well, or at least differently than what you wore for training.
Other Factors to Consider
The SpaceRock, Vasquez Natural Park in California
At number one in our choice of five very different and challenging trail runs, there is a choice here for all runners, new runners or those that prefer a shorter distance can try the 5km trail and enjoy the fantastic scenery and character building challenging which naturally occur in this trail. For more experienced or those that want more challenges while also enjoying breathtaking scenery two more choices are on offer, the 10 km run or the famous 13.1-mile run
Vasquez Natural Park
What scenery can you expect? Think of Planet of the Apes, Star Trek and many other movies which used this park because of its unique features.
You will be running in elevations which vary over 3200 feet and the amazing rock formations may well give you the feeling you are running in a terrain on a faraway world in another galaxy. Don't forget to bring a GPS.
The Kalalau Trail
Here you will experience every type of surface you would expect in a remote Hawaiian forest and valley location and you will also encounter parts of trails that you had never imagined.
The scenery is spectacular, the wildlife exotic and spellbinding, this trail run is a once in a lifetime experience which will stay in your memory forever. Take with you a good selection of running gear and essential survival kit and of course a camera because you will want to take many snapshots.
Your route will be 11 miles and a combination of running and a lot of trekking due to challenging terrain, you start at Kee beach front and head along the coast to Kalalau beach but to get here you travel through the national park valley inland, you do not directly follow the coastline. In reality, you pass through five valleys within the park system, through lush green awe-inspiring valleys, along cliffs which tower as they face the blue ocean till you eventually descend to sea level.
I suggest you bring a reliable GPS.
Huckleberry Mountain, Montana USA
Try six miles in breathtaking spectacular scenery, you get lowland, medium elevations and higher and the actual trail is not too challenging as you make your way through Glacier national park in Montana.
Take a good solid running kit with you including a GPS and watch out for the wild bears, not your standard black bear but the Grizzly types. This type of trail is for runners that want the wilderness and all its natural beauty. The condition of the trail will very much depend on which time of year you visit.
Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
This trail is tough and its for runners and hikers that want a challenge which they will never forget, we are talking 220 km of amazing landscapes in a South African environment, incredibly steep at times and flat at others, you will do a lot of ascending and descending, at times in conditions you might not have thought possible.
If your up for challenges that will ultimately test your endurance this has to be the one that will work for you, it's a long way to travel to get to South Africa and then you have the journey to reach the trail run where you can combine running and hiking. This unique challenge is clearly not done in a day so you must go equipped to be there for 3 or possibly 4 days even if it does not take you that long.
Yes, it is actually a trail that has been used in competitions and it is not unknown for people to quit. The actual trail is not clearly established so you will want a good GPS system. Without any doubt, this is one you will find tests you and stays as one of the most challenging experiences in your life. A country in which the animal population is really wild and at times may well regard you as food.
Aonach Eagach Ridge
The trail distances vary in fact you can create your own trail runs, the views in the Scottish Highlands are really memorable, it's wild and untouched and though very beautiful you will need to take care, the terrain can change very quickly from firm to boggy, you will run ridges where if you slip off you will be severely injured and with no other people around to help you.
Beautiful loch's, (lakes), valleys full of heather, hills, mountains, bogland, forests, everything is here, be ready to tackle steep elevations, descend into stunning valleys littered with herds of red deer, wild grouse, and fantastic fauna.
At times the weather can change dramatically so your running kit needs to be of the type to be ready if that happens, take a good GPS and phone along with energy rations and water.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: For endurance running, which energy bars do you suggest?
This will very much depend on the type of endurance run, is it a speedy ride over a short distance, long distance, easy or very challenging terrains? The market is full of good quality energy bars and it is worth your time to read a review so that you can choose the bars which you best feel suit your needs.
q: I want a GPS but I'm not into the handheld models which need to be carried or stowed in a pocket, can you suggest an alternative?
The fact that you want a GPS makes it clear you are thinking about taking on some remote rides on wild trails, though I am tempted to persuade you to go for a handheld GPS because they also come with other extra useful functions, as an alternative I can suggest you review the best GPS watch for you.
q: I want a solid pair of running pants, not shorts because I'm going trail running in a very cold mountainous area.
It's always an extra challenge when we take a trail run in winter conditions. Check this review for best winter running kit and I am sure you will choose something that's right for you.
q: I'm into trail running in really sticky wet muddy conditions, which type of lug style and configuration should I look for?
You need to choose a robust durable lug which is laid out in a configuration on the sole which allows for solid grip but does not pick up and hold wet mud to the sole of the shoe. The lugs need to also be spaced to take into account foot strike at angles if you're also running on uneven trail surfaces. You need to look at trail shoes and select the best shoe.
q: I'm thinking of going on a full daylong trail running event in Montana, can you suggest a good runners backpack?
Yes I can, your backpack needs to carry essentials without overburdening you and such essentials can be a pair of running pants to slip over shorts, food, water, some type of first aid, spare socks or top and whatever other essentials you feel you need. Check here for a very good runners backpack.
q: I'm into trail running big time and one of my preferences is a lot of protection and sole between me and the surface, any suggestions?
If you want a very high-performance shoe which gives a lot of protective and comfortable sole between you and the many types of trail surfaces, you need to review the best shoe for you and this means looking at very focused selective brands.