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Finding the right shoe for your marathon

Deciding on the right shoe for long-distance races and marathons is a task not to be underestimated. Here's what some of the world’s best athletes and our lab team have to say about three On fan favorites.

 

The great thing about running is that you can do it anywhere. All you need are some good shoes and comfortable clothes.

                                            - Javi Gomez Noya

 

Javi is a five-time ITU World Champion, a two-time IM 70.3 World Champion, and widely considered to be one of the best endurance athletes of all time - if not the best. So it would be unwise to disagree with him. 

 

However, finding ‘good shoes’ can be more of a challenge than many think. Weight, comfort, durability, cushioning, grip – the list of influencing factors goes on. With so many different models out there to choose from, it can be difficult to know which suits you best. And, to further complicate matters, we all have our own biomechanics and preferences to consider.

 

Unfortunately, most shoes fit great and feel comfortable when you try them in a store. It might only be 20 minutes into your first run that you start to realize they may not be for you. So, when it comes to running marathons, the all-important decision of which shoes to wear is even more crucial. 

 

Nobody wants to run 26.2 miles or 42.195 km in the wrong shoes. Let's shine a light on the best On shoes for long-distances races.

 

 

Do I really need marathon shoes?

 

Many of the world’s best marathon runners use shoes that offer mild to minimal protection. Some even wear flats - albeit usually with some support in the heel or arch. The reality, however, is that most of us are not physically ready for the stress this would put our body under. 

 

As their name suggests, racing flats are flat shoes made for racing. Ideal for short bursts of speed, they offer little to no support or cushioning. This can put a lot of pressure on the Achilles tendons and calf muscles. So your muscles have to work harder than they would with a more supportive shoe, leading to an increased risk of injury - even if you are an advanced runner.

 

That’s why most marathon runners want a shoe that offers some stability and comfort. However, as above, shoe choice is a very subjective thing. Some runners prefer lighter shoes with less support. Others don’t mind a heavier shoe with increased cushioning and protection. 

 

Try to be objective about your own biomechanics and how fast you go. Are you an impactful runner? How fast do you run? Do you need extra support for longer runs? Have you been running for years and years? All these factors can play a role in deciding which shoes you should wear. And asking yourself questions and analyzing your own needs and preferences is a good starting point on the road to finding your marathon shoe. 

 

  

So, is there a perfect marathon shoe?

 

In a word, no. At On, we believe there is no “right” way to run. That your shoes should let you run the way you were meant to. That said, many of our shoes do offer subtle support to help keep moving. We want you to be running for a long time. With this in mind, it’s important to find a shoe that works with your stride - not against it.

 

The following guide compares three On shoes often used in marathons and long distance runs. Based on advice and suggestions from the team who designs our shoes, we have broken down their individual qualities and attributes. The lab team has asked us to remind you, however, that shoe choice should always be based on your own preferences - and not necessarily just for marathons. In all sport, it is crucial to listen to your body. 

 

It is also worth noting that the shoes in this article are not necessarily the most supportive we offer. Instead, they have a variety of qualities (more on this later) that many runners look for when choosing their marathon shoes.

 

The Cloudstratus

 

  

First up, is the distance-doubling road titan, the Cloudstratus. Engineered with a revolutionary dual sequential CloudTec® system, it’s a landmark On built for maximum cushioning and distance. As it is the newest shoe in this lineup, it is the only one to feature Helion superfoam. Designed specifically for road running, it is lightweight and durable. Big on rebound and temperature resistant. 

 

If you want supreme comfort in a shoe that can diffuse heavy impact running over short and long distances at slow and fast paces, then this is the shoe for you. 

 

- Focus: Superior cushioning

- Runner profile: High impact runners // those who prioritize cushioning, a dynamic rolling motion and an explosive push off

- Design: Fully cushioned trainer with good rolling motion and a reactive push off

  

  

The Cloudstratus is my new favorite road shoe. 

So says David Kilgore, a member of the USA Trail and Ultra Running Team, who ran two marathons back to back in the Cloudstratus earlier this year. 

 

“With the Helion™ foam it feels lightweight but very durable. The double layer of CloudTec® cushioning feels substantial and provides a softer feeling. And, even after a double marathon, the shoe still looks brand new, it handled the task really well.

 

“My feet never felt uncomfortable. The Cloudstratus felt responsive and fast. It’s a real performance shoe - I mean it brought me to a new 50-mile PR so that's always a great thing. I don’t know what you wouldn’t like about this shoe.”

 

The Cloudstratus
The first On with double layers of CloudTec®. Features Helion™ superfoam for uncompromising performance on hard surfaces. Agile yet stable, with superior cushioning in the heel and forefoot for rolling momentum over long distances – ideal from 10km and way beyond.
See the details

  

The Cloudsurfer

     

 

In many respects the Cloudsurfer is the quintessential On shoe. CloudTec® at its purest, it offers the softest of landings and the most explosive of take-offs. It is the heaviest of the three shoes but don’t let that fool you. It likes to go fast. 

 

The surf-inspired SpeedBoard within is specially designed to work with the unique CloudTec® configuration underfoot to provide a smooth rolling motion. Look at the shoe from the side and you’ll see there is a clear gap between the final Cloud element and the end of the shoe – all to maximize the rolling motion of your stride. 

 

Training-shoe comfort in a shoe capable of racing-flat speeds.

 

- Focus: CloudTec in its purity

- Runner profile: Runners who want CloudTec® at its purest; soft landings and explosive push offs

- Design: Traditional CloudTec® provides the strongest combination of soft landings with a smooth rolling motion and explosive, direct push-offs

 

 

I love this shoe.

Says Canadian marathon and half-marathon record-holder Rachel Cliff.

 

“It offers a lot of support and the Clouds are quite bouncy, so it gives you a nice pop for your long runs. The Speedboard offers quite a bit of support from the heel to toe off. At the end of long runs when you start to fatigue it’s great to carry you through to the end.

 

“The back Cloud (element), I find does great on downhills. It’s always there for you as you come down a hill. (The shoe) also has quite a bit of foam and that’s made for your longer efforts or if you have high volume just to protect your feet.

 

“You really feel these clouds push you off the ground – that’s what On is known for – and it definitely comes alive in this shoe.”

    

The Cloudsurfer
The shoe that combines training shoe comfort with racing flat speed. Or, as Rachel puts it: “So soft and supportive but equally responsive and fast.”
See the Cloudsurfer

   

The Cloudflow

     

 

The ‘Flow is the most decorated On shoe of all time, topping podiums all around the world. It’s worn by the likes of Bart Aernouts, Javi Gomez, Margo Malone and Tim Don. Whether for training or racing, many of the best in the business wear and love it - and for good reason. 

 

Built for speed, it blends explosiveness with a reactive and ultra-lightweight shoe. The engineered upper is soft and supportive, designed to be comfortable right out of the box - as Javi Gomez knows well. 

 

- Focus: Lightweight all-rounder

- Runner profile: All kinds of runners who want a light and agile race shoe with moderate cushioning and support

- Design: Agile lightweight trainer with superior rolling motion and moderate cushioning

 

 

I can take the Cloudflow out of the box, use it for a race and it will work well.

Says five-time ITU World Champion and a two-time IM 70.3 World Champion, Javi Gomez.

 

“It’s something that you shouldn't do (because) every time you use (a new shoe), you should try it in training. I am really happy with the sole, the support and the cushioning - even though it is a really light and fast shoe. 

 

“The first time I put on a Cloudflow it was not an easy run. It was for my interval session to see how they feel. I would’ve changed them if I felt like they were hurting me, but it was as if I had been wearing them for ages. That was the first time, doing 1km intervals at a pretty fast pace. They felt good."

 

And you can guarantee that if it’s a “pretty fast pace” for Javi, not many of us are keeping up. 

 

The Cloudflow
Lightweight and ultra-responsive, with 18 Clouds to offer outstanding impact protection and a specialized Speedboard ™ to put a serious spring in your step. The shortcut to runner’s high.
See it here

 

The Breakdown

  

 

Terms Explained

 

Cushioning: How much the shoe protects against the impact of landings

 

Support: How much the shoe slows down pronation of the foot, so tired muscles have time to respond and support your rolling motion. This is unique to On shoes. 

 

Directness: How close to the ground your feet feel, and how much feedback you get from the ground.

 

Explosiveness: How reactive the shoe is – in On shoes this comes from our patented SpeedBoard technology which produces a kind of spring-effect.

 

Ride: How smooth and fluent the rolling motion is as the shoe transfers the runner’s weight from heel to toe. One of the more subjective terms listed here.

 

Agility: The more agile a shoe is, the more suited it will be to mixed training. Less agile shoes often excel on long runs at steady speed - slow or fast.

 

Lightweight: How light the shoe is. The higher the rating, the lighter the shoe.  

 

Worth Considering

  

It would be remiss of us to not mention our range of shoes aimed at support. All of our support shoes are well worth considering if you are new to running, recovering from an injury, or just want to push distance or speed. 

 

Find out if you can benefit more from a shoe that does offer increased protection and support by checking out our support shoe comparison. The Cloudflyer, the Cloudace, and the Cloudstratus all feature. 

 

Why every runner needs a support shoe – a guide.
Every runner needs extra support sometimes. Whether you’re just starting out, looking to increase the distance or preparing for competition, a shoe with additional support and cushioning will help.
Read more

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