Published on: 07/27/2022
Last updated on: 01/05/2023
It’s no secret that triathletes love their gear. And for many, running shoes are at the top of the list. There’s nothing like the feeling when you find the right pair that makes you fly through the run leg, especially if you can find a color that matches your kit. We’re here to help you find the best shoes for your needs, whether you’re looking for comfort, speed, cushioning, or budget-friendly options. We’ve lined up our top recommendations for the best triathlon running shoes of 2023.
In a hurry? Go directly to the top 7.
The Runner’s Lab team analyzes multiple reviews on each shoe from casual and expert athletes. Since 2017, we’ve used this information to create each triathlon running shoe’s overall score and ranking.
While tests provide valuable information about the features of each shoe, they’re also subjective. We use a systematic review to determine the factors that will apply to most triathletes.
While one runner may find that a test shoe gives them blisters and feels too stiff, another may not feel any discomfort with it. By aggregating multiple reviews, we can determine whether perceived benefits or disadvantages are shared among a variety of athletes or only experienced by a select few.
We fact-check claims made by testers and shoe brands against scientific research about talking points like how heel-to-toe drop, stack height, and a person’s weight can affect a person’s risk of injury.
Our Selection of the Best Triathlon Running Shoes of 2023
|Shoe||Heel height||Drop||Weight||Cushioning||Best for||Best offer|
|Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39||28 mm||10 mm||9.0 oz/255 g||Balanced||Beginners||Check prices →|
|Asics Noosa Tri 14||25 mm||5 mm||7.6 oz/215 g||Balanced||All-Around||Check prices →|
|New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2||26 mm||6 mm||7.3 oz/208 g||Soft||Forefoot Strikers||Check prices →|
|Saucony Endorphin Pro 3||39 mm||8 mm||7.3 oz/206 g||Balanced||Race Day||Check prices →|
|Newton Distance 11||30 mm||2 mm||7.8 oz/221 g||Balanced||Sustainability|
|On Cloudflyer||36 mm||7 mm||9.8 oz/278 g||Firm||Versatility||Check prices →|
|Hoka Clifton 8||29 mm||5 mm||8.8 oz/250 g||Soft||Long Distance Training||Check prices →|
|Brooks Ghost 14||31 mm||12 mm||10 oz/283 g||Soft||Heel Strikers||Check prices →|
|Zoot Ultra TT||23 mm||3 mm||9.5 oz/269 g||Firm||Triathlon-Specific|
1. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39: Best Option for Beginner Triathletes
Nike is known for making some of the best running shoes on the market. So when it comes to triathlon shoes, it’s a brand worth considering. The Nike Zoom Pegasus features curved collars, so there’s less pressure on the Achilles tendon. The sockliner and midfoot webbing allow the shoe to conform to your foot for a secure, comfortable fit.
2. Asics Noosa Tri 14: Best All-Purpose Option
Seasoned runners who enjoyed the style of the Asics Gel Noosa in the 2000s will love the look of the updated Asics Noosa Tri 14. These colorful triathlon shoes are a solid choice for race day and training. You can customize your fit with the toggled laces, and the Flytefoam cushion absorbs impact without excessive weight. The Asics Noosa could be a good shoe for heel strikers, thanks to its superior shock absorption and curved design.
3. New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2: Best Option for Forefoot Strikers
If you loved the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus Turbo, this lightweight shoe could be your next go-to triathlon training and racing option. It’s neutral, stable, and responsive with a breathable engineered mesh upper to keep your feet cool and comfortable. The engineered mesh upper has been redesigned to be more breathable while keeping weight to a minimum. The outsole features New Balance’s NDurance rubber for better durability and increased traction.
4. Saucony Endorphin Pro 3: Best Race Day Shoe
If you’re looking for a triathlon shoe with a carbon plate and enough support to carry you through even an Ironman, consider the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3. These ultralight shoes provide support and comfort to help you excel at your next race. If you’re a fan of the Nike Vaporfly or Hoka Carbon X carbon fiber plate shoes, this might be a good option. The midsole features PEBA foam, which is lighter, more flexible, and more durable than other foams. As these are one of the pricier triathlon shoes, you may want to consider purchasing a different shoe for training.
5. Newton Distance 11: Best Environmentally Sustainable Pick
Both beginners and serious triathletes alike will love training and racing in Newton shoes. They’ve long been considered one of the best triathlon shoe brands. The Distance 11 is designed to work with our unique gender biomechanics. They’re made with Newton’s signature lugs under the forefoot and an updated footbed that offers a more cushioned and responsive ride. Another new feature is the use of durable recycled materials that allow the Newton Distance 11 to break down reportedly 75% faster in landfills.
6. On Cloudflyer: Best Option for All Foot Strikes
If there’s one shoe that’s worth a second look, it’s the On Cloudflyer. The unique bubble-like pods offer cushioning no matter where your foot strikes, providing comfort for heel, midfoot, and forefoot strikers. These Swiss shoes are made to provide stability and responsiveness in a light weight. With a curved rocker and a central channel on the shoe’s sole, you’ll enjoy a flexible, natural ride for any triathlon distance.
7. Hoka One One Clifton 8: Best Option for Long-Distance Training
While you might consider Hokas better suited for a trail run, they’ve gained a lot of favor as triathlon running shoes. Hokas have become a common sight on race day, especially for Ironman tris. Known for their cushioning, Cliftons feature neutral stability and would make excellent training shoes for half-iron or full-iron distances. Don’t let the stack height scare you off; if you’re looking for new shoes with plenty of cushioning, this Clifton is an option worth considering.
8. Brooks Ghost 14: Best Option for Heel Strikers
Brooks Ghost has been a tried-and-true training shoe for road runners and triathletes. Brooks is known for making some of the best running shoes, and this updated model is the brand’s first carbon-neutral shoe. The Ghost 14 offers better cushioning and a smoother ride than its predecessors. With an upper featuring Brooks’ 3D Fit Print, this triathlon running shoe will provide support and structure without constricting your toes. As a bonus, it’s available in colors to match nearly any kit you own.
9. Zoot Ultra TT: Best Triathlon-Specific Shoes
Zoot is a familiar name in the triathlon world, so who better to design high-performance triathlon shoes. The Zoot Ultra TT is worth considering if you’re looking for a blazing fast T2 transition time. They’re designed specifically for triathletes with a highly responsive and lightweight build. Additionally, the midsole features holes that prevent water from collecting in the shoes, which would add weight and cause painful blisters. This is arguably one of the best running shoes for triathletes.
How to Pick the Perfect Pair of Triathlon Running Shoes
There are several factors to consider when shopping for triathlon running shoes.
Are you looking for an affordable running shoe, top-of-the-line, or somewhere in between? Fortunately, you can find a quality triathlon running shoe at a price point that works for you.
Before shopping for triathlon running shoes, you must consider how you’ll use them.
Short Distance – Sprint and Olympic Triathlons
If you’re running a sprint or Olympic distance tri, you’ll need a lightweight, fast shoe that can be worn without socks.
Middle Distance – Half-Ironman Triathlons
For the half distance, there is room for personal preference. If your half-marathon is going to be under two hours, a lightweight racing shoe is a good choice. If you are spending more time on your feet, you may feel more comfortable in shoes with more cushioning.
Long Distance – Full Ironman Triathlons
Are you a mid-to-back-of-the-pack athlete training for a full Ironman? You’ll want a good pair of triathlon shoes that offers some cushioning to help protect your joints and reduce fatigue on your leg muscles. Faster runners may get by with a lightweight shoe with great energy return.
While you might think triathlon running is only on paved roads, many races feature other surfaces. The run leg could be on a crushed gravel path even if you’re racing in a city. And Xterra triathletes may run on muddy, rocky trails. Consider the type of surface you’ll be running on, and choose a shoe with enough traction and durability to get you safely through it.
This is another instance where you’ll want to consider your race distance. For short races, you may want a minimalist shoe, which should fit more snugly. When running longer distances, you’ll want a larger shoe with room for your feet to expand as they swell.
Knowing your foot strike and running style will make shopping for triathlon running shoes easier. Forefoot and midfoot strikers should look for a stable ride and a low or even zero heel drop. If you’re a heel striker, you’ll want a bit higher drop, as much as 10 mm, for good toe-off. And if you’re an underpronator/supinator or overpronator, you may need a running shoe with stability features to keep your ankles stable.
Finding the right running shoes often depends on how they feel. Many runners choose a shoe with a breathable upper to help the feet dry. You’ll also want to consider how much support and cushioning you need.
Socks or No Socks
Water and bare skin are two things that make shopping for triathlon running shoes different from buying other running shoes. Many triathletes run sockless, and blisters are the most-dreaded problem on the run aside from GI issues. If you plan to run without socks, ensure your triathlon running shoe has a sock liner and an engineered knit upper to prevent rubbing.
Elastic shoelaces allow you to pull your running shoes on quickly in transition, and there’s no need to worry about tripping on an untied lace during your run. If your favorite shoes don’t come with them, you can always switch them out. No matter what type of laces your shoes have, heel loops make it easy to slip a shoe on without untying it.
Alternatively, you can also look into laceless shoes (using a Boa closure system, for example), but there are not so many great options in our opinion.
As mentioned above, a triathlon running shoe may have elastic laces to make transitions quicker. It may also have holes that allow water to drain from the shoes, preventing blisters and excess weight. Heel loops make it easy to pull on your shoes and start the run leg quickly, and a breathable upper mesh will keep your feet dry.
Triathlon Training Shoes vs. Triathlon Racing Shoes
If you have the budget, consider purchasing two pairs of shoes: one for racing and a second for training. Your race day triathlon running shoes will need to be broken in ahead of time, but most of your running miles could be done in your training shoes. This makes investing in a good pair of race day shoes easier to justify since they’ll last much longer.
Look at the wear pattern on your old running shoes to see whether you have a neutral foot strike or tend to supinate or pronate. This will tell you whether or not you need a stability shoe.
Remember that each person has their idea of what makes the best shoe. Think about other shoes you’ve run in and what you liked or disliked about them. This can help you decide on the features that are most important to you.
Consider the weather and where you’ll be racing. Triathlons aren’t often canceled if it rains unless there’s lightning, so you could potentially end up running in the rain. If you’re running a sprint or Olympic tri on wet roads, you might want a shoe with a little more traction to allow you to maintain your pace safely.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Triathletes wear various running shoes, depending on their needs and race distance. Lightweight shoes with minimal cushioning, like racing flats, are a common choice for shorter distances like sprint triathlons. Less weight means less energy during the race, allowing for faster leg turnover and a strong push to the finish line.
For half-ironman and iron-distance tris, athletes often choose running shoes with more cushioning to help with shock absorption throughout the run. These triathletes usually put in more miles during training, so they may also have a second pair of race day running shoes rather than racing in their old training gear.
Since triathlons begin with a swim, followed by the bike leg and then a run, triathletes may finish biking before their clothes have fully dried. Therefore, triathlon running shoes may have features like drainage holes to allow water to drain and help prevent blisters.
Triathlon training plans don’t usually require quite as much running as training for a road race, but you do need shoes that will be durable and supportive. In general, you can expect to spend at least $100 on new shoes for the triathlon. While that might seem like a lot, you’ll likely get 300 to 500 miles out of one pair. Of course, there are many pricier options, but many triathletes do just fine with shoes in the $100-$150 range.
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Elite triathletes, and many amateur athletes, typically do not wear socks on the bike or the run for short-distance tris. This saves time in transition and avoids the hassle of putting socks on wet feet. In longer distance tris, it’s common to see athletes going sockless on the bike and wearing socks on the run. However, it’s also common to see socks on both the bike and the run.
If you’re thinking of wearing tri shoes without socks, choose a well-fitted shoe with a sock liner to reduce friction. It’s also a good idea to test out sockless running in training to ensure no hot spots could cause blisters.
Remember the triathlon golden rule: Nothing new on race day.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you narrow your search for a new pair of shoes. Whether your main goal is to run faster off the bike, get more support for your long runs, or fly like the wind in your next race, your ideal triathlon running shoes are just a few clicks away!