What to Look Out For When Buying Triathlon Running Shoes

Running Shoe Guides

What to Look Out For When Buying Triathlon Running Shoes

What to Look Out For When Buying Triathlon Running Shoes
5 (100%) 1 vote

What if we told you your shoes could win a triathlon for you?

The right triathlon running shoes are the difference between a PR and a painful loss.

But which shoes are for triathletes, and which are designed for other runners? We’ve done the research, and found what triathletes agree are important components in their running shoes.

In just a moment, we’ll explain these three key features for triathlon running shoes in depth:

  • A seamless interior
  • Great ventilation and drainage
  • Ease in transitioning

But first, we’ll briefly explore how to determine which shoe style is best for your feet, while considering these three types of shoes:

Luckily, some of the top brands are making it their mission to cater to triathletes, creating shoes that are a perfect fit for the sport and for your feet.

Ready to learn how to choose triathlon running shoes?

Let’s get started!

Your Running Gait and You

What if we told you that your running style is as unique as your fingerprints?

Although every person’s movements are unique, experts have learned to classify people into certain generalized groups, including…

  • Neutral pronators
  • Overpronators
  • Supinators

… and, it’s fairly easy to find out which category you fit into.

Footwear professionals have a test called the “Wet Test” that reveals your arch type – thereby revealing your pronation type.

It’s easy to perform this test at home by following these simple steps:

  1. Wet the bottom of each foot (you may use a wet cloth, or briefly step into a container of water)
  2. Stand normally on a piece of paper bag, colored paper, or wood (such as a deck)
  3. Step off or away after a few moments, to reveal a set of footprints

Evaluating this set of footprints gives you a clue as to what kind of shoe you might require.

Neutral pronation

You are most likely a neutral pronator if your footprint:

  • Reveals a slight curve on the inside of the foot
  • A solid line connecting heel and toes, a little less than half the width of your foot,

Neutral pronators have a moderate arch height and place weight fairly evenly on their whole foot.


You are most likely an overpronator if your footprint:

  • Has little to no curve on the inside of the foot
  • Shows almost your entire foot

Overpronators (also known as having “flat feet”) have low or weak arches and tend to roll their ankles inwards with each stride. This can cause shin splints, and requires special support.


Lastly, you are most likely a supinator if your footprint:

  • Shows a very narrow or even disconnected band along the outside of the foot
  • Has a large curve on the inside of the foot

Supinators generally do not pronate enough, meaning their shock absorption is limited, and this can also lead to injuries.

Choosing a shoe

You’ve learned what kind of pronator you are… now what?

Choosing a shoe that adequately supports your running gait is the difference between running unhindered and being knocked out due to injuries.

Though we’ll explain which shoes are generally recommended for each gait, always remember to consult a specialist. It’s important to confirm with a trained professional what kind of shoe best suits your anatomy.

Generally speaking, those who have a neutral pronation can wear a wider array of shoes. Neutral pronators are more comfortable in minimalist shoes, barefoot shoes, and even maximalist shoes. Because there are no support restrictions, neutral pronators can enjoy a plethora of shoe types.

A great neutral shoe for triathletes is the Nike Lunaracer+ 3.

If you prefer a little more support and cushion, an extremely popular stability shoe for neutral pronating triathletes is the Asics GEL-Noosa Tri 10.


Runners who overpronate need a lot of support to reduce the risk of shin splints and knee or ankle damage. The best shoes for overpronators are motion control shoes with firm midsoles.

Because overpronators lack support, it’s vitally important to provide artificial support in order to keep the foot and leg conformation aligned and reduce the risk of injury.

A popular motion control shoe for triathletes is the Mizuno Wave Legend 3.

Hoka One One Clifton 2

Finally, runners who are supinators need help in the cushion department. Maximalist shoes like the Hoka One One Clifton 2 are perfect for supination, as they provide maximum cushioning for runners who otherwise do not absorb impact.

Important shoe features for triathletes

Now that you’ve determined what kind of shoe is best for your running gait, you can dig into the fun details of shoe design!

Triathletes look for three main things in great running shoes:

  • Ability to run without socks
  • Ventilation and drainage
  • Quick and easy transitioning

Below, we’ve examined these three elements of good triathlon specific running shoes, and which shoes are exemplary models.

Going barefoot… sort of

Sockless running can cut critical seconds and wasted energy off of your race time. Many expert triathletes run without socks, because putting socks on adds too much time and fumbling in the transition phase.

But wouldn’t running without socks when your feet are hot and sweaty be a recipe for a blister-filled disaster?

Only if you have shoes with bulky seams and rough materials!

Many companies are now producing shoes with the sockless running trend in mind. These shoes bank on a seamless interior and smooth, moisture-wicking materials.


A great example is the Pearl iZUMi E:MOTION TRI N2 v2. The E:MOTION is built around a seamless upper that also offers a spacer mesh material to really keep the air flowing. This not only protects your feet from friction burns, but also keeps moisture from building up, which can contribute to blisters and other problems.

Because avid runners across all disciplines value a comfortable ride, many companies are producing running shoes with seamless uppers. Many of the shoes listed in our 25 best reviews of triathlon specific running shoes boast seamless designs, and superior air flow.

Ventilation and Drainage

Nobody wants to run in soggy shoes.

For triathletes, who are amphibious by nature, ventilation and moisture-wicking are especially important features of a running shoe.

By the time you reach the running phase, your feet are undoubtedly swollen and wet. Excess liquid from water and sweat is a constant contributor to swampy feet. Because of this, it’s critical to have superior ventilation and moisture drainage.

Uppers made of mesh or knit fabric with strategically placed airflow areas will keep your feet happy and fresh. Take the ON Cloudracer for example. The Cloudrunner offers extreme ventilation in its almost sheer upper, allowing your feet maximum air flow.

Another great feature of triathlon specific shoes is moisture drainage. The ALTRA Impulse offers built in drainage holes, which provides “quick moisture release and superior airflow”.

Breathability and drainage keep your feet dry and comfortable, allowing you to focus more on racing and less on uncomfortable feet.

Slide on in!

Shifting from ride to run means you’ve got just seconds to get your cycling gear off and your running shoes on.

Making that transition smooth is important, as this may be the last chance you get to gain back any lost time. A great routine will give you a leg up on the competition and help set your mind on track for the next phase.

Part of an easy transition is having shoes that are easy to slip into. This means having a few added components that make putting swollen feet into tight shoes a breeze.

Shoes that are easy to transition into feature…

  • Heel pulls
  • Tongue tabs
  • Elastic laces or quick-lace systems

… all of which will cut down the time it takes to move into the final phase.

Zoot Makai

A perfect example of a shoe that’s easy to transition into is the Zoot Makai. Zoot has long been known for their very triathlon specific shoes, which often feature…

  • tongue pull tabs
  • heel pull tabs
  • “Race Lock” lace system
  • and seamless liners.

The Zoot Makai is a great shoe for fast, easy transitions.

Get running!

When you’re racing in one of the world’s most demanding sports, it’s crazy to think you can get by with generic gear.

Happily for triathletes around the world, running shoe manufacturers are producing shoes that are perfect for the task afoot.

Whether you compete in Super Sprints or Ironman Triathlons, having shoes that are supportive enough for your anatomy is the key to success. Additionally, having triathlon specific running shoes is a great way to make sure you finish the race in top form and avoid injury.

If you’re looking for a new pair of running shoes for your next triathlon, remember to keep these things in mind:

  • Your running gait (neutral, overpronation, supination)
  • Seamless uppers for sockless running
  • Superior ventilation and moisture drainage
  • Easy transitioning in the form of pull tabs and quick laces

With these things in mind, you’ll be set to find the best shoe for you, and start making PR’s on course!

Take a look at our list of 25 best reviews of triathlon specific running shoes to explore the best shoes in the sport.

Ashley Banks

Ashley Banks