The Best Nike Shoes (and Gear) for Running an Ultramarathon
Here's everything you need to prepare for high-mileage runs, whatever the distance or terrain.
Ultramarathon running distances can range from 50 to upwards of 100 miles. To take on training and race day alike, athletes not only need to have persistence and grit, but they also need ultramarathon shoes and gear primed to stand up to the task.
When you're running such distances, things are bound to get uncomfortable. "At a point, everything starts to hurt. If you're fighting your gear, that pain is exacerbated. But, if your gear is comfortable, it makes the endeavour less excruciating and almost enjoyable", said Dean Karnazes, a world-renowned ultramarathon runner and author of "Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner".
The keyword being "almost".
From ultramarathon shoes to clothing, eyewear, head torches and running backpacks, here are some go-to items to have in your arsenal for your next ultramarathon.
(Related: Everything You Need to Know Before Running Your First Ultramarathon)
Best Nike Shoes for Ultra Running
A proper fit is the most important attribute to look for in an ultramarathon running shoe.
"Any rubbing, pinching or constriction is going to become unbearable over time", Karnazes said. Also, ultramarathons can take place on several different surfaces—including concrete, road, trails, grass and even gravel—underscoring the importance of choosing the right shoe.
"For instance, if the trails are unstable with loose rocks and debris, a shoe with deep lugs will be advantageous", Karnazes said.
For Uneven Terrain: Nike Pegasus Trail-Running Shoes
Nike Pegasus trail-running shoes, for example, offer a supportive and springy feel, excellent underfoot traction and a durable upper (the top half of the shoe). "All of these features are designed to withstand off-road running", Karnazes said.
"Shoes with these qualities are less likely to tear or break down when they run through brush, rub against rocks or get caught on thorns", he added.
For Wet Conditions: Nike Waterproof Trail-Running Shoes
"If the trail crosses streams, you may opt for a waterproof shoe or at least something that's moisture wicking", Karnazes said.
Running shoes made with Nike waterproof GORE-TEX technology keep feet dry so you can run further more comfortably. The invisible GORE-TEX fits along the upper, protecting the feet from precipitation without sacrificing that comfortable feel.
For Long Stretches of Road: Nike Flyknit Road-Running Shoes
"On the other hand, road-running shoes require ample room in the forefoot, as feet tend to swell and expand when running ultramarathon distances", Karnazes said. When your shoes start squeezing your toes and heels, your muscles feel overwhelmed and it can make you struggle with balance. "That's why having some roominess in your shoes is convenient", Karnazes said.
Ultra-running shoes also need to be lightweight. Shoes made with Nike Flyknit technology feature high-strength fibres that create lightweight uppers with targeted areas of support, stretch and breathability. The Nike Innovation team has also developed a new Flyknit upper called AtomKnit, which builds on the Flyknit technology and delivers an even lighter feel with minimal water absorption from rain and sweat, enhancing breathability.
Best Nike Socks for Ultra Running
"Select socks based on terrain, temperature, dampness and duration", Karnazes said. Thicker socks work better in wet and soggy conditions, and thinner socks are better when it's hot.
Nike Running crew socks offer options for both, along with varying grips, cushioning and heights. Consider carrying an extra pair of socks for comfort—and to prevent blisters.
(Related: How to Choose the Best Socks for Running)
Best Running Backpacks for the Ultramarathon
During especially long runs, it's imperative to carry more than just water. A running gilet is a functional solution to stash water, electrolyte gels and other essentials.
"A couple of ultra sayings come to mind about backpacks: light is right. The opposing viewpoint: go light, freeze at night. Experiment and find what works best for you", Karnazes said. That said, the conditions of the race—the weather, distance, time and terrain—and the subsequent gear you might need will help you narrow down your options.
(Related: Should You Run in a Weighted Vest? Experts Explain the Benefits—and Drawbacks)
Nike hydration running gilets are form-fitting, lightweight and designed to carry all the essentials. With elements like adjustable chest and side straps, trekking-pole holders, built-in whistles, and multiple front and rear pockets, these gilets offer something for every runner—and every distance.
Best Ultramarathon Attire
Weight and layering are key when running high-mileage distances where the weather and terrain are unpredictable. Lightweight sweat and water-wicking tops and shorts are essential. As for extra layers, Karnazes recommended carrying a lightweight running jacket, or tying one around your waist.
"The weight is minimal and the warmth that can be provided is worth it", he said.
Nike has several lightweight running jackets, and many are made primarily of polyester, meaning they're both water-repellent and lightweight. The reflective design details on these jackets also help to boost visibility, a major perk when running in the dark.
You might also want to consider packing a pair of tights or leggings for additional warmth. "The compression is welcomed after multiple hours of running", Karnazes said. For context, studies have indicated an association between wearing compression garments and enhanced blood flow. However, research around this is a bit conflicting.
Designs made with Nike Dri-FIT Technology are lightweight and engineered to move sweat away from the skin for quicker evaporation, helping you stay dry and comfortable.
Best Ultra-Running Accessories
1. Head Torches
Since many ultramarathons persist through the night, head torches are a vital accessory. The first step is choosing between a rechargeable torch or a battery-powered one.
"You can carry extra batteries with the latter", Karnazes said. Lumen strength is another consideration. "Brighter head torches might require a battery pack, which can be burdensome", Karnazes said.
2. Nike Running Glasses
"Not only does proper eyewear help protect the eyes, but it also helps prevent temporary fatigue from squinting", Karnazes said. "With that in mind, there are two things to look for when choosing a pair of running sunglasses: lens technology and frame technology", Karnazes said. Lenses should be lightweight, durable, and have UV and infrared light protection.
Nike Field Tint and Nike Road Tint sunglasses mute bright light, while enhancing the ability to identify objects ahead. Design elements like Nike Elite one-piece lenses help broaden vision, while Nike Max Optics technology provides precise vision from all angles. Other features, such as adjustable temple arms, easy-insert clip-in prescription lenses, floating nose pads and anti-fog ventilation holes, help provide the comfort and fit you need to keep your eyes on the finishing line.
Words by Faith Brar