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Running shoes are an essential component of a person’s workout wardrobe. The right shoes can give support and may help prevent injury. Manufacturers make women’s running shoes slightly different than men’s, and there are several factors to consider before buying them.
The best type of running shoe will vary among individuals based on their feet and exercise preferences. Females also have specific needs that manufacturers take into account when making running shoes. These include the shape of the foot and the way that females typically run.
In this article, we discuss what to look for in a woman’s running shoe and suggest some products that people may wish to consider trying.
The structure of the foot is generally similar in everyone, and there are a number of unisex running shoes that may function well for both males and females. However, there are some structural differences relating to natal sex that manufacturers take into account.
Using scans of 1.2 million feet, a 2019 study found that females generally have a more narrow foot overall than males, with a lower instep. Females may also have a wider forefoot relative to this foot size. As a result, shoes that companies market for women will tend to have more room in the forefoot with a slenderer shape overall.
Running shoes for women also tend to have a lighter midsole than those for men. A 2019 study notes that females typically have a lower muscle mass and bone mass than males. Together, these often translate to a reduced body weight, so shoes can have a lighter, softer midsole because they need to absorb a lower impact.
Females with naturally wider or bigger feet may prefer unisex shoes and find them more comfortable.
In general, females are more likely to sustain injuries from running. Experts believe that this is due to anatomical differences. For example, females often have wider hips than males, which can result in more stress on the hips, knees, and ankles while running due to misalignment.
Gait refers to the way someone walks. An abnormal gait can be due to body parts aligning differently and causing pronation, which refers to the foot rolling inward for impact distribution upon landing. Hip instability may make overpronation more likely.
With overpronation, the foot lands on the outside of the heel then rolls inward. It is more likely to occur in people with low arches or flat feet. Underpronatation, or supination, in which the outer side of the heel hits the ground at an increased angle with little or no inward rolling, is also possible. This reduced inward rolling is more common among people with a high arch.
Shoe manufacturers may take this into account while making the soles of the shoes by adding more support.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, appropriate running footwear should provide shock absorption and match a person’s foot arch type. It is also advisable to replace running shoes regularly to avoid injury.
A 2020 study suggests that features such as shoe mass, material breathability, and hardness are all important qualities in the construction of a running shoe. Other features that may be important include:
- Cushioning: Cushioning provides impact resistance to minimize the shock to the feet and legs. Cushioning is especially popular in shoes for use on very hard surfaces, such as road running shoes. This feature may help prevent injury in some cases.
- Midsole support: Shoes with thick midsole support may help protect against shock. Softer midsoles may help reduce impact.
- Heel cup support: Shock reduction in the form of heel cup support helps reduce impact throughout the stride, especially when the heel initially strikes the ground.
- Drop: The heel-to-toe drop indicates how much difference there is in the height of the heel compared with the height of the toe. In general, shoes have a drop of about 8–12 millimeters, but this may vary depending on the wearer’s preference.
There are some key characteristics to avoid while looking for running shoes. General tips include:
- Avoiding incorrect fitting shoes: To ensure a correct fit, people should measure the length, width, and depth of their foot. If the shoe is too tight or too loose, injury is more likely.
- Avoiding shoes for other gait types: Understanding whether a person pronates, supinates, or runs neutrally is important as it directly affects the type of shoe that they will need.
- Avoiding shoes for other purposes: It is important to consider the intended use of the shoe. Shoes not intended for running are unlikely to provide the necessary support. Additionally, shoes with high cushioning may be suitable for road running but not function well on trails.
Many running shoes are available to buy. Below, we list six products that people may wish to try.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All product information is purely research-based.
Hoka One Clifton 7
The Hoka One Clifton 7 is a lightweight, cushioned shoe. The shoe may not quite provide the responsiveness required for short-burst runs or workouts. However, the all-round comfort, even over long distances, makes it a great pick for many people looking for a moderately stable and cushioned shoe.
Asics Gel-Kayano 27
This Asics option is a supportive shoe that may provide both stability and cushioning. It might be a great fit for overpronators who need the extra stability. The shoe also features plenty of reflective materials for low-light conditions.
Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
The Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit is a comfortable all-round shoe. From running and walking throughout the day to gym use, the shoe may provide cushioning and responsiveness through a proprietary foam blend in the sole.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 provides a good everyday road running shoe. The manufacturers of the shoe designed it specifically with the biometrics of the female foot in mind. They state that it provides both shock absorption in the heel and springy support with each stride.
As well as being good for road running, people may also be able to use these shoes for gym activities and other workouts.
Saucony Peregrine 10
The Saucony Peregrine 10 may provide support on trails and uneven surfaces. The manufacturers suggest that they are a more responsive option that still provides the comfort necessary for longer hikes. The shoe may be best for people with a neutral gait.
Brooks Cascadia 15
The Brooks Cascadia 15 may also provide good stability on uneven surfaces, such as trails. The cushioned shoe may reduce impact on the trail while providing support for the foot to adapt to uneven terrain.
Choosing the correct running shoe may help prevent injury and improve performance. By understanding their foot shape and gait, a person can narrow down the options and choose a suitable shoe.
The ideal women’s running shoe will vary depending on several factors, which will differ among individuals. Those looking to find the right pair of running shoes may need to try a few different makes and models.