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Running shoes are often 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.

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The best type of running shoe will vary among individuals based on the structure of their feet and their 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.

We use “men’s” and “women’s” in this article to align with how companies market their products, but there is no need to stick to one or the other. A person should choose the product with the fit, style, and features that work best for them.

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, manufacturers generally take into account some structural differences relating to natal sex.

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. As a result, shoes that companies market for women will tend to have a more slender shape overall.

Running shoes for women also tend to have a lighter midsole than those for men. A different 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 than males 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 occur 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 (mm), 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 incorrectly fitting shoes: People should measure the length, width, and depth of their feet to ensure a correct fit. 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 8

Best for all-around comfort

Heel-toe drop5 mm
Running surfaceroad

The Hoka One Clifton 8 is a lightweight, cushioned shoe. The shoe may not quite provide the responsiveness required for short-burst runs or workouts. However, the all-around comfort, even over long distances, makes it a great pick for many people looking for a moderately stable and cushioned shoe.

At the time of publishing, a pair of Hoka One Clifton 8 shoes costs $130.

Asics Gel-Kayano 27

Best for running at night

Heel-toe drop13 mm
Running surfaceroad

This Asics option is a supportive shoe that aims to 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.

At the time of publishing, the Asics Gel-Kayano 27 has a list price of $160.

Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2

Best for road running

Heel-toe drop8.4 mm
Running surfaceroad

The Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 is a comfortable all-around shoe that uses a proprietary foam blend in the sole to provide cushioning and responsiveness. The shoes’ versatility means that people can wear them for running, walking throughout the day, or gym use.

At the time of publishing, a pair of Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 2 shoes costs $160.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

Best for workouts

Heel-toe drop10 mm
Running surfaceroad

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is an option for people requiring a good everyday road running shoe. The manufacturer of the shoe designed it specifically with the biometrics of the female foot in mind. It states that the shoe provides both shock absorption in the heel and springy support with each stride.

As well as being good for road running, these shoes may be suitable for gym activities and other workouts.

At the time of publishing, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 has a list price of $120.

Saucony Peregrine 10

Best for hiking

Heel-toe dropno information available
Running surfaceroad and off-road

The Saucony Peregrine 10 may provide support on trails and uneven surfaces. The manufacturer suggests that this model is a more responsive option that still provides the comfort necessary for longer hikes. The shoe may be best for people with a neutral gait.

At the time of publishing, the Saucony Peregrine 10 has a list price of $120.

Brooks Cascadia 15

Best for uneven surfaces

Heel-toe dropno information available
Running surfacetrail

The Brooks Cascadia 15 may also provide good stability on uneven surfaces, such as trails. The cushioned shoe may minimize the impact on the joints while providing support for the foot to adapt to uneven terrain.

At the time of publishing, the Brooks Cascadia 15 has a list price of $130.

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.