Running shoes are often an essential component of a workout wardrobe. The right shoes can support and help prevent injury. Manufacturers make women’s running shoes differently from men’s, and there are several factors to consider before buying.

A quick look at the best running shoes for women

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 consider when making running shoes. These include the shape of the foot and how 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 mention “men’s” and “women’s” shoes 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.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. For the purposes of this article, we use “male” and “female” to refer to a person’s sex assigned at birth. Learn more.

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Difference between male and female feet

Foot structure is generally similar in all people, and several unisex running shoes may function well. However, manufacturers generally consider some structural differences relating to 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.

Do females run differently?

Research indicates that females sustain running injuries at a higher rate than men. 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 and then rolls inward. It is more likely to occur in people with low arches or flat feet.

Underpronation, 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.

What to look for in a running shoe

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 shoe mass, material breathability, and hardness are all important qualities in running shoe construction. 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 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 the difference 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.

What to avoid

There are some key characteristics to avoid while looking for running shoes. General tips include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

How we chose

Medical News Today’s methodology

  • Arch support: MNT chooses shoes that adequately support the arch of the foot.
  • Cushioning: MNT chooses shoes that have a range of cushioning to suit a person’s needs.
  • Terrain: MNT chooses shoes that are suitable for a variety of terrains.
  • Price: MNT chooses shoes that fit a range of budgets.
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The best women’s running shoes

Many running shoes are available to buy online. Below, we look at nine 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.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for sustainable materials: Nike Revolution 6

  • Price: $70
  • Heel-toe drop: no information available
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: They are an affordable option that uses recycled material.
  • Con: Reviewers state the sizing comes up small.

Nike writes that these running shoes are made with at least 20% recycled material by weight. This material can be post-consumer or post-manufactured waste.

They are also a more affordable option, so may suit people looking for a more environmentally friendly running shoe that will work with a smaller budget.

They feature cushioned mesh on the collar to increase comfort and a foam midsole, which Nike claims increases flexibility.

These shoes come in regular or wide fit. Sizes range from U.S. women’s 5–12.

Reviews

Positive online reviews state that these running shoes are very comfortable and lightweight. However, more critical reviews mention that the sizing comes up small.

Best for comfort: Nike Invincible 3

  • Price: $180
  • Heel-toe drop: 9 mm
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: The extra bounce in the shoe may enhance speed and comfort.
  • Con: Those with wide feet did not find the shoes comfortable.

Nike states these shoes offer the company’s highest level of comfort to soften the impact of each step.

They are very bouncy and provide support to protect the wearer against pronation. Nike claims the extra bounce in the shoe allows people to run faster or with less effort.

The shoes also feature a breathable, knitted outer layer and a wider midsole section for extra stability.

Reviews

Positive reviews mention the shoes are comfortable, durable, and responsive.

Negative reviews mention they are not suitable for wide feet.

Best for hiking: Saucony Peregrine 12

  • Price: $130
  • Heel-toe drop: 4 mm
  • Running surface: road and off-road
  • Pro: The shoes may offer good stability and traction.
  • Con: The shoe may not be water-resistant.

The Saucony Peregrine 12 may provide support on trails and uneven surfaces. The manufacturer suggests that this model provides the comfort and spring necessary for trail hikes. The shoe may be best for people with a neutral gait.

It comes in six colors and sizes ranging from U.S. women’s 5–12. People can also choose from regular and wide models, alongside one Vizipro option that features additional high-visibility details for early morning and nighttime runs.

Reviews

Positive reviews mention good grip, stability, and good traction.

Some negative reviewers mention that the shoe is not water resistant. Many users say the shoes developed holes after a few months of wear and developed blisters.

Best for uneven surfaces: Brooks Cascadia 16

  • Price: $130
  • Heel-toe drop: 8 mm
  • Running surface: trail and mountain trails
  • Pro: These shoes are suitable for uneven terrain.
  • Con: Some buyers did not find the shoes supportive enough for longer runs.

These shoes are suitable for very uneven terrain on mountain trails. Brooks writes these shoes offer stability across all terrains and are durable. They offer protection against sharp rocks and improved cushioning compared to its earlier model, the Cascadia 15.

There are also increased grooves in the midsole to adapt to changing terrains and a rubber outsole, which provides traction in wet and dry conditions.

They come in medium and wide fit, and U.S. women’s sizes 5–12. People can choose from seven colors.

Reviews

Positive reviews mention they are a good option for hiking and have wide toe boxes. Some people also write they help to support the ankles.

However, some buyers found that the shoes were not supportive enough on longer runs or hikes.

Best for 30-day trial: Lululemon Strongfeel

  • Price: $128
  • Heel-toe drop: 6 mm
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: Buyers found the shoes comfortable and supportive.
  • Con: The shoes are not designed specifically for running.

The Lululemon Strongfeel may be best for those partaking in short, everyday runs and other training. The company has not designed them specifically for running, so they may not be suitable for longer runs.

The manufacturer claims the shoes are lightweight with a supportive upper. They have low-profile cushioning and multidirectional traction.

Lululemon provides a 30-day trial with free returns.

Reviews

Positive reviews frequently mention comfort, good support, and good grip.

Some negative reviews mention a poor fit and the shoes sliding on wet surfaces. Some reviewers mention they experienced pain when wearing the shoes.

Best for light workouts: Puma Softride Sophia Slip-On

  • Price: $65
  • Heel-toe drop: no information available
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: The shoes are affordable and reportedly good quality.
  • Con: Some buyers found the shoes too wide and unsuitable for longer workouts.

This model from Puma features a slip-on design. Puma states that the outsole features a design that best suits light workouts.

There is zoned rubber on the outsole for traction and a SoftFoam sock liner for comfort.

People can choose from two colors — black and gold or grey and white — and sizes from U.S. women’s 5.5–11.

Reviews

Positive reviews mention that the shoes were comfortable, budget-friendly, supportive, and good quality.

Some negative reviewers state these are not suitable for long workouts or walks. Another reviewer comments that these were too wide for them.

Best for track running: Adidas Adizero Avanti TYO

  • Price: $150
  • Heel-toe drop: 8 mm
  • Running surface: track
  • Pro: The ENERGYRODS may limit energy loss.
  • Con: The rods may not be very durable.

The Adizero Avanti TYO by Adidas is suitable for track running as they feature a spike plate on the sole.

There is a cushioning layer above the spike plate for comfort and ENERGYRODS to limit energy loss. These rods aim to mimic the metatarsal bones of the foot to provide power with each step that works alongside the natural structure of a person’s foot.

Reviews

Positive reviews about the Adizero Avanti TYO state they are fit for purpose, comfortable, stable, and provide good cushioning.

There are no negative reviews on the Adidas website. However, one reviewer says the shoe size came up bigger than normal. Another states that the rods wore down fairly quickly.

Best for road running:Topo Athletic Specter

  • Price: $160
  • Heel-toe drop: 5 mm
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: Customers appreciate the lightweight design and claim they are comfortable to wear.
  • Con: Other buyers found the shoes too stiff and uncomfortable on longer runs.

The Topo Athletic Specter is for people who mainly run on road surfaces.

It features a lightweight core for soft cushioning and high energy return. Topo claims the frame provides stability and responsiveness and the thin rubber outsole adds durability and slip resistance.

It comes in four colors and 10 sizes, from U.S. women’s 6–11.

Reviews

Positive reviews mention the shoe’s good levels of cushioning and lightweight design, and buyers remark they are comfortable to wear.

However, some negative reviewers say they experienced discomfort wearing the shoes during long workouts. Some people also found the shoes too stiff.

Best for racing: Hoka Carbon X 3

  • Price: $200
  • Heel-toe drop: 5 mm
  • Running surface: road
  • Pro: The carbon fiber plate may enhance speed.
  • Con: Some found the shoe uncomfortable on longer runs.

Hoka claims that the breathable Carbon X 3 running shoes have a design suitable for racing.

The Meta-Rocker and carbon fiber plate allow for a propulsive stride that enhances a person’s speed.

The foam midsole cushions the foot while keeping it closer to the ground. Topo writes that this helps people push off efficiently.

People can choose from eight colors and sizes from U.S. women’s 5–11.

Reviews

Many positive reviews state the shoes are comfortable and flexible.

However, some buyers found the upper mesh too tight on their toes during longer runs, and others found the shoe too bulky.

Comparison

Below is a comparison table featuring all of the above products.

 PriceHeel-toe dropRunning surface
Nike Revolution 6$70no information availableroad
Nike Invincible 3$1809 mmroad
Saucony Peregrine 12$1304 mmroad and off-road
Brooks Cascadia 16$1308 mmtrail and mountain trails
Lululemon Strongfeel$1286 mmroad
Puma Softride Sophia Slip-on$65no information availableroad
Adidas Adizero Avanti TYO$1508 mmtrack
Topo Athletic Specter$1605 mmroad
Hoka Carbon X 3$2005 mmroad

When to see a doctor

If a person experiences foot, ankle, or leg pain after running, they should rest for a few days. They may wish to use an ice pack, heat pads, and compression to promote recovery.

If the pain does not go away after this, a person may wish to consult a doctor. Additionally, if this pain becomes a continuous problem or if it is accompanied by numbness or tingling, they should speak to a doctor.

In some cases, heel pain may be a sign of plantar fasciitis. This is a form of inflammation found in the heel. A doctor can advise a person on how to reduce their symptoms and offer treatment.

Learn more about the best stretches for plantar fasciitis pain.

To avoid injury, people should change their running shoes approximately every 300–500 miles. If a person notices their shoes are causing them pain or are worn or damaged, they should replace them regardless of the mileage.

Learn more about the best ways to prevent injuries after running.

Frequently asked questions about running shoes for women

In this section, we answer some frequently asked questions about running shoes for women.

Which type of shoes are best for running for ladies?

Shoes designed specifically for women may be best for female runners. This is because running shoes specifically for women are more likely to consider the structure of the female foot, which differs slightly from the male foot.

However, people should choose the shoes that will be most comfortable and supportive, regardless of the sex a company has designed them for.

Research states that shoe mass, hardness, and the breathability of materials may be important features to consider in running shoes.

Which shoe brand is best for running?

Nike, Brooks, and Asics are established and popular brands for running shoes. People should choose shoes from brands that fit their budget, provide optimal support and comfort, and those that are designed for the person’s preferred type of running.

What are the best 2023 running shoes?

The best running shoes of 2023 will depend on a person’s needs, preferences, and preferred type of running.

People should prioritize shoes that absorb shock, support the foot, and are comfortable to wear over long distances.

Do running shoes make a difference?

Wearing comfortable and supportive shoes for running is important. People should consider the type of running they do and choose shoes designed for that activity. They should also consider shock absorption, cushioning, and their foot width and arch type.

Wearing the right type of shoes for running is important for preventing pain and injury.

Summary

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 shoes 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.