The market for women’s trainers is growing: sales are up 37 per cent since 2017 while heel sales are down 11 per cent. Whether this is some revolutionary #Metoo moment, or just better marketing, one thing is for sure: long gone are the times where women’s trainers were confined to some dingy section at the back of a shop, choc-a-bloc full of trainers in menacing magentas and pitiful pinks.
And so, comes the pivotal question: how to choose? With an IndyBest roundup, obviously. We’ve dutifully tested all the trainers here, amongst others, judging them on their style, comfort and durability. Our selection includes old classics and what’s currently hot in the shops, so whether you’re a trainer fanatic, or somebody who just doesn’t like getting blisters, we hope there’s something for you.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Nike Vapormax: £149.95, Nike
Walking. On. Air. Nike, which made the concept a reality by literally bottling air and whacking it under an in-sole, have gone to new levels with the Vapormax. The entire outer-sole is made up of individual air bubbles, making them supportive and comfortable. They are more flexible than the traditional Airmax, allowing plenty of movement in the foot, and enough cushioning to make them suitable for all day wearing.
The brand's signature flyknit design makes them breathable, and they look just as good on in the club as they do in the gym – but beware, these are not a trainer suitable for rainy weather. The price tag is a bit hefty at £149.95, but we found this shoe durable and versatile. We even took them running with us! The only place you might not get away with wearing them is the office.
Superga 2750 Cotu Classic: £50, Superga
Plimsoll sneakers are understated and great for summertime, but can feel a little juvenile. But the Cotu Classic oozes sophistication. We loved the rose gold eyelet detail on the White/Rose Gold colourway – and that they are available in wedges. The rubber sole makes them more supportive than most plimsolls, but the Cotu Classic are delicate and perhaps not great for heavy usage (our tester's feet were quite sore after a full day running around in them).
Harsh weather conditions are also a no-go: your foot can feel frozen in the cold, and sleet and rain do not mix well with the canvas material. The flip side of this is that the rubber and canvas make them incredibly easy to clean. The Cotu Classic is available in a huge variety of colour ways and at £50, we think you’ll struggle to find a better shoe for such a great price.
Reebok Club C 85: £64.95, Reebok
This is a tennis shoe for champions, but priced for the common person. The C 85 went on a break for a while (it was originally released in 1985), but stars like Gigi Hadid and Kendrick Lamar have helped propel it to stardom in the last two years.
They’re not incredibly supportive (we much preferred the Vapormax, or Cortez, for comfort) but nice enough that you can wear them day-in, day-out without any noticeable problems. We’re guessing most people won’t be after Hadid’s diamond-studded pair, but we liked them in White Green.
Vans Authentic: £52, Vans
Our tester thinks if her teen self knew she would still be wearing Vans nearing 30, she'd hi-five her. They’ve stuck around for a reason: they are a reliable shoe that is effortlessly cool. They’re good for a wide foot, but we found that they come loose quite easily and can pull down socks. We loved them in curulean blue.
Adidas Gazelle: £69.95, Adidas
Oh Gazelle, the thinner of the foot! The Gazelle is undeniably one of the most elegant trainers around. They’re a great match for women who are timid about making the transition from shoe to sneaker, and for anyone who feels that their feet look horribly oversized in the average trainer.
We loved them in pink suede, but be warned: they bruise easily and it’s a nightmare getting stains out. They also come up a bit small, and the inexplicably rigid tongue scratches at the ankle. Luckily, they’re available in half-sizes, so make sure to go up one if you’re unsure.
Nike Cortez: £74.95, Nike
Ever since Forrest Gump decided to take a little run around the US in a pair of Cortez, they’ve been a sneaker-head staple. Now they're available in pretty much every fabric (leather, satin, suede and more), and colourway known to man. We like them because they don’t try too hard – a laid-back shoe, that’s durable and looks good with everything.
They work well in most weather conditions, even keeping out the cold, and are supportive enough to wear day-in, day-out. You can even get away with wearing the pair in the office. Guess they stood the test of time for a reason.
Alexa Chung vs Superga 2787 Velvet Alpina: £162, Superga
Is it a boot? Is a heel? No, it’s the 2787 Alexa Chung by Superga. The beautiful velvet in burnt orange gives these a majestic feeling, avoiding the tomboyish feel of most hi-tops, plus they won’t kill your feet on a night out. The white detail around the sole and laces is a nice touch and makes them casual enough for any occasion.
Converse Summer 70 Hi-top: £39.99, Converse
Putting on a pair of all star high tops feels like taking a trip down memory lane. The instantly recognisable shoe is brought to life in this new playful set of colourways. Canvas makes a great material for a hi-top shoe if you’re worried about them looking a bit chunky, but an unfortunate side effect is that they don’t wear well in harsh or rainy conditions.
The summer 70s has a slightly more robust toe cap, but still probably not a pair of shoes you want to wear in torrential downpour. But for a pair of shoes nostalgic enough to get you running around like a big kid in the summertime, these are perfect.
Fila Disruptor 2: £80, JD Sports
The Disruptor 2 is a shoe that embodies fashion's desire to push the boundaries. They remind us that our want for aesthetically pleasing shoes has long been at the cost of functionality and support.
The sheer bulk of the Fila Disruptor is controversial – many understandably believe its an incredibly ugly shoe. But that bulk is made up of enhanced footbeds and a thick rubber outsole, that make these shoes a treat on the feet. They are durable, still look great with wear and tear, and protect your foot come wind, rain or shine.
Reebok Classic: £59.95, Reebok
Reebok classics are a shoe that people constantly return to because they are minimal without being basic. A great, retro style that has been released in a number of updated styles and colour ways. They are a slim, lightweight shoe and the low cut design means they don’t come across too bulky or Tom-boyish.
The selection of materials, including nylon and leather versions, are breathable and its EVA midsole reduces impact and stress on the foot. We liked the nylon black and white.
New Balance X-90: £90, New Balance
Using premium materials, this shoe strikes gold: it feels like a slipper but works like a running shoe. The chunky mid sole gives good support to the heel while the mesh knit fabric stops bad odour (particularly important for the runners amongst us).
The Revlite midsole is chunky and substantial, but the fact that it’s a foam compound means it is responsive, escaping the rigidness of the common “dad” trainer.
The Puma Suede Classic: £65, Puma
This shoe is mainly great for the way it looks. It's one of Puma's most iconic and recognisable shoes, with a real retro feel. We found that they were good for about half a days’ wear before they get uncomfortable as there is not much cushioning or shock support. Nonetheless, they are undeniably sleek, the suede is a great touch and the fact that they’re a vintage classic means they look good dirty or clean.
The Verdict: Best women's trainers
For us it’s got to be the Vapormax. The price tag is expensive but these shoes deliver on quality materials and versatility. They are pretty much two sets of shoes in one – working just as well on long runs or out dancing. If you’re looking for a shoe that won’t break the bank but looks and feels great, we’d highly recommend the Superga Cotu Classic.