The best women's running shoes – from Adidas to Hoka, Lululemon and more

best women's running shoes
The 17 best women’s running shoes

Whether you're looking to run your first 10K or a new PB at your next marathon, finding the right shoes can make a huge difference when it comes to your ability to train – and race – at your best and stay injury free in the process.

What’s the difference between men’s and women’s feet?

The biggest difference between women’s and men’s feet is the relationship between the heel and forefoot, or the ‘ball’ of the foot. Women tend to have a narrower heel in relation to what’s known as their ‘ball girth’, or the circumference of the ball of their foot.

This means that a women who wears a size 8 shoe probably has a narrower heel, a wider ball and a bigger ball girth than a man who wears a size 6 men’s shoe, which is equivalent to a women’s size 8.

When the design team at Adidas analysed 1.2 million foot scans to inform the creation of the female-specific Ultraboost 22 for women, which launched last year, they also found that, in addition to a woman's heel being narrower, a woman's instep height also tends to be lower.

How do women run differently?

Researchers have found that, because women tend to have wider hips than men, their feet are also more likely to strike the ground toward the outside of their shoe soles. The inward rolling of the foot that results from this is known as pronation, which explains why more women are believed to overpronate than men. Some women’s running shoes account for this increased tendency with different materials used for support through the sole. ‘When we look at the hip of the average woman versus the average man, a woman’s hips are obviously wider,’ explains senior product manager for Adidas Nora Wilimzig, who was involved in the creation of the UB22 for women. ‘This makes the Q-angle stronger (the angle between the quadriceps and the patella tendon) which can lead into knock knees, and that can lead into overpronation.’

What's the difference between women's running shoes and men's running shoes?

Some men's and women's running shoes are made on different lasts – that is, models which mimic the foot. That's why women-specific shoes are narrower at the heel and wider at the forefoot. They also tend to have a lighter and softer midsole and that's because women, on average, have less muscle mass than men, and also tend to be lighter, meaning less impact is put on the shoe as they hit the ground.

However, not all women's running shoes are built on a female last, with many brands still producing men's and women's versions of shoes based on a unisex last. It's the reason Lululemon decided to enter the footwear market with a female-first running shoe this year. 'Most performance shoes are designed primarily for men, and often for elite male athletes, and then adapted for women,' explains Lululemon product designer Mark Oleson. With brands like Adidas and Lululemon leading the charge, a new 'female-first' category of running shoes is beginning to emerge.

What should women look for when choosing running shoes?

To find the perfect shoe for your foot, test several brands in a variety of sizes. It’s also often a good idea to have your gait tested before committing to a certain shoe, to see if you need extra support in your trainer. There should be adequate room in the toebox and your heels should not slip.

What are the best women’s running shoes on the market?

Below we've handpicked our favourite running shoes for women – which our female editors and contributors have tested and rated, based on their fit, feel, comfort and performance. And, best of all, many of them are now discounted in the Cyber Monday sale.

Female-first running shoes

1. Adidas Ultraboost 22 for women

Best for: Achilles support

Weight: 289g

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road / Neutral

We're big fans of the Ultraboost 22 for women. The bouncy Boost midsole delivers a wonderfully soft, cushioned ride – ideal for long mileage – and the Primeknit+ upper provides a supportive, sock-like fit. The best bit, though, is the structured support you get from the heel counter, which in this new female-first version, is narrower and comes higher up the achilles tendon, providing a tighter fit and a feeling of the shoe hugging the tendon. Although these are a neutral shoe, the holes in the midfoot area have been closed to prevent the Boost midsole from stretching in the midfoot area, and this helps to prevent overpronation. While they won't suit heavy over-pronators they will help to provide a little gait control as you start to tire towards the end of a run.

Read full review

2. Lululemon Blissfeel

Best for: Neutral runners who like moderate cushioning

Weight: 251g

Heel/toe drop: 9.5mm

Type: Road / Neutral

These shoes are all about comfort – as soon as you put them on, the supportive upper feels reassuringly snug as it wraps around the foot, as does the cushioned heel counter. Around the back, you've also got a heel counter reinforced on each side with chunky plastic overlays, which provides noticeable support around the heel and helps keep the foot secure in the shoe. With a stack of height of 32.5mm, these sit firmly within the cushioned/maximal running shoe silo, but while Lululemon’s compound foam is plush, it isn't pillowy soft and so you still get a nice bit of ground feel. They do come up a little small, so we would recommend going half a size – or a full size – bigger.

Read full review

3. Hoka Bondi X

Best for: Marshmallowy cushioning

Weight: 257g

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road / Neutral

All of Hoka's women's shoes are built on a female last, and so offer a women-specific fit. The soft but snappy Bondi X is a solid choice for long-mileage runners looking for a fast but comfy ride – or even those returning from injury. They won Best Update in our 2022 Shoe Guide – due, in part, to the addition of a new carbon-fibre plate in the midsole, which provides a more aggressive toe-off. But you still get the same level of plush comfort you'd expect from Hoka's shoes, thanks to a high bed of marshmallowy cushioning and a thick slab of heel foam.

4. Adidas Solarglide 5

Best for: Newer runners looking for soft and bouncy ride

Weight: 335g

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road / Neutral

The Adidas Solarglide 5 is the latest addition to the brand’s popular Solarglide franchise. It has been designed with female runners in mind, with the silhouette tailored specifically to the female foot. It provides a beautifully soft and bouncy ride, which beginner runners will love, and that's due to the Bubble Boostmidsole, which is made of up hundreds of Boost capsules that have been fused together, which once compressed, give energy back to the runner. In the midsole, you've also got Adidas' LEP 2.0 torsion system, which helps to keep the foot in the correct position when you run and adds a nice bit of stiffness and stability. Up top, you've got a breathable circular knit upper, made in part with recycled ocean plastic. It's not the lightest of shoes, so we wouldn't choose this for racing or up-tempo sessions, but it is comfy and would make a great steed for anyone looking for a well-cushioned and responsive daily trainer.

5. Hoka Arahi 6

Best for: Lightweight stability

Weight: 216g

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road/Stability

If you're a runner who over-pronates but are tired of wearing heavy and clunky 'support' shoes to correct your running gait, Hoka's Arahi 6 is the shoe you need on your wishlist. At just 216g, it's as light as a feather and has the maximal cushioning Hoka is famed for. However, unlike some of its other models, the cushioning has a lower profile, and because your feet are closer to the ground, your feet and ankles feel more secure and supported – particularly when turning corners. It features the brand's J-Frame(TM) technology, which is essentially a firmer foam that sits on the medial side of the midsole and wraps around the heel, to prevent excessive inward roll. Unlike traditional medial posts, this feels completely unnoticeable but contributes to an overall feeling of your feet feeling well supported. A great choice for distance runners who want a plush and supportive ride but without the extra weight.

6. Puma Run XX Nitro

Best for: A comfortable, affordable stability shoe

Weight: 235g (for UK 4.5)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Cushioned/stability

There's a lot to like about Puma's new female-specific running shoe (for which there is no male equivalent!). Firstly, it's been engineered specifically for the female foot and gait and, as a result, fits like a glove – it's true to size, offers plenty of support around the achilles and gives you excellent lockdown. Our testers also raved about the wide toebox. 'For those who worry about cramped toes though, fear not, the toebox is super roomy, allowing for comfortable foot-striking all run long,' said one. Next up, it delivers the cushioning and stability features it promises: it's well-cushioned, thanks to a firmer version of the brand’s NITRO midsole foam (which brings added durability) and features a firm density rim, plus a TPU heel piece to provided gait control for over-pronating runners. At 235g it's not particularly light, but it doesn't feel heavy or sluggish, either. That said, a little more peppiness would make the shoe more versatile for different types of sessions – as it is now, we'd say it's more suited to slow, easy runs than tempo or speedwork. But nonetheless, at just over 100 quid, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

Read full review

7. Puma Velocity Nitro 2

Best for: A solid all-rounder

Weight: 206g

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road / Neutral

Puma's women’s running shoes are all created with a specific last engineered for the female foot and gait – all with a narrower heel, lower in-step and sculpted arch shape. This is the latest iteration of its versatile Velocity Nitro shoe, featuring Puma's NITRO midsole foam which delivers soft cushioning and plenty of bounce. In this new update, more foam has been added to the heel – and to the length and width of the shoe, to deliver an even softer ride. Up top you’ve got a mesh upper which is soft and flexible and, beneath, a durable rubber outsole providing good traction on pavements, track and treadmill. At just 206g it's one of the lightest shoes we've tried and, at £100, it's also one of the most affordable. These are solid all-rounders for everything from long slow runs to tempo runs and races.

8. Asics Gel-Nimbus 24

Best for: Everyday running

Weight: 247g

Heel/toe drop: 13mm

Type: Road / Neutral

The Asics Gel Nimbus 24 won the Best in Test award in our 2022 shoe guide. Unlike other shoes on this list, Asics has added a gender-specific TRUSSTIC beneath the midsole, which it says 'helps keep a woman's foot in a more natural shape and allow her to flow better through the stride'. Like all ASICS' women's shoes, the Gel Nimbus 24 is built on a female-specific last; we find it fits nicely and the heel and ankle collar provide a good amount of support around the achilles. The FlyteFoam Blast+midsole material does a superb job of balancing soft cushioning with energy return on take off, and in the women's model, the midsole density is slightly softer for increased comfort. An ideal shoe for comfortable everyday miles and a great choice for high-mileage runners.

9. Hoka Kawana

Best for: Runners who like to cross-train

Weight: 236g

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road / Neutral

The new Kawanas deliver Hoka's signature abundant cushioning but are firmer and more stable than its other offerings, making them suitable for other activities, too, such as gym work. An early-stage rocker sole helps to deliver a smooth ride, and the split heel absorbs shock and makes lighter heel strikes feel fluid. The compression-moulded EVA doesn't seem terribly exciting in the carbon-plated world of 2022, but it is still responsive, giving you a nice amount of 'pop'. Our only bugbear with this is that the toebox is a little too narrow, but that can easily be resolved by opting for a pair half a size bigger.

Our other favourites

10. Saucony Guide 15

Best for: Heavier runners and overpronators

Weight: 233g

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road / Stability

Saucony's women's shoes aren't built on a female-specific last. However, we've included these due to their ability to provide excellent gait control to over-pronating female runners – and because of their excellent fit. Integrating Saucony's PWRRUN midsole cushioning and hollow tech frame support system, these deliver a cushioned and supportive ride, mile after mile. This isn’t a shoe for speedier running sessions, but the Saucony Guide 15 is a good choice for heavier runners or those looking for a durable and comfortable long-mileage shoe. Our testers were particularly impressed with the fit of the shoe, with one reporting that their 'feet felt supported without excessive cushioning'. One also said: 'The ankle support is good and the sole didn’t feel too 'souped up'. I ran in these around five times and each time found them comfortable and enjoyable to wear. A great shoe and I’ll be doing more runs in them.'

11. Brooks Levitate 5

Best for: Those looking for a shoe that gets the job done, mile after mile

Weight: 266g

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road / Neutral or Stability

The Brooks Levitate 5 is a reliable option for beginners looking to take on their very first race right through to experienced marathon runners. The DNA AMP midsole offers a soft, yet springy ride, while the padded heel cup and tongue helps to provide a snug, locked-in fit. They're available as either a neutral shoe or a support shoe, with the latter featuring additional arch support and guide rails to prevent overpronation. Brooks' women's shoes aren't built on a female last, however, the brand does offer various width fittings in some models – although sadly not for these ones. That said, we were happy with their fit – there's plenty of room in the toe box and the circular knit engineered mesh upper is nice and stretchy so it feels supportive without being restrictive.

12. New Balance Fuelcell Prism V2

Best for: Runners who want stability but without extra weight

Weight: 200g

Heel/toe drop: 6mm

Type: Road / Stability

For £120, you get plenty of bang for your buck with these – that's why we awarded them Best Value in our 2022 Shoe Guide. A lightweight stability shoe, these are ideal for overpronators who need some structure from their shoes but don't want to be lugging around extra weight. There's no heft to these – they're light and nimble and well suited to track sessions, tempo runs and racing. The medial post goes almost unnoticed and the midsole foam provides a firm, but comfy, ride.

13. Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

Best for: Recovery miles

Weight: 253g

Heel/toe drop: 8.4mm

Type: Road / Neutral

If you’re looking for a soft, plush shoe for long, slow runs, this is it. The Nike Zoom X Invincible Run was described as ‘fun’ by our testers and it’s easy to see why: the enormous amount of cushioning meant their feet felt wrapped securely, which meant they didn’t have to worry about how to land, where to place their feet or, indeed, think about anything – they could just run. Nike says they’re a good marathon training shoe and, after several testers reported having less muscle pain after their long run in these, we’d have to agree.

Read full review

14. Brooks Adrenaline 22

Best for: Running marathons

Weight: 255.1g

Heel/toe drop: 12mm

Type: Road / Stability

Fans of the Brooks Adrenaline will be thrilled to hear this is still the same excellent shoe it has always been. But in the latest iteration, the midsole is even softer due to the brand's DNA LOFT cushioning now comprising 100% of the midsole. It is classified as a stability shoe, thanks to the guide rails that wrap around the outside of the shoe and provide extra support for your feet, knees and hips, but it still appealed to neutral runners on test. It’s a good marathon shoe, especially if you’re a runner who finds your form waivers as you fatigue in the final miles.

15. Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next %

Best for: Speedwork and fast racing

Weight: 225g

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road / Racing

This shoe is designed as a more everyday version of the Alphafly Next% – Nike's premier racing shoe – and there’s so much going on with it, it’s hard to know where to start. You've got ZoomX foam in the midsole, which is both soft and responsive – providing excellent propulsion on toe-off – and there's Nike's React technology in the heel delivering extra responsiveness. Team that with the stretchy lightweight Flyknit upper and you have a very fast shoe – ideal for pushing the pace during races and tempo sessions. If you can afford it, this will knock chunks off your PB (and make your training just that bit more joyful beforehand).

Read full review

16. Asics MetaSpeed Sky+

Best for: Racing

Weight: 205g

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road / Neutral

If you're looking for a really fast carbon shoe to smash your next 5km, 10km, half or marathon, the brand-new Asics MetaSpeed Sky+ is pretty hard to beat. In fact, Eilish McColgan broke the British 5km record wearing these shoes this year – as well as the 10km British and European record. It's designed for runners who extend their stride when running fast and Asics say it will help runners take even longer strides. In the midsole, you've got a full-length carbon plate sandwiched between a very bouncy midsole foam called FF Blast Turbo – Asics' lightest and bounciest foam to date – and this combination creates the sensation of running on clouds, or rather, mini trampolines! At just 205g, the shoes themselves are incredibly light and the upper is paper thin. Although this shoe is a unisex model, we found it fit true to size and provided a good forefoot hold, with the thin tongue and woven laces helping to provide a really secure fit. All these elements combined create a quick, snappy ride and make running at pace feel easier. They do have very little structure to them, though, so won't suit runners who need help controlling their gait, or who are prone to lower limb injuries. Oh, and at £225, they won't suit all budgets, either!

17. Allbirds Dasher Wool Mizzle

Best for: Runners trying to reduce their carbon footprint

Weight: 314g

Heel/toe drop: 7mm

Type: Road / Neutral

If you care about doing your bit for the planet, you’ll love the Allbird Dasher – made from ‘renewable natural material’, the shoe causes 9kg of carbon dioxide per pair through production, manufacturing and recyclability at the end of its life. This is 30 per cent less than the average running shoe. Underfoot, there's a nice amount of cushioning, however it is on the firmer end of the spectrum and doesn't give you a great deal of 'pop'. There's a warm, water-repellent, Merino wool upper, designed to keep your feet cosy and dry in wet winter weather, and we can confirm they did exactly that when we tested them during the winter months. A good entry-level shoe that's suitable for easy runs up to 10K.

Read full review

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