Whatever your running goal, be it 10K or your first marathon, finding the right running shoes can help you get there. For female runners, along with a good running sports bra, getting your shoes right can help elevate your performance.
What’s the difference between men’s and women’s feet?
When it comes to the difference in men’s and women’s running shoes, first we must address the variants when it comes to foot shape. According to biomechanists’, the biggest difference between women’s and men’s feet is the relationship between the heel and the 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-9 shoe likely has a narrower heel, a wider ball and a bigger ball girth than a man who wears a size-7 men’s shoe, which is equivalent to a women’s size-9.
According to a study conducted by biomechanist Kate Bednarski, highly competitive women runners (who run 50 miles a week or more) also tend to have higher arches and narrower heels than the average female.
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 toe box and your heels should not slip.
What are the best women’s running shoes on the market?
Whilst some of these have been designed with women’s feet in mind, others are long-standing best-sellers:
Built for every level of runner, this female specific running shoe from Nike features a slightly softer Cushlon foam midsole, specially tuned for the female foot. A popular shoe that has been around for 35 generations, this modern update sees some new changes, led by feedback from some of the world’s best athletes, including Sir Mo Farah himself. Whilst the breathable mesh upper remains the same, there’s a new collar design, directed away from the Achilles for added comfort and a new shape with responsive cushioning that improves traction and flexibility.
When Adidas first unveiled their women-only designs, Ben Heath, Vice President of Design for Adidas running said: “It really started with studying the female foot. We scanned hundreds of women’s feet. We noticed how much rotation happens in the midfoot/arch area of women, so we decided to liberate the area.” Whilst our testers loved the Boost midsole material, they disagreed on the high ‘floating arch’. The tight mesh upper can be a little too tight on some feet, so it’s a good idea to try these on before you buy them.
For 20 years, the Gel Nimbus has been a plush, comfortable, neutral cushioning shoe, perfect for slimmer feet. Whilst it’s not specifically a women’s only shoe, the Gel Nimbus has a fiercely loyal following, meaning they must be doing something right. This newest generation has new gel cushioning and a more secure fit around the midfoot, meaning you don’t have to pull the laces really tightly. What’s more, the new 3D printed mesh upper is much better at moving with your feet as you run compared to older versions of the shoe.
A great shoe whether you're training for a 5K or a marathon, the fibre reinforcement offer a sock-like fit. With the addition of the guide upper to add support to the shoe, and the heel designed to reduce pressure on the achilles, these are a comfy, reliable running shoe. Read our full review of the Adidas Solarboost here.
A good beginners shoe, the latest 1080v8 from New Balance is hefty and stable for longer runs, yet nimble and lightweight enough for those who are going for speed. It’s a reliable option that’s been around for years, with a stretchy upper giving your feet space to breathe. It fits extremely well and is comfortable, making it a good choice, however many miles you plan on clocking up.
If you’re new to running, and looking for a trainer you can wear in the gym and on your walks to work, this is the choice for you. Winning our Best Runners Buy award in our 2018 shoe guide, we love how brilliant value for money the Cavu is. It might look hefty, but don’t be put off by the bulk, it was actually the lightest shoe we tested – the combination of soft heel cushioning and a firmer ride under the toes helps you get a better push-off as you run. The mesh upper is extremely breathable and it manages it’s varied workload well. A great all-rounder.
A good choice for long distance runners, whilst again, this isn’t a women’s only shoe, it’s been around for years and is a good choice for those looking for a heavy-duty, long run shoe. In their latest update, Saucony have done a lot of work on the heel section of the shoe, helping it to disperse impact forces better. The section behind the toes has been made less baggy and the fit around the top of the foot has been improved. It’s also a comfy ride, that’s to Saucony’s cushioning foam, Everun. Overall, a responsive, comfy shoe.
Another one that’s been around for nearly a decade, this is one of the top sellers in the Brooks range. This updated version features a more durable outsole, fewer seams, a revamped stability feature and more modern aesthetics. It’s a super comfy, reliable shoe on everything from speed session on the treadmill, through to 20-mile runs. A good, safe choice, whatever distance you’re running.
A good option for the trail runners amongst us, this shoe is all about maximum comfort, whatever surface you're running on. With responsive cushioning, a fast draining system and outstanding grip, if you're thinking of swapping tarmac for trails, these are a good choice. Alternatively, take a look at the best trail shoes on the market in 2018 here.