The ultimate female guide to running

What does it mean to be a female runner? From the best running sports bras, to how to cope with fitting in those long training runs when you're on your period, this is our complete girl's guide to running: 


The best women's running gear 

Designed with the female foot in mind, we've hand-picked the best women's running trainers to keep you going, no matter what you're training for. 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. Getting the fit right is essential, so it's a good idea to try a few shoes on this list, in a couple of different sizes, to find the one that's perfect for you. 

The next most important piece of kit? A running sports bra. Sports bras protect your breast's supportive tissue, known as the Coopers ligaments. These are responsible for stopping your breasts from sagging, so don't forget them, even on the shortest of runs.

As we move into the summer months, ditch those running leggings at last and change into shorts. If you're struggling to find a pair with decent pockets, a drawstring waist and that won't ride up when you run, take a look at our list of the best women's running shorts for summer. 


Running and periods

There’s two different things to talk about when it comes to running and periods. Firstly, how your period may affect your running performance – for the average 10K or marathon runner, fitting in those long runs at that time of the month can feel tricky. Whilst it’s tempting to stay curled up on the sofa, we take a look at exactly how running when you’re on your period affects performance.

Secondly, a common issue affecting female athletes is secondary amenorrhea – a side effect of under fuelling and high-intensity exercise. When there isn’t enough fuel in your body, it will start to prioritise functions vital for survival, shutting the menstrual cycle down. If you’ve upped your training and have gone from having a normal cycle to missing your period for more than six months, it’s worth seeing your GP.


Running and pregnancy

Long gone is the belief that running during pregnancy is dangerous. Whilst it’s always important to check with your GP beforehand, recent research suggests that running during pregnancy can actually reduce the duration of labour for women. According to their findings, the women in the exercise group had a shorter duration of labour, with an average time of 450 minutes. The women in the control group had an average labour duration of 507 minutes.

One of the largest UK studies yet looked at the effects of running during pregnancy and the risk of premature birth and low birthweight. 1293 women were recruited from Parkrun data, and the researchers found that there was no difference in rates of premature birth and low birthweight between the runners and non-runners. It’s important to note that the women involved in this study were already runners, and if you’re not a runner, you should check with a health professional before jogging during pregnancy.

When it comes to running postpartum, recommended guidelines are to wait six weeks after a vaginal birth and ten weeks after a caesarean. Your body has been through a lot, so it’s important to give it time to properly recover. Five-time Olympian and mum-of-two Jo Pavey suggests starting off at a walk/run pace, before progressing to short runs. Also, avoid running on consecutive days and take things slow to avoid getting injured. 

Related: 8 tips for running during and after pregnancy 


Running and your breasts

For women, the right sports bra is as essential as the right pair of running shoes. No matter how fast you run, each breasts moves around 9cm with each stride. This movement can result in discomfort, chafing and strain on the beasts’ supportive tissue, known as the Cooper’s ligaments. Once stretched, the Copper’s ligaments cannot revert back to their original position, so it’s important to buy a supportive sports bra, no matter how far you’re running.

If you’re new to sports bras and want advice on how it should fit, or want to know why yours is suddenly chafing, check out our complete guide to choosing a running sports bra. Like running shoes, your sports bra has a shelf life. Experts reckon you need to replace your sports bra every few months, or after 30-40 washes. That’s normally three new bras for every one pair of running shoes. Just realised you need to upgrade yours asap? We’ve rounded up the best running bras for 2018 here.  

Related: 8 things to know about running and your breasts 


The benefits of being a female runner

It’s easy to read this article and feel like us girls got the short straw, but this certainly isn’t the case. Recent London Marathon data found women’s physiology rendered them superior when it comes to endurance, making them significantly better pacers compared to men. Women burn through carbs more slowly than men, thus potentially delay, or avoid hitting the wall.

Other studies claim that women have a metabolic advantage over men over long distances, as women are able to burn more fat and less carbohydrate than their male opponents. This means men deplete their carbohydrate stores and hit the wall, or are forced to adjust their pace, sooner.

Finally, another study by sports retailer wiggle.co.uk found that, on average, women experience a natural high after 9 minutes and 7 seconds – over a minute faster than men, who take 10 minutes and 20 seconds.


The benefits of running for females later in life

Whilst the health benefits of running in general are widely documented, a new study found that running later in life can be hugely beneficial too. Researchers found middle-aged women with high stamina, or cardiovascular fitness, were 88% less likely to develop dementia. The 44-year-long study also found that middle-aged women who were highly fit delayed the onset of dementia by 9.5 years.  

Want to improve your fitness and take your first steps into running? Here’s how to train to run your first mile


Female harassment whilst running

In a recent survey by Runner’s World, 46.5% of female runners here in the UK said they sometimes experienced harassment on their runs, compared with just 9.2% of men. Perhaps more worryingly, 27% of women runners said they had been followed by a person in a vehicle, on a bicycle or on foot. Read more about our survey and other runner’s experiences here.