Like almost all outdoor and athletic gear, running shoes have historically been developed by and for men. The best running shoes for women were unisex models that ignored the unique physiology of women’s bodies. Studies on female athletes have only started to happen relatively recently, and despite the increased offerings for women, the “shrink it and pink it” approach to designing gear for women is still alive and well today. Yet, we know that women have different skeletal and muscular builds, biomechanics and running gait, needs, and preferences than men. It makes sense that running shoes should be uniquely created for women, and we’re excited to see more options available yearly.
As with our other running shoe guides, we acknowledge that there is no one best running shoe for any runner. Yet, with hundreds of shoe styles, it isn’t easy to know where to start or how to stay on top of constantly evolving running shoe designs and technology. For this guide, we researched the running shoe market and combed through our collection of feedback for all of the shoes we’ve tested, focusing our attention on what our women-identifying testers had to say. We polled our friends who run in women’s shoes and inquired among colleagues and peers. We narrowed down a list of 18 women’s-specific running shoes and sent them to our testing team.
Ultimately, we rounded up a non-exhaustive collection of women-specific running shoes that our women testers rated the highest. Notably, the shoes that got the highest ratings are currently available in both a men’s and a women’s last. We did not test unisex shoes for this guide, and the few running shoes that are women-first designs (i.e., women’s only shoes without a men’s version) did not make the cut based on testing feedback.
Ultimately, our testers chose the Hoka Clifton 9 as their favorite overall running shoe and the Hoka Speedgoat 5 as their best trail shoe option. We found the Altra Outroad 2 to be a great versatile option.
To learn more, read our recommendations for choosing, and our frequently asked questions about running shoes below. You can also dig into our research and testing methodology and see our glossary of running shoe terminology.
Best Running Shoes for Women
Best Overall Running Shoes for Women: Hoka Clifton 9
Best Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Brooks Ghost 15
Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Women: New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080V13
Best Responsive Running Shoes for Women: Saucony Ride 16
Best Stability Running Shoes for Women: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
Most Versatile Running Shoes for Women: Altra Outroad 2
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women: Hoka Speedgoat 5
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Brooks Catamount 2
Best Overall Running Shoes for Women: Hoka Clifton 9 ($145)
- Lightweight yet cushioned
- Comfortable out of the box
- The arch cuts in on some foot shapes and feels too intense
The Hoka Clifton 9 delivers a balance of lightweight performance and comfortable cushion that works well for many runners at all distances and almost any pace. This popular road running shoe feels plush underfoot, yet it’s sufficiently firm and responsive when you pick up the pace during intervals, a tempo workout, or even a marathon race. It can even hold its own on gravel and light trails. Runners looking for one running shoe to do it all will find a lot to love with this one.
Our testers loved the Clifton’s fit and out-of-the-box comfort that hugs the heel and midfoot while leaving some wiggle room for the toes. The women’s shoe has a 29-millimeter stack height that provides plenty of cushion to keep feet happy for a multi-hour long run without feeling too mushy or clunky. The shoe’s 5-millimeter heel-to-toe drop is right in the middle of the road, so it works well for many runners. Testers also loved the recently updated upper on this shoe and found it to breathe well. They also appreciated the shoe’s color options and overall aesthetic. While it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite shoe, in the end, it will please a lot of runners with a broad range of training goals, paces, and daily distances.
Claimed Weight: 7.3 ounces (207 grams) | Stack Height: 29 millimeters | Drop: 5 millimeters | Lug Depth: n/aShop the Hoka Clifton 9
Best Overall Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Brooks Ghost 15 ($140)
- Has a loyal fan base
- Classic fit and shape
- Pretty vanilla
A widely popular shoe for fifteen years and counting, the Brooks Ghost 15 is a reliable and comfortable daily trainer for road running. Although it’s received slight tweaks and updates through the years, it has kept a consistent look and feel. This and the shoe’s traditional design and shape have resulted in a broad and loyal fan base. With a moderate 24-millimeter stack height, 12-millimeter drop, and middle-of-the-road weight, the Ghost is an approachable running shoe for a broad swath of runners of all paces and experience levels.
The flip side of the shoe’s traditional platform and reliability is that it’s not particularly sexy, especially if you’re drawn to cutting-edge technology and designs that push the envelope. In other words, its consistency over the past 15 years is its strength and weakness. Therefore, if your jam is a classic fit and feel and you’re looking for a comfortable, well-made daily trainer, the Ghost is a great option. However, if you enjoy trying out the latest shoe technology and designs, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Claimed Weight: 9.1 ounces (258 grams) | Stack Height: 24 millimeters | Drop: 12 millimeters | Lug Depth: n/aShop the Brooks Ghost 15
Best Cushioned Running Shoes for Women: New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13 ($165)
- Smooth heel-to-toe transition
- Soft cushion
- The toebox feels a bit too restrictive for higher-volume feet
Already a solid and reliable daily trainer, the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13 got a big update in 2023, and iRunFar testers love the changes. Part of this shoe’s facelift includes a new upper made of engineered mesh rather than the stretchy mesh knit of the previous version. This change was marked overwhelmingly as an improvement that gives the foot a more secure lock-down, though some testers noted that the newer design feels more restrictive in the toebox and thus may not work as well for runners with a wide forefoot. Another key update was a boost to the shoe’s stack height — 4 millimeters in the front and 2 millimeters in the back for a total stack height of 38 millimeters — which also brought the drop down from 8 to 6 millimeters. The result is a slightly bigger platform underfoot and a smoother heel-to-toe transition.
New Balance’s well-loved Fresh Foam in the midsole remained the same, and our testers noted that this latest 1080 was super comfortable out of the box. Compared to Clifton and Ghost above, the 1080 trends toward a softer, plusher cushioning, so it may feel a little flat for runners who like a bouncy, responsive ride. Nonetheless, it’s a versatile option perfect for daily running on pavement or light trails.
Claimed Weight: 7.3 ounces (206 grams) | Stack Height: 38 millimeters | Drop: 6 millimeters | Lug Depth: n/aShop the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13
Best Responsive Running Shoes for Women: Saucony Ride 16 ($140)
- Lightweight, soft, and bouncy
- Good price
- Doubts about durability
For speedwork days, we’re big fans of the popular Saucony Ride 16. This shoe is built with 35 millimeters of stack height under the heel, so it’s a soft, highly cushioned shoe. At the same time, it feels light and bouncy, and the heel-to-toe transition is smooth. While it’s a great everyday road running shoe, the bouncy feel makes it stand out when we pick up the pace for intervals or a steady tempo effort. It got the highest rating for responsiveness from our testers.
Although this shoe had a brief break-in period, testers immediately found it comfortable and never experienced hot spots. One concern we have is with the shoe’s durability. After about 85 miles, the foam midsole showed creases and some minor wear on the outsole. Nevertheless, the Ride continues to perform, so we hope our mileage will outpace the shoe’s initial wear.
Claimed Weight: 7.8 ounces (221 grams) | Stack Height: 35 millimeters | Drop: 8 millimeters | Lug Depth: n/aShop the Saucony Ride 16
Best Stability Running Shoes for Women: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 ($140)
- Great support
- Comfortable and breathable
- Stiff out of the box
- Not especially springy
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 has long been one of the most popular stability shoes among runners, and it was at the top of our list of best stability running shoe guides. The shoe provides a balance of cushion and support with a traditional shape and fit that works well for a wide range of feet, and it’s also available in narrow and wide sizing. Designed for overpronators and ideal for daily running, the Adrenaline is a great option whether you’re training for a race or logging miles for general fitness and fun.
Incorporating Brooks’ GuideRails technology, which consists of two firm pieces of foam inside the shoe on each side of the heel, this shoe provides stability by helping to guide the foot into neutral alignment. Brooks likens this design to training wheels on a bike, as the foam pieces keep the foot from rolling too far toward the inside or outside throughout the stride. This shoe feels good out of the box, and its initial rigidity softens over time making it even more comfortable with each run. The midsole cushion is soft, and testers appreciated the comfort and breathability of the shoe’s mesh upper. Although the shoe lacks the springiness we like during our speed workouts, we recommend the Adrenaline for anyone seeking a supportive ride for everyday road running.
Claimed Weight: 9.1 ounces (258 grams) | Stack Height: 24 millimeters | Drop: 12 millimeters | Lug Depth: n/aShop the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
Most Versatile Running Shoes for Women: Altra Outroad 2 ($120)
- Crossover shoe for both road and trail running
- Great price
- Zero drop limits appeal
- It is not ideal for speedwork
- Not built for super technical trails
The Altra Outroad 2 stood out among our women’s shoe testers who are already accustomed to running in the brand’s other shoes. As a road-to-trail crossover shoe, it is light and cushioned enough for pavement yet grippy, stable, and supportive on the trails. While they’re an excellent all-arounder, this shoe is not ideal for speed workouts, nor is it quite burly enough for the most technical and rugged of trails. Nevertheless, this is a fun, versatile shoe that genuinely thrives on both roads and trails, especially over long distances at easy paces.
Known for their zero-drop shoes and wide toebox design, Altra has developed a somewhat niche but very loyal following among road and trail runners over the past decade. While zero-drop shoes won’t work for all runners — especially those with tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles — Altra began expanding its reach by introducing the 4-millimeter drop FwdExperience. We’ve been testing this shoe at iRunFar and recommend checking it out if you’re interested in Altra’s shoe designs but need a few millimeters of drop.
Claimed Weight: 8.7 ounces (246 grams) | Stack Height: 27 millimeters | Drop: 0 millimeters | Lug Depth: not listedShop the Altra Outroad 2
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women: Hoka Speedgoat 5 ($155)
- Lightweight cushion
- Great grip
- Too much shoe for some
- Lots of cushion sacrifices ground feel
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 is not only popular among iRunFar’s women’s shoe testers, but it’s also holding down the top spot overall in our best trail running shoes guide. Although this trail running shoes has a lot of cushion, it’s still lightweight, nimble, and oh-so-comfortable out of the box. Its Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole with 5-millimeter lugs provides excellent traction on every variety of trail and even on packed snow. It breathes well and is among the best when draining and drying quickly after splashing through a creek crossing.
With its solid cushion platform, the Speedgoat is great for ultras — but it’s also a fine choice for shorter distances and everyday trail running. It wouldn’t be our top pick for workouts and the most technical trails, but it’s exceptionally versatile. That said, it could be too much shoe for runners who like a lot of ground feel. Additionally, it doesn’t lock down narrow feet as well as some other trail running shoes.
Claimed Weight: 8.5 ounces (241 grams) | Stack Height: 31 millimeters | Drop: 4 millimeters | Lug Depth: 5 millimetersShop the Hoka Speedgoat 5
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3 ($290)
- Roomy toebox
- Sticky rubber outsole grips well and sheds mud
- Not the most nimble in technical terrain
The Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3 is another excellent all-around trail running shoe, especially if you like a roomy toebox but still want a secure, reliable fit. Like the Speedgoat above, this trail running shoe has an outsole made with Vibram’s Megagrip compound, which testers loved for its reliable grip on any surface. Additionally, testers loved this shoe’s woven fabric upper, which blocks more dust, mud, and debris than a more traditional upper — while also breathing well and still providing a boost of warmth during colder months.
With a 33-millimeter stack height under the heel, the Mtn Racer 3 is comparable to the Speedgoat 5 in terms of both cushion and weight. Like that shoe, this one’s a great everyday trail shoe for any distance, from a 30-minute easy run to an ultra. It’s not a standout for doing speedwork, especially on very technical trails, but in general, it does everything well and is incredibly comfortable and durable.
Claimed Weight: 8.3 ounces (235 grams) | Stack Height: 33 millimeters | Drop: 5 millimeters | Lug Depth: Not listedShop the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3
Best Trail Running Shoes for Women – Runner-Up: Brooks Catamount 2 ($170)
- Enough cushion for longer distances
- Snappy and responsive
Great for everyday running, speedwork, and distances up to 50k, the Brooks Catamount 2 is a favorite among women trail runners who like a little more responsiveness and ground feel. This shoe was updated in 2023, and the second iteration bumped the cushion just a bit. This gave the shoe more comfort over longer distances with minimal tradeoffs in terms of the shoe’s overall weight and the runner’s ability to feel the terrain under their feet. In terms of fit, this shoe has a fairly traditional shape, with a moderate toebox, secure and locked-in midfoot, and moderate heel-to-toe drop.
While this shoe has a solid base of cushioning, it also has a rock plate to add some stiffness, protection, and snappy response. At the same time, this shoe feels light and nimble and performs well on technical trails. While it’s not quite as minimalist as the original Catamount was, it still has an edge on the Speedgoat 5 and Mtn Racer 3, if you’re doing trail intervals or hill, repeats on a steep slope. On the other hand, we’d probably opt for a different shoe for ultras of 50 miles or longer, but you can’t go wrong with the Catamount 2 for everyday trail running.
Claimed Weight: 8.6 ounces (244 grams) | Stack Height: 30 millimeters | Drop: 6 millimeters | Lug Depth: not listedShop the Brooks Catamount 2
Comparing the Best Running Shoes for Women
|Hoka Clifton 9
|Brooks Ghost 15
|New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13
|Saucony Ride 16
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23
|Altra Outroad 2
|Hoka Speedgoat 5
|Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3
|Brooks Catamount 2
Glossary for Women’s Running Shoes
- Upper – The top of the shoe, including the entirety of the shoe above the sole.
- Midsole – A layer of foam that connects a shoe’s upper to the shoe’s outsole.
- Outsole – The exposed material on the bottom of a shoe that makes contact with the ground.
- Rock Plate – The rock plate is a layer of deformation-resistant material, whether a plastic sheet, carbon plate, or something else, that sits between the outsole and the sock liner. The rock plate aims to protect the bottom of the foot from rocks, roots, and other trail debris. Rock plates vary in length and may cover the entire foot or just the forefoot.
- Lugs – Lugs refer to the protrusions of material on the bottom of an outsole. While road running shoes often have minimal lugs, trail shoes generally have three- to six-millimeters deep lugs.
- Toebox – The front of the shoe surrounding the ball of the foot and toes.
- Stack Height – Refers to the maximum amount of shoe material (cushion) between the foot and the ground.
- Heel-to-Toe Drop – Also called “offset” or “drop,” it is the height difference (measured in millimeters) between a shoe’s heel and forefoot.
- Arch Profile – Describes how much your foot touches the ground when standing. Knowing your arch profile can help you understand how your foot absorbs impact when you run, including pronation and supination, and what types of injuries are common to each arch type.
- Pronation – The natural inward collapse of the foot’s arch as it absorbs and distributes impact during running or walking.
- Overpronation – When the arch’s inward collapse exceeds the normal range.
- Supination – Also called underpronation, it is when the arch barely collapses, and the outside of the foot absorbs the impact during running or walking.
How to Choose Running Shoes for Women
Road Versus Trail Shoes
While in the end, shoes are shoes, and you can run on roads in trail shoes and trails on road shoes, several distinct differences between the styles of shoes make them uniquely good for what they’re designed for. The best running shoes for women are simply the ones that are the most comfortable for your specific feet and running needs.
Road shoes, like our favorite the Hoka Clifton 9, have smooth outsoles and are meant for pavement. They’re also generally lightweight and breathable. Trail shoes, including the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3, will have beefy lugs on the outsoles for gripping natural surfaces like rocks, mud, and dirt. Trail running shoes sometimes also have additional protective features like rock plates and a burlier toebox.
If you primarily run on the roads, trail shoes are probably overkill — they’ll feel too clunky or sticky. And if you take road shoes onto the trails, you’ll sacrifice grip and likely compromise the shoe’s durability. If you run on both roads and trails throughout the year, we recommend having at least one pair of road running shoes and a dedicated pair of trail shoes. There are several options of shoes that will run comfortably on pavement while still being able to grip on trails. One of our favorite crossover shoes is the Altra Outroad 2.
For any type of running shoe, you want to measure the length of your foot in inches and then size up a half to full size, leaving about a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. While there can be slight differences between brands, most are fairly standardized. A good fit will allow your toes to splay and wiggle some but keep your feet from sliding around inside the shoe.
You’ll also want to know the width of your foot. You don’t want any part of your foot hanging off the midsole. Many shoe brands — like Hoka, Brooks, and New Balance — offer narrow- and wide-width models of certain shoes to fit more foot sizes and styles. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 and the Hoka Speedgoat 5 are examples of those in this guide available in multiple width options. Getting the correct width is crucial to comfort and shoe longevity.
Similar to shoe cushioning, toebox shape and size is a matter of personal preference. Running shoe toeboxes are generally classified as narrow, medium, and wide. If you prefer a snug fit around your toes, you’ll want to opt for a narrow or medium toebox. But if you like some wiggle or splay room for your toes, pick a shoe with a wider toebox. Generally, high-performance shoes designed for technical trails have a narrower toebox, while shoes designed to go long distances have a wider toebox.
In this guide, the Brooks Catamount 2 for the trail is an example of a shoe with a fairly traditional toebox that’s not especially narrow or wide. Topo Athletic and Altra offer an array of road and trail running shoes, and these brands are known for making shoes with a particularly wide toebox that allows feet to relax and for toes to spread out comfortably.
The right amount of cushion is the amount that feels the best to you. Many options are available because there are so many variations in runner body shapes and sizes, running gaits, and runner preferences. Goals matter, too, when it comes to choosing between the best running shoes for women. A runner training for a five-hour marathon will likely prefer a different amount of cushion and shoe feel than a runner training for an 18-minute 5k or a runner who wears their shoes for daily runs, dog walks, and errands. Since there’s no right or wrong way to run, there’s no “right” amount of cushion.
That said, lots of cushion will feel more soft and comfortable, but it will come at the cost of reducing your ability to feel slight variations in the ground underneath your feet. Meanwhile, minimalist shoes with very little cushion will let you feel every pebble underfoot, but—ouch! In this guide, the Hoka Speedgoat 5 has a lot of cushion, while the Brooks Ghost 15 and Brooks Catamount 2 offer more moderate cushion. None of the shoes in this guide are true minimalist shoes.
Every person’s feet and ankles move a little differently throughout the various parts of their gait. A foot’s arch will collapse slightly throughout a stride for shock absorption. If an arch collapses too much, the entire foot and ankle roll inwards, which is called overpronation. People who overpronate often have issues with their ankles, Achilles tendons, shins, knees, and/or hips. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 is a running shoe designed specifically for those who overpronate.
The shape of your arch and how it moves throughout your stride determines the level of arch support and stability you need in a shoe. Visiting a running store to have your gait analyzed is the best way to determine if you need extra arch support to stay injury-free and running comfortably.
Stability Versus Neutral Shoes
Neutral shoes allow the feet to move and flex naturally while stability shoes guide the foot and help prevent overpronation. If possible, have an expert at a local running specialty store examine your gait before purchasing running shoes. Most people pronate some, but if you overpronate, where your feet roll significantly inward after impact with the ground, you might consider a stability shoe. Stability shoes might also help if you’re prone to Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, or shin splints.
Our favorite neutral road running shoes include the Hoka Clifton 9 and the Brooks Ghost 15. Our favorite stability shoes are the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23. Learn more in our guide to the best stability road running shoes.
The heel-to-toe drop is the difference in stack height of a shoe from the heel to the toe. Stack height is the distance between your foot and the ground and comprises the midsole and outsole. Typical heel-to-toe drop falls in the 6- to 10-millimeter range.
Choosing drop is a personal preference, though there are some things to consider when looking at the best running shoes for women. For example, if you’re a hard heel striker, a higher heel stack height and drop might feel better and help with a smoother transition from the heel to the front of your foot. On the other hand, a lower drop can help lengthen posterior muscles and tendons like the glutes and hamstrings and alleviate lower back tightness. That said, a lower drop shoe probably isn’t best if you have had Achilles tendon issues or chronically tight calf muscles.
The shoes in this guide range from the zero-drop Altra Outroad 2 to the 12-millimeter drop of the Brooks Ghost 14 and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23. If you’re transitioning to a shoe with a different amount of drop than you’re used to, it’s important to change gradually by slowly cycling the shoe into rotation.
Running volume can play directly into how many running shoes you purchase each year and how many different running shoes you rotate through at a given time. If your primary activity is running and you do it consistently, you may cover anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 miles or more per year. That mileage alone will easily take you through five to eight pairs of running shoes yearly. If that sounds like you, you’re probably committed enough to running that it’s worth keeping a few different styles of shoes on hand at a given time — perhaps a pair for the trails, like the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 3, and one for the roads, like the Brooks Ghost 15, and maybe some dedicated shoes for workouts and races or highly cushioned recovery run shoes.
On the other hand, if you’re running a couple of times per week or running to supplement another primary sport, like ski touring, cycling, or rock climbing, you don’t necessarily need a quiver of running shoes. Instead, choose a high-quality pair or two that fits well and will best suit your needs, whether you’re running on roads, trails, or both. Then, keep track of the miles you put on your shoes or monitor their wear so that you’re ready to replace them when they’ve become too packed or broken down.
Running speed is relative, but how you like to feel when you run can influence the style of shoes that will provide the experience you’re seeking. If you love to feel fast and light, regardless of your actual pace, opt for a shoe with a firmer cushion that will feel bouncy and responsive. If you prefer to run at a relaxed, leisurely pace and prioritize comfort above all else, choose shoes with more cushion and a softer, more plush midsole, even though you’ll lose responsiveness and ground feel. If you like to run fast and easy, like many of us, go with a shoe like the Saucony Ride 16 for roads or Brooks Catamount 2 for trails that balance comfort and rebound. Alternatively, keep a few different shoes in your rotation to pick the best shoe for your desired experience on a particular day.
Why You Should Trust Us
This best running shoes for women guide has been compiled with the expertise and testing experience of the iRunFar team, supplemented by extensive research by author Alli Hartz and input from seasoned running shoe experts.
We began by researching the running shoe market and compiling a list of women’s-specific running shoes, best-sellers, and other top-rated women’s shoes. We also combed our internal records of testing feedback from iRunFar’s women’s shoe testers. Finally, we polled our friends who run in women’s shoes and inquired with our running peers regarding anecdotal input on women’s running shoes. With this information, we narrowed down a list of 18 top picks and sent as many as possible to our women’s shoe testers. Over several weeks, our team of testers took these shoes to the roads and trails and put dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of miles on each style.
Afterward, our testers rated each shoe according to overall performance, comfort, responsiveness, durability, and more. With all this information, we further narrowed our list of the best running shoes for women in this guide.
Frequently Asked Questions About Running Shoes for Women
How long do running shoes last?
Most running shoes have a range of 300 to 500 miles, whether they’re designed for the road or the trail. Depending on your mileage and whether you use one pair of shoes at a time or rotate a few pairs, this could be anywhere from three to six months.
The exact mileage you get out of your shoes depends on multiple factors, including the shoe’s fit, your body size, how and where you run, and whether you wear your shoes for activities other than running. If your shoes are too snug, you’ll likely punch holes in the upper sooner than if you have a well-fitting shoe that gives your foot room to relax.
How do you know when your shoes are done? If you’re not into tracking your miles, the shoe will let you know when it’s time for a fresh pair. Even if the upper is still in good shape, the outsole may start to look smooth and worn down. Aside from visual clues, the midsole foam will begin to feel flat, firm, and packed out. This becomes especially apparent in highly cushioned shoes like the Hoka Clifton 9. The shoe will feel less comfortable and your feet might feel tired or sore after your run. You also may be able to feel the ground more than you did when the shoes were brand new.
What is a good beginner running shoe?
If you’re new to running, the best thing to do is to visit your local specialty running shop. There, they’ll be able to measure your feet, discuss the different types of surfaces you want to run on, and analyze your gait. A running expert can assess your arch height and help you choose a shoe that suits your feet, running style, and goals.
If you don’t have a running shop in your area, several shoes will fit a wide range of runners. Starting with a fairly average shoe like the Brooks Ghost 15 will let you learn about what you like and don’t like in shoes so that you can purchase your next pair with more information.
How many shoes should I rotate through at once?
The number of shoes you keep at any given time depends on personal preference, budget, and space on your shoe rack. On the one hand, you really only need one pair of running shoes, and there are tons of options out there that work well for everyday running, workouts, and races, and they can even hold their own on both roads and trails. We named the Hoka Clifton 9 as our favorite road shoe. If you opt for one pair of shoes for all your running, the best bet is to pick a style that’s comfortable, has moderate cushioning, decent grip, and proven durability.
At the other end of the spectrum are the gear testers at iRunFar. Because we run almost every day and love to study, test, and examine the features and technology of each shoe style, many of us end up with too many shoes to count. There are specialized shoes for everything: plush cushioned shoes for everyday easy runs, springy and responsive workout shoes, super shoes for racing, trail shoes, waterproof shoes for snow and mud, and so on.
While trying different kinds of running shoes is fun, this can become an expensive habit. Realistically, most dedicated runners will do well with a few pairs of shoes in rotation at any given time. A pair of everyday training shoes that can perform well on roads, gravel, and light dirt, a dedicated pair for workouts and racing, and a pair of trail shoes that can stand up to more rugged terrain is an excellent place to start.
Are certain running shoes better for women?
Generally, women’s feet are shaped a little differently from men’s — the key difference is that women tend to have narrower heels. As a result, women’s running shoes are shaped a little wider in the front and narrower in the back, while men’s running shoes have a more uniform width from front to back. Additionally, men’s shoes tend to run slightly wider overall than women’s shoes.
As a result, an average woman with an average fit will likely get a better fit in a running shoe with a women’s specific last. However, women with wide feet may find that men’s sizing fits their feet better. Similarly, a man with narrow feet may prefer the fit of a woman’s shoe. Finally, many running brands offer unisex shoes; however, these are usually built on a man’s last.
More recently, some brands have started introducing women-first running shoes, the idea being that the shoe is crafted from the ground up with women’s needs and preferences at the forefront, rather than adapting a men’s shoe to women’s feet. None of the women-first shoes that we tested made it into this guide, but it’s important to note that this is something that the running industry is exploring.
Choosing running shoes is personal, and factors like training goals, experience, history of injury, running gait, foot shape, style preferences, and budget are all at play. There’s good reason for the variety of running shoes on the market today, including the wide range of midsole foams, stack heights, heel-to-to drops, toebox shapes, outsole rubber components, and more. Whether you want the wide toebox of the Altra Outroad 2 or the cushion of the Hoka Clifton 9, you can probably find a shoe with the features you’re looking for. Ultimately, the best shoe for any individual runner is the one that fits well, feels comfortable, inspires confidence, and motivates that person to get out the door for a run!
Ultimately, there is no single “best” shoe — It’s simply about having options and knowing how to choose the best running shoe for you.
Call for Comments
- Do you wear gender-specific or unisex running shoes?
- What features or aspects are most important to you if you wear women’s shoes? Do you have a favorite women’s running shoe?