Whether you are brand new to running and thinking of trying your first 5k or an experienced marathoner, the range of shoes available can be bewildering.
Here we look at 7 categories of the best women’s running shoes and give our pick for every type of runner. From beginner’s shoes to trail running shoes and versatile models that are just as happy in the gym.
Of course, within each category, there will be many great options and we have more in-depth looks here.
The choices below are our picks of the best women’s running shoes in each of the following categories.
The 7 Best Women’s Running Shoes
1. Best Women’s Running Shoes for cushioning – Brooks Ghost 15
2. Best for the gym –Lululemon Blissfeel 2.0
3. Best For Plantar Fasciitis – Mizuno Wave Inspire 19
4. Best For Racing – Brooks Launch 9 GTS
5. Best for trail running – Saucony Peregrine 13
6. Best for support – New Balance 860v13
7. Best For Cushioning – Adidas Ultraboost Light
The Best Women’s Running Shoes
#1 Best Women’s Running Shoes for cushioning – Brooks Ghost 15
Drop – 35mm heel / 23 mm forefoot = 12mm drop / Weight 258g / 9.1 oz
|Great cushioning||None – it’s a great all-round shoe|
|Range of widths|
|Range of colour options|
Most runners want cushioning and when it comes in a package as comfortable as the Brooks Ghost 15 you really can’t go wrong!
That number 15 tagged at the end of the name tells us something in that it’s the 15th version of this shoe, so it’s been pretty popular for many years.
The latest version offers the brand’s latest cushioning DNA LOFT v2, basically a light, soft and smooth riding cushioning foam that simply soaks up the road and feels plush and welcoming.
The engineered air mesh upper is very breathable and there’s printed detail that adds to its structure and support around the foot.
What you’ll find with the Brooks Ghost 15 is that this upper has a slightly stretchy feel to it, so can accommodate slimmer feet even as well as broader feet. And, if you are still struggling it’s available in both narrow and wide options meaning it really can cater for every foot width and shape.
I’d describe the shoe as a stable neutral model, so again, it’s pretty versatile in its use making it a safe bet for a wide range of runners.
#2 Best for the gym –Lululemon Blissfeel 2.0
Drop -33mm heel / 24mm forefoot = 9mm drop/ Weight – 276g / 9.7oz
|Versatile use||Limited to short runs|
Many people take their first steps into running via the treadmill at the gym or as part of a mixed gym class.
In an ideal world, we’d change shoes between every exercise but often it’s a case of choosing one shoe to do everything.
With this in mind, you want a shoe that offers cushioning and support for both running and the varied movements involved in gym workouts.
The Blissfeel 2.0 is such a shoe. First upper up it has a light breathable mesh upper that’s vital for indoor training. Its 3D knit-like construction also provides cleverly integrated support around the foot that’s useful in activities that involve lateral (side-to-side) movements.
The cushioning it soft and flexible enough for running yet not too soft as to be unstable when lifting.
It also has additional built-in support around the heel counter with small ‘wings’ that extend up, around the heel for a secure footing and feel.
The outsole is again pretty versatile. It has enough traction for road running and even light (very light) trail paths but isn’t too deep to be a hindrance indoors.
In summary, it’s a great allrounder as well as a stylish option for multiple uses.
#3 Best for Plantar Fasciitis – Mizuno Wave inspire 19
Drop – 37mm heel / 25mm forefoot = 12mm drop/ Weight – 247g / 8.7oz
|Great, structured arch support||Plantar Fasciitis can prove difficult to fix, so try a few shoes in-store before you buy|
|Enerzy cushioning provides a soft, responsive ride|
|History of positive results|
Plantar Fasciitis is probably the most common injury we are asked about. It usually occurs when the Plantar Fascia tendon (that runs along the bottom of the foot, under the arch) becomes strained.
Ultimately Plantar fasciitis is a very complicated injury any research is varied and rather limited.
Contributing factors can be weakness and tightness in the calf and soleus muscles as well as overuse. Wearing shoes without sufficient support or indeed walking around with bare feet can also lead to the condition developing.
With this in mind, a shoe that elevates the heel a little as well as supporting the arch can help. Of course, a visit to a medical professional should be your first port of call, but good, supportive and structured footwear is a must, so stay away from the sandals and flip-flops!
Whilst my selection here doesn’t have any scientific evidence behind it, I can say that from my experience over the last ten years or so, the Mizuno Wave Inspire has become the top choice for those with the condition.
The structured shape of the support provided by the Mizuno Wave technology seems to fit well into the arch of the foot and simply ‘hit-the-spot’, runners often commenting to me that ‘it feels just right’.
The Mizuno Wave Inspire 19 offers the latest Wave technology that provides both cushioning and support and contributes to reducing excessive overpronation.
A full-length piece of Mizuno’s Enerzy foam provides a soft, light and responsive ride that gives the shoe a little extra bounce.
A neatly engineered mesh upper gives a great fit and the shoes offer an all-round plush and comfortable fit.
#4 Best for racing – Brooks Launch 9 GTS
Drop – 36mm heel / 26mm forefoot = 10mm drop. Weight – 201g / 7.1oz
|Great value||There are ‘faster’ shoes (but at a price premium)|
|Versatile use options|
Ok, so this choice isn’t a super-shoe or indeed a carbon-plated model, but we’ve selected it purely based on its great value price and versatility.
At this price point, the Brooks Launch GTS is hard to beat for any use as it tends to offer a little bit of something for everyone.
It’s lightweight at just 200g. It offers good cushioning and it offers good support.
With these factors in mind, you can pretty much use it for any type of running but as a general race day or fast day shoe it’s amazing.
As with all the brands ‘GTS’ models it uses their Guiderail system to generally cup the heel and provide all-around stability. It works very well and anyone with even the slightest concern about stability would be pretty well accommodated here.
The Launch GTS is also a pretty simple shoe, there’s no fuss. It’s simple, it does the job and it’s a great price. For race day, track work or just those days when you want to run a little quicker, it’s a great choice.
#5 Best for trail running – Saucony Peregrine 13
Drop – 28mm heel / 24mm forefoot = 4mm drop. Weight – 230g / 8.1oz
|‘Regular’ and Gore-Tex versions are available||Trails can be so varied, consider where you run and how much traction you require|
before making your choice
|Great combination of cushioning and grip|
|Cushioning just like the brand’s road shoes|
When it comes to trail running shoes a few will often spring to mind and amongst them will always be the Saucony Peregrine.
Now in its thirteenth iteration, the Peregrine offers a great combination of cushioning and traction that makes it a great off-road choice.
The shoe’s PWRRUN foam midsole is that that can be found on many of the brand’s road-going models meaning cushioning is excellent.
Combined with a PWRTRAC rubber outsole and deep lugs the shoe will offer great traction on pretty much any surface.
In the heel of the shoe the lugs help provide grip when descending while in the forefoot, the angle chevron design is reversed to grip even the steepest slopes.
A rock-guard (thin plastic sheet) is sandwiched between the sole and the cushioning to protect from sharp rocks while rubberised sections around the toe and heel protect the upper from debris.
The Saucony Peregrine 13 is available in both regular, a breathable mesh upper, as well as a Gore-Tex version. The latter adds a waterproof upper for even more protection from the elements.
For first-time trail runners and experienced adventurers alike, the Saucony Peregrine 13 is an excellent trail shoe you can take on any adventure.
#6 Best for support – New Balance 860v13
Drop – 27mm heel / 17mm forefoot = 10mm drop, Weight – 243g / 8.6oz
|Effective support||Arch support can be subject to your foot shape, try in-store first|
|Upper provides support fit|
Support shoes come in many different guises. Often being described as support, control, structured cushioning or guidance as well as a bewildering array of terms.
It can be confusing, but essentially, they all aim to do one thing; control the movement of the foot.
The way the foot moves or pronates is ultimately down to the amount of natural flexibility your own individual foot has.
With 26 bones and many more muscles, tendons and ligaments, it’s a very complicated structure.
Pronation is the natural inward roll of the foot from the moment it hits the ground. Excessive movement is referred to as overpronation and this category of shoe aims to reduce that overpronation.
The range of support category shoes is enormous and again a very individual choice, but for a safe bet that does a good job for a wide range of people, the New Balance 860v13 is an ideal choice.
The shoe has a medial post, a small, firmer section of cushioning on the inside of the shoe under the arch. This post, being firmer doesn’t compress as much as the rest of the shoe’s cushioning and therefore resists the foot’s overpronation.
The main cushioning of the shoe comes from the brand’s popular FreshFoam X material, a light and responsive foam that absorbs impact and offers a nice, slightly springy feel on toe-off.
Again, the amount of support or control people will require can be vast but the 860v13 offers a good level of support without being overpowering which many people can safely pull on and go.
The neat, engineered mesh upper provides a neat fit and feels plush and well-made and contributes further to the structured supportive fit.
For overpronators, the New Balance 860v13 makes a good first point of call when trying support-type shoes.
#7- Best for cushioning – Adidas Ultraboost Light
Drop – 30mm heel / 20mm forefoot = 10mm drop. Weight – 262g / 9.2 oz
|Soft, bouncy cushioning||Can be unstable, so it’s a no for overpronators|
|Responsive feel||Despite the ‘Light’ in the name, it’s not particularly light in comparison to|
|Sock-like upper fit|
Cushioning can be as complex a subject as control and the feel of cushioning is subjective.
While some people prefer a shoe to feel firmer, others subscribe to a softer, bouncier feel being their optimum choice.
For the purposes of our review, we’ve gone for the softer, bouncier ride, as its advanced in this area that is making the most progress.
The adidas UltraBoost has been around for 10 years and at its launch was seen as a revolutionary breakthrough in terms of cushioning and in particular ‘bounce’. The material offered a bouncy experience like nothing before it!
Now, ten years later and it’s as good as ever at providing a material that’s capable of soaking up as much impact you can throw at it. Regardless of runner weight, the Ultraboost just feels like it is indeed giving you a boost.
This latest version remains pretty much unchanged from the original. Ok, the cosmetics have moved on, but only a touch.
The shoe is instantly recognisable with its deep stack of cushioning that has a distinctive texture.
A soft, stretchy knitted upper hugs the foot and the brand’s distinctive three stripes form the support and lacing.
When it comes to out-and-out cushioning there’s little denying that the adidas UltraBoost Light is one of the best shoes around.
So there you go – the best women’s running shoes out there. We hope you found something for yourself.