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18 best women’s running shoes to clock up the miles, tried and tested

Whatever your goals, these are the top performing running shoes for cushioning, comfort and energy return

Lisa Buckingham
Tuesday 09 January 2024 09:28 GMT
<p>Knowing whether you overpronate or land centrally will help you to choose the right pair for you </p>

Knowing whether you overpronate or land centrally will help you to choose the right pair for you

Our Top Picks

Running shoes can make or break your running career – get it wrong and you’re likely to experience all manner of niggles and even injuries over time. There’s no denying that they can be expensive but take the time to find the right pair for you and they should last you for 500 miles.

Comfort is absolutely key – a shoe that feels not quite perfect when you put it on will feel wrong after a few miles so think substance over style. Make sure that they’re not pressing in on the sides of your feet and aim for a thumb’s width of space at the end of the shoe – your feet expand as they get hotter and you’ll also find your toes banging into the end of the shoes if you have any less space, especially on downhills.

The other vital consideration is your gait – a gait analysis at a running shop is a wise time investment as it will establish whether you’re an overpronator (where your foot rolls excessively inwards) or a neutral runner (your foot lands centrally and doesn’t roll). Good shops can also advise on the best brands for your foot shape and frame.

Last but not least, consider what its usage will be. Shoes designed for everyday runs, long miles of training or speed training/racing differ from one another.

How we tested

A selection of the best women’s running shoes that we tested

We ran at least 10K in each shoe (apart from the Kalenji, which is not designed for distance) and were assessing whether a shoe delivered on its promises – comfort, cushioning, energy return, durability (although, of course, you’d need to run hundreds of miles in a shoe to test this fully) and stability if they were billed as such.

Obviously, biomechanics, foot shape and personal preferences such as level of cushioning and heel-to-toe drop (the difference in height between the top of the cushioning at the heel and at the forefoot) differ from runner to runner, but we still tried to be as objective as possible.

The best running shoes for women for 2024 are:

  • Best running shoe overall – Saucony women’s tempus: £170, Saucony.com
  • Best budget buy – 361˚ centauri: £122.06, 361europe.com
  • Best running shoe for mixed running surfaces – Hoka challenger 7: £130, Hoka.com
  • Best running shoe for stability – Brooks GTS 23: £135, Brooksrunning.com

Saucony women’s tempus running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe overall
  • Weight: 224g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Lightweight
    • Great arch support
    • Secure and supportive
    • Propels you forward

Energy is the order of the day in this super-responsive shoe. It’s billed as structured cushioning, but while you feel the benefit of the cushioning over the miles, it doesn’t feel dull and gives superb energy return.

The support is reassuringly present but it’s on the less extreme side, and we think you could probably run in this shoe if you’re a neutral runner, especially if your form slips as you get tired. It’s an extremely comfortable, lightweight shoe with great arch support, a secure and supportive heel cup, and the toebox houses a relatively wide foot (but not for the widest of feet).

Its midsole geometry makes it feel like it’s almost doing the running for you, propelling you forward. These are an absolute joy to run in.

  1. £170 from Saucony.com
Prices may vary
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361˚ centauri women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Budget running shoes
  • Weight: 227g
  • Drop: 9mm
  • Why we love it
    • It’s more affordable but still performs well
    • The foam balances shock absorption with responsiveness
  • Take note
    • The laces come up high

We recognise that "budget" might be a stretch of the definition for something that’s over £100 but, relative to the general market, this shoe comes in at the cheaper end but still has good technology and performance.

It’s a neutral shoe that we found to be responsive and shock absorbing, making it an enjoyable ride and ideal for daily running of reasonable distances. It’s light for a cushioned shoe and comfortable – the upper is roomy and flexible, which we like but you may not if you like your forefoot to be held down more. Our only gripe is that the lacing comes up quite high without a padded tongue and we found that it pushed into the front of our ankle, but we resolved it by not lacing up to the top eyelets.

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Puma deviate nitro 2 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe for speed
  • Weight: 216g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Versatile when it comes to speed and mileage
  • Take note
    • It won’t suit wider feet

This is a versatile, lightweight and maximally cushioned neutral shoe, which we found very comfortable for steady distances. However, it’s also responsive and propulsive enough for speed training and racing, thanks to its carbon composite plate designed for “maximum energy transfer and optimised running efficiency”, and 6mm heel-to-toe drop.

Some people opt for two or more pairs of shoes for different types of training or racing – if, like most people, you can’t afford that, then this is a great option for fulfilling various roles. It’s worth noting that this shoe is on the narrow side, so won’t suit those with a wider foot.

  1. £73 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Altra torin 6 aw22 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe for wide-footed runners
  • Weight: 234g
  • Drop: 0mm
  • Why we love it
    • Great ground feel
    • A good choice for wider feet
  • Take note
    • Best suited to daily runs rather than speed

This is Altra’s best-selling road shoe and it’s about as comfortable as it’s possible for a shoe to be. If you’re a wide-footed runner and you’re used to many running shoes compressing the sides of your feet, you’ll almost sigh as you slip your foot into this.

It’s not just for wide feet, though – the toe box is designed to allow your toes to speed naturally as you run. The low stack (height from the ground) makes for great ground feel if that’s what you like. It’s a neutral shoe and has a 0mm drop, so up your miles gradually if you haven’t run in shoes like this before.

The cushioning runs along the shoe and it absorbs impact nicely with decent energy return. And an extra thumbs up for the soft, plush heel collar, too. This isn’t a shoe for shaving off time in a race but for comfortable daily runs.

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Hoka bondi 8 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe for maximum cushioning
  • Weight: 252g
  • Drop: 4mm
  • Why we love it
    • Provides maximum cushioning
  • Take note
    • They’re fairly heavy
    • Bulky profile

Ultra-cushioned with a lighter, softer, more resilient foam than its predecessors, though it remains a fairly heavy shoe. While not the speediest ride, it is a smooth one, aided by the extended heel geometry, with enough energy return not to feel too dull.

We’d say this shoe would suit heavier runners who need max cushioning and come down hard on their shoes, especially heavy heel strikers, as its design and durability will hold up against that.

If looks matter to you, we find the bulky profile of the shoe a little off-putting. That said, you should really be thinking about function over form. The regular fit is fairly narrow but it does come in a wide fitting.

  1. £99 from Hoka.com
Prices may vary
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Under Armour hovr infinite 4 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Value running shoe
  • Weight: 295g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Affordable price
    • Good traction even in tougher conditions

This is a neutral shoe that comes down at the lower end of running-shoe cost. It has a decent amount of cushioning and it’s on the firmer side, so ideal if you don’t like a shoe that feels like you’re sinking into it. The energy return isn’t exciting, but it is there. We’d say it sits in the zone of a shoe for daily, shorter runs, rather than one you’d use for long-distance training or fast racing.

It’s very comfortable, with a thickly padded tongue and heel cup, and the toebox accommodates a wide foot. It has a grippy outsole with relatively deep lugs for a road shoe, so we found it had good traction in wetter or softer conditions, and both outsole and upper feel durable.

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Brooks levitate 6 GTS women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe for support
  • Weight: 280g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Extremely comfortable
    • They look streamlined, for a support shoe
  • Take note
    • They won’t be the best fit for very wide feet

The levitate 6 comes in two versions – neutral and support – and this is the support version. It’s extremely comfortable, encourages a natural roll-through and the Guiderails technology does its job for stability. There is decent energy return and the cushioning is on the firmer side, which is great if you like that.

The upper is supportive and durable, and the shoe looks surprisingly streamlined for a support shoe, which can often look bulky, although it is at the heavier end of shoes. It comes up on the narrower side (not ridiculously so – it just won’t suit very wide feet).

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Nike air zoom pegasus 39 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: For durability
  • Weight: 238g
  • Drop: 10mm
  • Why we love it
    • Great for ground feel
    • Fairly lightweight
    • Grippy outsole
    • Durable

A good-value neutral shoe that comes in at the lower priced end of Nike offerings. It’s known as a workhorse, daily shoe and that was our experience of it. It doesn’t blow you away with fancy geometry or exciting energy return – it just does what it does, which is to be a well-designed daily shoe that will last.

You can feel the cushioning in the heel, less so in the forefoot, so it’s good if you like more ground feel from your running shoe. It’s quite light, accommodates a wide foot and has a grippier outsole than most of the shoes we tested, so it can handle light trails (soft paths around parks, maybe a damp forest floor).

This shoe is also among the most durable in this round-up, with a tough upper and outsole. And because the cushioning isn’t super-bouncy, it doesn’t feel like much will be lost over time.

  1. £69 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Adidas ultraboost 22 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: For petite feet
  • Weight: 289g
  • Drop: 10mm
  • Why we love it
    • Well cushioned
    • Feels stable on
  • Take note
    • Sze up from your street-shoe size

This is a neutral shoe that gives a nicely cushioned ride, but we found that it wasn’t propulsive enough for upping the pace beyond steady, and it is a heavy shoe. The upper is in one piece, which makes it a little hard to get on, but it hugs the foot well once it is on, giving it a stable feel.

The brand has designed it for women, with a narrower heel fit and lower instep curve to reduce heel slippage, and this works well if your feet are on the narrower, more petite side.

It’s known for being a durable shoe and we think the midsole and outsole will hold up well, although it has the kind of stretchy upper over the toes that makes us think that our big toe might come through it before the rest of the shoe wears out. You’ll like it if a less rigid upper is your preference, though. As mentioned, it comes up narrow and quite small, so you’ll definitely need a size up from your street-shoe size.

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Mizuno wave horizon 6 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: For long runs with support
  • Weight: 270g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Superb comfort and cushioning
    • Energy return is excellent
  • Take note
    • On the heavier side
    • The upper may not last

This is Mizuno’s top-end support shoe and provides a luxurious ride. It’s supremely comfortable with a soft, well-fitting heel cup and relatively wide toe box (although not quite as wide as Mizuno’s popular support shoe, the wave inspire).

It fulfils its support brief well, aided by a wide outsole. It has superb cushioning combined with excellent energy return, and we’d happily train for long runs in these.

This shoe is on the heavier side but we didn’t notice it much. Our only small gripe would be that the upper over the toes is very stretchy – while comfortable, we’re not sure how long it will last if you’re someone who usually wears through their running shoes over your big toe.

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361˚ nemesis 2 women’s running shoes

best running shoes for women 2022 lightweight overpronation
  • Best: Running shoe for overpronators
  • Weight: 270g
  • Drop: 9mm
  • Why we love it
    • Deep, comfortable and supportive
  • Take note
    • Not the best fit for narrow feet

A stability shoe that will suit those with a high foot volume (the amount of vertical space your foot takes up). It has a comfortable, deep and supportive fit, especially around the heel, and plenty of space in the toebox, both in width and depth. Narrow feet would wallow around.

Cushioning is on the firmer side and the stability is very present in an extended medial post designed for people who really do overpronate, rather than those on the cusp. This takes it up to the heavier end of shoes but it doesn’t feel clunky.

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On cloudflow 4 women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoes for speed
  • Weight: 200g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Why we love it
    • Very light
    • Glove-like fit
  • Take note
    • You’d need a second pair of running shoes if you do high mileage

We like this neutral shoe a lot. Designed for running fast, we would favour it for speed training, 5-10K races or even a speedy half marathon if you have good technique and don’t come down hard on your shoes – it has enough cushioning to feel comfortable but probably not enough to absorb miles of high impact.

It’s extremely comfortable and houses a reasonably wide foot. Its rocker shape and speedboard (a stiff, spoon-shaped panel in the midsole) gives a catapult-like sensation as you roll through to toe off and the cushioning is lively and responsive.

It’s very light at 200g – the upper is minimalist to keep the weight down but holds the shoe to the foot securely, keeps the heel comfortably cupped and supported and it feels very durable. The soft, thin, breathable tongue is well designed and the rubber sections on the outsole give a nice feeling of grip when running fast.

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Brooks GTS 23 women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoes for stability
  • Weight: 258g
  • Drop: 12mm
  • Why we love it
    • Ultra comfortable
    • Reliable stability
    • Not chunky for a stability shoe
  • Take note
    • Given the choice, we’d probably prefer a smaller drop, but this is marginal

This is the brand’s most popular shoe and for good reason. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – it’s hard not to give an audible sigh when you slip on a Brooks GTS. Its plush heel cushioning, padded tongue and well-shaped insole make for next-level comfort. It still uses the signature GuideRails system to keep your overpronating feet on the straight and narrow and it does this very effectively without being intrusive. Billed as giving you "a smooth and floaty-feeling run", it fulfils its promise and the miles slip away with soft cushioning that has a nice bounce to it.

You may notice the 12mm drop if you usually run in a lower drop but we generally run in 10mm drop shoes and adapted quickly. The upper is durable and breathable and the overall profile is surprisingly non-chunky for a stability shoe. It also comes in a selection of widths, so there’s something for everyone.

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New Balance 1080v13 women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoe for a smooth, springy run
  • Weight: 206g
  • Drop : 6mm
  • Why we love it
    • Light
    • Exceptional cushioning

We’ve yet to test an iteration of this iconic shoe that didn’t impress us and this is no exception. New Balance has added more cushioning, resulting in a greater stack height but while some highly cushioned shoes can feel a bit too cushy and slightly deadened, not so for the 1080. In fact, while it’s a shoe we’d choose for burning up the miles at a steady pace, we also find it just about responsive enough for shorter, faster runs and its slight rocker shape makes for a smooth roll-through.

It’s light at 206g (lighter than the v12). It’s a neutral shoe and the only comment we’d make is that it really is – if you overpronate at all or have a tendency to roll your ankles, this shoe won’t provide you with what you need. Opt for at least half a size up from your street shoe size.

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Asics gel kayano 30 women’s running shoes

asics-kayno-trainers-review-indybest.jpg
  • Best: For runners that pound the pavement
  • Weight: 263g
  • Drop : 10mm
  • Why we love it
    • Super stable
    • Very comfortable
  • Take note
    • Slightly heavy

An iconic stability shoe that’s now on its 30th iteration, it looks significantly different to the 29, with a wider base and increased stack height. It’s incredibly comfortable and as stable as it gets if you overpronate.

We found it to be slightly more propulsive off the toes than its predecessor but we felt that an increased heel bevel that promises smoother transitions didn’t deliver on this because of the added stack height (it’s now 39mm at the heel and 29mm in the forefoot). This comes from additional cushioning and while we can certainly feel the difference from the 29, it didn’t necessarily feel lacking in that model – you’ll really appreciate it if you come down hard on your shoes though. It suits wide feet (narrow footed runners might find too much lateral movement), especially if you go up a size.

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Kalenji jogflow women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoes for shorter runs or walks
  • Weight: 210g
  • Drop: 4mm
  • Why we love it
    • Affordable
    • A reasonable level of cushioning in a light shoe
  • Take note
    • It’s not for distance

A neutral shoe designed for up to 20K per week (in several separate sessions), this is a decent budget option for shorter runs. It’s light and surprisingly flexible, which allows for a natural roll through as you run. The stack height isn’t very big either so there’s a reasonable ground feel, which you’ll like if you’re not a fan of maximal shoes.

The 4mm drop continues this theme of being almost like a barefoot shoe but the moderate and comfortable cushioning draws it away from that. It has a slightly pointed shape that we haven’t seen in running shoes before but it didn’t affect the fit and the shoe is very comfortable. Ideal for walk/running or low-volume running.

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Hoka challenger 7 women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoe for mixed running surfaces
  • Weight: 218g
  • Drop : 5mm
  • Why we love it
    • A great shoe for autumn/winter running
    • Lighter than a full trail shoe

A shoe endorsed by the Royal College of Podiatry and designed to be a hybrid – a mixture of a road and trail shoe. The 4mm lugs give it superior grip to a road shoe (these are well placed and perform well) but it doesn’t have the weight and heft of a trail shoe from features such as toe protection. This makes it ideal for autumn/winter running if you’re not just a pavement pounder and want a little extra grip for the park, firmer trails or races that are a mix of road and moderate trail.

It’s fairly cushioned and nicely responsive, making the miles feel easy, especially if you’re not on tarmac for the whole run. It’s billed as a neutral shoe but we found that it offered a little stability for an overpronator. The upper feels durable and the heels feel cupped and secure. The regular fit comes up narrow (but it’s available in wide) and 5mm is a fairly low drop so ease in if you’re used to a higher one.

  1. £130 from Hoka.com
Prices may vary
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Saucony triumph RFG women’s running shoes

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  • Best: Running shoes for eco credentials
  • Weight: 275g
  • Drop : 10mm
  • Why we love it
    • It takes the planet into consideration
    • Great cushioning

RFG stands for Run For Good and this neutral shoe has been launched as part of the brand’s commitment to 90 per cent of its products containing organic, recycled or renewable materials by 2025. Its upper uses plant-based dyes, the midsole foam is 55 per cent corn-based and the outsole is 80 per cent natural rubber. The industry should take note because it still performs well as an everyday running shoe – the cushioning is reassuringly maximal and absorbs the impact of long miles combined with a nice responsiveness.

It’s also quite flexible and rolls through well. The arch support is great but this isn’t a shoe for the wide of foot – it will suit narrow footed runners who like a thicker, supportive upper to stop their feet wallowing about and we’d recommend going up a whole size from your street shoe size.

  1. £170 from Saucony.com
Prices may vary
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Women’s running shoes FAQs

What to look for in running shoes for women

When shopping for a new pair of running shoes, there are a few things worth considering before making your purchase. Firstly, evaluate what sort of running you hope to be doing – is it long-distance marathon training or do you want to work on your sprints? Are you planning to run on road, off-road, on a treadmill, or a combination of all three?

Next, what sort of support do your feet need? If you have flat feet, you may want more arch support, if you have wide feet, you’ll want a shoe that’s still comfortable after 10K. If your feet roll inwards, also known as overpronating, you could have a higher risk of injury, so will need a stability shoe, whereas if your foot lands centrally when running, a neutral style shoe is better.

Don’t dismiss toe length either, as feet swell when they sweat – if your longest toe is squished against the end of the shoe, it will make for an uncomfortable run. Instead, look for a shoe that allows you roughly a thumbnail length of space between the end of the shoe and your longest toe.

Do I need special shoes for running?

A pair of running shoes, in conjunction with good technique, will support your feet and ankles, help you go the distance on longer runs and improve your performance.

Comfort is an important feature, as it will help you get the most from your workout. Many brands have specialist cushioning elements and breathable fabrics to accommodate for swelling when your feet sweat, or if you’re wearing them for long periods of time. They can also help to absorb impact when running on rougher surfaces, such as concrete, and help reduce your risk of injury.

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

The main difference between women’s and men’s running trainers is the width of the shoe – a woman’s runner is designed to be wide at the forefoot and narrow at the heel. Another difference is the fact women’s shoes are softer in the midsole, owing to the fact that, on average, women weigh less than men.

The verdict: Women’s running shoes

With the Saucony tempus, we found a shoe that offers some support and ample cushioning for longer distances but it’s still exciting to run in at faster paces – it’s close to being a Jack of all trades (although no shoe can serve everyone for everything). It’s very comfortable with an upper that’s well designed, providing stability without being too rigid, and it feels durable and breathable.

If you need more support, the Brooks GTS 23 is our favourite performer; the New Balance fresh foam 1080v13 is a responsive, smooth ride for neutral runners; and the On cloudflow 4 and Puma deviate nitro 2 are a good bet for speedier runs.

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