The best running shoes for women—for casual jogs, long runs and beautiful trails

Our round-up of the best running shoes for women will help you make the right decision before parting with your cash

A selection of the best running shoes for women
(Image credit: New Balance/On/Saucony)

Investing in the best running shoes will allow you to make the most out of your workout, whether you're an avid runner or a 'Couch to 5k' beginner. 

While fitness trackers might help you keep up your pace and tackle new distances, the best running shoes will provide you with lots of support, stability and comfort. 

We tried and tested a range of trainers from some of the best running shoes brands, including New Balance, Salomon, and Saucony. While all the women's running shoes in our round-up fared well in our tests, it was the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 trainers that came out on top. However, if you don't want to splash the cash there are plenty of footwear options that will suit you, whatever your budget. 

How we tested the best running shoes for women

Putting top brands through their paces, we looked for all the key features good running shoes have, including: 

  • Good fit—your foot should sit on top of the insole without spilling over the edges. You should never buy shoes with the mindset that you'll wear them in. They should fit perfectly from day one. 
  • Supportive cushioning—good cushioning reduces the impact each time your foot hits the ground. Look out for running shoes with an EVA midsole for maximum shock-absorbing abilities and a lightweight shoe. 
  • Breathable material—a build-up of sweat can cause blisters, so look out for light breathable mesh material in running shoes. 
  • Arch-support if needed—if you overpronate (aka your foot rolls inward as you move and your foot flattens), then you may benefit from arch support or an insole. 
  • Suitable stack height and offset—stack height refers to the distance between the ground and the bottom of your foot. It will be a personal preference. Offset or drop refers to the difference between your heel and the ground and your forefoot and the ground. 

The best running shoes for women as chosen by our experts

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 trainers


(Image credit: New Balance )

1. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

Best running shoes for women overall

Specifications

Size range: US 5 -13 / UK 3 -11
Offset: 8mm
Terrain: Treadmill/Road
Waterproof: No
RRP: $150 / £135

Reasons to buy

+
Well-cushioned for joint support
+
Comfortable 
+
Lightweight 
+
Stylish 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof
-
Small fit, best to size up 

It's no surprise the much-loved New Balance 1080 trainers made it into our top picks. A fan favorite for many years, the latest version of the popular shoes is the ultra-light New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11. The main selling point of this pair is the Fresh Foam midsole cushioning, which had our tester feeling like they were running on clouds. It works by compressing each time your foot hits the floor to help protect against the force of the impact. However hard the terrain, joints will feel supported and comfortable, with less stress on shins. 

The attention to detail makes this pair worth spending your money on, with an Ortholite sock liner and Ultra Heel technology that hugs the back of your foot for a comfortable and supportive fit. The design is super stylish too, and available in a range of colors from classic black and white to bright blues and corals. 

Note: these women's running shoes are not waterproof, and although the traction is good, we think it's best to stick to even roads and the treadmill in this pair. Avoid any terrain that’s too treacherous. Our tester also recommends sizing up with these trainers, as they can come up a little small. 

361 Strata 4 running shoe for women


(Image credit: 361 Strata)

2. 361 Strata 4

Best premium running shoes for women

Specifications

Size range: US 5 -12 / UK 3 -9
Offset: 8mm
Terrain: Road
Waterproof: No
RRP: $155 / £135

Reasons to buy

+
Great for long-distance
+
Comfortable
+
Sleek look
+
Secure lacing system 
+
Breathable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Irregular sizing
-
Not waterproof

The 361 Strata 4 running shoes are on the more expensive side. But, with this pair, you're paying for comfort—especially if you want to run further for longer. Every detail has been thought through carefully. If you find you often have to stop running to reposition the tongue on your shoe, you'll be glad to hear the 361 trainers have it integrated with the laces (via the Morphit lacing system), so it won’t move at all. These trainers are ultra-versatile too, and great for protecting joints. Our tester rated the shoes for the excellent cushioning which took the pressure off her joints (particularly important for long runs). 

Looks-wise, these running shoes are more about practicality than being bang on-trend. But they're sleek, and not overbranded or brash so you won’t need to upgrade for a long time. Plus, they’re definitely not too clunky for the treadmill. 

See our full 361 Strata 4 review

Merrell trail running shoes

(Image credit: Merrell)

3. Merrell Antora Gore-Tex Trail Running Shoes

Best trail running shoes for women

Specifications

Size range: US 5 -12 / UK 2.5 - 8.5
Offset: 8mm
Terrain : All
Waterproof : Yes, Gore-Tex
RRP: $140 / £120

Reasons to buy

+
Incredibly comfortable
+
Very adaptable to different terrains
+
Waterproof material 

Reasons to avoid

-
Perhaps more support in the heel needed
-
Some trail runners may not like the ‘barefoot’ feeling of the shoe

Slipping on the Antora Gore-Tex shoes from Merrell feels akin to putting on a slipper. The trainer is incredibly soft, comfortable, and lightweight, especially when compared with other shoes. The Antora is made with a Vibram outsole and a foam insole, so your foot is well protected. It feels almost as if you’re running with a sock on—but with all the security and cushioning of a trail shoe. For those who enjoy the foot-to-ground barefoot feeling while running the trails, this could be the pick for you.

What's more, they are very adaptable to different terrains. Our tester was just as confident running in the woods as they were on the grass and pavement. A little more support in the heel might have helped, but this is a very small concern and something that other runners may not even notice. There is very little movement of your foot within the shoe, leaving you feeling protected and ready to jump between terrain. Overall, we rate these as the best trail running shoes for women—ideal for those who want to get out on the trails and tackle an off-road run.  

Salomon SUPERCROSS BLAST GTX W running shoe for women


(Image credit: Salomon)

4. Salomon Supercross Blast GTX W

Best running shoes for muddy trails

Specifications

Size range: US 5 -12 / UK 3.5 - 10.5
Offset: 10mm
Terrain: Muddy and soft trails
Waterproof: Yes, Gore-Tex
RRP: $130 / £120

Reasons to buy

+
Very supportive
+
Suitable for muddy and soft terrain
+
Waterproof 

Reasons to avoid

-
One-pull laces
-
Poor breathability

Of all the trainers we tested, the Salomon Supercross Blast GTX W is the best for muddy and soft trail runs. Lightweight, comfortable, and with great grip even in treacherous conditions, these running shoes tick all the right boxes. A game-changer for those who like to get off the beaten track and tackle some tricky trails.

In fact, the grip is so good you never have to worry about slowing down or losing focus again. Plus, thanks to the Gore-Tex technology, these running shoes stay 100% waterproof, whatever the weather. With just the right amount of arch support, your feet won’t slip around and your ankles will stay cushioned and supported throughout workouts. Currently available in either black, green, or pink, the colors are muted and mature instead of garish. The only thing that may take time to master is the one-pull laces system. But, over time, you’ll never want to go back to manually tying them ever again.

See our full Salomon Supercross Blast GTX review

Saucony Peregrine 11


(Image credit: Saucony )

5. Saucony Peregrine 11

Most comfortable running shoes for women

Specifications

Size range: US 5 - 12 / UK 3 - 10
Offset: 4mm
Terrain: All
Waterproof: No
RRP: $120 / £115

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Lightweight
+
Great for all types of terrain
+
Bright colors available 

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Not waterproof 

There's no need to weigh up running on a treadmill vs outside with this pair. Comfort is guaranteed with the Saucony Peregrine 11 trainers, whether you're on the road or treadmill. This is largely thanks to the brand's PWRRUN technology and air-mesh design. But, your feet won't just melt away inside these trainers. As well as providing comfort, the tech used here ensures the trainers are still flexible and responsive so you can power through each stride with ease. 

These trainers were specifically designed with PWRTRAC rubber lugs to offer lots of grip and support when running trails, but, our tester found they were comfortable and supportive when running on all types of terrain. Although, as they're not waterproof it's best to stick to dry routes. 

Sleek and stylish, with a large toe box for wiggle room, they easily secured a place in our best women running shoe guide. You can expect the same support mile after mile with this pair, so they're a great shoe for beginners who are happy to invest. 

Hoka One One Clifton 8 blue trainers

(Image credit: Hoka One One)

6. HOKA Clifton 8 womens

Best running shoes for easy runs

Specifications

Size range: US 5 - 12 / UK 3.5 - 10.5
Offset: 5mm
Terrain: Road/Treadmill
Waterproof: No
RRP:: $130 / £125

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable mesh upper
+
Easy to put on and take off
+
Comfortable yet supportive  
+
Vegan-friendly 

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly narrow fit, but wide is available
-
Small toe box 

Over the years, Hoka's Clifton running shoes have gone through multiple updates, but the Clifton 8 remains our favorite. With a modified midsole, medium cushioning, and breathable mesh upper, it's a soft and lightweight shoe perfect for everyday training and long easy runs. The Meta-Rocker technology works to drive you forward by complementing your natural stride, while the EVA midsole provides just the right amount of cushioning for a comfortable yet responsive feel. The extended pull tab makes these shoes easy to put on and take off, and supports the foot for a snug fit around the heel. 

Traction is good, thanks to the new outsole rubber layout, but this shoe is definitely best for road running as opposed to rocky trails. Our tester found the trainer fit true to size, but it was a little narrow at the toe box. Veer on the side of caution if have slightly wide feet, and opt for the Wide style over the Regular in this shoe. The Clifton 8 is definitely a neutral shoe, so might not be best for those who overpronate and need lots of stability in their running trainers. 

Cloudboom Echo running shoes

(Image credit: On Running)

7. On Cloudboom Echo

Best track running shoes

Specifications

Size range: US 5 - 11 / UK 3 - 9
Offset: 9mm
Terrain : Road
Waterproof : No
RRP: $269.99 / £210

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Very comfortable 
+
Curved toe makes sprinting easy 
+
Good cushioning

Reasons to avoid

-
Minimal ankle support

When you strap on a pair of On's Cloudboom Echo running shoes, you know that you're in for a ride. The first thing our tester noticed is how incredibly lightweight these trainers are, especially when compared with other trainers built for the same purpose. Instead of using knit-like fabric, these have a 100% recycled polyester engineered mesh upper. On first appearance this looks a little cheaper than you might expect, but slip them on and you'll notice the benefits straight away. 

Cloudboom Echo was built for speed, which is why it makes it onto our list of best running shoes for its use as a track shoe. It has a carbon Speedboard® with a noticeable rocker shape in the toe, meaning that your foot points slightly upward. This may take a second to get used to but if you're in need of some added speed, these are definitely the trainers to go for. Our tester recorded a noticeable difference when it came to using these trainers versus others in how quick it is to get moving and propel yourself during the run. This also made it easier to run longer distances as the shoe physically helps to push you off from the ground. 

For those who struggle with any heel pain, the On Cloudboom Echo could also be a good choice as the impressive cushioning on the bottom of the trainer lessens your foot's impact on the road. These are certainly for road or track-use only though, as our tester found out when attempting a canal-side run. While they're perfectly stable, the lightweight nature of the upper means there's minimal ankle support for rockier terrains. 

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38, best Nike running shoes

(Image credit: Nike)

8. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 women’s running shoes

Best Nike running shoes for women

Specifications

Size range: US 5 - 2/UK 2.5 - 9.5
Offset: 10mm
Terrain : Road/Treadmill
Waterproof : No
RRP: $120 / £105

Reasons to buy

+
Ideal for elite and everyday runners alike
+
Very comfortable 
+
Range of colors available 
+
Great cushioning 

Reasons to avoid

-
Some customers find they come up a little small

Nike running shoes are often a go-to for many. The brand sells some of the best running shoes for women on the market, so it's no surprise the Nike Pegasus trainers have been a best seller for almost a decade. There's a reason why loyal customers keep coming back to these trainers, they are practical, comfortable, and supportive. 

The updated version, the Air Zoom Pegasus 38, features a Zoom Air bag placed in the forefoot of the shoe, which is designed to cushion your step and improve responsiveness in the trainer. The forefoot is also slightly wider making more room for your toes. The foam sole keeps you light and springy as you run, ensuring you don’t feel weighed down when hitting the pavements. Some customers find the Pegasus running shoes to be a small fit, so it might be worth trying a size up in these trainers.

Run Spin Ultra Textile Sneakers

(Image credit: Lacoste)

9. Lacoste Run Spin Ultra Textile Sneakers

The most stylish women's running shoes

Specifications

Size range : US 5 - 10 / UK 3 - 8
Offset : N/A
Terrain : Road
Waterproof : No
RRP: $175/£140

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish design 
+
Goodyear grip 
+
Super comfortable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as breathable as other options we tested 

For a functional and fashionable pair of trainers, look no further than Lacoste's Run Spin Ultra Textile Sneakers. They're certainly a fashion statement, with mesh detailing and navy, green and red details. Plus, the iconic Lacoste crocodile logo on the side. But, it's about more than just style with this pair. With a lightweight Pebax plate, these trainers are super comfortable and responsive, with excellent traction thanks to the Goodyear grip pods on the outsoles. The deep heel cup kept our tester feeling secure and supported as they ran. 

Compared to the other trainers in this round-up, they were lacking in breathability and wouldn't be suitable for a rainy day workout. However, it's worth noting Lacoste has also launched a waterproof version with Gore-Tex properties if that's a deal-breaker for you. All in all, the fashionable trainers will see you through treadmill runs, and can be worn post-workout with jeans. 

The Lacoste Run Spin Ultra Textile Sneakers were supplied by Sweatshop.com for this review. 

Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 Training Shoes

(Image credit: Under Armour)

10. Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 Training Shoes

Best women's workout shoes

Specifications

Size range: US 5 - 12 / UK 2.5 - 9.5
Offset: 2mm
Terrain: Treadmill/Other workouts
Waterproof: No
RRP: $120 / £150

Reasons to buy

+
Great grip
+
Good cushioning 
+
Lightweight 
+
Can wear for lots of workouts 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not very stylish 
-
Not suitable for long runs or trail runs 

For any gym bunnies out there who want an all-rounder shoe to see you through every type of workout—including short runs or HIIT treadmill workouts—the Under Armour TriBase Reign 3 could be the one for you. 

A favorite of fitness fans around the world, the shoe provides support and stability for a range of workouts. It features an external heel counter to keep the rear of the foot in place while you’re working out, while the full-length Micro G foam midsole provides a high level of cushioning that softens the blow every time your foot hits the ground. Plus, there's extra cushioning around the ankle for added comfort. Our tester even noticed less pressure on the calves when working out in these trainers. 

With strategically placed rubber on the sole and around the toe area, this shoe also provides a great level of traction to help prevent any slips. We love the knitted bottie upper, which gives a sock-like feel to the shoe and means there is no rubbing or chafing at all—even during the sweatiest of workouts. It keeps the shoe flexible enough too, so you don’t experience any tightness or foot cramping. While great for treadmill sessions and short runs, these trainers wouldn't be suited to longer-distance runs or trails. They are best for gym-lovers who do a range of workouts and want a shoe that works for a little bit of everything, from strength training for women to the 12-3-30 workout.  

How do women run differently from men?

While it might seem like running is the same mechanical movement for women as it is for men, there are very subtle differences in the way that we move that impact our technique. 

"The difference between men and women when it comes to running technique is largely due to structure of the pelvis and lower parts of the body (knees and ankles)," explains sprints, jumps, and performance coach Arj Thiruchelvam. "This impacts the knee, which often collapses inwards as the heel moves outwards. This results in stress on the joint and to the landing of the foot."

Our hips also play a factor. "The hips and subsequent Q angle (the force exerted on the patella by the thigh muscles) is wider for women," says runner and head coach for footwear brand Saucony, Nick Anderson. "There has been some research to suggest that women are more likely to overpronate (arches/ankles roll inwards), more so than men and women often have a faster or shorter cadence (stride length and frequency hitting the ground) often resulting in better energy and stamina."

To help combat running injuries, Thiruchelvam recommends female runners focus on glute and hip strength, with the aid of resistance bands, lunges, and squats. "We also implement basic running drills and hopping exercises to improve biomechanics," he adds.

 How are women’s running shoes different from men’s? 

Since 2020, sales of performance running shoes have increased by 32%. When choosing your next footwear, it’s important to look for shoes designed specifically for women if you want a comfortable fit and top performance.

"The female foot, body, and requirements are different to men's," explains Anderson. "Width is an obvious example in most cases. Women’s shoe designs often have a narrower fit than men's, but most brands have a range that covers all types of footstrike, stability, and cushioning requirements. Typically a female foot may be narrow in and around the heel, but then wider in the forefoot. Women's feet are also typically shorter, so it’s important to bring that into consideration and take a close look at the specifications and reviews when buying." 

What should women look for when choosing running shoes?

"When looking for the best running shoes, it's key that you buy something comfortable and lightweight," says Thiruchelvam. "One thing that comes up again and again in research, is that the greater the weight at the foot, the higher the chance of injury. A shoe with medium cushioning paired with strength exercises is always a winner. These sort of shoes will accommodate imperfect running techniques and soften the impact of long runs on your joints; just don’t let your new comfy shoes become an excuse not to do your mobility and strength work."

Your local running shop, staffed by experienced and trained enthusiasts, can help find the right shoe if you're struggling to make a decision. "They'll usually watch you run on a treadmill, record your running style, your contact with the ground, and your biomechanics from various angles," says Anderson. "Once complete, the expert will recommend a number of shoes for you to try. It takes time choosing the best running shoe for you, but if you want top performance and a reduced chance of injury, it is worth the investment in time and money."

What running shoes do podiatrists recommend? 

"Women’s running shoes have often been designed as smaller versions of men's shoes, but there are real anatomical differences between men's and women’s feet," says podiatrist Matthew Collison. "The key things to look for when choosing the best running shoe for you are fit, comfort, and how they feel when you are running. You should aim to find a shoe with around a thumbs width of space between the end of the shoe and your longest toe, to prevent rubbing, it should also be light enough not to make running harder than it already is, but should provide support to ensure that you are running comfortably."

It’s also important to pick shoes that match your running style and the type of terrain you plan to run on. "If you run on the road or pavement at a slower pace, a more cushioned trainer may be best," says Collinson. "But, if you are chasing a PB, then a lighter racing shoe may be more appropriate. If you are planning on hitting the trails, a specific trail running shoe will provide better grip and features to prevent water and mud from getting in."

Faye M Smith is an award-winning journalist with over 15 years experience in the magazine industry. Her continued work in the area of natural health won her the coveted title of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Journalist of the Year Award 2021. Currently Health Editor across several brands including woman&home, Woman and Woman’s Own, Faye specialises in writing about mental health, the menopause, and sex and relationships.