From couch to 5k to your fastest marathon, we’ve rounded up the best women’s running shoes
Whether you’ve just started running or you eat marathons for breakfast, there are two essential pieces of kit you can’t do without – a decent running bra and a pair of women’s running shoes.
Running shoes can help reduce your risk of injury, keep your feet comfortable as you rack up the miles, and even help you to boost your speed. The problem when choosing running shoes is that one size doesn’t fit all, literally.
The shoes that your friend or someone at your running club swears by might not be the best shoes for you. Everyone’s body and running form is different, so different types of shoes work best for different people. You also need to take into account how often you run, what type of terrain you run on and the distances you’re covering.
Below, we’ve explained what to look for when you’re buying a new pair of runners, and the key features a decent pair of running shoes for women should have. We’ve also picked our favourite women’s running shoes for every budget and distance, from 5km to marathon.
How to choose the best running shoes for you
Before you choose your running shoes there are a few things to take into consideration to help you find the perfect pair:
What surface are you going to be running on?
Different shoes are designed for different surfaces. If you mainly run on the road or a treadmill, then most road running shoes will be fine.
If you’re an off-road runner, trail shoes will provide extra grip and more support around the ankle. For more information, take a look at our article for the best trail-running shoes.
What size should I go for in running shoes?
Just as sizes vary between clothes shops, running shoe sizes can vary between brands – and even between models in the same brand. If you can’t try them on, it’s a good idea to order a couple of sizes to find the one that’s best for you.
Remember your feet tend to swell as they get hot during a run so, if you’re unsure, it’s always best to go slightly bigger. Many runners find they need to go half a size or a size up compared to their usual shoes.
If you have larger feet, you may want to try men’s shoes but be aware that men’s and women’s shoes can differ in fit. This is because women tend to have a narrower heel and wider ball of the foot than men.
What is pronation and how does it affect running shoe choice?
Pronation is the inward rolling of the foot when it makes contact with the ground as you run. There are three types of pronation, and many running shops will recommend different shoes based on how you pronate.
This can be a good guide, but trying on running shoes is a bit like finding the perfect jeans: when you try them on you’ll know. The best shoe is the one that feels comfortable for you.
Neutral pronation is where the foot lands on the outside of the heel and rolls a little inward to absorb the shock. Neutral runners should be comfortable in most shoes, although neutral running shoes are typically most suitable.
Underpronation – also known as supination – is when you land on the outside of the heel and your foot doesn’t roll inwards enough. Some studies show people who under pronate can be more susceptible to injuries of the foot and lower leg so a shoe with lots of cushioning can be helpful.
Overpronation is when your foot rolls excessively inwards as you land. Research suggests women are more likely to overpronate than men, which may be because they tend to have wider hips. Overpronators may be at more risk of injury than neutral pronators, so you may find a stability running shoe is the best choice for you.
How long will shoes last (and when should I get new ones)?
Most brands advise changing your running shoes every 500 miles or so. If you’re heavy on your feet, you may find you need to change your shoes more often. Signs that it’s time for a new pair of running shoes include the sole wearing down or becoming eroded, and the cushioning starting to feel squishy rather than firm.
How much do I need to spend?
High-quality running shoes tend to cost somewhere between £100 and £200, and often in excess of this. If that’s too pricey, one handy way to save is to look for older releases of some of our favourites below. You’ll often find them online with great savings, and most will have very similar, if not the same, features, usually with just a different colourway.
There are also good budget running shoes to look at, which cost £40 to £90 – you’ll find those on the best cheap running shoes list.
The best women’s running shoes to buy in 2023
1. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38: The best women’s running shoes for beginners
Price: £105 | Buy now from Sports Direct
It’s hard to go wrong with the Nike Pegasus. It’s a comfortable, durable shoe, which Nike describes as ‘a workhorse with wings’. It’s good-looking and there are loads of different colourways to choose from.
The springy React foam midsole helps absorb impact as you pound the pavements, and gives you a bit of bounce. The outsole is nice and grippy, so if you’re running in the rain or off-road in the park it’ll keep you on your feet, the breathable mesh upper stops feet getting too hot or feeling caged as you build up the distance, and the wide toebox leaves loads of room for your toes, so they won’t end up feeling squished on longer runs.
Many runners buy the Pegasus as their first pair of shoes and stick with them. They’re a well-priced shoe if you’re just starting out, but if you want to spend a bit less you’ll often find a previous season’s Pegasus available for bargain prices online.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: All-rounder; Weight: 235g; Heel-to-toe offset: 10mm
2. Adidas Ultraboost 21: The best women’s running shoes for long runs
Price: £170 | Buy now from Adidas
If you’re training for a half marathon or more, the Ultraboost 21 is a good option for getting in those long runs and steady miles. One of Adidas’ most popular running shoes, it offers 6% more Boost midsole foam than previous iterations for a cushioned, bouncy ride and the upper is partly made using recycled ocean plastic, which is a nice touch.
A new Torsion system known as LEP (Linear Energy Push) – essentially a plastic insert under the midsole – gives increased rigidity in the forefoot. This makes the 21 a more responsive shoe than earlier Ultraboosts, meaning it’s easier to pick up the pace for bursts of speed.
It is a heavy shoe though, and heavier than previous Ultraboost models, so it’s probably not going to be your first choice if you prefer something lighter. You might also want a lighter shoe for race day and shorter, faster distances.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: Long, steady runs; Weight: 340g; Heel-to-toe offset: 10mm
3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21: The best women’s running shoes for stability
Price: £120 | Buy now from Sports Shoes
It’s never going to be the coolest-looking shoe on the rack but the Brooks Adrenaline has an army of loyal fans. Launched in 1999 and still going strong, it’s a great option if you need a bit more stability from your footwear to support your arches and protect your feet, knees and hips.
Support comes in the form of guide rails built into the midsole, designed to help keep your running in your natural stride. The unobtrusive technology helps keep any excess movement in check as you run and only engages when you need it, so can be useful if your gait changes as you tire on longer routes.
The Adrenaline is renowned for comfort, and the GTS 21 has even more cushioning than its predecessors. It’s a bit like slipping on a favourite pair of slippers (albeit ones you can run in). Brooks’ ‘DNA Loft’ foam, made from a combination of EVA foam, rubber, and air, extends from heel to toe for a soft, smooth ride.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Support; Best used for: All-rounder; Weight: 258g; Heel-to-toe offset: 12mm
4. Asics Gel Nimbus 23: The best women’s running shoe for everyday running
Price: £155 | Buy now from Asics
The Asics Gel Nimbus is a reliable, robust shoe that will see you happily through your training miles. Built with comfort in mind, the soft cushioning provides great shock absorption, meaning it feels just as good on a 20 miler as it does an easy run round the park. And it also has a great grip that doesn’t wear down easily.
One of Asics most popular models, the Nimbus provides a bit more stability than many neutral models. It also has gender-specific features based on the differences between the sexes, including a higher heel drop for women (13mm compared to 10mm for men) and support where it’s needed most. It is slightly on the heavier side though, so if you like a light shoe, it may not be the one for you.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: All-rounder; Weight: 261g; Heel-to-toe offset: 13mm
5. Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2: The best women’s running shoes for racing
Price: £225 | Buy now from Pro Direct Sport
If you’re serious about speed, you might want to spend a bit more on your shoes to give you an edge. The Vaporfly is a great racing shoe, suitable for half marathons, 5k, 10k and marathons, too. A full carbon plate gives you the sensation of being propelled forwards, while Zoom X cushioning underfoot makes for a comfy ride and gives great energy return.
The NEXT% 2 has had a few tweaks compared to the first model, including a softer and more breathable upper that helps feet stay cool, extra padding around the tongue to reduce pressure from your laces and added forefoot reinforcement for more durability.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: Racing; Weight: 187g; Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm
6. Hoka One One All Gender Rocket X: The best women’s running shoes for speed
Price: £155 | Buy now from Hoka
Ideal for faster runs and race days, the Rocket X is currently one of the most affordable carbon plate running shoes on the market. Lightweight and responsive, it’s the ideal shoe when you’re gunning for a PB.
Hoka say this unisex shoe is designed for elite athletes, but don’t let that put you off, as it’s equally suited to faster runners looking to shave off vital seconds. The 1mm carbon plate gently rocks you through your stride rather than feeling too propulsive, making it a good introduction to carbon plate technology. It also has enough cushioning and is durable enough for you to log training miles in it, rather than just saving it for race day.
The Rocket is best suited to 5k and 10k. If you’re training for a marathon, try Hoka’s Carbon X 2 instead, it’s a racing shoe designed for longer distances.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: Speedwork and racing; Weight: 210g; Heel-to-toe offset: 5mm
7. Allbirds Tree Dashers: The best women’s running shoes for eco-conscious runners
Price: £125 | Buy now from Allbirds
If you’re looking for a sustainable running shoe with a low carbon footprint, Allbirds shoes are made from natural, renewable materials including a sugarcane midsole and merino wool heel counter. A comfortable shoe, this feels quite firm underfoot, making it better suited to runners who prefer less cushioning or run shorter distances at a slower pace.
While you might not want to run a marathon in the Tree Dashers, they’re a good option for packing in your bag for a weekend away where you’re going on a few shorter runs. The grip isn’t great, though, so save the Tree Dashers for road or treadmill rather than off-road adventures.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: short, easy runs; Heel-to-toe offset: 7mm
8. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11: the best women’s running shoes for comfort
Price: £135 | Buy now from Sports Shoes
If your feet feel achy or battered after a run, then the ridiculously comfy cushioning in the New Balance 1080s should help ease your ride.
A great all-round shoe, it’s designed for comfort on longer runs, but provides an equally plush ride over shorter distances and training sessions. That comfort comes from New Balance’s Fresh Foam technology in the midsole, which offers cushioning and protects your feet from the impact of the road without feeling too soft or squishy.
While some cushioned shoes can be on the heavier side, the 1080v11 is pretty lightweight, but still feels supportive. It also comes in standard and wide options, so is great if you have wider feet.
Key specs – Terrain: Road; Arch Support: Neutral; Best used for: good all rounder; Weight: 230g; Heel-to-toe offset: 8mm