If you’ve been inspired by marathon season, or are just looking to up your training and take on your first 5K in 2022, finding the best women's running shoes can make all the difference. A comfortable pair of running shoes might give you that extra motivation to lace up and run on wintery mornings, but they can also help improve your technique. For female runners, along with finding a comfortable sports bra (we've rounded up the best sports bras here), the right pair of running shoes can help elevate your performance and run stronger.
To answer the obvious question, women’s shoes aren’t the same as men’s running shoes. Women’s feet are often smaller and narrower than men’s feet, plus there have been studies that suggest that women’s feet are more flexible. Although women’s running shoes will look similar, there will be small differences in terms of the fit, construction, and cushioning used. Confused? Read our guide on how to buy running shoes to understand the jargon behind shoes.
What are the best women’s running shoes?
The best women’s running shoes are the shoes that fit your feet the best, but the Adidas Ultraboost 22 stands out from the crowd in its fit and feel on the run. It was designed by an all-female team, who analyzed scans of 1.2 million female feet to re-design it's Ultraboost 21, giving the Ultraboost 22 a narrower heel, a lower instep, and an S-curve heel to allow the Achilles tendon to move more freely. It's comfortable enough for slow, easy miles, but has enough snap to help you pick up the pace when you need to.
Another one of our favorites during testing were the Nike Pegasus 39, as they are a brilliant running shoe that can cope with most sessions. We found they are snappy enough to wear during speedwork and on faster runs, but also had a good amount of cushioning to wear for longer, slower outings. They’re a good shoe to invest in for experienced runners looking for a reliable training partner, and beginner runners who only want to buy one pair of running shoes. They're also one of the more affordable running shoes on the list, but if you're really looking to save, now might be a good time to shop the Nike Pegasus 38.
Finally, for runners who are conscious about their impact on the planet, the Allbirds Tree Dashers are carbon-neutral, thanks to Allbirds’ sustainable practices. The Tree Dashers feel super-plush and comfortable underfoot and can be chucked in the washing machine after a particularly mucky trail run.
Read on for our top picks when it comes to the best women’s running shoes on the market.
The Adidas Ultraboost 22 is another good all-rounder for experienced runners and beginners alike. When Adidas released its first Ultraboost in February 2015, the running world went mad for the bouncy ‘Boost’ foam, which really did feel exciting underfoot. Seven years later, the Boost foam is still as exciting — it’s fast and responsive when it needs to be, but still feels plush on longer, slower miles.
The Ultraboost 22 has been designed by an all-female design team, for female runners. Adidas used scans from 1.2 million female feet to re-design its Ultraboost 21, giving the Ultraboost 22 a narrower heel, a lower instep, and an S-curve heel to allow the Achilles tendon to move more freely.
The downside here is the weight — this isn’t a light shoe, but unless you’re really trying to PR, it shouldn’t bother you. It’s a great all-rounder for anything from your first 5K to a fast half marathon.
Read our full Adidas Ultraboost 22 review.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 is a great all-rounder and one of the best Nike running shoes on the market right now. It’s a good choice for runners who want one pair of running shoes that will do everything — the Pegasus 39 can be worn for speed sessions thanks to the React foam, which is lightweight and reactive underfoot and the double Zoom Air unit. That said, it’s also comfortable on longer runs thanks to the wide toe box. The Pegasus is a workhorse — you can wear it for a marathon, your first 5K, and pretty much everything in between.
When it comes to fit, the Pegasus 39 comes up true to size, although, like most other running shoe brands, it’s definitely worth going up a size from your normal sneakers. Old-school Pegasus fans will be pleased to hear that the Pegasus 39 seems to address some of the issues runners experienced with the 37 and 38. It’s more true to size, which we found during our testing, and the heel has been slightly changed to prevent heel slip. The toe box feels roomier than on the Pegasus 37 and the Pegasus 38. It comes in a regular and wider width, but unless you’ve got particularly wide feet, the regular shoe should be suitable for most runners.
Compared to the Pegasus 38, the 39 is lighter, snappier, and just feels more responsive underfoot. It's a huge improvement on an already fantastic shoe. If you’re not willing to spend more than $100 on a pair of running shoes, now is a good time to buy a pair of the Nike Pegasus 38, which should be on sale. But for a little bit more, the Pegasus 39 will more than satisfy most runners.
Read our Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 review.
We weren't sure what to expect when Lululemon, a brand famous for it's yoga pants, launched it's first running shoe, yet we were pleasantly surprised by the Blissfeel. An everyday running shoe built for relaxed, easy miles, the Blissfeel has been designed for women's feet, with the brand looking at over a million scans of the female foot when designing the shoe.
Fit-wise, it comes up small, so it's well worth sizing up half, or even a full size in these. It's firm underfoot, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it can pick up the pace if you need it to, although it's definitely not a shoe you'd want to race in.
All-in-all, we were impressed by Lululemon's first steps into the world of running shoes.
Read our full Lululemon Blissfeel review here.
The New Balance 1080 has been the brand’s most popular running shoe for the past few years, and the v12 lives up to the hype. What was once a shoe that was only suited for slow, easy miles, has evolved into a versatile all-rounder suited to a speedy 5K or a steady marathon.
If you're only looking to buy one running shoe, the 1080v12 ticks the right boxes — its plush 'Fresh Foam' midsole is comfortable enough to get you through most long runs, yet also bouncy enough to pick up the pace when you need it. It's also comfortable and good-looking enough to wear in the gym (although this will shorten the life of the shoe).
Fit-wise, the v12 is a huge improvement on the v11 — New Balance has abandoned the molded heel counter of the v11, which widely divided runners, and has added a Hypoknit upper. That said, it does come up big, which is the main drawback of this shoe — we'd recommend going down half a size to get a good fit.
Read our full New Balance 1080v12 review here.
The Hoka One One Bondi X is Hoka’s latest carbon-fiber running shoe and it’s not what you’d expect — it’s the super-cushioned Hoka Bondi, but super-charged. Hoka says it designed this shoe for runners who love a high-stack and maximal cushioning, but still want the racer-feel of a carbon-fiber plate. It’s a niche shoe, but an impressive one.
Underfoot, the Bondi X feels like the Bondi, but like it’s faster, sleeker cousin. The midsole foam is dense and plush, but still has a good amount of bounce that is extremely comfortable for slow, easy miles. That said, when paired with the carbon fiber plate, the ride is far more responsive and picking up the pace is much easier. The shoes also look great. While the white and yellow color combo might be slightly impractical for fall running, we love the look and feel of the rocker geometry and the upper is lightweight and breathable.
While we’d definitely trust this for a marathon or on race day, it’s still a lot heavier than a lot of the carbon-fiber racing shoes on the market. That said, if you’re looking for a snappy, comfortable shoe to do some long-distance training in and wear on race day, this will comfortably fit the bill.
If the Asics Air Cumulus was in the dictionary, it would be next to the word "reliable." These shoes won’t set the world on fire, but they'll be there for you, come rain or shine. It’s a lightweight, daily running trainer that isn’t quite as poppy as the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38, but will still get you around most sessions comfortably.
The midsole is Asics’ Flytefoam, which is plush, without being overly cushioned. It’s firmer than say, the Brooks Glycerin 19, but will still give you a good amount of energy return on the run. The outsole is solid, with a good amount of grip on most surfaces and the upper is strong and breathable. Fit-wise, this is classic Asics — true to size, comfortable, and wide enough to prevent uncomfortable rubbing for most runners. It’s also extremely durable and will last a good few hundred miles.
The downside is that for some runners, this shoe just doesn’t offer anything that exciting — it’s not the best for speedwork and not the plushest for long runs. That said, it’s got a dedicated following for a reason, it’s a good shoe to grab for most runs, it’ll last miles and it’s pretty affordable.
When Nike released the ZoomX Invincible Run earlier this year, it brought it to market as a shoe for long, marathon training runs. While it is brilliant for that purpose, it's a great training shoe for beginners, too.
The Invincible uses the same ZoomX midsole as that used in Nike’s speedier shoes, but here, it's responsive and cushioned in a way that’s designed to take some of the load off, rather than propel you to your next PB. The midsole incorporates the rocker geometry we’ve seen in Nike’s faster shoes, but with no carbon fiber plate, this is far more gentle. The Flyknit upper is soft and supportive and the tongue and collar are super-plush and comfortable.
This is one of the most comfortable running shoes we’ve ever tested — your foot feels surrounded by soft, marshmallowy foam — but the shoe still feels lightweight on the run. Faster runners will love the comfort this offers on easy, long runs, and beginners will love the marshmallow comfort. It’s an excellent shoe and unlike anything on the market right now, the only downside is the outsole needs some slight tweaks to make it more durable and less slippery on wet pavements.
If you’re a runner who is conscious about your carbon footprint, the Allbirds Tree Dasher is a good shoe from a brand that’s pretty new to the running market. It’s made from sustainably sourced materials and features an upper made from eucalyptus tree fibers, a partial sugarcane midsole, and a castor bean liner.
Underfoot, the Tree Dasher is a plush, comfortable shoe, and feels similar to the Nike Infinity React, but not quite as snappy. We’d say this would be a great shoe for anything from a 5K to a half marathon. Beginners will love how comfortable it feels underfoot and faster runners will like using this for slower, easy runs. The Tree Dasher also looks great — you could easily wear these with jeans or a skirt in the office, as well as on a lunch break run, plus they’re available in a number of different colors. You can also chuck them in the washing machine after a particularly muddy trail run and they come out looking like new, which is super-handy if you are wearing them to the office.
The downside with the Tree Dasher is the weight — it’s not a shoe you’d want to wear for speed sessions or faster miles. That said, if you’re looking for a shoe you can wear on the treadmill, or out for a 5K around the park, and look stylish, this is a no-brainer.
The Brooks Glycerin 19 is one of Brooks’ most popular running shoes. The Glycerin contains Brooks’ ‘DNA LOFT cushioning’ which is designed to be soft and plush underfoot and the 19th iteration of the shoe contains more foam than ever before. It’s extremely comfortable and suited to beginners and marathon runners alike.
Underfoot, the Brooks Glycerin 19 is designed to be plush — it’s got a comfortable mesh upper, that stretches across the foot without being too snug. The tongue and the collar of the shoe are also cushioned for extra comfort. Looks-wise, the Glycerin is unassuming and comes in a wide variety of colorways, meaning you’ll be able to find something you like enough to wear on the run, and probably off the run too.
The main downside here is that the Glycerin isn’t the fastest or lightest shoe on this list, so if you’re looking to run a PR or qualify for Boston, you might want a snappier shoe. That said, if your goal is to get going, or get around the course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable shoe to do this in.
Read our full Brooks Glycerin 19 review.
What to look for in the best women’s running shoes
When it comes to finding the best pair of running shoes for you, there are a few different things to consider. Firstly, how you run — like finding the right sports bra, there will be certain brands that just fit your foot better than others, so it’s a good idea to head down to your local running store and try on as many brands as possible. It’s also worth knowing whether you’re prone to overpronating when you run, as you might find you need to buy a pair of stability shoes to help this.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to think about the type of running you plan on doing. If you’re looking to PR on race day, you’re probably going to want something lighter, snappier, and faster. If you’re just trying to get around your first 5K, you’ll just want something comfortable and supportive, that won’t rub or leave you with blisters on the finish line.
Finally, the type of surfaces you’re running on mostly. Most road shoes will be able to cope with wet pavements, treadmills, and light trails, but if you’re planning on heading out on more technical terrains, you’ll probably need to invest in a pair of trail running shoes, which will have a deeper, grippier tread.
How we test the best women’s running shoes
We test the best women’s running shoes by running in them; we’ve clocked at least 50 miles in all of the shoes mentioned on this list. We also look at the fit of the shoe as well as the feel underfoot. We’ll test the shoes on several different sessions, from faster runs on the track to longer training runs — some shoes will be great on a long run, but feel heavy during a speed session. We also look at any impressive features of the shoe, such as carbon fiber plates, or ultra-lightweight midsole foams.