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.
As well as being the best value shoe on the list, the Pegasus 39 won our best running shoe award in the Tom's Guide health and fitness awards due to it's comfort and versatility.
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 (opens in new tab) here.
The Under Armour Flow Synchronicity marks a first for Under Armour — it’s a shoe designed specifically for the female foot. The Flow Synchronicity was made by an all-female design team, and is based on hundreds of scans of the female foot to ensure a comfortable fit. The design of the shoe focuses on three main areas where the female foot differs from a man's — the heel, the arch, and the midfoot height.
During testing, we found the shoe came up a little long in the foot. I’ve run in a UK 5 (US 7.5) in all three shoes, and definitely feel that I could have sized down half a size in the Synchronicity. That said, I’m a UK 4 in my everyday sneakers, so perhaps the approach here is to buy your actual shoe size, not size up as you would normally in running shoes. (Confused? Here’s a guide to buying running shoes and how they should fit).
On the run, the shoe is definitely designed for easy runs, but it's a little firmer than the Under Armour Flow Velociti Wind and the HOVR Machina 2 running shoe. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you prefer a plush, super-cushioned shoe, this might not be the one for you.
Read our full Under Armour Flow Synchronicity review.
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.
Known as being Brooks’ ‘softest shoe’, the Glycerin is one of the most popular running shoes around, and for good reason. The Glycerin 20 is our favorite version of the shoe yet — Brooks has replaced the DNA Loft midsole foam with the DNA Loft V3, a lighter, poppier, nitrogen-infused midsole foam that Brooks first brought to market last year in the Aurora-BL.
While it's definitely best suited for long, easy miles, the Glycerin 20 can still pick up the pace when you need it to. It made it onto this list of the best womens shoes due to the fact it's available in three different widths — medium (which is the standard), wide, and narrow, helping women get the perfect fit. It also comes in a neutral and a support version, which Brooks has named 'GTS'.
The main downside here is that the Glycerin isn’t the cheapest everyday running shoe on this list, especially when it's not the most versatile. 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 20 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.
After you've picked out a pair of running shoes, you may want to consider one of the best running hats to keep you cool and protected on sunny runs.
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.