Whether your goal is to run your first 5K, or speed up over the marathon, 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.
Below, we've hand-picked the best women's running shoes on the market to help you find the best pair for you. We've run at least 50 miles in all of the pairs on the list and looked at fit, performance, and price to help you choose.
Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor and she's spent years writing about all things health and fitness. She crossed the finish line of her last marathon in 3:38, with the Garmin Forerunner 965 on her wrist, and the New Balance Fuelcell Supercomp Elite V3 on her feet.
The quick list
The Ultraboost Light (or the Ultraboost 23) sees Adidas introduce a new midsole foam named Boost Light that is 30% lighter. It’s a little snappier underfoot than previous versions.
The Pegasus is a workhorse — you can wear it for a marathon, your first 5K, and pretty much everything in between. It’s a versatile running shoe, suitable for every level of runner.
The lululemon Blissfeel 2 is an everyday running shoe, designed for women. In a world of carbon fiber plates, this is a simple shoe, that’ll get you around a 5K, or a treadmill class.
Best New Balance
Best New Balance
A seriously versatile shoe, the New Balance 1080v13 is plush enough to keep you comfy on your long runs, but can also pick up the pace for faster tempo sessions.
Best for easy runs
Best for easy runs
If you love a max-cushioned shoe, it doesn’t get plusher than the Nike Invincible 3. With a thick wedge of ZoomX foam, you’ll feel like you’re bouncing along with this.
Known as being Brooks’ ‘softest shoe’, the Glycerin is one of the most popular running shoes around, and the Glycerin 20 is our favorite version of the shoe yet.
A responsive, stable race-day shoe, that we’d say is the best Saucony has ever made. It’s got an extremely lightweight upper and has a good amount of bounce underfoot.
Best adidas women’s running shoe
The Adidas Ultraboost is one of the most popular everyday running shoes on the market — jam-packed with Adidas’ Boost midsole foam, and stylish enough to wear around the office after your run-commute. Now on its 23rd iteration, Adidas has released the Ultraboost Light running shoe, made with a ‘new generation’ of Boost foam that's 30% lighter than previous iterations.
The Ultraboost 22 was designed by an all-female design team, for female runners. Adidas used scans from 1.2 million female feet, 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 Ultraboost Light follows the same design, although there's one big difference — a new midsole foam.
Adidas’ new Light BOOST foam is 30% lighter than previous iterations of the Boost midsole foam for a more responsive feel underfoot. The Ultraboost 22, for example, weighed in at 10oz for a women’s US 7. The Ultraboost Light is 9.7oz in the women’s shoe. Underfoot, the Ultraboost Light does feel lighter and snappier on the run, although it's still by no means a lightweight running shoe.
Still best suited for easy miles, this is a decent everyday running shoe for most runners.
Read our full Adidas Ultraboost Light review
Best value women’s running shoe
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 40 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 40 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 40 comes up true to size, although, like most other running shoe brands, it’s definitely worth going up a size from your normal sneakers. Compared to the Pegasus 39, the 40 is a little roomier, with a newer, more breathable upper. They also replaced the Flywire technology in the Pegasus 39 with a more traditional lacing system. Underfoot, the two shoes feel very similar, the Pegasus 40 fits well, and is still a comfortable, durable running 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 39, which should be on sale. Not an awful lot changed between the Pegasus 39 and 40, so you're still getting a decent running shoe, for a more affordable price. Not sure? Read our Nike Pegasus 39 vs Pegasus 40 face-off here.
Read our Nike Pegasus 40 review.
Best lululemon women’s running shoe
A year after the launch of the Blissfeel (read our full Lululemon Blissfeel review here), the brand’s first-ever running shoe, Lululemon is back with the Blissfeel 2 — an everyday running shoe, designed for women. Lululemon has made some tweaks to the fit and feel of the shoe, completely reinventing the upper to improve the underfoot experience. In a world of carbon fiber plates and huge stack heights, this is still a simple running shoe, that’ll get you around a 5K, or a treadmill class.
Out of the box, the Blissfeel 2 looks alike in style to the original version of the shoe — it has a similar silhouette, yet noticeably, the plastic rails now continue along the side of the shoe for support. Lululemon has stuck with its simple design. Fit-wise, the Blissfeel 2 fit a lot better, with a lot more room in the toebox, although I still sized up, as last year's shoe came up pretty small.
I’ve tested the Lululemon Blissfeel 2 on a number of different runs, from easy miles on tired legs to faster tempo sessions. These shoes are definitely best suited for running gentle miles, up to a 10K or half marathon, as they don’t have enough responsiveness to be my go-to for faster miles.
The midsole foam isn’t overly soft, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’re not getting a huge amount of sink-in plushness in this shoe, but there is enough midsole foam there that you’re not feeling the sidewalk beneath your feet. If you’re an overly stompy runner, I’d keep these shoes for shorter, easier miles, or for running on the treadmill.
Read our full Lululemon Blissfeel 2 review here.
Best New Balance women’s running shoe
The New Balance 1080 has been the brand’s most popular running shoe for the past few years, and the v13 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 1080v13 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).
Compared to the New Balance 1080v12, the New Balance 1080v13 has more of the brand's Fresh Foam X midsole foam, and the stack height is larger, yet the shoe has gotten lighter.
The downside here is that the shoe is slightly more expensive than the previous iteration. That said, during testing we were pleasantly surprised by the 1080v13 — it’s a comfortable running shoe, that could easily be worn for anything from a 5K to a marathon. It’s a brilliant example of what you’d expect from an everyday running shoe and a reminder that you don’t need multiple running shoes in your closet to train well for a race.
Read our full New Balance 1080v13 review
Best women’s running shoe for easy runs
Nike has made some changes to it’s maximum cushion running shoe and the Invincible 3 feels a little more grown-up with it’s new upper and heel clip. That said, this is still one of the best max-cushioned running shoes on the market, with a taller foam stack than previous versions to give you more bounce underfoot.
When it comes to the running performance, this shoe is still super plush and super cushioned. Compared to the Nike ZoomX Invincible 2, it has a little more support - the upper is thicker, holding the foot in place, there's a little more support around the arch, and the heel clip is narrower, designed to keep the foot secure.
There's also more ZoomX foam, as the stack height has increased by 1mm. Underfoot, the support is great in the final miles of your long run as your legs tire and your form suffers. That said, if you're a neutral runner and you don't need the support, now is a good time to stock up on the older version of the shoe, which is likely to be on discount.
Best Brooks women’s running shoe
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.
Best Saucony women’s running
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 is a huge improvement on the Endorphin Pro 2, and is, in our opinion, the best Endorphin Pro yet. The Endorphin Pro 3 sees Saucony completely overhaul its most popular carbon fiber road racing shoe. The brand has changed the upper, and added more PWRRUN PB foam underfoot to completely change the ride of the shoe — it’s extremely fast, yet comfortable on the run.
The stack height has increased to 39.9mm, making it just legal in the World Athletics guidelines, and similar to the stack of the Nike ZoomX Alphafly Next% 2. Saucony's added more PWRRUN PB foam to make the midsole feel much softer than previous versions of the shoe. That said, it’s not overly plush, but it's comfortable and efficient, and it’s easy to pick up the pace when you need to in this shoe. The upper has also been overhauled to more of a mesh — it’s pretty much see-through and during testing I found it to be one of the most breathable uppers on the market.
Read our full Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 review.
Best women’s running shoe for race day
If you're a New Balance fan, the Fuelcell SC Elite V3 is the brand's carbon fiber running shoe, designed to get you a fast finish time on race day. It's arguably the brand's best ever carbon shoe. It’s got more pop than the RC Elite and feels much more stable around corners. It’s also similar in feel to the Supercomp Trainer, without the massive (illegal) stack height. It’s a forgiving ride, with enough cushion for long runs. We've enjoyed wearing this on the track and found I was able to pick up the pace with ease.
The magic of this shoe is in it's midsole. The carbon fiber plate sits between two layers of foam, designed to feel soft and springy underfoot. This still has the plushness and cushioning you’d expect from a racing shoe. The 4mm drop feels fast, but if you’re here for a dramatic rocker, you won’t find it here — there’s no aggressive toe spring here, and it feels more relaxed than other carbon fiber racing shoes.
This is an excellent running shoe to wear for your next race if you're hunting for a PR. It's not got the same dramatic rocker as other carbon fiber shoes on the market, but it's stable and comfortable, with enough bounce to propel you to the finish line.
Read our Fuelcell SC Elite V3 review here.
How to choose 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.