While a minimalist running shoe might be all the rage, it may not be the best selection for you. This is why making a selection based on your foot type is crucial for a smooth and pain-free shoe. If you have higher arches, then look for a running shoe that gives extra support in the midsole. This will ensure that your feet don’t roll inward when they strike the ground.
The best running shoes for women share the same class-leading features with the best shoes overall—they’re light, comfortable, cushioned, and just supportive enough where you need it most. But that locus of support is where some of the biggest differences between men’s and women’s running shoes can be found. Check out quick reviews below of five of our top picks, or scroll deeper for more in-depth reviews of these and other options, plus buying advice.
Studies on foot shape have shown that women’s feet aren’t just smaller, narrower versions of male feet—there are differences in overall shape that affect shoe fit. Women’s feet tend to be comparatively wider in the forefoot, with a narrower heel. Running shoe makers take this statistical difference into mind when designing their shoes, and generally build their shoes with different heel shapes and sometimes different heel materials between the two models of the same shoe. Companies like Altra, with its Fit4Her technology, specifically design shoes that anatomically mirror a woman’s foot.
A perennial favorite for new runners and marathon maniacs alike, the Ghost has always provided a quick, smooth ride that holds up over the miles. This year’s edition somehow raises an already-stellar bar with a new 3D Fit Print upper that promises a lighter feel and sleeker aesthetic. While our testers thought the Ghost 11 had ample cushioning in the heel, they felt it could use a little more softness up front—and Brooks listened; our RW Lab data showed there is indeed softer cushioning in the forefoot of the 12. “From front to back, the cushioning is superb without being too mushy,” said one female tester. “The forefoot was cushioned enough to provide a soft landing while also letting me feel the terrain beneath me.”
We chose all the shoes in this roundup based on feedback from the women on our test team, as well as test results from our RW Shoe Lab. We also researched the market, surveyed user reviews, spoke with product managers and designers to find the best of the best. Every shoe was evaluated over the course of hundreds of miles, with attention given to overall performance, comfort, ride, longevity, value, and yes, even style—because who doesn’t want to feel like they look good, even alone on a trail? Here are our favorite running shoes for women this year.
If you have flatter feet then running shoes with more cushioning is the way to go. Having extra material to absorb impact on ground strike will translate into more distance and less fatigue. Runners with a more neutral foot type can make selections that are considered more “middle of the road”. Make sure you also check the way that your old shoes wear on the outsole, this can tell you a lot about the way you step.
Mizuno completely redesigned the brand’s midsoles this year with a dual layer of foam in the shape of a wave, plus a full-length third foam level for even more cushioning. In the case of the Waveknit 3, the result is a shoe that feels softer, bouncier, and less stiff—without losing the smooth-riding qualities we’ve loved in Mizunos of yore. A more flexible knit Waveknit upper provides a snug fit with better stretch in the toebox than the Waveknit 2’s mesh upper. The durable rubber outsole is largely unchanged, adding up to a cushioned-but-firm trainer that will float you through your daily mileage.