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.
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.
Safety should always come first. With that in mind, we made sure to include selections that fit any situation you may encounter. While it may be "trendy" to have a specific marathon shoe, it may not be the ideal situation to take those very shoes on a rugged trail run. Having the choice to make an educated selection based on what type of running each shoe it best suited for will give you the best fit, response, and protection. After all, the easiest way to deal with an injury is to never have it in the first place.
I'm in my running shoes a lot: I've set out to run a marathon in 30 different countries, raising money for local organizations in each one. Running race after race, I look for comfort and reliability in a shoe. I want to be sure every day that I'm getting the same fit as I did the week before, and that my feet are happy after 18 months of travel and running.
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.