The 26th iteration of the Gel-Kayano brings big changes, including a sleeker look, more stability for overpronators, and a snug mesh upper with an external heel counter for a locked-in feel. All this—plus a longer medial plate that extends from the midsole to the heel—comes with the intention of providing more motion control and a sturdier ride. Two types of lightweight foam at the heel (for added bounce) and toe (for forward propulsion) give the shoe plenty of cushion and support. Plus, the women’s version has an extra 3mm of midsole height to reduce strain on the Achilles.
If you’ve never tried a thick, pillowy Hoka One One shoe, it’s hard to believe how light they can feel until you slide your foot into a pair. Great for recovery days or when you just need a break from harsh pounding against concrete, the Clifton 6 wraps your foot in foam and centers it over a thick slab of cushioning with a firm heel and soft forefoot. The shoe is slightly curved to help you roll through your stride. This year’s version is the lightest since the Clifton’s original release in 2014, but it is still a better shoe for long miles than speedwork. The upper has been redesigned in an engineered mesh to fit more smoothly and securely, with just enough structure to comfortably cradle your foot.
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.
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.
Rated on Brooks as their number one runner, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 has the trifecta: Support, cushioning, and they are lightweight. These womens running shoes have been said to be a shoe based more on actual functionality than looks. However, they do come in quite an array of colors to accent the sleek design. Also, let us not forget all the added flexibility while still reigning high in stability.
Researchers have also found that because women tend to have wider hips than men, our feet are more likely to strike the ground toward the outside of our shoe soles. The inward rolling of the foot that results from this is known as pronation, which explains why more women are believed to overpronate than men. Some women’s running shoes account for this increased tendency with different materials used for support through the sole.
An elite female runner needs an exceptional pair of athletic shoes for women. If you're the kind of gal that only settles for the best of the best, then Road Runner Sports has the brands and styles for you. Check out the best Nike running shoes for women and our assortment of women's Adidas running shoes to see styles from top manufacturers. Feel like taking your women's running shoes on an off road adventure? Browse our women's trail runners instead! You'll find top-rated Merrell trail running shoes as well as waterproof trail runners that you can charge through puddles and streams!