The best running shoes for women 2021

Cutting edge running tech that looks great too - check out our shortlist of the best running shoes for women to buy today

Best running shoes for women

by Paul Larkins |
Updated on

There are some amazing running shoes for women on the market, thanks to what is pretty much a tech war between the shoe giants.

That does mean that the top shoes in many of the big brands now cost more and more, but fear not, we’ve taken a look at the next shoe down - more often than not boasting the same amazing technological advances (usually just missing one element).

So, for a competitive price you can be wearing what the best runners are only too happy to be seen in.

Related: Find the best trainers for your next gym sesh

How should I choose the right running shoe?

When it comes to thinking about your shoes, look for weight and cushioning. If you prefer a lightweight shoe then this will likely have less cushioning and mean you more impact when running.

A knit construction in the upper for a comfortable fit will allow your foot to move as it should, but at the same time providing support and stability.

Of course, consider what surfaces you tend to run on, but all of the shoes in this test can cope with road and city parks comfortably and all are capable of performing at anything from 5km to the marathon - so all bases covered there!

And finally, make sure you buy women-specific shoes; all the brands spend millions on developing the correct footwear for your individual stride pattern and requirements. Width, flexibility, drop and the shape all have roles to play. It’s not just about colour differences.

Best running shoes for women at a glance:

Best for everyday running: Saucony Triumph ISO 5

Best for faster paced road runs: Adidas Ultraboost 20

Best investment to improve speed: Nike Joyride Run Flyknit

Best for cushioning: New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v10

Best for marathon runners: Brooks Ghost 12

Best all-round shoe: Asics Nimbus 22

Best for secure fit: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

If performance is on your agenda and you want a shoe that will work as an everyday workhorse, then this is worth a thought. We've always favoured these as a fast paced workout type of shoe, not least because of the fit and, of course, the weight, although interestingly opinion does vary on that one.

For some of us, it feels a little bulky while for others such is the cushioning, it feels like a nice long run-type of shoe. The 3D technology is the name of the game when it comes to that great fit and feeling and the double jacquard knit upper with 3D print overlays allows your foot to move as it should at pace but with suitable support.

Yes, there are lighter, faster shoes around, but this will really do the job everyday of the week and won't feel out of place on the start line of your local ParkRun or 10km.

The Ultraboost 20 features some pretty amazing tech, not least Tailored Fibre Placement which will ensure your foot gets the support it needs in exactly the right places. Long established as a premium performer, this is a great combination of light weight, control, cushioning and great looks.

But above all the biggest thing to love about these shoes is they are made from upcycled plastic rubbish collected from remote islands, beaches and coastlines. The Primeknit upper wraps around your foot for a superb fit, while that boost system certainly has the power to deliver in that department.

Agreed, they won't actually run for you, but they get pretty close. Our test team without exception always turned to these for faster paced road runs - around 10km and less. Perfect.

There's a buzz going around the running world currently with everyone talking about the % range Nike has created. Cutting to the chase, they're shoes designed to get you running faster, and given there was a sub two hour marathon run in the them, they appear to be doing just that.

Of course, there's a price to pay for results like that, they're not for everyone. Indeed, such is their lightweight build, you probably will be paying a hefty amount per mile to run in them as they won't last too much longer than 200 miles. Plus, they are actually quite difficult to get used to. In a test session, one of our crew actually kicked them off and preferred to run on the track barefoot.

With that in mind, we've opted for the best of both worlds and gone for the Nike Joyride Run Flyknit instead. It's not a compromise when it comes to performance; indeed there's plenty of tech in this soft-feeling shoe thanks to Nike's beads technology which uses the air trapped between them to cushion your stride. A key factor with this shoe is the Flyknit upper which cradles your foot beautifully.

It's difficult to stand out from the crowd in the running shoe world, but New Balance has managed that with its Fresh Foam 1080v10. We were lucky enough to meet one of the design team who explained about the built-in strength of an hexagonal shape and the shoe's cushioning system was born.

To be honest there's no arguing with NB's claims that it "delivers enhanced softness". NB used pressure mapping data to build better components which harness a your natural stride more effectively. It feels good, and you'll have no problem with its response on the road, but is it really more powerful? Only your fitness watch will tell you that! Of course there's a wonderful soft knit upper but you know what caught our eye - the shoe's looks.

They look rather good as an everyday accessory. We tested them over every distance up to half marathon (they'll go longer) and loved the power they deliver.

We've long been big fans of the Ghost. Sometimes shoe updates can take away from what you fell in love with, but this 12th version of the traditional favourite in the Brooks range delivers all you want in the cushioning department. It's nice and light and as you'd expect from a shoe that boasts 3D fitting, the comfort is superb.

Sometimes the tech talk can be a bit OTT, but Brooks' claim that "no matter how your foot lands, our Segmented Crash Pad — an integrated system of shock absorbers — will cushion every step and stride for smooth heel-to-toe transitions." In this instance our test team most definitely agree.

Certainly, they were nice and soft and responsive on the road, making them a favoured shoe in a recent marathon, which should tell you all you want to know. They're a long run shoe.

For an everyday great fit, think about the Nimbus, now in its 22nd year. Asics fans will know about the harder, responsive feel the shoes provide thanks to the Flytefoam technology (also used in the Metarun). There's also Trusstic tech under your arch which is basically a thermoplastic insert that provides stability and - Asics promise - provide a bit more life for the shoe.

As ever, the upper has moved on apace and it offers great breathability and fit. This shoe has received rave reviews globally and is regularly the No.1 pick for 'runners'. Translated, that means it's a hard-wearing shoe that provides pretty much all you need when it comes to mixing competitive weight, cushioning and stability. A jack of all trades.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37
Price: £104.95

Tried and tested by Commercial Content Writer and keen runner Eleanor Weaver: "Having used the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 running trainers for years, I found the Pegasus 37 trainers to be equally as comfortable from first-wear with improved foot and ankle support. As someone who often runs awkwardly on uneven ground, I found the React cushioning really helped to reduce pressure hotspots and in turn helped me to go the distance without any aggravating rubs or blisters to hold me back. The uniquely curved and springy sole of the Nike Air Zoom supported my footing and helped to boost my pace and endurance over time. Due to their shape with the high-collared heel, they have had a tendency to pull down trainer socks but this can be avoided with taller socks or by wearing trainer socks with taller heels of their own. I've found that they're light and breathable, give a secure fit and look great!"

What are the best brands for running shoes?

If you’re a brand loyalist and you are looking to pick up new running shoes that match the rest of your trainer wardrobe, then these are the best brands for running shoes for you to consider.

Nike - perhaps the most well-known brand alongside Adidas, Nike’s reputation precedes it. The brand has perfected its blend of style and substance when it comes to footwear, and has something to suit every need.

Adidas - the brand is probably not the first you would go to for a running shoe, Adidas is more known for its sportier styles, but it has a great selection of training specific shoes that are affordable, like the Ultra Boost.

New Balance - It's been around since 1906, and recently revived its offerings and attracted a whole new audience. New Balance is focused on performance and supporting you along the way when it comes to running shoes.

Asics - if you’re serious about your running journey, Asics is a highly recommended brand to turn to. The technology in its shoes is all about support and agility and helping you on your way to performing as a runner.

Brooks - it says its goal is “to make each run better than the last”. The Brooks brand is all about running, so if you’re looking for something that will help your performance and not so much about wearing labels, this brand is the one for you. It also boasts some pretty impressive technology, utilised in all its shoes.

Saucony - one of the oldest footwear sports brand on the list, Saucony blends style with advanced technology to help you be a better runner.

On-Running - If you haven’t heard about the On Cloud X running shoe collection, then where have you been hiding? The On brand has revolutionised the sensation of running. The brand’s running shoe has won plenty of awards and has been worn by Olympic athletes alike.

Related: The best trainers for walking - which ones should you buy?

Are more expensive running shoes better?

As we mentioned before, you don’t have to opt for an expensive running shoe, especially when brands are fighting for the top spot by adding new tech or releasing new styles to compete for customers. Instead, weigh up what you’re looking for in a running shoe, what you want to get out of your fitness journey and how a certain trainer will help. Check features and specifications, as well as our trusted reviews to help you decide where to spend your money.

Are running shoes good for walking?

Running shoes tend to have specific features that help when you are running. There is a difference when you run versus when you walk, and so running shoes tend to be lighter to help flexibility and speed, whereas trainers suitable for walking will be heavier to provide stability at a slower pace.

If you’re considering your budget and want to wear your running shoes for walking, while it is not ideal as long as you consider the fit of your shoes and check how you feel in each exercise you can prevent any injury.


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