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(The Gear Loop) - Buying a pair of running shoes is one of the most important decisions a runner can make. Whether you’re a beginner or an elite-level athlete, the type of shoes you lace up can have a big impact on both the success you have in your training, and the level of enjoyment you get every time you step out the front door to clock up some miles.

Up until recently, women’s running shoes were often simply smaller version of their male counterparts, using the same basic last and design.

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out this probably isn’t the best approach, seeing as men and women differ greatly anatomically. A woman’s foot is, on the whole, wider at the forefoot and narrower at the heel, for example. 

Brands like Asics, Hoka and more have been digging even deeper and have found that women also tend to pronate more, due to the angle of incidence of the quad muscle relative to the kneecap. 

AdidasThe best running shoes for women: lifestyle photo 3

As a result, there are now fantastic women’s running shoes that feature specific technology to combat some of these gender differences, including lighter midsole foams, increased arch support and a more roomy toe box. 

We’ve collated some of the best running shoes that have been deliberately designed for women to improve performance and comfort, while preventing potential injury.

The best running shoes for women

AdidasThe best running shoes for women: product photo 1

Adidas Ultraboost 22

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For

  • Good stability
  • Plenty of cushioning
  • Built specifically for women

Against

  • Heavy in comparison to many shoes
  • Not designed for faster training

The Adidas Ultraboost line-up has been a go-to for recreational runners since 2015. The soft and bouncy Ultraboost midsole foam was a ground-breaking technology when it was first released and paved the way for other brands to develop similar experiences in their shoes.

Seven years later and the range is still one of the most comfortable cushioned options on the market. With the Ultraboost 22, Adidas has taken development a step further to create a shoe that’s specifically designed to fit women’s feet based on 1.2 million foot scans. Adidas claims that the shoe offers 4 per cent more forefoot energy return and includes a narrower heel fit to avoid slippage. 

The Ultraboost 22 is a good option if your focus is comfort and stability, with a thick level of cushioning to minimise impact when running and a wide base to hold the foot in place. There’s also a Continental rubber outsole – one of the best we’ve tested for grip, and a Primeknit textile upper for a relaxed, sock-like fit.

Under ArmourThe best running shoes for women: product photo 6

Under Armour Flow Synchronicity

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For

  • Track your runs without a watch
  • Lightweight design
  • Built specifically for women

Against

  • Lacks cushioning for easy days
  • Less grip than shoes with rubber outsoles

The Flow Synchronicity is another shoe that has been designed with female runners in mind. However, where the Adidas Ultraboost 22 is built for comfort and support, the Flow Synchronicity is all about performance, combining a roster of elements to help women train harder and faster.

To do that, Under Armour has developed the shoe with 3D foot scans, using that data to ensure that the shoe cups the heel and supports the arch. That combines with the lightweight design to deliver an experience that works well for anything from easy runs all the way up to faster training sessions.

The Flow Synchronicity also includes Under Armour’s MapMyRun connective technology, which allows you to track things like distance, cadence and stride length without the need for a running watch. Using that data you can follow personalised coaching plans through the MapMyRun app to train for events and to improve overall form.

SauconyThe best running shoes for women: product photo 5

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

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For

  • Incredibly soft and bouncy
  • Comfortable lightweight fit

Against

  • Pink colourway stains light socks when wet
  • Limited colourways

Saucony has made some major improvements to its road shoes over the last year, the biggest of which is the release of the Endorphin Pro 3. Like its predecessors, it’s a shoe designed for running fast – but now it sees a host of modifications that make it one of the best options out there for getting PBs on race day.

The biggest update to the Endorphin Pro 3 is the thick stack of PWRRUNPB midsole foam that runs the full length of the shoe. As well as offering an enjoyably soft landing with every step, the foam delivers an impressive level of energy return that promotes a propulsive bounce that feels great from 5K to marathon.

That foam works alongside an S-curve carbon-fibre plate and Saucony’s SPEEDROLL technology to generate an efficient forward movement that keeps you moving in comfort. There’s also a lightweight mesh upper to keep your feet cool, even at max effort, and a durable rubber outsole for gripping the road.

As with most of its shoes, Saucony offers this in a bespoke women's version with custom fit and last.

NikeThe best running shoes for women: product photo 4

Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Flyknit 2

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For

  • Incredibly soft cushioning
  • Impressive outsole grip

Against

  • Limited to easy runs

Few shoes come close to the comfort of the Invincible Run 2 due to the generous stack of ZoomX midsole foam. It’s the same foam used in Nike’s elite race shoes and has helped some of the fastest athletes in the world break records.

The Invincible Run 2 takes the soft, bouncy energy return of ZoomX foam and applies it to easy day runs. However, instead of propelling people forward at top speed, this time it’s used to cushion landings with a marshmallowy softness that makes training sessions a thing of joy.

For some, the high level of cushioning may be too much compared to traditional options, but for many, it’s the ultimate choice for comfort and support when your focus is ticking off the miles and minimising the effects of pounding the pavement.

AsicsThe best running shoes for women: product photo 2

Asics Novablast 3

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For

  • One of the most versatile shoes available
  • Excellent balance of soft cushioning and support

Against

  • A Jack of all trades that doesn’t excel in any area
  • Limited grip on wet surfaces

The Novablast line is one of the most popular for runners that want one shoe that can handle everything. Its versatility means it has plenty of cushioning for daily training but with an impressive level of bounce and energy return when you feel like taking training up a notch.

That’s largely down to the thick stack of FF BLAST PLUS foam in the midsole that feels incredibly soft on landing but propulsive on toe-off. Asics has also made the shoe 30 per cent lighter when compared to the Novablast 2 and incorporated design elements to improve overall comfort.

Other features include a jacquard mesh upper to improve breathability, a tongue wing construction to help make sure there’s a good locked-down fit in the midfoot and an AHAR outsole to improve durability and protect the midsole foam.

HokaThe best running shoes for women: product photo 3

Hoka Mach 5

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For

  • Lightweight design
  • Excels at fast training sessions

Against

  • May lack cushioning for consistent easy runs
  • Outsole foam lacks durability

The Mach 5 is a versatile daily shoe that skews towards the faster side of running. The lean design strips back unnecessary elements to produce an experience that excels when picking up the pace, working perfectly for interval and tempo sessions, and even performing well for race day.

However, despite the minimal feel to the Mach 5, Hoka has packed in plenty of features that make it more than a traditional lightweight speed shoe.

The most important being a clever dual-layer PROFLY midsole that combines a lightweight foam with a more durable rubberised EVA. The result is a fast and responsive ride that has a surprising amount of cushioning.

As a do-it-all running shoe the Mach 5 is perfect for people that veer towards the faster sessions and works well in a rotation as a training partner for a carbon plate race shoe.

AdidasThe best running shoes for women: lifestyle photo 2

What to look for when buying a running shoe

Get your gait checked

A person’s gait is their pattern of running or walking and it can have a big effect on what type of running shoes will work best for you. Although many people have a neutral gait, which means the movement of the foot distributes the weight evenly, some runners will roll towards one side of the foot. This is called pronation and could mean that you need a shoe that adds stability. Over the short term that can help make running more comfortable, but long term it can be a big factor in avoiding injury.

If you’re new to running, or you’re finding that the shoes you’re buying don’t feel quite right, it’s always worth visiting a running store that provides gait analysis to see if you’re wearing the right shoes.

Get the right shoe for your training

Running shoes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed for racing, while others are built for comfort and support over easy training sessions. If you’re a recreational runner that trains at a steady pace, avoid spending your money on the top of the line race shoes. Not only are they likely to cost more but they’re also built with lightweight materials that don’t tend to last as long.

The other issue is that using a shoe for something other than its intended purpose generally means it won’t perform as well. Which not only means you’re wasting money but can result in discomfort or injuries further down the line.

Beware marketing spiel

Brands often tend to claim a shoe will change your life, whether that’s running faster or preventing injuries. They’ll talk about amazing new features on the shoe that, in reality, are little more than an unnecessary piece of plastic. Always check honest reviews of shoes and ask running friends for their advice. More often than not you can find fantastic shoes that are considerably cheaper than the flagship models that brands are promoting.

Make sure the fit is right

Not all shoes fit the same and often the same size across different brands can feel completely different. If you get the wrong size, the impact on your running style and the comfort that you feel over your runs can mean you stick it in a cupboard and have to fork out for a new pair. If you can, visit a running shop and try a few shoes on to find out what feels right. It’s also worth checking customer reviews on brand websites to find out if people have flagged any issues with the fit.

Writing by Rachel Booker. Editing by Leon Poultney.