The best women's running shoes from Nike, Adidas, Puma and more

best women running shoes
15 best women’s running shoesHearst Owned

Whether you're looking to run your first 10k or secure a new PB at your next marathon, finding the right women's running shoes can make a huge difference when it comes to your ability to train – and race – at your best and stay injury free in the process.

Research has found that women tend to run slightly differently to men, not to mention there are anatomical differences between men's and women's feet. With this in mind, our female editors and contributors have tested and rated the following running shoes based on their fit, feel, comfort and performance. Shop them below, at a glance, or keep scrolling for the full reviews.

What’s the difference between men’s and women’s feet?

The biggest difference between women’s and men’s feet is the relationship between the heel and forefoot, or the ‘ball’ of the foot. Women tend to have a narrower heel in relation to what’s known as their ‘ball girth’, or the circumference of the ball of their foot.

This means that a women who wears a size 8 shoe probably has a narrower heel, a wider ball and a bigger ball girth than a man who wears a size 6 men’s shoe, which is equivalent to a women’s size 8.

When the design team at Adidas analysed 1.2 million foot scans to inform the creation of the female-specific Ultraboost for women, which launched in 2021, they also found that, in addition to a woman's heel being narrower, a woman's instep height also tends to be lower.

How do women run differently?

Researchers have found that, because women tend to have wider hips than men, their feet are also more likely to strike the ground toward the outside of their 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.

‘When we look at the hip of the average woman versus the average man, a woman’s hips are obviously wider,’ explains senior product manager for Adidas Nora Wilimzig, who was involved in the creation of the Ultraboost for women. ‘This makes the Q-angle stronger (the angle between the quadriceps and the patella tendon) which can lead into knock knees, and that can lead into overpronation.’

What's the difference between women's running shoes and men's running shoes?

Some men's and women's running shoes are made on different lasts – that is, models which mimic the foot. That's why women-specific shoes are narrower at the heel and wider at the forefoot. They also tend to have a lighter and softer midsole and that's because women, on average, have less muscle mass than men, and also tend to be lighter, meaning less impact is put on the shoe as they hit the ground.

However, not all women's running shoes are built on a female last, with many brands still producing men's and women's versions of shoes based on a unisex last. It's the reason Lululemon decided to enter the footwear market with a female-first running shoe last year. 'Most performance shoes are designed primarily for men, and often for elite male athletes, and then adapted for women,' explains Lululemon product designer Mark Oleson. With brands like Adidas and Lululemon leading the charge, a new 'female-first' category of running shoes is beginning to emerge.

What should women look for when choosing running shoes?

To find the perfect shoe for your foot, test several brands in a variety of sizes. It’s also often a good idea to have your gait tested before committing to a certain shoe, to see if you need extra support in your trainer. There should be adequate room in the toebox and your heels should not slip. Check out our guide on how to fit a running shoe before heading to the shops.

The best women's running shoes for 2023

Nike Invincible 3

If you’re looking for a shoe that delivers a plush, easy ride, this is it. The Nike Invincible 3 was described as ‘fun’ by our testers and it’s easy to see why: the enormous amount of cushioning meant their feet felt wrapped securely, which meant they didn’t have to worry about how to land, where to place their feet or, indeed, think about anything – they could just run.

Compared with other highly cushioned shoes, which can feel very soft and comfy but lack energy return, there is an abundance of responsiveness that offers runners a feeling of 'pop' when running in the shoe. Nike says they’re a good marathon training shoe and we agree – if your aim is to finish rather than race for the line with your heart jumping out of your chest.


New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v13

In the age of maximalist shoes, rocker geometries and carbon fibre plates, the New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 very much remains a traditional, mid-cushioned trainer – its classic 10mm heel-to-drop being just one testament to that.

By now on its 13th iteration, it’s clear why it’s stood the test of time. It’s a highly versatile shoe, responsive enough for interval sessions – albeit perhaps not for the most advanced –yet comfortable for long runs.

It packs in enough Fresh Foam X in the midsole that it feels soft and protective underfoot, but not so much that it veers into softness and loses its bounce. The upper, made from engineered mesh, allows for really good breathability, comfort and stretch for those longer runs too. And despite being a neutral shoe, it’s got a good amount of arch support.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a daily workhorse, or a high mileage runner seeking a consistent performance with a bit of cushioning, the 880 really is a shoe that can work for everyone.


Puma Velocity Nitro 2

Puma's women’s running shoes are all created with a specific last engineered for the female foot and gait – all with a narrower heel, lower in-step and sculpted arch shape. This is the latest iteration of its versatile Velocity Nitro shoe, featuring Puma's Nitro midsole foam which delivers soft cushioning and plenty of bounce. In this new update, more foam has been added to the heel – and to the length and width of the shoe, to deliver an even softer ride.

Up top, you’ve got a mesh upper which is soft and flexible and, beneath, a durable rubber outsole providing good traction on pavements, track and treadmill. At just 206g, it's one of the lightest shoes we've tried and, at £100, it's also one of the most affordable. These are solid all-rounders for everything from steady long runs to tempo runs and races.


Asics Gel-Nimbus 25

The long-running Gel-Nimbus is one of Asics’ bestselling and best-loved shoes, and the 24th iteration scooped our Best in Test Award in 2022. However, none of that stopped Asics going for a full-scale reinvention. Up top, there’s a new, stretchy knit tongue and collar construction for a more adaptive fit, which testers reported feels ‘snug, secure and almost sock-like’.

The midsole uses 20% more foam and has upgraded to the lightweight, energetic FF Blast Plus Eco cushioning, while there’s also new Pure Gel Technology cleverly embedded between the upper and midsole for added shock absorption. This also does a superb job of balancing soft cushioning with energy return on take off, and in the women's model, the midsole density is slightly softer for increased comfort. An ideal shoe for comfortable everyday miles and a great choice for high-mileage runners.


Adidas Ultraboost Light for women

We're big fans of the Ultraboost Light. The bouncy Boost midsole delivers a wonderfully soft, cushioned ride – ideal for long mileage – and the Primeknit+ upper provides a supportive, sock-like fit. The best bit, though, is the structured support you get from the heel counter, which in this female-first version, is narrower and comes higher up the achilles tendon, providing a tighter fit and a feeling of the shoe hugging the tendon.

The 10th-anniversary upgrade, Ultraboost Light, is 30% lighter than the original Boost, but with similar chemistry to the original. This model might not be featherweight compared with today’s shoes, but it’s lighter and easier to steer on long runs.

Although these are a neutral shoe, the holes in the midfoot area have been closed to prevent the Boost midsole from stretching in the midfoot area, and this helps to prevent overpronation. While they won't suit heavy over-pronators they will help to provide a little gait control as you start to tire towards the end of a run.


Asics MetaSpeed Sky+

If you're looking for a really fast carbon shoe to smash your next 5km, 10km, half or marathon, the Asics MetaSpeed Sky+ is pretty hard to beat. In fact, Eilish McColgan broke the British 5km record wearing these shoes – as well as the 10km British and European record. It's designed for runners who extend their stride when running fast and Asics say it will help runners take even longer strides.

In the midsole, you've got a full-length carbon plate sandwiched between a very bouncy midsole foam called FF Blast Turbo – Asics' lightest and bounciest foam to date – and this combination creates the sensation of running on clouds, or rather, mini trampolines! At just 205g, the shoes themselves are incredibly light and the upper is paper thin. Although this shoe is a unisex model, we found it fit true to size and provided a good forefoot hold, with the thin tongue and woven laces helping to provide a really secure fit. All these elements combined create a quick, snappy ride and make running at pace feel easier. They do have very little structure to them, though, so won't suit runners who need help controlling their gait, or who are prone to lower limb injuries. Oh, and at £225, they won't suit all budgets, either!


Puma Run XX Nitro

There's a lot to like about Puma's new female-specific running shoe (for which there is no male equivalent!). Firstly, it's been engineered specifically for the female foot and gait and, as a result, fits like a glove – it's true to size, offers plenty of support around the achilles and gives you excellent lockdown. Our testers also raved about the wide toebox. 'For those who worry about cramped toes though, fear not, the toebox is super roomy, allowing for comfortable foot-striking all run long,' said one.

Next up, it delivers the cushioning and stability features it promises: it's well-cushioned, thanks to a firmer version of the brand’s NITRO midsole foam (which brings added durability) and features a firm density rim, plus a TPU heel piece to provided gait control for over-pronating runners. At 235g it's not particularly light, but it doesn't feel heavy or sluggish, either. That said, a little more peppiness would make the shoe more versatile for different types of sessions – as it is now, we'd say it's more suited to slow, easy runs than tempo or speedwork. But nonetheless, at just over 100 quid, you get plenty of bang for your buck.


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Adidas Solarglide 6

The Adidas Solarglide 6 is the latest addition to the brand’s popular Solarglide franchise. It has been designed with female runners in mind, with the silhouette tailored specifically to the female foot. It provides a beautifully soft and bouncy ride, which beginner runners will love, and that's due to the Bubble Boostmidsole, which is made of up hundreds of Boost capsules that have been fused together, which once compressed, give energy back to the runner. In the midsole, you've also got Adidas' LEP 2.0 torsion system, which helps to keep the foot in the correct position when you run and adds a nice bit of stiffness and stability.

Up top, you've got a breathable circular knit upper, made in part with recycled ocean plastic. It's not the lightest of shoes, so we wouldn't choose this for racing or up-tempo sessions, but it is comfy and would make a great steed for anyone looking for a well-cushioned and responsive daily trainer.


Hoka Kawana

The new Kawanas deliver Hoka's signature abundant cushioning but are firmer and more stable than its other offerings, making them suitable for other activities, too, such as gym work. An early-stage rocker sole helps to deliver a smooth ride, and the split heel absorbs shock and makes lighter heel strikes feel fluid. The compression-moulded EVA doesn't seem terribly exciting in the carbon-plated world of 2023, but it is still responsive, giving you a nice amount of 'pop'. Our only bugbear with this is that the toebox is a little too narrow, but that can easily be resolved by opting for a pair half a size bigger.


Saucony Guide 16

Saucony's women's shoes aren't built on a female-specific last. However, we've included these due to their ability to provide excellent gait control to over-pronating female runners – and because of their excellent fit. Integrating Saucony's PWRRUN midsole cushioning and hollow tech frame support system, these deliver a cushioned and supportive ride, mile after mile.

This isn’t a shoe for speedier running sessions, but the Saucony Guide 16 is a good choice for heavier runners or those looking for a durable and comfortable long-mileage shoe. Our tester commented that the shoe contoured their foot perfectly. 'The toebox is quite roomy – arguably more so than the previous iteration – and this was great for me, as I do suffer with bunions so appreciate the extra space for my big toes to wiggle,' they said.


Brooks Levitate 6

The Brooks Levitate 6 is a reliable option for beginners looking to take on their very first race right through to experienced marathon runners. The DNA AMP v2 midsole offers a soft, yet springy ride, while the padded heel cup and tongue helps to provide a snug, locked-in fit. They're available as either a neutral shoe or a support shoe, with the latter featuring additional arch support and guide rails to prevent overpronation. Brooks' women's shoes aren't built on a female last, however, the brand does offer various width fittings in some models – although sadly not for these ones. That said, we were happy with their fit – there's plenty of room in the toe box and the circular knit engineered mesh upper is nice and stretchy so it feels supportive without being restrictive.


Hoka Bondi X

All of Hoka's women's shoes are built on a female last, and so offer a women-specific fit. The soft but snappy Bondi X is a solid choice for long-mileage runners looking for a fast but comfy ride – or even those returning from injury. They won Best Update in our 2023 Shoe Guide – due, in part, to the addition of a new carbon-fibre plate in the midsole, which provides a more aggressive toe-off. But you still get the same level of plush comfort you'd expect from Hoka's shoes, thanks to a high bed of marshmallowy cushioning and a thick slab of heel foam.


Lululemon Blissfeel 2

The debut of the women-specific Blissfeel last year was good enough to establish Lululemon as a serious running brand alongside its yoga and cross-training heritage. It’s second iteration features a new upper design, which adds contoured anatomical zones on its three textile layers, provides flexibility with a 3D-moulded midfoot panel to provide greater hold in that area. This neutral shoe is ideal for recovery days or for runners who want more support and firmer cushioning. We ran in the Blissfeel 2’s straight out of the box, and didn’t experience any chafing or discomfort. Unlike the original Blissfeel, the new models fits true to size too.


Brooks Adrenaline 23

The Adrenaline has long been a popular everyday training shoe for overpronators, and for support and cushioning over long, slow miles, they’re a safe bet.

Now on its 23rd iteration, the latest version features Brooks’ new DNA Loft v2 cushioning for a much lighter ride. The support comes from the brand’s GuideRails technology: two firm pieces of foam on either side of the heel which reduce the rolling of the foot inward.

The consensus from RW testers is that it remains ‘the same excellent shoe that it’s always been’, while it also impressed testers who were running in the Adrenaline for the very first time. One female tester commented that it felt ‘cushioned and supportive but surprisingly light’.


Saucony Endorphin Pro 3

A fantastic alternative to the market-dominating Nike carbon plate shoes, the Pro 3 are super light and impressively bouncy thanks to the speedroll technology that propels you forward. The S-curve carbon plate adds 'pop' whilst the high stack of PWRRUNPB foam cushioning make incredibly light work of hills. Running in these is akin to wearing springs. Be aware that the hugging fit means they come up relatively small so you may need to go up a full size rather than just half. What we particularly appreciate is the approach to equality with the women's and men's versions both available in the exact same three colours of black, pink and white. Ideal for pushing the pace in tempo sessions and smashing parkrun or race PBs.


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