Here are the winners of the 2021 Women's Running Awards! Which running shoes did our team of testers rate most highly?
Welcome to the 2021 Women’s Running Awards! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for all year: the moment that our trusted panel of happy runners gather together to thrash out the best of the best: we’ve tested over 300 new products and have now rated the best running shoes, clothes, tech, underwear, nutrition and training gear. It’s taken over four months of dedicated testing and deliberation, and probably more running than we do all year, to make sure that we put every single piece of kit through its paces.
We run in every shoe multiple times over different terrain, with nine testers from different backgrounds and of different abilities weighing in with their opinions. The shoes below are the very best of the best in their category – apologies if you end up with an extra long Christmas list this year…
The best neutral running shoes
Winner: ASICS Gel-Cumulus 23 | £120
Looking for a high-mileage trainer? The Asics Gel-Cumulus 23 is so packed full of Asics’ Gel technology it will absorb shock with every step you take, and it wasn’t a surprise that the 23rd release of the all-time favourite won the best neutral shoe this year. Hannah said: “These are the best Asics trainers I’ve tried in years in terms of fit and they also look great.” While Sabrina said: “I really love the feel of these shoes underfoot. They’re bouncy and soft and have a great fit; it felt like I was running on clouds.”
Editor’s Choice: SAUCONY Guide 14 | £125
We had to give the Editor’s Choice award to the Saucony Guide 14 as they make every mile of your long run melt away. Not only do they cleverly wrap around your feet, with a streamlined design that means less weight without compromising on speed, their midsole is packed with PWRRUN foam. Hannah has not stopped running in hers: “They felt great when I put them on,” she said. “They kind of opened wide, welcomed my feet in and closed around them.”
The best support shoes
Winner: BROOKS Adrenaline GTS 21 | £120
Give it up for the ever-popular Adrenaline GTS 21, which takes the top spot in our support shoes test this year. Brooks has created the ultimate stability shoe in the 21 model. Not only do these new-edition shoes excel in supporting and cushioning your feet and reducing impact, their subtle design had the whole team ooo-ing and aah-ing. “The GTS 21 shoe has heaps of cushioning, and makes your longer runs a complete joy. You get plenty of support from the upper, a well-designed tongue hugs the top of your foot, and the guide rails are fantastic at keeping your foot position stable,” said Tina. “I loved running in these.”
Best Value: NIKE Air Zoom Pegasus 38 | £109.95
You can’t beat Nike’s Pegasus 38 for value for money, so it was an easy choice for winner of our Best Value shoe. “These are an absolute workhorse for the cash,” said Esther. “They offer unbelievable value, feel plush underfoot, are absolutely fantastic for long runs, and are immediately comfortable.”
Editor’s Choice: UNDER ARMOUR Flow Velocity Wind | £140
We were blown away by Under Armour’s technology in the Flow Velociti; especially its lightweight one-piece Flow midsole. It’s such a stylish shoe, too. “Right from the first feel and the first run, these shoes tick the ‘unbelievably light’ box, and the forward motion of the Flow midsole helps you pick up speed easily,” said Tina. Megan added: “They’ve got the sole spot on with this new launch, it provides cushioned comfort and remarkable grip to the floor as you run. Everyone needs a pair.”
The best trail running shoes
Winner: INOV-8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max | £170
Our out-and-out winner in the best trail shoe category. The Graphene grip outsole on the Trail y will out-perform all expectations, and literally glide along the trails, regardless of the conditions underfoot. We have been singing from the hilltops about the exceptional cushioning, too. “These are incredibly, almost impossibly, cushioned for a trail shoe,” said Esther. “The first time I wore these it was on a 20-miler straight out of the box. The comfort was immense.”
Best Value: 361° Taroko 2 | £104.99
You have to slip these on to appreciate how plush and supportive they are. “What a joy to run in and what good value for money,” said Tina. “The design is understated but cool, and the shoes felt secure with good heel support and a thick tongue for lockdown. The toe is reinforced and the shoe fl exes at the front to help with push off.”
Editor’s Choice: NEW BALANCE Fresh Foam Hierro v6 | £125
The Fresh Foam midsole and the Vibram outsole make for a powerful trail shoe that we loved. Meg said: “Even though they are lightweight, they feel secure and well cushioned. The Hyposkin meant the trainer adapted to my foot for more flexible movement.”
The best race shoes
Winner: NIKE Air Zoom Alphafly Next% | £269.95
This is the shoe worn by the fastest women in the world; in fact, you might have seen the female Tokyo Olympic marathon runners wearing them this summer and that – surely – counts for a lot! “Wow,” said Esther, “these lived up to expectations and then some; they literally ping you forward and feel incredible underfoot, particularly when you’re getting a pace on. The upper is sublime too: still incredibly light and thin, but with an updated woven fabric that flexes with your foot and feels super comfy from the second you put them on. I haven’t wanted to run in anything else all summer.” Let the Zoom Air pods power you to new PBs.
Editor’s Choice: SAUCONY Endorphin Pro 2 | £190
The carbon-plated Endorphin Pro 2, enhanced by Speedroll technology, will get you running faster than you’ve ever done before, and they were the obvious choice for this award. “This is comfortable performance footwear; I love the plating and the stiff ride, combined with the impressive comfort,” said Esther. “The slightly shorter laces are an under-rated feature, too. For the price, there’s a lot to love about this shoe.”
The best minimalist shoes
Winner: SUNDRIED Barefoot Shoes 2.0 | £40
These shoes from Sundried are unbelievable value. Meg said: “These are great barefoot running shoes, designed to strengthen the feet. Although they’re minimalist, they have a strong and sturdy rubber heel for protection. They also prevent blisters and are anti-slip for wet runs.” Sophie said: “I loved these for gym workouts; the roomy toebox allowed my toes to splay properly when doing a weights session. They’re brilliant value compared to other barefoot shoes too.”
The best shoe design
We have three deserving winners. The On Cloudultra, Saucony Guide 14 and Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% all scored top marks from our panel for being the shoes that stood out in terms of aesthetics. All three are incredibly well-thought out in terms of performance, comfort and style.
Winner: NIKE Air Zoom Alphafly Next% | £269.95
The Alphafly is a beautiful alien of a running shoe. Nothing feels like them, nothing performs like them, and nothing looks like them. It is, quite simply, a design classic.
Winner: SAUCONY Guide 14 | £125
The Saucony Guide 14 is stunning: alongside the Endorphin Shift and Speed, the Guide breaks new aesthetic ground and represents one of the best looking shoes we’ve ever seen. To say this about a support shoe is little short of miraculous.
Winner: ON Cloudultra | £160
On shoes are consistently beautiful and the Cloudultra is no exception; you simply won’t find a better looking trail shoe. Paired with fantastic cushioning and a bespoke-like fit, the Cloudultra is forging new ground off-road.
The best new launch shoes
Winner: BROOKS Glycerin 19 GTS | £140
With the Brooks Glycerin 19 GTS, you’re guaranteed plush cushioning. GuideRails support and unbeatable comfort. “A true all-rounder,” said Chrissie.
Winner: HOKA ONE ONE Carbon X2 | £160
Then we have the HOKA Carbon X2 which offers flexibility and a propulsive carbon plate. “Talk about cushioning!” said Meg. “These were super comfortable and came with a sturdy foot-to-floor feeling.”
Editor’s Choice: ASICS Magic Speed | £145
We had to give a mention to another fantastic launch this year: the Asics Magic Speed are made to propel your foot forward. GUIDESOLE technology is combined with a carbon forefoot plate for a smooth rolling sensation as you move through your stride. “What a launch! They felt great on my runs and made the best race partner. The mesh design will leave your feet well cooled and able to breathe,” said Meg, while Sabrina enthused: “They propelled me forward and the design was amazing too.”
The best budget shoes
Winner: 361° Fierce | £99.99
Our best Budget Shoes, the 361 Fierce are smooth and flexible, with a wider base platform from heel to toe. On top of that, a full-length Quikspring layer delivers cushioning and comfort. Sophie said: “They’re a neutral shoe I could wear on the track but also for a half marathon. I liked the stylish knit upper.”
Editor’s Choice: DECATHLON Kalenji Run Active Grip | £29.99
At just £29.99, the Kalenji Run Active Grips are the perfect entry-level trail shoe for a runner looking to tackle new terrain, with impressive cushioning and traction. Sophie said: “I’m a bit shocked and had to double check the price online. They are very comfortable, supportive, entry level trail shoes that look great too.”
The best sustainable shoes
Winner: VEJA Marlin | £145
The Veja Marlin has the most impressive list of recycled materials of any shoe on test this year. The shoe is mainly constructed from recycled plastic bottles, sugar cane and rice waste, and shows how Veja invests heavily in creating sustainable products. “Super lightweight for working out and everyday use, the Marlins are comfy and durable. They are 62% bio based and recycled,” said Meg. “I really liked the look of these shoes; they’re simple and stylish,” added Hannah.