There are plenty of exciting shoes out there, but which are right for you? Here are the best women's running shoes of the year...
We’re certainly not short of options for a good women’s running shoe: there’s so much choice out there that finding your perfect pair is the tricky bit.
If you’re a running newbie, we’d highly recommend having a look at our full shoe guide to give you more of an idea of the key terms and tech to keep an eye out for. Once you’ve worked out whether you’re looking for a neutral shoe or a support shoe, and you’ve considered the terrain you’ll be taking on, check out our pick of the very best women’s running shoes, tried and tested by our team of runners.
How do I choose the right running shoe for me?
“Road running shoes can generally be split into three groups,” advises Louise Stirk from Pure Sports Medicine, who has a degree in podiatry and a master’s degree in sports medicine. “There are motion control, stability shoes, and neutral/cushioned shoes.”
Louise believes that if someone is new to running, has no history of injury and isn’t particularly fussed by timings yet, the best bet is to focus on comfort. But if you’re interested in working out what type of shoe is right for you, this diagram should give you an indication of what to look for on the bottoms of your current shoes:
What key features am I looking for in a running shoe?
A lot of jargon gets thrown around when we’re talking about running shoes, and it can be confusing if you’re a beginner. Check out this diagram for a visual representation of what we mean when we throw around words like ‘sockliner’!
Our top picks of the best running shoes
HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X | £140
This is a belter of a shoe. The Rocket X has got a lovely dose of carbon fibre and has been sold as a racer. But in reality, they’re much more than that: they are beautifully comfortable, they’re supportive, and there’s that all important movement room in the toebox. The cushioning looks huge (this is a HOKA after all), but they’re actually pretty firm. On a run they come into their own: ludicrously light – just 210g – and incredibly responsive; they ping you along. HOKA suggest these are geared towards elite athletes: now, I’m not a racer, and you shouldn’t let that put you off if you aren’t either. These are an every-runner shoe, no matter what it says on the box. And for £140, you’re getting a superb shoe that could easily sit comfortably in the £200+ bracket and no one would have batted an eyelid. A total stunner.
BROOKS Adrenaline GTS 21 | £120
Wow. I’m new to Brooks. To be honest, I’m new to most trainers as my love affair with running is still in that gooey-eyed phase. These shoes are designed for runners who want extra support – with particular focus on our precious knees – and they provide real comfort without compromising on the all-important stability factor. I felt like I was walking (er, running) on air from the moment I put them on and even though I’ve got a fairly neutral runner’s gait, the Brooks Adrenaline GuideRails holistic support system will keep any excess movement in check. I’ve got the white pair (with black trim) which probably isn’t the most practical colour for this time of year but that aside, they’re a hit. Brooks products come with the Run Happy Promise, which means you get 90 days to return them, no questions asked.
HOKA ONE ONE Rincon 3 | £105
This classic HOKA shoe has had an upgrade: the Rincon 3’s vented mesh upper increases breathability, with an EVA midsole that offers HOKA’s signature comfort. The first thing that struck me when I unboxed them was the weight – they really are light as a feather, despite their chunky cushioned sole. The slim, flexible tongue and little pull tab made them easy to slip on and I had no teething problems on the first run: they were supremely comfortable and they fitted me like a glove from the off. Theimproved Meta-Rocker tech in the sole makes them super speedy, but, above all, comfort reigns supreme. They’re only my first pair of HOKAs, but I may very well be in love!
UNDER ARMOUR HOVR Phantom 2 RUNANYWR | £120
Oh my! These shoes are the best I have run in for comfort and energy return. The UA HOVR technology is designed to bring the feel of zero gravity and I certainly felt like I was running on air. Sometimes, when tired, my foot strike feels laboured, but this shoe eliminates that, easily transforming the downward energy upwards so reducing the impact on the feet. This comfort is extended by the sock-like fit around the upper so once the shoe is on you’re unaware you’re wearing it, plus the SpeedForm 2.0 is highly breathable so no stinky feet! I loved the interior cushioning on my high arches and as a mild overpronator on one foot I found these shoes offered the right amount of structured support and cushioning. You get all this at a lightweight 261g too. Style wise, these shoes may not be for every runner as they look quite bling and white is quite a statement look. For me, after just having had a signifi cant birthday, I was rocking them with the attitude of a hipster. Just avoid the muddy trails!
NEW BALANCE Prism | £110
Be prepared for lots of compliments when wearing this gorgeously bright pair of running shoes. The colour is very striking and great for low light conditions. Aesthetics aside, this shoe is as responsive as it is attractive (and it can be bought in black if you’d rather be less conspicuous). This is a super-lightweight pair of shoes, but with all the stability of a much sturdier model. From the second I put them on, I found them to be incredibly responsive to the road, with lots of flexibility – and support – whether I was on a slow plod or a tempo speed session. There’s ample room in the toebox, allowing comfortable spread, and there’s great support on the ankle thanks to moulded foam padding. The upper is airy and supple, but with just enough structure to create the perfect balance. A good price, too.
BROOKS Bedlam 3 | £145
The Bedlam 3 has a sleek, streamlined look and a snug, close-to-foot fit that made me feel supported without being too squeezed into the shoe. The breathable upper has been updated to give ultimate softness and it feels smooth to pull on and off. It has been reformulated to be 20 per cent lighter and weighs a paltry 9.5oz, so every running stride feels springy and cushioned. To protect the knees and not just the feet, a new holistic technology, the Guide Rails support system, has been included. I really took to the feel and security of the wrap-around integrated collar, too; it feels like an extra layer of support over your normal sock, but worth trying before you buy as this, combined with the close fit, might mean you need to go up from your normal size. You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Bedlam, but there’s no denying it’s a lot of buck in the first place.
ALTRA Olympus 4 | £149.99
The Altra Olympus has a new look compared to its predecessors, but if you’re already an Altra fan, you’ll find everything you love about them here: that unique toebox and zero drop that Altra is famous for. The shoe has great support and cushioning, with its enhanced toe area that helps your foot to spread out. The grid-like grooves on the sole give your feet flexibility and feel stable, even on the roughest trails. They provided brilliant grip on all terrains, on wet and dry surfaces. Lightweight and breathable, there is a clever perforation in the construction that will offer you comfort all year round. They’re bulkier to look at than some of their competitors, but packed with technology and features, while the overall feel is light and responsive. I tested them in Moroccan blue, which has a magenta and purple sole, and they look as great as they feel.
SKECHERS GoRun Forza 4 | £129
Skechers mean serious business in the running shoe world. The Forza 4 is a stability running shoe, blessed with a combination of its proprietary Hyper Burst and Ultra Flight Foam in the midsole, and a lovely grippy Goodyear outsole. That midsole gives you a good bounce but in a very light weight – these are 243g: not the lightest, but certainly on the lighter side, especially when it comes to support shoes, which tend to come in quite high there. In practice, my foot and ankle felt supported and stable, while the cushioning is responsive. While the stability is great, for the first mile or so the Forza can feel quite stiff, but the upside of that is that they really do feel very responsive. The downside for me would be the design, which I realise is a matter of personal taste, so you can make up your own mind on that!
NEW BALANCE Propel v2 | £100
A very good-looking shoe for winter, and good value at just £100. I would highly recommend the Propel as an entry-level shoe that provides a lot of tech but doesn’t leave you feeling you’ve been robbed. FuelCell cushioning in the whole length of the midsole is great technology to run in for guaranteed energy return; these shoes feel as if they’re helping you along with every stride. The colour is brilliant for winter road running, with 360-degree reflectivity; it seems that NB have invested in getting this feature right. The upper fit is snug and supportive, but also breathable, soft and flexible, so they’re great for comfort. They don’t feel as incredible to run in as some New Balance FuelCell models, but this doesn’t detract from what they offer for a new runner: they’re lightweight, sleek and a spot-on winter design.
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