Whether you've decided to pick up running for your health, to jam out to tunes, or to help with your COVID anxiety, you need the right shoes to support your journey.
Best Women's Running Shoes
Best Overall: Saucony Women's Ride ISO 2
Best for Support: Brooks Women's Ravenna 11
Most Stylish Pick: Nike Women's Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2
Best for Overpronators: Asics Women's GT 2000-8
Best for Distance: Hoka One One Women's Clifton Edge
Most Versatile: New Balance Women's Fresh Foam Zante Solas
Best Race-To-Street Style: Adidas Ultraboost 20 Women's Running Shoes
Best Zero Drop Training Shoes: Altra Women's Torin 4 Road Running Shoe
Best for Trails: New Balance Women's Gobi v3 Fresh Foam Trail Running Shoe
Most Reliable: Brooks Women's Ghost 12
You should know the basics about support and cushioning before you just lace up some decade-old sneakers and head out the door. It's a good idea to invest in some quality running shoes, even if you're new to the runner's lifestyle. Here's what you need to take into consideration before you buy your first pair of women's running shoes:
Most feet naturally pronate (roll inward) to some extent when running. Feet with high arches pronate just a little, but no added support in your footwear is needed — for this, a neutral shoe is best. A medium to low arch overpronates, so you'll want to get shoes that have added medial arch support — those are called stability shoes. Foot supination occurs when the foot rolls slightly outward, but this is pretty uncommon.
This is up to personal preference, but it's generally understood that more cushioning provides better impact absorption, which protects your joints better. A shoe with maximum cushioning is ideal for longer distances, when your body will take more of a beating. On the other hand, a sneaker with less cushioning may be lighter and faster, but the insole won't be quite as soft and comfortable.
Knowing your preference for support and cushioning is a good starting point, and we've pointed out some additional details below that are important to consider. So, whether you're jogging around the block before work or adventuring across town and back, check out our picks for the best beginner running shoes for women — some are best-selling models from trusted brands, some are favorites of pro athletes, and some are in our gym bag or on our feet right now.
This style is an update to Saucony's previous ISO shoe, which was a reliable pick for runners. It may not have a flashy design, but it's extremely well-rounded and caters to a majority of runners who favor sub-half marathon distances, making it our pick for the best women's running shoe overall. Plus, this shoe is superior in cushioning to its predecessor, the Ride ISO.
Newer runners will love this shoe. The ISO 2 features a new FORMFIT revolutionary fit system that morphs to your foot for a custom feel, no matter the shape of your feet, and the shoe’s neutral arch support will even suit those who are blessed with higher arches. The superior cushioning can handle distances around 10 miles easily, and a relatively lightweight construction is made for shorter runs, whether speed-training or going all-out on a 5K.
Updates include a new engineered mesh upper that expands slightly in case your feet swell up toward the end of a long run. Saucony also kept their previous Everun topsole, which provides a smoother landing and more energy return with each step. These slight but thoughtful updates on a tried-and-true model make the ISO 2 our choice for the best overall. Get psyched for swift takeoffs and smoother landings.
Best for Support
We chose the Brooks Ravenna 11 as the best for support because it offers a quality level of structure, flexibility, cushioning, and energy return that traditionally puts shoes in a higher price category.
This women's running shoe is a classic do-it-all option. With a good amount of cushioning in the forefoot and even more in the heel, plus added medial stability that supports low and medium arches, your joints are protected and mechanics are maintained when mileage reaches 20-plus. Sounds stiff and clunky, right? Wrong.
These shoes are definitely on the heavier side (8 ounces), but they're more flexible and responsive than many stability shoes, thanks to an updated midsole with additional foam that provides a sort of rebounding feel. It also feels even lighter and more breathable than previous versions of the shoe because of the all-mesh upper. Plus, the GuideRails Holistic Support System is designed to keep your foot steady in place so you don't end up with knee injuries. Don’t buy a cheap shoe and risk injury just to save some dollars — this sneaker is so well-built that it's a steal in this price range.
Most Stylish Pick
These women's running shoes feature the perfect blend of style, cushioning, support for long distances, and durability that'll stand up to an intense training regimen.
To deliver a secure, locked-down feel, Nike used its signature Flywire cables in the upper, which hug your foot like a snug glove (the upper in this style is even more lightweight than the first Turbo shoe). Support is neutral, so high arches are a must if you plan to use these for running long distance, as intended. If you’re looking for a fast, flexible shoe, this isn't it. However, if you want a distance hog, look no further — these shoes feature ZoomX foam that delivers 85% energy return, which is the greatest of any Nike foam.
Plus, if you're a believer of "looking good, feeling good," you'll probably never want to take these off.
Best for Overpronators
If you have low arches, overpronation can wreak havoc on your body, which takes the fun out of running. To protect your muscles and joints, a shoe in the stability class is a must, as they're made with added medial arch support to reduce overpronation and promote more natural mechanics. Asics calls their added stability their Impact Guidance System. Though it might not be the sexiest, lightest, or most responsive, the eighth generation of Asics' GT-2000 is our pick for the best women's running shoe for those who overpronate.
Aside from continuing with the best pronation control, Asics made some notable updates. Its midsole compound, called Flytefoam, is lighter and longer-lasting than before. Meanwhile, updated rear-foot gel technology, in addition to significant underfoot cushioning, softens your landing, no matter how flat-footed you run. Because they're a bit heavy (8.3 ounces), this shoe’s sweet spot is up to the half-marathon range, so it should suit most beginner runners who aren't yet game for a full marathon.
Best for Distance
Hoka One One is known and loved among distance runners for their plush, distance-capable, women's running shoes. The Clifton Edge, the road version of their fan-favorite Challenger ATR, isn’t Hoka's most cushioned road shoe. Nevertheless, it’s still softer than many competitors’ plushest shoe, and it's this supreme impact absorption that makes the Clifton a common sight at marathon finish lines.
At just 7.25 ounces, it’s much lighter and faster than you’d expect something so cushy to be. Arch support is neutral, so higher arches are a must. It has a heel-to-toe drop that's lower than many (just 5 millimeters) and even lower than the previous iterations of the Clifton, which can help minimize the risk of injury by encouraging a more natural foot motion. Plus, with this model, Hoka has catered to the masses — with paint on the foam outsole, and a gray and navy blue option, the Clifton looks more like a traditional running sneaker and less like a moon shoe.
New Balance really nailed it with this shoe — there’s very little that’s not to love. The Zante Solas is the newest update in their “soft and cushioned” category, which means that there's plenty of impact protection for distances up to 13.2 miles.
But distance isn't its only strong suit. With a total claimed weight of 4.4 ounces per pair (the lightest yet of the Zante models) and a flexible HypoKnit upper that adapts to your foot and feels just like a sock, it’s also an impressive tempo trainer that can set records on the track. For runners with high arches looking for a daily driver, look no further than this shoe.
Best Race-to-Street Style
Adidas has done it again with the Ultraboost 20 — a women's running shoe that performs just as nicely as it looks. Its standout feature is a free-floating arch, where the stretchy upper is actually separated from the midfoot under your arch, but connected at the heel and forefoot. This gives the wearer an incredibly snug feeling that, when coupled with a thick saddle around the midfoot, cradles your foot and locks it in place. The upper’s Primeknit 360 is quite breathable, too, so odors won't develop if you put them to good use. Plus, it hugs the foot like a sock for extra comfort.
Sure, the Ultraboost 20 is pricier than many other running shoes, but they have more than one use to justify the extra coin — with around eight color choices, they look fly AF at all times, whether you’re zipping through town in a 5K or strolling to meet friends for brunch and mimosas.
Best Zero-Drop Training Shoes
One of Altra’s best-selling road shoes, they call the Torin their “core neutral road trainer.” It features the brand's beloved foot shape and a wide toe box, which allows your foot to sit more naturally on the sole rather than cramming your toes in.
To differentiate from the crowd, this women's running shoe features a zero drop from heel to toe. Translation: The height of the platform remains the same throughout the entire base, which enables a more natural, proper form, rather than forcing your foot to roll toward push off. This style is what attracts minimalists and those with good, natural technique, but it’s not for everyone — wearing these with poor form will not be a good time.
If you're a runner with high arches, then the Torin's neutral support, significant cushioning, and lightweight construction will propel you to have more efficient training sessions — whether faster intervals or increasing mileage is your objective.
Best for Trails
If running is your sport and nature is your happy place, trail running might become an intervention-worthy addiction. New Balance built on the success of their Fresh Foam Zante model with this trail stomper by adding some huge diamond-shaped lugs that can grip uneven rock surfaces like a vice.
The Gobi v3 has a firmer feel than many other women's running shoes, which helps you run confidently when the trail gets sketchy and your legs turn to Jell-O. There isn’t a ton of added stability here, though, so it’s only right for higher arches. If you’re in the market for a casually styled trail-running shoe, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something so well-done at less than $100.
For years now, the Brooks Ghost has been a favorite among newcomers, and it even appeals to lifelong runners who favor reliability. That’s why it has won six Editor’s Choice awards from Runner’s World.
The Ghost 12 is a typical first women's running shoe for those who've learned that they're blessed with high arches. These runners don’t need a true stability shoe, but they can benefit from a generally stiffer shoe with a little bit of medial support, as fatigued muscles can harm your form and lead to injury at higher mileage.
Rookie or veteran, everyone will appreciate the higher-than-average cushioning underfoot, as well as the new DNA LOFT heel crash pad for softer landings, not to mention the 25 colorways. After all, who wouldn’t benefit from a little bit of help at mile 10?
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