Proper footwear is important for all sports, from football and basketball to horseback riding. It’s extremely important for running, but unfortunately, a lot of people don’t put the effort in to seek out the best running shoes.
This is a shame because running is a serious, high impact sport that puts lots of stress on your feet and legs. Good quality, proper running shoes will reduce injuries and make your runs more enjoyable. Since women don’t always get the same attention as men in regards to gear, I’m going to list the best running shoes for women right here.
So if you want some advice on picking out the best running shoe, keep reading…
The Shoes Must Match Your Feet
Before you even step out the door for a run, you should figure out what type of feet you have as well as your running style.
Manufacturers produce different types of shoes for different feet – the best womens running shoes will be the ones that fit correctly.
First, let’s consider your foot type. It will fall into one of these three categories:
- High Arch
- Medium Arch
- Low Arch (or Flat Feet)
It is fairly simple to determine your arch. Usually, just looking at your feet will tell you. If not, just get your feet wet and walk across some paper or cement and then analyze your footprints.
Then you have to determine your running style, which will also fall into one of three categories:
You get categorized by how much your foot rolls inwards as it hits the ground (while running.)
If you’re an overpronator, it means your foot and ankle roll inward too much, and that usually corresponds with you having a low or flat arch.
If you’re an underpronator, it means your foot actually rolls outward, which is an indication that you have too high and rigid an arch.
If you’re a neutral runner, that’s good news – it means your foot rolls inward only slightly on each stride, which is perfectly natural. You probably have a medium/average arch, and you’ll fit a variety of running shoes.
Now, how do you take all this and make sense of it?? The good news is, you don’t have to! The friendly employees at your local running store will analyze your feet and running style (sometimes called gait) and recommend some good shoes for you.
However, I will still give you some advice as to which type of shoe matches your foot type:
- High Arch – Look for “neutral” shoes.
- Medium Arch – Generally, look for “neutral” shoes, although sometimes “stability” will be a better choice.
- Low Arch or Flat Feet – Look for “stability” shoes, but sometimes you will need “motion control” shoes.
So, let’s look at these neutral, stability, and motion control shoes:
Neutral Running Shoes
Neutral shoes provide cushioning without interfering with your natural stride.
Stability Running Shoes
Stability shoes provide some stability and support to keep your pronation (i.e. foot rolling) under control.
Motion Control Running Shoes
Motion Control shoes provide lots of stability and are ideal for severe overpronators.
With this in mind, you can move on to picking the right shoe for where you will be running…
Make Sure You Get The Right Style of Running Shoe
Different types of shoes work best for different types of running. For example, running on the road requires different shoes than running on mountain trails. Here are some quick tips on the different styles of running shoes.
Road running shoes, or “trainers”
The most popular running shoes are road running shoes, and if you ask for “running shoes,” this is what you will get. These shoes are best used as general-purpose running shoes on paved roads, rail rails, and tracks for training and long-distance racing.
Trail running shoes
These shoes are built tough to handle rough trails. The feature lots of tread lugs on the outsole to find traction in loose dirt and mud. Some offer extra ankle support.
These are lightweight shoes for road races and are used in distances from 5k’s to marathons, but they will wear out quickly if worn for daily use.
These are special lightweight shoes, similar to racing flats, but built for use on a track during meets. They have replaceable “spikes” on the sole to give you immense traction by digging into the track surface. These can also be “cross-country spikes” which are for use on grass trails.
Now, you’re almost ready to pick out some shoes…
Mens vs Womens Running Shoes
Lastly, before we get into the shoe choices, I wanted to point out the differences between mens and womens running shoes.
At first glance, womens running shoes will look like mens, just smaller and in brighter colors. But there are subtle differences in the construction of the shoe that make a big difference in the fit. In other words, although you may like to wear a guy’s sweatpants, you should NOT wear a guy’s running shoes!
The biggest difference is in foot shape. Men have longer, broader feet than women of the same stature, so mens shoes are built to accommodate this, as well as other small anatomical differences. For example, women have a narrower heel in relation to the forefoot and have narrower feet than men in general relative to length.1
Men are also bigger and heavier, so their shoes are built to withstand more abuse. Mens shoes would probably be too rigid to work well for you, since your weight would not be enough to flex the shoe.
Best Womens Running Shoes
Finally, to point you in the right direction, here are some of the best running shoes for women. This list is updated for 2012 with top-rated shoes from popular brands like Asics, Brooks, and Nike.
Best Womens “Neutral” Running Shoes
Women’s ASICS GEL-Nimbus 13
Your beloved running kicks return with technical improvements that trim half an ounce from the previous version, without sacrificing the supremely cushioned ride you’ve come to love. Suitable for the under-pronator to moderate over-pronator.
Women’s Brooks PureConnect
Get sports-car like, road-hugging performance from this ultra minimal, high-performance runner. Super light and flexible with no extra bulk. If you like to feel the road when you run, without suffering the bumps, this is the shoe for you. Recently awarded “Best Debut” in the winter 2012 Shoe Guide of Runner’s World magazine!
Best Womens “Stability” Running Shoes
Women’s ASICS GEL-Kayano 18
Your #1 favorite cushioned trainer got a little face-lift. One ounce lighter with a more streamlined look, this 18th version of the women’s ASICS® GEL-Kayano® still offers the Cadillac-smooth ride thanks to an even bigger GEL® unit under foot. Built for the moderate overpronator who requires a combination of cushioning and enhanced stability.
Women’s Nike LunarGlide+ 3
The Nike® Lunarswift+ 3 is the ultimate lightweight running shoe for the mild to moderate overpronator. Women’s-specific flex grooves allow for a natural stride. Nike+ ready.
Women’s Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12
Experience the heart-pounding rush of the upgraded Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 and rediscover the stable ride and excellent fit you’ve come to love. This longtime Stability favorite is definitely a go to shoe (hence the name GTS) for a comfortable, supported ride. Get customized comfort with adaptable Brooks’ DNA foam and the super comfy sockliner.
Best Womens “Motion Control” Running Shoes
Women’s ASICS GEL-Foundation 10
Your favorite motion control shoe is now even better. The ASICS GEL-Foundation 10 is designed to provide you with the supportive platform and responsive cushioning that you’ve come to count on. Built for the moderate to severe over-pronator who requires a combination of cushioning and reinforced stability.
Women’s Brooks Addiction 10
Indulge in the women’s Brooks Addiction 10 and spoil your feet with a healthy dose of cushioning and support thanks to the adaptable DNA foam and full-length BioMoGo in the midsole. Built for the excessive over-pronator who requires a combination of cushioning and enhanced stability.
Women’s Saucony ProGrid Stabil CS 2
Thought to be one of the best motion-control running shoes around, the women’s Saucony Progrid Stabil SC 2 was built for the severe over-pronator who requires a combination of cushioning and reinforced stability. Incredibly flexible and responsive with supreme cushioning to support the toughest workouts.
That should give you a good idea of what shoes will work for you! To make sure you are getting the best running shoes for women, the best thing to do is to try out several models of shoes for the type of feet you have to make sure that the pair you get is the pair that is truly made for you.
That is best done at a local running store, but I’ll admit, I do some shoe shopping online!
What are your favorite running shoes? Please chime in in the comments below!
1. Frey, C., (2000). Foot health and shoe wear for women, Clinical orthopaedics, 372: 32-44.
Photo credit: lululemon athletica