Whether you're a fair-weather runner or the kind that can't go a day without pounding the pavements, there's one thing that's certain – from a casual 5K to long-distance marathon training, a good pair of running shoes is essential for you to perform at your best.
It can seem like a big expense – but there are many reasons high-quality running shoes are important. Everyone has a different running style and will need shoes that complement it. All the major brands take into account these styles when developing new models, so there's a great fit out there for every style – overpronator or underpronator, and toe, heel or midfoot striker.
Finding the right pair for you will support your feet and help you avoid blisters and injuries from ill-fitting shoes.
Some elements of running shoes are highly personal – for example, whether they have a high arch or flatter insole, the size of the heel to toe drop and whether they're very cushioned or very firm. The best thing to do is to try a few pairs on in person and see what you feel most comfortable in.
This guide will give you an idea of where to start, outlining eight of the best women's running shoes on the market.
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Best for speed
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
If you watched the London Marathon this year, you'll have spotted these shoes on a whole gang of elite runners. The bold green design is the latest iteration of Nike's Zoom Vaporfly 4%, worn by Eliud Kipchoge when he completed his 2:00:25 marathon at the brand's Breaking2 event back in 2017. If that's news to you, the essence is this – these shoes are designed to help you go faster.
The main difference in the Next% is that the upper is made from Nike's brand new Vaporweave material, which is designed to avoid soaking up water (be that from sweat, rain or anything else). As with the previous design, it has a carbon-fibre plate built into the sole, which absorbs the energy created when your foot hits the ground to propel you back up with added power.
The ZoomX foam is also designed to boost your energy return, plus there's a foam pod inside the heel section of the sole for extra comfort.
Best for treadmill workouts
Under Armour HOVR Sonic 2
If you're more into treadmills than running outside, or like to complement your running with plenty of strength training in the gym and can only afford one pair of trainers, then the Sonic 2s are a strong option. The major USP of these is that they have a built-in sensor that tracks your running metrics – distance, steps, cadence and so on – which connects up to Under Armour's Map My Run app for you to check out just what you've achieved.
These neutral running shoes also feature Under Armour's HOVR foam, which aims to give you ultra-lightweight support with a boosted energy return, and are responsive enough to feel comfortable whether you're running, lifting or stretching.
They also boast a removable sockliner inside the shoe, which is anti-microbial to help avoid that 'heavily used trainer' smell building up.
Best for comfort
Saucony Ride ISO 2
Long runs call for extra comfort, and luckily the Ride ISO 2s provide plenty of that. They blend Saucony's PWRFOAM midsole (plenty of cushioning and impact absorption) with their EVERUN topsole (gentle on the foot with pressure relief on hotspots) for a reliable, smooth ride that'll carry you from 10K to half marathon and beyond.
This updated version has an improved structure around the midfoot, which means you can adapt it to your foot shape and size for a personalised fit. The padded ankle collar avoids the shoe rubbing at the base of your Achilles, plus the mesh toebox helps your feet breathe.
Best for overpronators
Nike Air Zoom Structure 22
If you tend to overpronate, it can help to wear running shoes with built-in support to reduce the biomechanical strains put through your legs over long distances. The Zoom Structure 22 provides gentle arch support from the midsole, with denser foam on the inside edge of your foot to help prevent your inner ankle rolling in too much.
A Zoom air unit (imagine a kind of slim rubber toast rack that compresses on impact and expands when your foot leaves the ground) provides cushioning, as does the soft insole. The upper is made from engineered mesh to give you support around the sides and top of your foot, plus it's surprisingly good at ventilating for what feels like a relatively built-up top.
Best for saving the planet
Adidas Alphabounce+ Run Parley Shoes
Saving our oceans from plastic has become a huge priority recently, but Adidas has actually been at it for years. Its Parley range features products created with yarn made from recycled plastic found on beaches, taking it out of the environment before it reaches the ocean.
These Alphabounce+ running shoes are suited to those with a neutral running style and have a 10mm drop. The upper is seamless for max comfort and the Bounce+ foam will put a smooth, springy bounce in your step.
The wide forefoot allows your toes to spread naturally, instead of being restricted as with some designs, plus the mesh upper stretches according to your foot shape.
The soles are relatively smooth, so these may not be ideal for wet weather running where more traction is needed, but they combine comfy cushioning, style and environmentally conscious fashion for an all-round solid running shoe.
Best for a natural feel
New Balance 890v7
Weighing in at just 158 grams, these 890v7s from New Balance are a super lightweight, minimal design that are ideal for runners with a strong technique and neutral gait.
Their midsole is made with New Balance's REVlite foam – a version of EVA foam (the basic material used to make running shoe midsoles) that has been developed to provide light cushioning without disrupting the ground feel, creating a responsive yet comfortable sole.
The 6mm drop makes these shoes a relatively minimal option, and if you're working towards moving to barefoot running from more built-up shoes then these could be a great option along the way.
The knitted upper is highly breathable and has small holes for ventilation – ideal for the sweatier footed among us – plus the sock-like fit around the ankle can help avoid the blisters that can occur with highly structured cuffs.
Best for hot weather runs
You've probably spotted On shoes on your fellow runners. The unique CloudTec pods on the soles of each shoe stand out from the shoe crowd, and they're not style over substance – the air-filled pods offer cushioning as your foot hits the ground, then lock together through the impact to help power you back off again.
The Cloudswifts are designed specifically for city runners, with reinforced soles that offer extra protection from the impact of road running and give traction on wet tarmac. The engineered mesh upper also adds breathability to the shoe – essential on hot summer runs to avoid excess sweating, which can lead to blisters.
They feature a mechanical side band which adds support to your midfoot, plus you can tuck your laces inside them for a sleek look.
Best for off-road
Saucony Peregrine ISO
Whether you're a fully committed trail runner (in which case, thanks for sifting through all those road shoes above), enjoy an occasional trip off-road or even have a particularly grass-based parkrun, having shoes with proper grip and traction is a game-changer.
The Peregrine ISOs feature Saucony's usual EVERUN topsole and PWRFOAM midsole for a comfy ride, plus they have a chunky zig-zag grip on the soles to help you run seamlessly over different surfaces without having to worry about slipping.
It's worth noting that these aren't waterproof so you're not infallible to puddles, but you're far less likely to struggle when the weather gets bad.
Best for wet weather runs
On Cloud Waterproof
Got your jackets, tights and socks ready for winter but not your shoes? Don't let the weather rain on your running session with these waterproof trainers from On. Featuring the brand's signature CloudTec pods for cushioning and responsiveness when you hit the road, they also pack lightweight foam so you're not weighed down and their Speedboard midsole to complement your foot's natural movement.
Most importantly, the upper is wind and waterproof to keep you comfortable in even the soggiest of conditions, so you'll no longer be held back from a moody weathered parkrun or post-storm jog.