The 10 Best Running Shoes for Women

How could you not love California winters?
Is the search for new shoes running you into the ground? We researched 80 of the most popular women's models on the market and hand-picked the top 10 for months of hands-on, pavement-pounding research. Whether you're working to qualify for the Boston Marathon, set a new personal best, or take the dog for a walk, we have all the information you'll need to make the right choice for your unique needs. In order to compare each model side-by-side to its competitors, we took each pair to the streets, in the mountains, and around the track. We ranked each pair on landing comfort, responsiveness, upper comfort, support, and weight to bring you this comprehensive review, and we guarantee that you'll be crossing the finish line in style and comfort.

Read the full review below >

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 - Women's
Brooks Ghost 10 - Women's
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 - Women's
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 4
Brooks Glycerin 15 - Women's
Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Top Pick Award     
Price $114.88 at Amazon
Compare at 4 sellers
$119.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 4 sellers
$76.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$129.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 4 sellers
$149.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 5 sellers
Overall Score 
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84
100
0
77
100
0
74
100
0
74
100
0
74
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, responsive, supportiveSupportive, protective, comfortableHighly responsive, supportiveGreat landing, very supportive, lightweightSuper comfortable, good support
Cons Not as light as some other contendersLess breathable, less responsiveLess comfortable than othersNot as responsive, upper is less comfortableLess breathable, not as responsive
Ratings by Category Adrenaline GTS 18 - Women's Ghost 10 - Women's Air Zoom Pegasus 34 - Women's Clifton 4 Glycerin 15 - Women's
Landing Comfort - 25%
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
Responsiveness - 20%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
6
Upper Comfort - 25%
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
Stability - 20%
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Weight - 10%
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
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7
10
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8
10
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5
Specs Adrenaline GTS 18 - Women's Ghost 10 - Women's Air Zoom Pegasus 34 - Women's Clifton 4 Glycerin 15 - Women's
Weight per shoe (ounces) 8.3 8.6 8.3 8 9.1
Sizes Available 5 - 13 5 - 12 5 - 11.5 5 - 11 5 - 12
Upper Material Engineered mesh Mesh Mono mesh Mesh, puff print Air Mesh, 3D Stretch Printed

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Brittney Ahrens & Lauren DeLaunay

Last Updated:
Tuesday
January 30, 2018

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Updated January 2018
The lack of snow this winter has given us our fair share of time to run, run, run. To make the best use of our testing period, we updated our women's running shoe review to include a slew of new models. We also evaluated all contenders in our fleet to ensure that they are the most current models. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 is our new Editors' Choice winner, with the Brooks Ghost 10 coming in as a close second. We've included the Hoka One One Bondi 5 as our Top Pick for Distance, while the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 is an excellent choice for races. The New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 steals the show as our Best Buy winner.

Best Overall Running Shoe for Women


Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 - Women's


Editors' Choice Award

$114.88
at Amazon
See It

Weight per shoe: 8.3 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 12 mm
Comfortable
Responsiveness
Supportive
Not as light
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 is, without a doubt, an outstanding shoe. Well-balanced as any shoe we've ever seen, this model promotes stability without compromising weight and is comfortable without sacrificing responsiveness. This would be our clear choice for a one-shoe quiver. We'd highly recommend this shoe for the average runner looking for an everyday product to get them through whatever workout they might endure. We had no problem choosing this shoe for our Editors' Choice Award because of its beautiful blend of all the traits we look for in a shoe. While other competitors may excel in one category, the Adrenaline brought home the highest scores across the board.

Read full review: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18 - Women's

Top Pick for Going the Distance


HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 5


Top Pick Award

$139.95
at Amazon
See It

Weight per shoe: 8.7 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 4 mm
Maximum cushioning
Comfortable
No responsiveness
HOKA ONE ONE came on the ultrarunning scene only a few years ago, sparking interests with their strange maximally cushioned designs. We had to try these out for ourselves, and we were nothing but impressed. The Bondi 5 is the most cushioned shoe in HOKA's lineup, and we loved using it for our long, slow runs. We awarded this shoe our Top Pick for Going the Distance in honor of this model's comfy, cozy, cloud-like step. It definitely takes some getting used to, and while there are other shoes with ample cushioning, nothing protects our feet like the Bondi. If you're looking for some extra comfort, whether to stabilize knee pain or to shelter your feet from high mileage, the Bondi is truly a shoe you won't want to take off.

Read full review: HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 5

Top Pick for Speed


Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 - Women's


Top Pick Award

$76.96
at Backcountry
See It

Weight per shoe: 8.3 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 10 mm
Highly responsive
Supportive
Not as comfortable
The bright colors of the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 drew us in, and we were quickly impressed with the bounce in our step. While not as cushioned as other models, this lightweight shoe is built for speed. The sole is responsive and comfortable, and the upper is equipped with excellent support and a snug heel that boost confidence when running fast. We might appreciate a little extra padding in the upper, and it could be nice to shave some ounces off of our racing model. That being said, the bounce is great and the breathable upper is amazing on hot days or when running fast. We awarded this shoe our Top Pick for Speed Award because we just couldn't wait to get it out on the track for a time trial.

Read full review: Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34

Best Buy on a Budget


New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3


New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 Best Buy Award

$59.97
at Backcountry
See It

Weight per shoe: 7.1 oz | Heel-to-toe drop: 6 mm
Responsive
Lightweight
Inexpensive
Not as comfortable
From New Balance comes the latest iteration of the Fresh Foam Zante. We picked this shoe for our Best Buy on a Budget Award because of its all-around performance and inexpensive price tag. We appreciated its responsive, lightweight design but did wish for a little more cushioning. Regardless, its solid scores across the board make it a decent pick for the average runner. While not as cozy as our Editors' Choice Award winner, the lightweight construction is a nice change of pace. The Zante is adequately comfortable and supportive, providing an excellent middle ground among all the scoring metrics. And at only $100, this could be the perfect pick for athletes on a budget.

Read full review: New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
84
$120
Editors' Choice Award
Balancing high scores in every metric, the Adrenaline GTS 18 is an amazing shoe.
77
$120
This supportive shoe is both comfortable and responsive.
74
$110
Top Pick Award
The Pegasus is responsive and supportive, creating an awesome speed shoe.
74
$130
The Clifton 4 is both comfortable and supportive.
74
$150
The Glycerin 15 is incredibly comfortable.
73
$150
Top Pick Award
Great for going the distance, the Bondi is a maximally cushioned shoe.
69
$100
Best Buy Award
New Balance's Fresh Foam Zante v3 is as diverse as it is budget-friendly.
66
$180
Less comfortable than our favorite shoes, the Ultraboost X is unique and highly responsive.
61
$120
Supportive yet uncomfortable, the Gel-Cumulus 19 is not our favorite shoe.
55
$130
Not as comfortable as its competitors, the Escalante is lightweight and minimalist.

Analysis and Test Results


Whether you're a new runner or a seasoned marathon racer, choosing a new pair of kicks can be an overwhelming task. Advancements in sole and upper materials and construction have led to a bewildering array of choices. In addition to the improvements made in traditional models, the progress towards minimal or barefoot footwear, and the more recent evolution of maximally cushioned offerings have added new layers of complexity to the market. Luckily for you, we here at OutdoorGearLab are here to help make sense of it all!

Blue and pink are clearly the colors of 2018.
Blue and pink are clearly the colors of 2018.


First, let's determine if road shoes are the best option for you. If you run primarily on roads, sidewalks, treadmills, or tracks, with an occasional cruise through mellow, natural-surface trails, you are in the right place. If you run technical trails, chunky gravel surfaces, or in extreme weather conditions, we recommend that you look into a trail shoe or weather resistant road/trail hybrid (see our review of the best women's trail runners shoes here). If you want to participate in sports and activities that require lateral movements on top of running, get a shoe that better supports those activities (check out our shoes for CrossFit women's review). Because the primary objective of your shoe is to increase the efficiency and ease of transition through the gait cycle (in a forward motion), they don't incorporate the lateral support and other unique features that sport-specific footwear takes into consideration. That's why we don't recommend using your running kicks as cross-trainers and why running specific designs are so critical to keeping us healthy and on the road, mile after mile.

For starters, we recommend looking for a running shoe that balances cushioning and responsiveness. Unlike some of the other reviews, where we want our products to score highly in every single category, a product that scores highly in "cushioning," for example, may not be the right fit for you. Hence, we start by looking for a road shoe that balances cushioning and responsiveness without weighing us down significantly. After establishing that baseline, specifics and unique features will help determine which pair of kicks best meet your individual needs and running goals.

Types of Road Running Shoes


Running shoes are commonly categorized by the degree of foot motion they accommodate. More specifically, the amount of pronation that individuals experience during the gait cycle, taking into consideration runners with a neutral gait, runners whose feet over-pronate inward, and runners who under-pronate, or supinate, outward. Secondary classifications around shoe performance and the level of cushioning give runners a nice matrix of options when it comes to selecting the right product. Here's a quick rundown of the types you'll encounter when shopping. Some of these types describe different aspects of shoe design, which means some models may fit a few classifications. For example, a "neutral" fit describes the amount of stability, while a "maximum cushioning" shoe's build will be reflected in its landing comfort score.

Neutral


Neutral shoes are best suited for runners with neutral pronation or supinated gait patterns, along with moderate to high arches. These models are built with enough stability but tend to focus on cushioning and flexibility. All of the shoes in this review are marketed as neutral runners by the manufacturer except for the Brooks Adrenaline GTS and Nike Air Zoom Pegasus, both of which promote their supportive yet balanced designs. The range in this category can be quite broad, which is nowhere more evident than when comparing the maximally cushioned HOKA Bondi 5 with the minimalistic Altra Escalante.

Stability


Stability shoes are great for neutral runners to mild over-pronators as they offer guidance and medial support to keep the runner's gait in an ideal pattern. Generally, these sneakers are more rigid than their neutral counterparts and can be heavier due to the extra postings used in structuring the foundation of the shoe. The Adrenaline GTS and Air Zoom Pegasus made their mark here.

Minimalist


The minimalist scene has exploded in recent years, and companies like Altra are taking advantage. We reviewed the best barefoot shoes on the market in a separate review, but for athletes seeking a light, non-supportive shoe, the Altra Escalante might be just the one for you. Shoes of this nature are built to do nothing but protect the bottom of the foot on the assumption that our bodies know best and will return to a more natural gait and stride when given the change to spread out. If you're interested in trying this type of shoe but are accustomed to a traditional shoe, you may want to transition to a lower heel-toe offset first. Most traditional running shoes have a drop of around 10mm which has historically been believed to push you onto the balls of your feet. Some shoes in this review, like the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v3 have a more moderate drop (4mm in the Zante's case) which could be a good way to experiment with this alternative design without putting too much impact on the knees right away.

Comparing landing comfort with the HOKA Bondi (left) and Altra Escalante (right)
Comparing landing comfort with the HOKA Bondi (left) and Altra Escalante (right)

Landing Comfort


Whether you run a few miles a year or are on a rigorous training schedule, we call it "pounding pavement" for a reason. Step after step, our feet take quite the beating. For this reason, we included "landing comfort" as our first and highest-ranking metric (tied with upper comfort, which we'll describe below). Nothing makes us want to stop running like tired feet, so for this metric, we looked to a wide array of details. For each shoe, we looked to its cushioning and shock-absorbing qualities. We compared their midsole construction and materials of each product and described their different uses. While there are obvious differences between a high-mileage shoe like the Hoka Bondi and a racing flat like the Saucony Fastwitch, we want our shoes to leave our feet feeling fresh from the first mile to the last. Generally, the more cushioned a shoe, the higher its score in this metric, though we did appreciate shoes with a middle ground between cushioning and support.


You've never seen cushioning like the Bondi!
You've never seen cushioning like the Bondi!

The Bondi 5 was, without a doubt, the most cushioned shoe in this review. It does, however, have a significantly different feel than any other shoe in this review, and likely than any shoe you've tried on before. The foots sits considerably higher off the ground than in any other product in our fleet, leading to a unique feel that takes some getting used to. Once adjusted to, however, the Bondi provides excellent protection for long runs on pavement.

The Bondi is followed by the HOKA Clifton which is also quite padded, and then all three Brooks models, the Adrenaline, Ghost, and Glycerin. The Adidas Ultraboost X also stands out in this category, along with our Best Buy Award-winning New Balance Fresh Foam Zante. Beware the Ultraboost, however, which, though comfortable, is also unique and requires some getting used to. While it may not be the right fit for every runner, we recommend trying it on in a store and seeing what you think.

Responsiveness


Responsiveness, as far as running shoes are concerned, describes how a shoe responds to the energy we put into it. We initiate our strides with kinetic input, and a shoe's responsiveness dictates how easily our feet travel through the motions. It makes sense, then, that racing flats are the most responsiveness type of running shoe; their stiff outsole and minimal cushioning help us kick and bounce for maximum speed. Responsiveness helps maintain proper running form. When we're closely connected to the movements of our feet and the variations in terrain, we adapt our pace with less energy output. This translates to more efficient running at quicker speeds. Adversely, big cushioning, high-mileage shoes are inherently less responsive. As a general rule, the higher a shoe scores in responsiveness, the lower it scores in landing comfort, and vice versa.


Ready  set  go! We put the Pegasus to the test.
Ready, set, go! We put the Pegasus to the test.


The Air Zoom Pegasus from Nike was one of our favorite responsive shoes, along with the unique Ultraboost X. These are lighter styles more appropriate for racing or speed workouts than everyday running, however. Out of our fleet of shoes for the average recreational runner, the Adrenaline and Ghost are great options.

Upper Comfort


Aside from style, the first thing we notice about a shoe is its upper comfort. The moment we slip our feet into a new pair of shoes, we have an initial reaction to its materials, tongue cushioning, and shape. Some shoes in this review we disliked immediately, while others we never wanted to take off. While it may not seem as important as some of the performance metrics like "responsiveness" and "stability", if your shoes are uncomfortable, you'll never want to get out to use them, making comfort a hidden performance factor. We look at the lacing structure, softness and breathability of materials, foot box shape, and overall upper design and construction, ideally finding a shoe that lets us forget we're even wearing it. Breathability is a feature most people tend to overlook while focusing on comparing fit, but breathability does play a large part in how comfortable your ride is while you're cranking up the mileage. Our frontrunners were built off a lack of interference that allowed us to run with ease.


All three Brooks models we tested had superior upper comfort. From left to right: Glycerin  Ghost  Adrenaline GTS.
All three Brooks models we tested had superior upper comfort. From left to right: Glycerin, Ghost, Adrenaline GTS.

Our reviewers' favorite uppers were all featured on Brooks models. This helped win the Adrenaline GTS our Editors' Choice Award. The Ghost and Glycerin weren't far behind, with both HOKA models along with the Pegasus ranking as comfortable yet not as padded. Some shoes that had slightly non-traditional designs were still comfortable, however. The Adidas Ultraboost X may appeal to some buyers for its sock-like fit and feel, but we recommend trying it on before making the purchase. Similarly, the Altra Escalante received a low score here for its lack of padding, but for a minimalist shoe, the upper was soft despite not having any cushioning on the tongue.

We provided the best scores we could based on objective amounts of padding and material softness, but fit preferences vary significantly from runner to runner. We highly advise trying on shoes in a store, ideally with an industry professional, before pulling the trigger on an important and expensive purchase.

Stability


To correct over-pronation, some running shoes include stability-focused design elements. These shoes have additional support in the form of plastic posts or plates in the midsole that counteract excessive rotation of the foot and help support it into a more neutral position. Not everyone needs stability in their running shoes, so this criterion applies specifically to runners with moderate or flat arches that tend to collapse when running. Not sure if this describes you? Many running shops and even some online companies offer a gait analysis test and knowledgeable staff trained to determine if stability is important or helpful for you.

Stability in a running shoe is a performance design element that is intended to correct over-pronation. The additional support (in the form of plastic posts or plates in the midsole) counteract the excessive rotation of the foot and support it into a more neutral position. Stability models are for those with moderate to flat arches that tend to collapse when running. Many running shops and even several online companies offer a gait analysis to determine if stability and support are helpful tools in their running. Choosing a shoe design that best meets your support needs is a real effort in knowing your body, its movements, and recognizing the type of support being offered to create the best match for you.


We loved the stable  reinforced midfoot of the GEL-Cumulus.
We loved the stable, reinforced midfoot of the GEL-Cumulus.


Regardless of arch shape, everyone wants to feel supported in their shoes. We awarded high scores to shoes that had ample reinforcements in the midfoot and toe. Only the Adrenaline GTS and Air Zoom Pegasus have manufacturer-touted stability features, and we recognized both of these while testing. Despite not being constructed for support purposes, the ASICS Gel-Cumulus and HOKA Clifton have exceptional reinforcement.

Weight


We can't deny that weight affects running ability, and this is one of the first metrics we noticed when we first pulled each pair out of its box. That being said, counting ounces just isn't as important as many of the other performance and comfort factors that we evaluated. Unless elite-level racing is in your near future, we'd suggest using weight as a secondary deciding factor after more important criteria like upper and landing comfort.


Striding out in the Escalante
Striding out in the Escalante

The range of weights per shoe in this review was from 7.1 ounces to 9.4 ounces. Tied for first place is the Escalante and Zante. Next in line is the Clifton, despite its heavy padding. In the mid-eight-ounce range, you can find the Ultraboost X, Adrenaline, and Air Zoom Pegasus. Because most of the shoes we tested fall in the 8-ounce range, we wouldn't worry too much about the difference between fractions of an ounce. You might, however, notice the difference on the extreme ends of the spectrum, so it's worth checking out the weight listed and determining for yourself what "too heavy" or "too light" means for you.

Conclusion


With a saturated market, bright colors galore, we know that picking the right pair of running shoes can be a daunting task. With this comprehensive review of the ten most popular pairs on the market today, we're here to break down the basics and provide a definitive overview to help you choose the perfect shoes for you. If you feel ready to jump to the task, head on over to our individual reviews where we get down to the nitty-gritty about each and every pair. Still baffled as to where to begin? We provide some more information in our buying advice article.

Showing off the highly cushioned sole of the Glycerin
Showing off the highly cushioned sole of the Glycerin
Brittney Ahrens & Lauren DeLaunay

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