The Best Running Shoes for Women

The Hoka Rocket X is our top pick for road running, while the Altra Lone Peak is best for trails.

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Best Running Shoes for Women

Amazon

The dizzying array of footwear in the running shoe industry can be daunting — especially as you’re considering your own needs, such as stability or cushioning, while also trying to keep up with the continuous changes and improvements in technology for running shoes. However, it’s important to find the right pair of shoes that will deliver an enjoyable and comfortable running experience.

To help you navigate the many options, we’ve focused on all varieties of runners. Some — like the Hoka Rocket X (our top road pick) and the Lone Peak 6 from Altra (the best trail shoe) — work for all running types, with a special emphasis on out-of-the-box comfort and distance running performance. Others provide a more stable run to help with over- and underpronation, ample cushioning for a plush and gentle feel, or more spacious interiors to accommodate wide feet.

These are the best women’s running shoes of 2022.

Best Overall for Road: Hoka Rocket X

Hoka Rocket X

Zappos

Why We Love It: The Rocket X is incredibly light for a shoe that boasts a pretty stacked midsole, and the 5-millimeter heel-to-toe drop is modest. 

What to Consider: It may be too much shoe for really long runs.

Created for elite racers but capable of supporting all types of running, the Hoka Rocket X provides a lightweight, responsive feel that’s built for speed. A carbon fiber plate delivers a fast, efficient forward propulsion with Hoka’s lightest available foam in the midsole to add comfort, cushioning, and response. A breathable mesh upper helps cut down on the weight, and a rubberized foam outsole provides assured grip, working off an early-stage rocker profile to up the tempo. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 6-13, full sizes 14-15 | Weight per shoe: 7.4 ounces

Best Overall for Trail: Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe

4.7
Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoe

Amazon

Why We Love It: Ready for whatever sort of trail condition Mother Nature might deliver, the Lone Peaks provide a solid grip, responsive feel, and near-perfect fit thanks to a wider toe box. 

What to Consider: Heel-toe strikers may need to ease into wearing them until they’ve perfected a mid-strike running style.

A longtime favorite and consistent prize winner since it was introduced, the latest Lone Peak 6 from Altra embodies all of the brand’s philosophy when it comes to making a successful trail-focused running shoe. All of the brand’s footwear is designed to create a more natural fit for your foot, including an ample toe box, as well as no heel-to-toe drop. Balanced cushioning with a stack height of 25 millimeters adds comfort in addition to the foam in the midsole. Grip on any sort of terrain is assured via two features of the brand’s proprietary technology: the MaxTrac outsole, designed to provide extra grip, and the TrailClaw canted lugs below the metatarsals, intended to provide extra traction. You can even add Altra’s gaiters, a great way to keep debris and snow out of the shoe, with their hook-and-loop closure gaiter trap. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5.5-12 | Weight per shoe: 8.7 ounces

Best Budget: Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Amazon

Why We Love It: Minimalists have long coveted the Vapor Glove, and this iteration continues its success story thanks to 100 percent recycled laces and 30 percent recycled rubber in the outsole. 

What to Consider: A modest stack height of 6.5 millimeters may not be enough cushioning for those who don’t align with barefoot-style running.

If you gravitate toward a minimalist running shoe, go with the budget-friendly Vapor Glove 5 from Merrell. The recently updated shoe has been designed to mimic the shape of the human foot, and is configured to keep feet in their natural position to bolster a clean, responsive running style. The stretch collar makes them easy to pull on and off, and a mesh/TPU upper adds breathability. The outsoles comprise Vibram EcoStep, a recycled rubber material that offers traction on wet and dry surfaces, and that traction is further aided by the two-millimeter lugs for additional grip on the trail. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5.5-10, full size 11 | Weight per shoe: 10 ounces

Best Cushioning: Hoka Bondi 7 Road-Running Shoes

4.8
Hoka One One Women's Bondi 7 Shoes

Zappos

Why We Love It: If you pride cushioning above all else, the neutral-style Bondi 7 delivers. 

What to Consider: As you’d expect, the intuitive feel is sapped by all that EVA midsole.

Hoka revolutionized the industry when they first introduced their “maximalist” running shoes, which drastically increased the stack height of the standard runner. The Bondi 7 offers the most cushioning in their line, with a compression-molded EVA midsole that provides a ridiculously plush feel. TPU overlays add structure and support at the midfoot, and an open-engineered mesh upper provides breathable comfort (and helps cut back on weight). A modest four-millimeter heel-toe drop works with an early-stage meta-rocker profile to improve forward momentum, the beveled heel cradles smaller feet, and the newly designed collar made of memory foam wraps comfortably around the ankle. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-11, full size 12 | Weight per shoe: 8.9 ounces

Best for Wide Feet: Brooks Hyperion Tempo Road-Running Shoes - Women's

Brooks Hyperion Tempo

REI

Why We Love It: Ready to handle hard workouts and training days, the Hyperion Tempo features a wide platform and the right mixture of cushioning and grip. 

What to Consider: The 8-millimeter midsole drop is a touch aggressive compared to more zero-drop shoes.

Built to accommodate fast workouts, this shoe’s midsole uses the brand’s DNA Flash foam, which is a combo of lightweight materials that provide ample cushioning without weighing things down. This works with the breathable stretch-woven uppers that move with your feet and accommodate wider feet without issue. The uppers also help combat overheating, while the soft cushioning and overall responsiveness absorb impacts to support faster running styles. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-13 | Weight per shoe: 6.7 ounces

Best Arch Support: Asics Women's Gel-Nimbus 23

4.7
Asics Women's Gel-Nimbus 23

Zappos

Why We Love It: The mix of proprietary foam and gels as well as gender-specific features makes the Gel-Nimbus 23 ideal for runners who like to go long, and need arch support. 

What to Consider: Over- or underpronators may want more support.

Asics constructed the Gel-Nimbus 23 to provide reliable comfort in long runs, with improved stability that fosters a more balanced stride and smoother transitions. A stretchy midfoot panel helps support your arches, and soft gel technology at the heel provides more compression to take the bite out of hard strikes. A gender-specific Trusstic structure adds articulated support, along with pillars under the toe for a soft feel and foam in the midsole for lightweight cushioning. Improved stability also comes from the use of breathable, multi-directional mesh in the uppers. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-13 | Weight per shoe: 9.2 ounces

Best for Road Racing: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit

Dick's Sporting Goods

Why We Love It: The Air Zoom Alphafly NextT% Flyknit embodies everything you’d ever want in order to get you moving faster. 

What to Consider: All that tech comes at a price.

Nike athletes are no strangers to the podium, but even if you may not match their best time, the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% Flyknit can definitely help you record your next personal best. This shoe carries all of Nike’s latest running tech to improve your race times: a full-length carbon fiber plate to encourage forward momentum, the latest, lightweight FlyKnit fabric — AtomKnit — in the uppers for breathable protection and a contoured fit, and an outsole that provides traction where you need it. The stacking and materials adhere to World Athletics’ racing guidelines, and the cushioning makes each step feel soft and plush without sapping the responsive feel you need. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-12 | Weight per shoe: 7.4 ounces

Best for Trail Racing: Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro

Salomon Pulsar Trail Pro

Salomon

Why We Love It: Ready to tackle any sort of terrain, the Pulsar Trail Pro provides all the forward propulsion you want without having to shell out for carbon fiber. 

What to Consider: It only comes in one color.

Quick and nimble, the Pulsar Trail Pro from Salomon carries all of the brand’s latest footwear advances to keep you moving confidently and quickly, no matter how long the race or dicey the terrain. A lightweight TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) Energy Blade built into the midsole activates propulsion and drive and works  with the Energy Surge foam — a springy, comfortable midsole compound — that adds pop and smooths out the ride. The shoe comes with the All Terrain Contagrip outsole, which can handle a variety of terrain and gain traction on wet, hard, or loose surfaces. Rather than constructing the uppers with a traditional tongue, the Pulsar uses a soft collar, which improves comfort and creates a more ergonomic fit, and the minimalist lacing system is designed for one-pull tightening. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-11 | Weight per shoe: 8.11 ounces

Best for Underpronators: Brooks Women's Ghost 13 Running Shoes

Brooks Women's Ghost 13 Running Shoes

Amazon

Why We Love It: The midsole stack height in the Ghost 13 helps adjust to overpronation with each comfortable footfall, but without sapping any forward momentum. 

What to Consider: The 11-millimeter drop may be a bit much for some.

The cushion-designated Ghost 13 from Brooks focuses on providing the right amount of midsole foam to give ample support for underpronators, while affording a soft, smooth transition and a plush fit that doesn’t overdo the midsole stack height. The shock-absorbing outsole reinforces the shoe’s ability to adjust for any off-center foot strike and encourages easy flow from heel to toe launch, while the engineered mesh uppers hug the foot snugly without impacting breathability. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-12, full size 14 | Weight per shoe: 8.8 ounces

Best for Overpronators: New Balance Fresh Foam X 880v12 Running Shoe

4.5
best gym shoes

Zappos

Why We Love It: One of the most stable shoes on the market, the Fresh Foam X 860v12, also comes in a variety of colors and models for both wide and extra-wide feet. 

What to Consider: That assured stability does take away a bit of the overall feel.

Made for everyday runners who crave stability, New Balance’s Fresh Foam X 860v12 helps adjust to overpronation with a super-supportive midsole and an internal medial post. The top of the midsole is lined with forgiving foam, and the engineered mesh uppers include strategic embroidery for added support. Under foot, the textured outsole provides ample grip on wet surfaces and slightly uneven terrain, and little reflective accents will keep you visible on runs at dusk or dawn. 

Sizes: Full and half sizes 5-12, full size 13 | Weight per shoe: 9 ounces

Tips for Buying Running Shoes

Decide which category of running shoe you need

Focus on the type of running experience you desire. Most runners will opt for “neutral” shoes, which provide solid support and feel. But if you want something more rugged, consider shoes that fall in the stability category. The folks at Fleet Feet, a leading running retailer, point out that because women have wider hips than men, they “tend to overpronate slightly more than their male counterparts.” Stability shoes often will help adjust this for a clean and even stride. Cushioning shoes go further, with more foam padding in the midsole for a plush ride that does tend to sap some of the feel of the shoe, and can sometimes weigh more than more streamlined alternatives. At the opposite end of the spectrum, minimalist shoes provide nominal midsole padding, and work with a mid-strike running style and a shorter step cadence. These categories apply for both road and trail shoes.

Consider your priorities

First, consider what type of terrain you plan to explore — this typically breaks out into road or trail. Road runners provide a more streamlined profile, typically with a textured outsole to gain purchase on slick, wet surfaces, while the latter models boast an outsole with more aggressive treads and lugs to grip on dirt, sand, and loose surfaces( and sometimes also come with toe caps or rock plates to protect your feet). As the experts at REI explain, trail shoes are “generally stiffer through the midsole for more support.” Some brands even classify their trail shoes by particular types of terrain (rocky vs. mixed vs. mellow singletrack or fire roads) so, if you’re targeting a specific trail environment, this can help narrow options down. 

Know how they should fit

Whether you’re looking for a road or a trail runner, you want the fit to be somewhat snug, especially at the uppers. The shoes should feel secure from heel to toe – no squeezing, pinching, or hot spots that might cause blisters. Fleet Feet advises that you should “keep a thumb’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of your shoe.” And Golden Harper, founder of Altra (a leading shoe-maker) goes further, suggesting that you could even size up a half or full size from your normal shoe size, provided the top part of the runner is secure.

Think about your desired level of cushioning

“The leg is basically a two-foot spring,” Harper says, explaining his point of view on neutral runners. “No padding in a shoe is going to work better than our own body in terms of impact. But cushioning isn’t the devil. It’s still scientifically supported and helps protect against the rocks and obstacles on a trail.” With that in mind, unless you’re all-in on minimalist or barefoot running, cushioning can smooth out the ride and provide a degree of protection and bounce-back (or energy return). Maximalist shoes amp the foam midsole, typically integrating a rocker profile and a modest heel-to-toe drop to encourage forward momentum, but some may find that super-cushioned shoes can detract from the feel of solid ground contact. That said, if you suffer from sore knees or joints, shoes with lots of cushioning will help take some of the bite out of your foot strikes.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How often should I replace my running shoes?

    Leaving aside tears to the uppers, the shelf life of running shoes is dictated by the compression of the midsole; when the foam loses its bounce-back characteristics, it’s time to get a new pair. According to REI, this falls somewhere between “400 to 500 miles of running (three or four months for regular runners).” Heavier runners will fall on the shorter end of that spectrum, and shoes with less cushioning will wear out faster than those with more foam in the midsole.

  • Are running shoes good for walking?

    Road runners can absolutely be used for walking, and trail shoes can be used for hiking; in fact, Altra ranks as one of the most favored brands for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Just keep in mind that the longevity of the shoe will be impacted by walking, just as by running.

  • How do I break in running shoes?

    Today’s shoes almost universally offer out-of-the-box comfort, but it’s always a good idea to “test drive” a new pair of runners. Start by walking a few miles to see if the fit is secure and comfortable, and that there aren’t any pinch points or hot spots. Then go on a short run to see how the shoes operate at speed before ramping up to your target distance. 

Why Trust Travel +Leisure

Nathan Borchelt has been rating, reviewing, and testing outdoor and travel products for decades, and has been a dedicated road and trail runner for longer. In collating this review, the key characteristics of each shoe — its midsole stack height, heel-to-toe drop measurement, traction, fit, breathability, and any special tech — were evaluated against others on the market. Professional reviews, verified customer reviews, and input from both casual and race-focused runners were also taken into consideration.

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