15 Best Running Shoes for Women + How to Pick The Right Trainers for You

by | Jan 19, 2022 | Fitness

Finding the right running trainers for you is just as important as correct form and technique. (And, yes. That includes getting your running warm-up and cool-down done, too. No skipping!). Plus, with it being a new year, it’s a pretty good time to treat yourself and get all kitted out.

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Why are good running shoes so important?

Making sure you have the right running shoes is a point certified strength coach and footwear expert Emma Kirk-Odunubi stresses, especially because different runs demand different footwear:

‘As your distance increases many people generally want to increase the cushioning level of their shoe. For (postponed) half marathon or marathon runners, having greater cushioning over longer distances can have its benefits.’

But we get it: good running shoes are an investment and the price tag can often exceed what you’d budgeted to spend on new takkies. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a mix of the best women’s running trainers so you can shop to your feet and budget’s content.

What to look for in running shoes for women

  • Cushioning: This helps the ground feel softer underfoot and encourages ground-contact stability.
  • Weight: Lighter shoes typically have less cushioning, giving an increased rebound off the ground. They’re designed for speedy splits and powerful runs. For longer distances choose heavier shoes with more cushioning.
  • Drop: This is the difference in the cushioning level from the rear foot to the forefoot. The lower the drop, the more conducive the shoe is for a speedy running style. Speed shoes will tend to have around a 4mm drop.

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Best Cushioned Running Shoes

1. HOKA Clifton 8

  • Best for: Long distance training
  • Weight: 215g
  • Drop: 5mm
  • How much? R2 599.95

The Clifton 8 from Hoka are a dreamy neutral, cushioned shoe that gives you consistent support without weighing you down. Perfect for taking on longer distances, they offer a stable ride as you pound out the kilometres.

‘They’re a shoe I don’t think about being on my feet and I mean that in the best possible way. I can run for [kilometres] and [kilometres] of marathon training without feeling the time in my feet,’ says runner Francesca Menato. ‘There’s enough bounce that you don’t feel like you’re missing out on something super responsive, but mostly they’re an incredibly comfortable shoe.’

You can wear them for any distance but they’re not designed to give you as much bang for your buck if you’re trying to knock out a 5km PB. That said, they’re a great all-rounder.

Hoka Clifton 8

2. Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

  • Best for: All-round training
  • Weight: lightweight
  • Drop: 6mm
  • How much? R2 399.95

Runners LOVE ‘workhorse with wings’ Nike Pegasus trainers. A bounce around in these will have even the most tentative of joggers drawing up their marathon training plans. Signature responsive foam, a breathable upper and a wider fit at the toes mean you can clock up distances comfortably and recover swiftly, ready to take flight again.

Having tried every type of Nike ‘Pegs’ since the 32s, Francesca Menato, took these for a spin.

‘I was in a committed relationship with the Pegs for years but we had to part ways a few iterations ago as they made the sole firmer and the shoe base narrower. So, sceptical but always hopeful, I tried the Pegasus 38. They may just be the middle ground between the old and new. A wider shoe with an update to the lacing, these feel secure and comfortable.’

‘For me, they take the term “neutral shoe” to the next level. They feel like the running trainers you could truck along in for [kilometres] and [kilometres].’

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

3. Adidas Ultraboost 21s

  • Best for: Road running
  • Weight: 340g
  • Drop: 10mm
  • How much? R3 599

Here are the specs you need to know before adding to basket – a sock-like fit with 6% more cushioning than previous Boost iterations; Primeblue material made with Parley Ocean Plastic (Adidas’ recycled high-performance fabric) and no virgin polyester; supportive heel counter and 115% increase in forefoot bending stiffness to make them your most responsive trainers yet.

Be aware, they are heavier than the UB20s and as such definitely lend themselves to easy, longer mileage over a speedy 5k.

Adidas Ultraboost 21s

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4. Saucony Ride 14

  • Best for: All-round training
  • Weight: 238g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • How much? R2 649

Lighter (and faster) than previous models these stealth-cool women’s trainers signal you know your sport. Designed with a durable outsole and PWRRUN cushioning, you’ll be springy, supported and stable as you get going. A firm run-favourite of Fitness Writer Morgan Fargo, these shoes are basically everything we love in a running shoe and more. Cheers, Sauc’.

Saucony Ride 14

5. Asics Novablast 2

  • Best for: Neutral runners who want extra propulsion
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • How much? R2 499

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re running on a mini-trampoline – in a brilliant way – these Asics Novablast will do that and then some. The propulsive nature of the foam midsole means every step you put in will be energised, cushioned and keep you trucking on when the kilometres rack up.

Shave seconds off your 5k, stay cool with a breathable upper or just enjoy the feeling of running on more cushion than you thought possible – Novablast are the running shoe for you.

Asics Novablast 2

6. HOKA Carbon X 2

  • Best for: Distance racing (and other bouncy long runs)
  • Weight: 198g
  • How much? R3 499.90

You say cushioned, HOKA says cushioned. Another trainer that utilises the carbon plate, these shoes feel less aggressive in their propulsion than some of their counterparts. So, if you like the idea of super light, bouncy running shoes that secretly give you a helping hand in turning over your feet, we’ve found them. Ideal for springing your way through longer kilometres.

HOKA Carbon X 2

7. On Running Cloudflow

  • Best for: 10km race training
  • Weight: 235g
  • Drop: 6mm
  • How much? R2 899

A newer ON Running shoe, the Cloudflow, combines their Helion™ super foam along with a curved heel for ‘better hold, durability and comfort.’

Basically, they’re going to feel light on the top of your foot, super cushioned underneath and cool thanks to the ventilated mesh. The new rubber traction base will also keep you more stable on slippery wet roads.

On Running Cloudflow

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8. Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next %

  • Best for: Speed training
  • How much? R3 899

Designed to go the distance, this Nike iteration of the cult-followed Next % trainers are the everyday companion for comfort and durability. The visible Zoom Air unit (the round disc) gives springy cushioning while the Nike React technology in the heel is lightweight to help keep your stride as efficient as poss.

Be aware these are designed specifically for shorter ‘tempo’ runs. Hence the name. If you’re looking for an all-rounder, check out the Nike ZoomX Invincibles below.

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next %

9. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

  • Best for: Beginner distance running
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Weight: 230g
  • How much? R2 599.90

Cushioned, stable, lightweight – three words we love to hear when it comes to trainers that’ll more than do the job. A running staple, New Balance Fresh Foam is a style that’s been around for aeons – fortunately for us, they just keep making it better. This latest style has enough support for long-distance runs whilst the foam and cushioning helps you pick up speed too.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

10. Skechers Max Cushioning Premier

  • Best for: Runners on a budget
  • Weight: 213g
  • Drop: 6mm
  • How much? R1 499

Skechers Max Cushioning Premier shoe adds extra comfort to your run (without weighing you down in the process) while letting tired feet breathe as they work. Cushioned, lightweight and breathable, these gems come in at under R1 500.

Skechers Max Cushioning Premier

11. Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

  • Best for: Injury-prone runners
  • Weight: 253g
  • Drop: 8.4 mm
  • How much? R3 499

One of Nike’s most popular running shoes for women (The React Infinity Run Flyknit 2) has had a revamp: enter the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run women’s trainers.

Injury plagues runners of all levels and it can be something that stops people from joining the sport or rejoining post-injury,’ says Brett Holts, VP of Nike Running.

So what makes these so special? According to the brand, it’s ‘The Nike ZoomX foam, [it’s] our most responsive and soft foam—and we used a lot more of it than you’d find in most everyday Nike running shoes.’ They counteract the instability that comes with extra foam with the ‘rocker’ shape.

After 12 weeks of testing, Nike found that these trainers had similar results to their predecessors. A study conducted by the BCSMRF showed that runners wearing those shoes had a 52% lower injury rate than those wearing the control shoe. So, if you’re constantly bemoaning a sore-this or a pulled-that, it might be time to invest in some kit that quite literally was made for the job.

Francesca Menato was a bona fide Infinity React super fan and can attest that this latest iteration is just as bouncy and that the increase of a few grams can’t be felt. Nike wants to ‘make running feel easy’. In these, it’s certainly easier.

Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

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Best ‘Smart’ Running Shoe For Women

12. Women’s UA Flow Velociti Wind Running Shoes

  • Best for: Neutral runners who like to track their stats
  • Weight: 227g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • How much? R3 499

Under Armour’s speed-friendly running shoe comes with a personal running coach that when connected to MapMyRun™ tracks your stride length, cadence and pace and coaches you in real-time. As for the shoes, these kicks are designed for shorter, sharper sessions but unlike some running trainers designed for speed work, they still come with decent cushioning. The sole is shaped with a slight rock to propel you with every stride. Why thank you.

Women's UA Flow Velociti Wind Running Shoes

Best Road Running Shoes For Women

13. Saucony Endorphin Shift

  • Best for: Runners looking to up the distance
  • Weight: 269g
  • Drop: 4mm
  • How much? R2 799.90

So. You’ve completed the Couch to 5k app, you’ve been running on the reg and you’re looking to take it to the next level. These are the shoes for you. The Saucony Endorphin Shift promises to make every run feel easier – and it really delivers. How, you ask? The PWRRUN cushioning feels super plush, and the SPEEDROLL technology enhances each and every stride to keep you moving forward.

Saucony Endorphin Shift

14. Brooks Running Ghost 14

  • Best for: everyday road runners
  • Weight: 255.1g
  • How much? R2 599.90

Designed for a soft and smooth ride these Ghost 14’s are perfect for road running, with the midsole offering you that easy, comfortable glide from landing to toe-off. The cushioning isn’t too squishy either so you still feel supported and, importantly, won’t even notice the transitions as you run.

Brooks Running Ghost 14

Best supportive running shoes for women

15. Saucony Guide 14

  • Best for: Cushioned support
  • Weight: 244g
  • Drop: 8mm
  • How much? R2 799.90

Looking for extra comfort when you run? The Saucony Guide 14’s are the kicks for you. Reliable, cushioned, with a fluid feel from heel to toe, you’ll be supported your whole run long. Plus, with reduced bulk, you’ll feel light and free as you stride. Love that.

Saucony Guide 14

*This article was originally published on Women’s Health UK

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