Altra - Best Running Shoes for Women

Best Running Shoes for Women in 2019

Whether you love road running, trail running, or barefoot excursions, we’ve found, tested, and reviewed the best running shoes for women in 2019.

Finding the right running shoes can be a pain. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to narrow them all down. Don’t worry, though — we’ve got you covered.

Mom Athlete Chelsey Magness Testing the Best Women's Running Shoes
Testing the best running shoes near Bend, Oregon

We spent months researching and testing all manner of running shoes. Testing included intense mountain runs, moderate trail runs, adventurous day hikes, runs along cement and pavement, plenty of treadmill miles, and a few fitness classes. We wore them through rain, snow, mud, and sun on adventures around the world. And we even tossed in some errands around town, because everyone wears their shoes for more than just running.

Below, you’ll find shoes separated into three categories: road running, trail running, and minimalist shoes. Of course, some could fit in more than one category, and this list doesn’t cover every women’s running shoe out there. But these are some of our favorites, and we’ll keep this list updated with new releases. And if you’re not sure how to choose, check out our handy buyer’s guide at the end of this article.

Best Road-Running Shoes for Women

Whether pounding the pavement training for a marathon, jogging in the neighborhood, or walking around town, these are the best shoes for road running. And we know plenty of women who use them in the gym, at the office, and tackling errands on the daily.

ASICS GEL-Kayano 25: $160

ASICS GEL-Kayano 25 Running Shoe for Women

Designed with stabilization in mind, the GEL-Kayano 25 is a favorite among both long-distance runners and casual joggers. These shoes manage to provide adequate cushioning without feeling like you’re on stilts.

For long runs, we were happy with how the FlyteFoam offered plenty of cushion and absorbed shock while still providing adequate rebound. The heel fits snug, without rubbing. And while the toe box has enough room that our feet never felt squished, it’s not as wide as brands like Altra. Overall, though, this is a solid do-all shoe. It easily transitions from road running to light hiking to grabbing groceries in town.

And if overpronation is your problem, the ASICS GEL-Kayano 25 should be a top contender. The padded outsole and grooved insole provide excellent stabilization. This shoe has a lot of drop at 13 mm heel-to-toe, so it’s not a great choice for those who want a flat landing.

Weight (per pair): 18.2 ounces
Drop: 13 mm
Best for: Managing overpronation

See the ASICS GEL-Kayano 25

Brooks Ghost 11: $100

Brooks Ghost 11 Running Shoes for Women

This versatile shoe doesn’t weigh feet down and still provides plenty of support. And at just $100, it’s a great value, too. The mesh uppers have just enough stretch to comfortably fit most any foot. Built with segmented “crash pads,” the Ghost 11 really does adapt to your foot strike and provide cushion no matter the type of stride. it’s worth noting that this shoe has a lot of heel-to-toe drop at 12 mm, so those wanting a flatter shoe should look elsewhere.

Anyone looking for a light, neutral running shoe will be happy with the Ghost 11. It offers plenty of cushion and energy return without feeling heavy on your foot. We found the regular sizes to be great for narrower feet, but they may be too snug otherwise. Luckily, these are also available in wide sizes.

Weight (per pair): 19 ounces
Drop: 12 mm
Best for: Support during road runs

See the Brooks Ghost 11

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6: $130

HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6

For those times when you need some extra cushion, the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6 is your answer. It’s no surprise this a majorly popular shoe amongst marathoners. The full-compression EVA midsoles provide maximum cushioning and comfort for long days pounding the pavement. And while the iconic oversized sole (with small 5mm heel-toe drop) may take a while to get used to, the pillowy comfort is worth it for a refreshing change.

For 2019, the Clifton 6 has been updated to reduce weight and create an even smoother ride. The upper has a new embroidered design that improves lockdown without adding any weight. We found the changes slight — but positive. Even if it doesn’t become your all-the-time running shoe, it’s a great option for really long runs and post-race padding. One GearJunkie contributor loves having these in her quiver as a go-to recovery shoe, and we know many marathon runners, long-distance walkers, and nurses who swear by them.

Weight (per pair): 14.7 ounces
Drop: 5 mm
Best for: Long runs when you need extra cushion

See the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 6

Altra Escalante 2: $130

Altra Escalante 2 Women's Running Shoe

Known for making shoes that are “shaped like a foot,” Altra has built an avid fanbase with its wide toe-box design. And the Escalante 2 are no exception. The knit uppers give a snug yet breathable fit. And the heel cup kept our feet secure without any rubbing or blisters. At just 14.8 ounces per pair, these shoes won’t weigh your feet down.

Our testers liked the flexibility, and, though not as cushioned as other models on this list, we never had any problem during long road runs. Anyone who likes a more minimalist shoe design (but with plenty of padding) will appreciate the zero drop. Fans of this style claim it helps with a more natural foot strike, but it can take some getting used to and is a matter of personal preference.

Weight (per pair): 14.8 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Runners who want room for toes to spread out

See the Altra Escalante 2

Nike Free RN Flyknit: $120

Nike Free RN Flyknit Running Shoe for Women

Built for life on the go, the Nike Free RN Flyknit packs down small so you can toss it in the gym bag just in case. It slips on easily and has a snug, seamless fit. Constructed more like a heavy sock than a traditional shoe, it forms to the foot nicely. Rocks can easily get stuck in the open geometric sole, which can be annoying on a run outdoors. But if you mostly stick to treadmill miles, it’s not a concern.

Weighing in at 6.4 ounces (women’s size 8), it’s a relatively light choice. Although it leaves a little to be desired in terms of responsiveness, it’s a great all-around shoe. If your routine is a mix of fitness classes, shorter runs, gym workouts, and errands around town, this is a shoe that can do it all.

Weight (per pair): 14.8 ounces
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Fitness classes, short runs, errands around town

See the Nike Free RN Flyknit

Topo Athletic Magnifly 2: $110

Topo Athletic Magnifly 2 Women's Running Shoes

An all-around workhorse, the Topo Magnifly 2 provides mild stability and is suitable for long runs, sprint work, and leisurely walks. The dual-density midsole is firm on the bottom and soft on the top for a snappy, responsive run. The zero drop aims to support a natural stride and keep feet in touch with the ground.

We’ve used these on long runs, and they had just enough cushion to keep us comfortable. But depending on the runner, you may want something with more padding when logging mega miles. We like the light feel, and our feet never got too hot even in the humid South. All in all, these are a great shoe for all manner of road running.

Weight (per pair): 16.6 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: All manner of road running

See the Topo Athletic Magnifly 2

Best Women’s Trail-Running Shoes

Sure, you could get away with wearing normal sneakers on the trail. But having a pair of trail-specific running shoes provides increased comfort, grip, and protection from rocks and debris. Below we’ve highlighted some of our favorite off-road shoes, but for the full list check out the best trail running shoes for women of 2019.

Saucony Peregrine ISO: $120

Saucony Peregrine ISO trail-running shoe

The Peregrine is a perennial favorite, and the newest ISO version is no exception. These tick all the major boxes for comfort, durability, traction, and weight, making them one of the best women’s trail-running shoes of 2019. The cushion provides comfort for long days on the trail, and the reinforced sole protects against sharp rocks and debris. We found them plenty responsive on the uphill and pleasantly forgiving on the down.

The ISOFit lace system has been lauded for providing a custom fit. And while we can’t promise it’s anything revolutionary, we did find these snug-fitting — an important factor when navigating uneven terrain. The one piece we’re not unanimously sold on is the extra-cushioned heel collar. Some testers find it helpful in providing a snug fit whereas others hate how bulky it is. This is a matter of foot shape and preference but is worth noting.

Weight (per pair): 10.5 ounces
Drop:  4 mm
Best for: Regular use and variable terrain

See the Saucony Peregrine ISO

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HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 Trail: $130

Hoka One One Challenger Atr 5

For maximum comfort and cushioning, look no further than the Challenger. The oversize foam sole provides plenty of protection, and the extended toe cap guards against rocks and branches. The 5mm drop and rocker shape can take some getting used to, but the extra padding and breathable upper provide all-day comfort. Some testers found it to run large, so we recommend trying on to find the perfect fit.

Weight (per pair): 15.4 ounces
Drop: 5 mm
Best for anyone looking for a shoe that can transition from trail to road while providing plenty of cushioning.

See the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger

Salewa Lite Train K Trail Shoes: $130

Salewa Lite Train Knit Trail Running Shoe for Women

Designed in the heart of the Dolomites, Salewa is no stranger to making gear that is functional, fast, and light. After a few weeks of speed hiking up steep hillsides, running hill intervals, and trail running in New Zealand, our GearJunkie contributor was beyond pleased with the Lite Train shoes. The knit-mesh upper manages to combine comfort and support for a snug but unrestrictive fit.

The outsoles present a partnership with tire manufacturer Michelin and boast a special sculpted and grooved design inspired by mountain bike tires. Surprisingly, the aggressive lugs don’t add much weight (coming in at 8.25 ounces) or rigidity but instead adapt and grip to all types of terrain like wet logs’ steep, muddy trails; loose scree fields; and even aggressive sidehilling.

Weight (per pair): 16.5 ounces
Drop: Unavailable
Best for: Loose scree fields, hilly trail runs

See the Salewa Lite Train Trail Shoes

Salomon Sense Ride 2: $120

Salomon Sense Ride 2 Trail-running Shoes for Women

Borrowing from the elite S/Lab line, the Sense Ride offers excellent functionality without breaking the bank (at least compared to the $180 elite series). Weighing in at 8.8 ounces and with a 27mm heel stack, these shoes offer plenty of protection without weighing you down. Part foam and part dampening compound, the two midsole components work together to provide a cushioned ride that quiets all-day trail vibrations.

The quick-lace system is a matter of personal preference. Some testers loved it, others wished for a classic shoelace. But we all liked that the breathable mesh keeps feet cooler and helps avoid blisters. This is an all-around solid trail-running shoe for a multitude of terrains and up to ultradistances. Salomon does tend to run a little narrow, so try on a few pairs to see how they fit your foot.

Weight (per pair): 17 ounces
Drop: 8 mm
Best for: Variable trail runs

See the Salomon Sense Ride 2

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inov-8 X-Talon 212: $131

inov-8 X-Talon 212

This entire shoe is so flexible you can literally wring it out like a wet rag. Combined with the ultrasticky sole, this makes the inov-8 X-Talon 212 an amazing choice for off-trail running and unpredictable terrain. They are also great for big climb runs, as they work well for scrambling up rocks and are light enough to easily clip onto a harness.

We don’t suggest using these as your everyday trainers; the rubber wears down over time. However, for special occasions like race days and hard training days when the terrain is loose, wet, or muddy, these are your best weapon.

Weight (per pair): 14.8 ounces
Drop: 6 mm
Best for: Loose, wet, or muddy terrain

See the inov-8 X-Talon 212

Altra Superior 4: $110

Altra Superior 4 Trail Running Shoe for Women

If squished toes are your problem, Altra is your answer. Designed to “look like a foot,” the expanded toe box is a favorite among wide-footed runners. Very similar to the Superior 3.5, the 4.0 brings a lighter shoe with a redesign of the knit wraparound upper and varied color options. The removable rock plate allows for customization depending on the trail. And the TrailClaw tread design offered plenty of traction while testing on moderate trails outside San Francisco.

GearJunkie’s barefoot-running fan and editor Mallory Paige likes the zero drop, but it may take some getting used to for those accustomed to more padded shoes. It’s perfect for a lightweight day trek, minimalist thru-hike, or off-road trail run. We’ve used these on ultramaratons up to 100 km, where they were a little thinner than some may want with a light 21 mm of cushion under foot. For long distances, consider adding some more cushion with the Lone Peak (25 mm) or Olympus (36 mm) if you have sensitive feet.

Weight (per pair): 13.2 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Almost barefoot running

See the Altra Superior 4

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Best Minimalist Running Shoes

Barefoot and minimalist fans know that sometimes less is really more. Though many runners want more support and coverage, there are still plenty of barefoot enthusiasts crushing marathons, ultras, and daily workouts (and let’s not forget about Barefoot Ted). Here, you’ll find four of our favorite minimalist running shoes.

Be forewarned, though: Minimal shoes can cause injury if you switch to them too quickly. Be sure to train up to minimal shoes slowly with short distances and gradual buildup of mileage to avoid injury.

Merrell Vapor Glove: $80

Merrell Vapor Glove

As the name implies, these shoes truly do fit like a glove. The breathable mesh keeps you cool in the summer and allows you to comfortably go without socks. We found them comfortable straight out of the box and have happily worn them hiking, biking, running, camping, and traveling.

At just 8 ounces for the pair, these shoes are incredibly lightweight while still offering all the features of a running shoe. They pack up small, making them a great choice for travel. The Vibram outsole offers enough protection on road runs, but you may feel rocks underfoot when going off road. The Vapor Glove is a winner for anyone looking for an all-around multipurpose, minimalist sneaker.

Weight (per pair): 8 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Daily barefoot running, travel

See the Merrell Vapor Glove

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Softstar Adult Dash RunAmoc: $130

Softstar Adult Dash RunAmoc

Handmade in Oregon, these certainly don’t look like your average running shoe. But they are extremely comfortable and an excellent choice for minimalists, barefoot aficionados, and travelers (they pack up impressively small and weigh 6 ounces). Once we got over the unusual look of these shoes, we were immediately impressed with how comfortable the RumAmoc was straight out of the box. 

The high-quality leather molds to the foot, and the spacious design allows toes plenty of room. Choose between a 2mm street sole or 5mm trail sole and feel good knowing you’re buying a product handmade in the USA. And if you fall in love with these unique running shoes, you can expand from there to the brand’s minimalist sandals, boots, and slippers for the whole family.

Weight (per pair): 6 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Travel, longlasting trail or road shoes

See the Softstar RunAmoc

Vibram Five Fingers V Run: $130

Vibram Five Fingers V Run

Redesigned with perforated uppers for increased breathability, these minimal running shoes will certainly get some weird looks. I’ve gotten used to being stared at while jogging, but don’t be surprised if someone stops you to talk about the toe-defining footwear. The adjustable pull-tab allows for a more customized fit, and the rubber outsole provides just enough protection from the ground. Originally made popular during the heyday of “Born to Run,” the Five Finger shoes maintain a strong fanbase and innovative design.

Do note that it can take time to transition from regular running shoes to barefoot runners. Start slowly and ramp up your mileage while varying between grass and pavement whenever possible.

Weight (per pair): 7.5 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Summer runs, letting feet breathe

See the Vibram Five Fingers V Run

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Luna Oso 2.0 Running Sandals: $115

Oso 2.0 Luna Sandals

One tester in the GearJunkie crew has been wearing these for the past three summer seasons as her main footwear. That includes short trail runs, light hikes, and as a climbing approach shoe. The straps stay on and don’t rub, even after 10 miles! And the soles are ultra grippy, so you don’t have to slow down much when crossing rivers or running over wet logs.

But it’s worth noting these sandals fit a little differently than shoes. In shoes, you want room for you toes; in Lunas, you actually want your toes to go over the edge a tiny bit. This helps with grip and traction. Also, if you’re new to this type of footwear, give your feet time to get used to them. Don’t go out on a big run right away — take it slow and work up to trail running bit by bit.

Weight (per pair): 18 ounces
Drop: Zero
Best for: Multisport summer adventures

See the Luna Oso Running Sandal

How to Choose a Running Shoe

The truth is, most shoes feel comfortable when you’re standing in the store. The trick is finding a pair that gives that same level of comfort after wearing it for weeks and logging a lot of miles. To help you find the right pair of running shoes, we’ve organized a few things to consider when shopping.

Consider your running style and goals. Will you be running on pavement, using a treadmill at the gym, or hitting the trails? Do you plan to run a certain amount of miles every week or have a more casual schedule? These questions will help determine what category of shoes to purchase and the budget worth spending.

How do you run? Check the wear pattern on your old shoes.

  • Pronation shows a wear pattern centralized on the ball of the foot and a bit of the heel.
  • Overpronation shows wear along the the inside edge of your shoe (meaning your feet are rolling in when striking). This common issue can lead to knee and joint pain. A stabilizing shoe may help.
  • Supination is identified by wear along the outer edge of your shoes (feet are rolling out). This is less common, but increased cushioning can help.

One trick pony or workhorse? Training specifically for a marathon? Choose a shoe that can pound the pavement day after day. Love to dabble? Look for a shoe that’s equally comfortable in the gym, on the trail, or working at home. There’s no right or wrong, but it pays to think about what you need out of a running shoe before buying a pair.

Running Shoe Buyer’s Guide

Ordering online is great, but if you don’t know your exact size or are new to buying running shoes, it helps to try them on. Here are a few tips for shopping for running shoes.

Shop at the end of the day. Your feet naturally swell as the day progresses. Trying on shoes at this time helps you avoid buying shoes that feel just right in the store but later squeeze and feel too tight.

Consider aftermarket insoles and orthotics. Designed to enhance comfort, stability, and fit, aftermarket insoles are popular among runners (we particularly like these).

Bring the right accessories. Do you have certain socks you wear running? What about that insole? Try these on with your shoes to ensure a proper fit.

Don’t just sit there. If you can, take them for a test run. If you’re stuck inside a store, do a couple sprints, jump, and change direction. Sure it might look silly, but knowing how the shoes feel when you move will lead to a better-fitting running shoe at the end of the day.

How Long Do Running Shoes Last?

The life of a shoe depends on a variety of factors, including running style, weight, and how often they’re used. In general, though, 300-500 miles is a good rule of thumb.

So if you run 10 miles a week, your shoes could last 8 months to a year. If you’re logging 20 miles a week, plan on replacing your running shoes every 4-6 months.

And if you see excessive wear patterns, holes, tears, or notice a decrease in footbed comfort, it’s probably time to grab a new pair of sneakers.

Have a favorite running shoe we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.

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