Best Running Shoes for Women 2018

Whether you love road running, trail running, or minimalist sneakers, we’ve found, tested, and reviewed the best running shoes for women.

Best Trail Running Shoes for Women Review 2018

Finding the right women’s running shoe is 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.

We spent the past several 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.

Mom Athlete Chelsey Magness Testing the Best Women's Running Shoes
Mom and athlete Chelsey Magness tests the best women’s running shoes

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.

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 24: $160

Asics Gel-Kayano 24 Review

Designed with stabilization in mind, the Gel-Keyano 24 is a favorite among both long distance runners and casual joggers. The FlyteFoam provides cushion on long runs and absorbs shock while still providing adequate rebound. If over-pronation is your problem, give the Asics Gel-Kayano 24 a try.

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Hoka One One Clifton 4: $130

Hoka One One Clifton 4 Review

For those times when you need some extra cushion without the weight, the Hoka One One Clifton 4 is your answer. It’s a very popular shoe amongst the marathon and recreational running crowd because it’s comfortable and able to perform at any distance. One GearJunkie contributor loves having these in her quiver as a go-to recovery shoe. And while the iconic oversized sole (with 5mm heel-toe drop) may take a while to get used to, the pillowy comfort is worth it for a refreshing change.

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Altra Torin IQ: $220

Altra Torin IQ review

Looking for a personal running coach? Check out the Altra Torin IQ. Connect to the app and start moving, and a footbed sensor will log data on your form, cadence, and performance. Built on the popular Torin shoe design, these provide plenty of cushion and weigh in at just 7.4 ounces even with electronics. As with all Altras, it has zero drop from heel to toe, so does take a little getting used to and calf strengthening, but several of our editors love the feel of zero drop shoes. The Torin IQ does seem to run a bit narrower than other Altra models, so if extra toe room is your goal, go with something roomier like the Altra Escalante.

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Saucony Ride 10: $120

Saucony Ride 10 review

These neutral road running shoes provide just the right balance between cushion and sleek design, perfect for those looking for a shoe that will go the distance without added bulkiness. The mesh upper keeps feet cool, and the woven heel piece locks in the foot to prevent unwanted rubbing. We’re also happy to report they were immediately comfortable and required no break-in period. (Though, of course, this can vary by runner, so take it easy on your first run.)

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Nike Lunarepic Low Flyknit 2: $140

Improving on its predecessor, the Lunarepic Low Flyknit 2 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. Weighing in at 7.3 ounces (women’s size 8), it’s a relatively light choice. While 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 around town errands, this is a shoe that can do it all.

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361 Sensation 3: $130

361 Sensation 3 review

An all-around workhorse, the Sensation 3 from Chinese brand 361 provides mild stability and is suitable for long runs, sprint work, and leisurely walks. The proprietary midsole construction makes these a solid choice for comfortable all-day wear and means that same comfort level will last throughout the lifetime of the shoe. Weighing in at 8.4 ounces per shoe, they’re neither super light nor heavy. And one of our favorite features is the minimalist tongue. No more upper foot pressure and bulky tongue-induced rubbing.

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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.

Salewa Lite Train Shoes: $129

Salewa Lite Train Shoes review

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 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 do not add much weight (coming in at 8 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 side hilling.

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Columbia Montrail Caldorado III – $120

Columbia Montrail Women's Trail Running Shoe

Updated with a new seamless upper, these shoes rate high for abrasion-proof comfort and offer plenty of grip with a 4mm lug. The reinforced toe cap protects from debris without adding bulk and the patented midfoot technology provides top-notch stability. These also come in an Outdry model which is a great choice for sloppy, winter conditions. These are a favorite all-around trail running and hiking shoe for one of our male editors, and the female version is very similar on a female-fit last. Overall, it’s an excellent running shoe that gives enough support and traction for lots of fast hiking, too.

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Inov8 TrailRoc 285: $150

Inov8 TrailRoc 285 review

The new 285s have an even more durable upper mesh than previous models. And best of all, it’s fine enough to keep out tiny rocks, grit, and sand. Additionally, the soles have a slight increase in heel and midsole cushion, making these even more comfortable for longer and harder trail runs. For the recreational hiker or runner, these may be too much. However, for the technical mountain runner, ultra runner, or climber looking for a long distance light approach shoe, these could be your new best mates.

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Vasque Vertical Velocity: $129.99

Vasque Vertical Velocity review

These provide just enough protection from rocks and sticks without losing the ability to feel the trail beneath your feet. Great for trail running, we also like them as a lightweight hiking option. The wide toe box gives feet plenty of room, and the high-energy return will keep you feeling spry. At 8 ounces per shoe, these we won’t weigh you down, either. And if your size is available, you can snag a pair right now for half off at REI.com.

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Salomon Sense Ride – $120

Salomon Sense Ride Best Affordable Trail Running Shoe 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. The quick-laces are great for anyone used to fighting with laces coming undone on the trail. And we like that the breathable mesh keeps feet cooler and helps avoid blisters. An all around solid trail running shoe for a multitude of terrains and up to ultra-distances. Salomon does tend to run a little narrow, so try on a few pairs to see how they fit your foot.

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Salomon Sense Ride Trail Running Shoe Review
Pro-Level Trail Shoe, Affordable Price: Salomon Sense Ride Review

The Salomon Sense Ride borrows specs from the elite S-Lab line for a familiar shoe that meets most trail running needs but doesn't break the bank. Read more…

Inov8 X-Talon 212: $115

Inov8 X-Talon 212 review

This entire shoe is so flexible you can literally wring it out like a wet rag. Combined with the ultra sticky sole, this makes the Inov8 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 on to 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 ultra loose, wet, and/or muddy, these are your best weapon.

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Altra Superior 3.5: $110

Altra Superior 3.5 review

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 3.0, the 3.5 brings the addition of a more durable upper and varied color options. GearJunkie’s barefoot-running fan and tester 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 kilometers, where they were a little thinner than some may want with a light 21mm of cushion under foot. Consider adding some more cushion with the Lone Peak (25mm) or Olympus (36mm) if you have sensitive feet for long distances.

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Brooks PureGrit 6: $120

Brooks PureGrit 6 review

Looking for increased traction without the bulk? The PureGrit 6 has it. Plus, the mesh-like upper provides plenty of ventilation, and the expanded toe rubber protects from rocks. We’ve worn these dashing about on trail runs, hiking along the AT, and even to the gym on a few occasions. Through it all, they’ve provided plenty of comfort, durability, and, of course, traction.

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Altra King MT 1.5: $140

This is a specialized shoe for mud and slop, so it’s not a good choice for everyday running. But for mud racing or sloppy steep trails, this is our top choice on the market. The King MT has gnarly 6mm Vibram lugs to grab soft earth. A velcro strap over the instep keeps the shoes stable even when wet. Think of them as mud terrain tires for your feet. We’ve used them and love them on the super soft muck of spring. Just don’t plan to bang out pavement miles as these things are dedicated off-road traction!

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Best Minimalist Running Shoes

Barefoot and minimalist fans know that sometimes less really is 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 build-up of milage to avoid injury.

Merrell Vapor Glove: $80

Merrel Vapor Glove review

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. A winner for anyone looking for an all-around multipurpose minimalist sneaker.

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Merrell Pace Glove and Merrell Trail Glove Women's Trail running shoes
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Softstar Adult Dash RunAmoc: $130

Softstar Adult Dash Run Amoc review

Handmade in Oregon, these certainly don’t look like your average running shoe. But they are extremely comfortable and an excellent choice for minimalist-lovers, 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 2-mm street sole or 5-mm trail sole and feel good knowing you’re buying a product handmade in the USA.

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Vibram Five Fingers V Run: $130

Vibram Five Fingers V Run review

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. 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.

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Oso 2.0 Luna Sandals: $115

Oso 2.0 Luna Sandals review

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 are 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.

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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 give that same level of comfort after wearing them 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. One trick pony or work horse? 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.

  1. Shop at the end of the day. Your feet naturally swell as the day progresses. Trying on shoes at this time helps avoid buying shoes that feel just right in the store but later squeeze and feel too tight.
  2. Consider aftermarket insoles and orthotics. Designed to enhance comfort, stability, and fit, aftermarket insoles are popular among runners (we particularly like these).
  3. 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.
  4. 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 to 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 to 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 and we’ll check it out for future updates.

And now that your feet are set, make sure you have the right sports bra:

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