Starting with online research, we scoured the market, looking for the best and most exceptional women's running shoes. We read reviews of hundreds of the most beloved models on the market to decide which truly are the best of the best! Our search led us to 15 pairs manufactured by multiple companies, all with above-average reviews and a lot to offer. We compared materials, design, and each pair's specified purpose to pick the top products for our rigorous hands-on testing.
We splashed through puddles, sprinted on gravel, and allowed our feet to sweat profusely in each pair to see what they could withstand. Our judgment started the moment we took each model out of the box, where we evaluated weight and alleged purpose. We evaluated each shoe both in its specific use, like long distances or speed workouts, as well as how it holds up as an overall, everyday shoe. We determined which kicks are comfortable enough to wear all day and which didn't hold up to the hype. We prioritized viewing each shoe through a consumer's lens to determine which would be the most versatile for runners looking to only purchase a single pair.
Responsiveness is a somewhat tricky metric and required some intention to correctly assess. Beginning with fresh legs, we jogged to warm up and noticed if we felt held back, propelled, or neutral in each pair. We noted whether we felt like each footfall was effortless or a burden and ranked them based on that criteria.
We initially noticed upper and landing comfort upon slipping our feet into each brand new pair. From there, we determined which shoes are comfortable right out of the gate and which might take some getting used to. We walk-jogged the first mile in each pair in order to slow down and tune into the true nature of each. The landing comfort we originally perceived on the maiden voyages typically stayed true as we tested. We took notes on how sore our muscles were after long runs in each pair and allowed that to guide our rankings slightly. In general, the better the landing comfort, the less joint and shin discomfort we felt post-high mileage days.
Before we did anything else, we weighed each pair of shoes on our own scale, both as a pair and then individually. Once we determined the weight, we were able to better understand the type of running each shoe was made for and what it would excel at.
We had a lot of fun testing durability! We ran up steep, gravelly hills and sloshed through puddles in an effort to beat the kicks up. We were merciless in our durability testing and remain pleased with how well most of these models stacked up. We ran along the beach and scraped our soles on rocks; sometimes we even kicked the rocks (gently, of course) to gauge protection.
Upper comfort is another metric we noticed straight out of the box, as mentioned above. Unlike landing comfort, though, our original impressions didn't always stay true! It is a good thing that we implemented long runs in our testing plan because that is when we truly got to know these puppies. Towards the end of long days, some shoes remained comfortable while others were inflexible and oppressive.
Breathability is our favorite beach metric, that's for sure! Not only did we judge how cool our feet stayed, but we observed how much sand and silt was able to pass through the gaps in the mesh. We systematically tested each pair with technical, moisture-wicking socks and then again with cotton socks to ensure an extremely fair trial.
Over the course of ten weeks, we truly beat these shoes up. We ran dozens of miles in each shoe across pavement, beaches, high school tracks, and even some Central California trails. We tracked mileage on our Garmins, and after putting 10 miles on each pair, we dove deeper to test durability and breathability across dozens more miles (uh, yes, our legs are tired). While some of our testing protocol made us look silly, we did so happily to help provide the most comprehensive and honest running shoe review out there!