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Since 2014, our team has tested over 100 of the best and most popular running shoes for women. We recently bought 12 of today's top models for our latest head-to-head testing. We have pounded miles of pavement, judging every detail of these kicks along the way. We tested each pair on roads, tracks, treadmills, and light trails, taking in-depth notes on the most influential characteristics. We ran through scorching heat, pelting rain, and sunshiny days while ruthlessly judging responsiveness, landing comfort, stability, upper comfort, and weight. From budget buys to long-distance runners and lightning-fast milers, we've found the perfect kicks for your individualized needs and budget.
Weight Per Shoe (Size 7): 8.1 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 12 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Super smooth footstrike
Great width options
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavier than others
Reconfigured heel cup won't please everyone
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 is an updated version of one of Brooks's longest-standing, most-popular shoes. With a redesigned midsole and collar, it seems like the engineers behind this shoe thought of everything. The midsole now boasts 100% DNA LOFT for responsive and consistent comfort. The beveled heel cup tapers to better accommodate the natural anatomy of the ankle, and the number of width options available ensures that most runners will be able to find their perfect fit. As with past iterations, the Adrenaline is a traditionally-shaped and supportive, 12-millimeter drop road running shoe. We find that the built-in lateral Guiderails provide great support, especially as your legs fatigue. If you are in the market for a versatile running shoe that can take you from sprints to marathons to light trails and beyond, look no further because the Adrenaline 22 is our choice for the best overall women's running shoe.
A well-supported shoe with ample, yet firm cushioning might not appeal to all runners. Despite its versatility, runners looking to hit super-fast paces in a shoe built for speed might not like the relatively average weight and cushion of the Adrenaline 22. But if you are looking for a shoe that is going to meet the mark on a variety of run types and styles, this comfortable and versatile running shoe is our top recommendation for you.
Weight Per Shoe (Size 7): 5.9 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Neutral style is less supportive
Narrower midfoot won't suit everyone
A lightweight running shoe doesn't automatically mean it will be a standout performer across the board. In the case of the Kinvara 13, though, you get the best of all worlds and then some. This shoe is lightweight, responsive, comfortable, and comes at an affordable price, which is why it earns our coveted honor for its value. The Pwrrun+ base is shock-absorbing, and the FormFit sole enhances its responsiveness, making this an excellent option for racing or fast workouts when speed is a priority. This shoe continues to be our first choice for tempo runs, track workouts, and middle-distance race days. The heel and collar are snug and don't slip when in motion. Both features have been reconfigured to provide better comfort and durability. The sock-like fit of the Kinvara makes the shoe feel like a natural part of our bodies. Its weightlessness also adds to this liberating sensation. The laces stay tied tight for the long haul, and the tongue is perfectly padded. With this version, Saucony redesigned the lace bed for added comfort and it really shows. They are now making the Kinvara with a single piece of mesh on the upper, which creates an even more flexible shoe. This version is more durable than the versions of the Kinvara that we have tested in the past, further cementing its standing as an incredible budget buy.
Runners looking for an ultra-plush, pillowy landing base will find the neutral and minimalistic Kinvara 13 to be lacking. Because they are flexible and less rigid, they also don't score as high in the lateral stability department, especially now that the upper is made of only a single piece of engineered mesh. However, the structure is strong enough to provide some support and we never felt like our feet were blowing out the lateral mesh. Runners who land heavily might not be as successful as we were — heavy steppers typically need a bit more underfoot cushion to protect their joints. The Kinvara offers a more lightweight style landing, so be sure to keep in mind your own running style when determining which pair of runners might suit you the best. The Kinvara is a superb choice if you're looking to dip your toes into a more minimalist style but aren't sure you want to commit. The shape is reminiscent of a traditional runner but with all of the goodies of a neutral and responsive shoe. Plus, if you're motivated by style, the Kinvara 13's bold color schemes and sleek countenance will have you looking fast and fly on your runs, in the gym, and beyond.
Weight Per Shoe (Size 7): 6.4 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 8 mm
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 has become a mainstay in our collection of trainers. Highly responsive due to the updated Pwrrun PB foam composition and carbon-plate midsole, this shoe is a great choice for races and up-tempo days. The durable soleplate enhances the responsiveness by creating a rolling effect from one step to the next, and a single layer of thin yet soft FormFit mesh across the upper keeps your feet feeling light and secure. The stretchy tongue attachments create a snug fit that keeps the tongue from shifting and becoming uncomfortable. Because each shoe is constructed from a single piece of material, opportunities for hotspots and blisters are impressively low. As a bonus, the Endorphin Pro 2 is comprised of vegan materials and is blissfully lightweight — a women's size 7 weighs in at only 6.4 ounces. We felt faster than ever on our tempo runs, and we believe anyone looking to PR or try sprint training will love this responsive pair of shoes.
The sensation of the Endorphin Pro 2 is unlike anything we've felt thus far in our gear testing careers. The carbon plate sole and taller stack height are somewhat difficult to get used to, so keep that in mind. Once we adapted to the engineering, however, we grew to love the feeling of our feet seemingly moving faster than our legs. Our main gripe with the updated version of the Endorphin Pro is that it has a narrower fit than the original version. The midfoot does not offer much stability, so wider-footed runners might find their feet spilling over the relatively narrow base. This is definitely a pair of shoes that we recommend trying on before buying since no wide option is available at this time. The steep price tag can also be hard to swallow, but conscious athletes looking to ratchet up the speed and invest in an ultra-responsive shoe will likely be satisfied with this purchase.
Weight Per Shoe (Size 7): 7.8 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 12 mm
REASONS TO BUY
Strong lateral support without excessive structure
REASONS TO AVOID
Might be too stable for some
Not as light
When it comes to a traditionally-shaped running shoe that offers tremendous lateral support without any unnecessary architecture, we recommend the Brooks Ghost 14. One of the more well-balanced shoes with plenty of cushioning and a touch of stability, we recommend the Ghost for anyone looking to up their mileage in a supportive shoe. Though the Ghost is touted as a "neutral" shoe, we love the lateral support it provides. It is very comfortable, though not as soft and plush as other shoes we know and love by Brooks. If you want a stable shoe without any obvious bells and whistles, the aptly-named Ghost is a great option for you to consider. Over our months testing this shoe, we found that we opted for it above others simply because of how perfectly it suited long, base-building runs. Over-pronators will love how securely the Ghost holds their feet, despite this shoe being largely advertised as being neutrally supportive.
The stability of the Ghost 14 might not appeal to all runners, especially those looking for a more minimalist feel. Moreover, the Ghost weighs a bit more than other options, for which we deducted a few points in the weight metric. If you are looking for a classic running shoe that provides comfort without any plush extras, you'll love the way the Ghost feels. If you want a shoe that is categorized as "supportive," we recommend seeking out a shoe that offers more structural support. But if a neutral runner with a side of lateral support is what you're after, the Ghost will do the trick.
Weight Per Shoe (Size 7): 8.8 oz | Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4 mm
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Maximalist profile won't suit everybody
Whether you want a little bit of extra padding on your recovery days, impact reduction from everyday aches and pains, or a pair of shoes that will support you through your everyday activities, the Hoka Bondi 7 is a great choice. Don't let its distinct appearance fool you — this shoe offers a stable and snug midfoot fit with ample toe box real estate. The EVA foam base is super-stacked, measuring 31 millimeters tall at the heel. While mega plush, this beefy base will feel weighty at first to runners accustomed to a more minimalist feel. Not only does the thick base absorb impact, but the internal structure is smooth and comfortable. The underfoot cushioning and stack height takes some getting used to, but the Bondi is fantastic for anyone with a history of overuse injuries, shin splints, or joint pain.
Unsurprisingly, these shoes are quite heavy compared to the rest of our lineup. Outweighed by only a few pairs in this technologically advanced day and age, the Bondi 7 weighs in at nearly 9 ounces per shoe for a women's size 7. However, in this instance, we don't mind. They aren't great sprinting shoes, but they aren't meant for that either. The plush footbed adds weight and bulk, but the cushion is appreciated on long-distance runs, and we never felt overly weighed down. Great for runners, walkers, and hard workers alike, anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet will be satisfied with these durable and comfortable shoes.
The new Hoka Bondi 8 has recently been released as the latest version in the Bondi series. Our testers will be running in this new version this summer and will publish our updated results as soon as we can knock out some serious miles.
Our running experts have tested over 100 pairs of the most popular running shoes over the last 7 years. Before kicking off our review, the lineup was selected after extensively researching the market and spending hours comparing features, materials, and fit, to help you find the best women's running shoes out there. Our testing extended over the course of months, where we truly put these shoes through the wringer. We subjected each contender to over 30 miles of running, which is more than 360 miles overall, running hard and far to find which kicks can hold up and which aren't worth the time. We ran on various terrains, such as pavement, beaches, tracks for speed workouts, and dirt trails. Yes, our legs are tired.
Our tests are grouped into five weighted rating metrics:
Responsiveness (25% of overall score weighting)
Landing Comfort/Cushioning (25% weighting)
Stability (20% weighting)
Upper Comfort (15% weighting)
Weight (15% weighting)
Our lead road running expert is exercise specialist Ally Arcuri. She is an avid runner, fitness junkie, cancer survivor, accomplished ultramarathoner, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and yoga teacher. Ally has broken tape at quite a few middle-distance races and intends to win more now that her cancer journey is behind her. You can find Ally and her dog out, running from open roads to beaches, even trails. Her years of work in physical therapy help guide her through the sea of running gear available, and her kinesiology degree provides valuable scientific insight. In addition to many other voices on our testing team, Ally provides exceptional feedback on the best women's road shoes out there.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you're training for a marathon or walking your dog, picking the right shoe for your needs can be challenging. Recent advancements in materials and design have led to a bewildering array of choices, with every company catering to a different need. Plus, the improvements made in traditional models, the progression toward minimalist or barefoot footwear, and the recent eruption of maximally cushioned products have added new layers of complexity. Luckily, we are here to help you make sense of it all and guide you towards finding your new running mate. Below we outline how each women's running shoes perform in the test metrics.
Before we get started, you need to decide if road-specific running shoes are the best choice for you. If you run primarily on roads, sidewalks, the treadmill, or a track, you are in the right spot. Even if you take an occasional cruise through dirt roads and light cross-country trails, a road-running shoe will likely be your best option.
At GearLab, we buy all of our products at retail prices just like you and have our testing team put them through an aggressive battery of tests without looking at the price tag. We consider the price only after accurately scoring each pair of shoes in our metrics. We think that value, durability, and versatility go hand-in-hand. If a shoe only performs well in one situation, its value is often lower than a well-rounded option. In this review, the Saucony Kinvara 13 held up as our top value due to its lightweight comfort and excellent price. For slightly more money, you can snag the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22, which is one of the most well-rounded and versatile shoes that we have had the pleasure of testing. The Hoka Mach 4 also stands out as another semi-budget-friendly buy that can provide great comfort, versatility, and responsiveness at a low weight.
Hoka recently released the new Mach 5, which is the latest version of the Mach 4. Our testing team is currently hitting the pavement with these new kicks, and we will update this review with our results soon.
Responsiveness describes how a shoe responds to the energy you put into it, how quickly and efficiently your feet travel through the motions of each stride, and how agile you feel doing so. Often, the higher a shoe scores in responsiveness, the lower it scores in landing comfort, and vice versa. The thicker and softer cushioning that increases landing comfort can sometimes make a shoe feel spongy and hinder responsiveness. Manufacturers have greatly increased the balance of cushioning and responsiveness in ultra-comfy kicks through new technologically advanced foams and materials. While individual foot shape and musculature composition can dictate how agile a runner may feel in a certain pair of shoes, certain patterns and indicators help us assess this complicated metric reasonably.
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 is the most responsive shoe in our lineup. The snug-fitting upper makes each step feel intuitive and somewhat effortless. To maximize responsiveness, the carbon fiber plate within the midsole provides stiffness and energy return, while the Pwrrun PB cushioning helps balance things out with a bit of softness and extra bounce.
The Kinvara 13 also has the iconic Saucony Pwrrun cushioning, making it another responsive choice. The Kinvara is simply constructed and doesn't offer much protection or stability, though it does provide more than the Endorphin, so it is up to you to determine what matters most to you when shopping for a new pair of shoes.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 also scores well with its lightweight construction and responsive cushioning. Nike added a larger Zoom Air unit in the forefoot than on previous versions, which offers a soft landing pad without being cumbersome. The air unit is tuned explicitly in this women's version to 15 PSI to provide a bit more flexibility through the sole. The lightweight React foam adds to the light, nimble feeling. This is our favorite version of the Peg to date.
The newest Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 was recently released. Our team will be testing the latest version this summer and will update our review with our impressions of this updated classic.
The Brooks Glycerin 19, the Brooks Adrenaline 22, and the Brooks Ghost 14 all earned above-average marks in the responsiveness category, especially considering their traditional shape. The DNA LOFT cushioning adds an extra bit of bounce, making for responsive shoes that perform well on long-distance days. The increased lateral support of most Brooks models helps us continue to run in an ergonomically correct way even as we fatigue. We love the balance of power and comfort that Brooks has been able to strike.
Our team is also currently testing the newest Brooks Glycerin 20 that was recently released. We will update this review with our impressions once we've hit the road with them.
Whether you run a few miles a year or are tied to a rigorous training schedule, it's called "pounding pavement" for a reason. Our testers consider this metric one of the most important evaluation criteria with that pounding in mind. Nothing makes someone want to stop running more than tired, blistered feet, or achy joints, so we used this category to judge a few different shoe traits. We review the ability to cushion the feet and provide adequate shock absorption for each contender. We also compared the construction of midsoles and materials. We got to know each shoe and assessed its ideal running scenarios, whether built for long runs or speed workouts (or neither).
The Hoka Bondi 7 is the most well-cushioned shoe we tested. It does have a very different feel than any other shoe in this review and potentially any shoe you've tried on before. Your foot will sit considerably higher off the ground because of the maximum cushioning, creating a unique sensation that takes some getting used to. This excessive but wonderful amount of cushion is what makes the Bondi an excellent choice for anyone looking to up their landing comfort. Furthermore, we recommend the Bondi for people who work on their feet all day and the plush stack of pillows underfoot feels delightful.
We grew to love the landing comfort of the ON Cloudflyer as well. Though not as plush as the Bondi, the spacious toe box and tapered midfoot compliment its average amount of cushioning perfectly. If you want a comfortable landing platform with a bit less squish and a starker heel-to-toe differential, you'll like the feeling of the Cloudflyer. Its more rigid design and 7-millimeter drop give you almost as much overall comfort, but without the unique feeling of the Bondi.
When it comes to landing comfort, the Ghost, Glycerin, and Adrenaline by Brooks all offer excellent cushioning with a bit more structure to ensure a well-balanced foot strike mile after mile. We really love that they each have enough stability and protection without going overboard on rigidity.
Stability is another crucial metric in the world of running. When we reference stability, we refer to the lateral stability a shoe offers. Lateral stability is significant for runners who tend to over or under pronate while running. Over time, small imbalances can lead to huge, lingering injuries. Running shoe manufacturers add structural support by reinforcing the lateral midsole of each shoe. Sometimes they will even insert more rigid materials to keep the shoe more stable and promote proper foot alignment through the stride. In general, we have found that stability-increasing structures and weight are mutually exclusive, but the extra ounces are worth a lifetime of proper running form.
We have tested quite a lineup of supportive and stable running shoes over the years. Our recurrent favorites for gently correcting over-pronation are the Brooks Adrenaline and the Asics Gel-Kayano 28. The Adrenaline has built-in GuideRails, as do many other options by Brooks, that enhance the shoe's stability and help runners eliminate excessive ankle movements.
The Gel-Kayano has been engineered in such a way to encourage runners to push off with their toes. This helps encourage even weight distribution in the push-off phase of a stride, which is incredibly valuable for over-pronators. In our opinion, the Ghost is well-suited for runners who need extra support and might overpronate when their stabilizing muscles fatigue. The Gel-Kayano is a better choice for runners who KNOW that they overpronate and want to correct their gait.
Tip: Over-pronation can be caused by weak glute muscles, unstable ankles, or years of training with an inefficient gait pattern. If you find your ankles rolling in slightly while on the run, we recommend trying out a pair of running shoes made specifically to correct this postural misalignment.
Aside from style, the first thing we notice about a shoe is its upper comfort. We are also highly picky about how the tongue and lace combo touches our feet. Nobody wants the lace bed digging into their upper foot, so we weeded out the aggressive from the smooth. The flexibility of materials, foot box shape, and overall upper design and construction all play into this, ideally coalescing in a shoe that lets you forget you're even wearing it. Feet often swell as your running heats up as well, so tight and unforgiving laces that obstruct blood flow were a sure way for a shoe to get a lower score in this area.
In our opinion, Brooks and Saucony have constructed some of the most comfortable uppers in the world of running shoes. Brooks shoes are plenty flexible and have soft tongues with strong yet soft laces. The Glycerin 19 is a solid choice for upper comfort if you seek a traditionally shaped running shoe. It is softer to the touch than the Ghost or Adrenaline.
The Kinvara 13 earned a high score in this metric due to its soft upper and semi-traditional running shoe shape. This more traditional profile isn't typical in an ultra-responsive runner, but we are hyped on the marriage of the two. The perfectly-placed tongue padding ensures that the upper comfort is well above a standard running shoe.
Another standout when it comes to upper comfort is the New Balance FreshFoam 1080 v12. The Hypoknit upper of this eco-conscious and versatile runner fits like the most delicious sockliner you've ever felt. It encases your feet in soft, supple synthetic mesh and provides ample toebox real estate. Not only does the toebox give your toes enough space to splay and adjust to the terrain as you run, but it is also built tall enough to not elicit any pressure or pain on your toes vertically.
The ON Cloudflyer scored quite well across the board, earning above-average marks in all of our metrics except weight, where it earned an average score with each shoe weighing in at 8.15 ounces. Our primary concern when it comes to this stylish and functional standout shoe is the lace bed. Unlike a traditional running shoe that anchors the laces within the structure of the shoe, the Cloudflyer's laces are anchored bilateral with small loops. We did not have any issues with the lace bed and in fact, found it to be comfortable, but the small anchoring loops give us durability concerns. If, by chance, one of the loops broke, the shoe would become very difficult to lace properly and might even become unusable. The loops are strong, but this concern is profound enough that we feel the need to pass the information on to you.
We can't deny that shoe weight affects running ability, but we caution against judging shoes based solely on this metric. This may be one of the first things we notice as we pull shoes out of the box — could a few ounces hold the key to your running success? It all depends on what your goals are. Unless elite-level racing is in your near future, we'd suggest using weight as a secondary deciding factor after more noticeable criteria like upper and landing comfort. Once you've narrowed down your selection slightly, you can use weight to hone in on your final choice.
If you want to lay down speedy miles and build strength through sprinting, check out the Saucony Kinvara 13, the lightest shoe in our lineup. It weighs in at 5.86 ounces per shoe.
The Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 is another lightweight but comfortable choice. That said, depending on what feels good for your body, you might find a moderately weighted shoe more supportive and better for your needs. We tested shoes ranging from 5.86 ounces to nearly 10 ounces per shoe for a women's size 7. As you might expect, both the lightest and heaviest shoes have features that you may find helpful, depending on your needs and preferences.
The Adidas Solarglide 5 is the heaviest shoe we tested this time around. Each women's size 7 Solarglide weighs 9.88 ounces, nearly double the responsive, flight-inducing kicks that we recommend for speed. The weight of the Solarglide is fairly well-distributed but ultimately detracts from this shoe's overall prowess in the field. The Asics Gel-Kayano 28 is another heavy option, weighing in at 9.21 ounces per shoe, but since it provides extra stability, we prefer it.
The footwear market, especially running shoes, is oversaturated with options and is full of lingo and misleading marketing. Therefore, finding the right running shoe to add to your running apparel and gear can be a huge and daunting task. Fortunately, we have the details you need to make an informed decision. We spent months reviewing the most popular women's models on the market, from lightweight minimalist superstars to plush maximalist mileage hogs — and everything else in between.
With our collection of knowledge on all things running, we...
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.