2017’s Best Running Shoes- The Gal’s Guide
Ask any runner, and they’ll tell you the shoes you choose are the most important thing to get right. But whether you’re starting out as a newbie, or are a running veteran bamboozled by the range and variety of the running shoe market, it can be bewildering to know what to look for or where to start.
Keep reading for some tips on getting the best woman’s shoe for you- and find out about this season’s top picks.
Men’s shoes, women’s shoes – who cares?
It can seem tempting- especially if you’re in the awkward size ranges where retail shops tend to carry limited ranges and neglect your sizes- to presume a shoe is a shoe.
This isn’t helped by the fact that until surprisingly recently, running shoe manufacturers had a cynical tendency to presume ‘pink ‘em and shrink ‘em’ was a fair and equitable strategy for catering to their female consumers.
Fortunately, with increased interest in the biomechanics of human movement, and with the rising tide of female runners forming a demographic it’s far harder to ignore or sideline, those days are gone.
Biomechanics is a scientific field that every runner should appreciate- it covers the science of human movement. And science is acknowledging that the ways in which men and women move are vastly different.
As a female runner, it’s important to remember this yourself- it’s the number one reason that buying a pair of women’s running shoes is no longer a matter of being fobbed off with colour choices, but a vital part of achieving your best run.
Ok, so what’s different in women’s running shoes?
So, what is it that makes a gal’s gait different to a guy’s? There are a couple of things to bear in mind.
- Women carry less body mass then men
- Women’s hips are broader [proportionally]
- Men and women’s feet are shaped differently.
You wouldn’t think mass would matter to the design of a shoe, but it does. Women are likely to carry less body mass, even when they share a shoe size with a male counterpart. This affects the design of the impact-absorbing midsoles [gal’s need less impact absorption then men].
On the flip side, ladies’ running shoes tend to need deeper flexion grooves then men, as less impact is generated to bend the sole.
Broader hips in proportion to the rest of the skeleton means that the angle the legs make with the hip [properly called the Q angle, or Quad angle] is higher. This has some profound effects on the mechanics of how women run.
It’s the reason that female runners are more likely to suffer from tightness in the ITB. But where it matters in shoes is in the fact that women are more prone to overpronation then men- and a good ladies’ running show needs to be built with that in mind. They should offer extra support to guard against this common running injury.
The reasons that shape would matter in a shoe are fairly obvious. Women differ most in the shape and proportion of their first toe and ball of the foot, as well as the lateral of the foot, from men. This means that getting the correct fit in the upper of the shoe cannot be done by simply shrinking a man’s shoe to a smaller size.
This is probably the time to note that getting the right shape in the upper of a shoe is an expensive process, and many companies still resort to shrinking a man’s design instead. Choosing a shoe company that has taken the specific time and financial commitment to create a female-specific upper is worthwhile, both for the comfort and fit of your shoe, and the support given to a company that’s demonstrated its concern for its female consumers.
It’s usually worthwhile having a look at a man’s model of the shoe you wish to buy. If it’s branded as the same line, but there’s notable difference in the shaping, you know you’ve got a model that’s taken the utmost care to produce a shoe for your needs.
With all of this in mind, onto the best women’s running shoe picks for 2017
The best women’s running shoes
Before we look at our top brands, remember there are a few different categories of shoe out there, and be sure to pick the best one to suit your specific needs.
- Cushioned shoes- also called neutral shoes- are for runners who don’t overpronate [roll inwards excessively on landing], have medium to high arches and prefer a mid- to forefoot strike.
- Motion-control shoes are for the runner who is prone to overpronation, as they give you great all-round support. They’re for you if you’re big, heavy or have low arches, too.
- Performance shoes are for regular trainers in search of light and balanced shoes. You should be fast and efficient.
- Stability shoes are the perfect shoes for runners in need of arch support and cushioning, and are favoured by those prone to overpronation.
- Trail shoes are for runners in that off-road niche, and if you’re looking for them, try our great article on the subject for specialist tips. Likewise, racing shoes are a niche shoe for the really specialised track athlete with no stride issues and no injuries for whom every ounce counts.
The 2017 Top Motion-Control shoe
If you need the stability, or if you’re a heavier runner, the Saucony Women’s Hurricane 15 is a pick for you. You won’t get a more stable shoe. If you’re familiar with Saucony’s Triumph 11, this is an almost identical shoe with tons of added stability.
Surprisingly, it offers a great deal of cushioning-mainly achieved via a firm medial post and some nifty heel bevelling. If you’re a heavy striker, prone to over pronation or pick up injuries easily, you couldn’t spend your money more sensibly.
Needless to say, there’s a trade-off in weight, and they’re not the lightest of shoes- although some users did mention that it was lighter than they expected. If you’re not a fan of a chunky midsole you may be a touch disappointed.
The Hurricane generally sizes big, so narrow footed users will probably want to go down a size. Amazon users give this shoe a 5, and it’s easy to see why.
A great performance choice
If you’re looking for a great performance pick, or a nice upgrade to your normal shoes for race day, the Asics Gel-Electro 33 might be what you’re looking for. It’s especially great for taller, heavier or beginning runners who want a different feel for an important event.
It holds you lower to the ground then other Asics options, with a great trade off for lighter weight too. If you like to make a statement, there’s a funky range of colours to choose from.
Top Stability shoe picks
This shoe is amazingly light for a stability shoe. Coupled with good cushioning and a flexible forefoot, it’s a surprising combination all around. If you’re sick of being confined to stability shoes that weigh a ton, try the Mizuno Wave Inspire- you won’t be sorry.
The ‘fan wave plate’ that’s new to this model delivers great stability without interference for those with a mid-foot strike, which is unusual too. The toe box is roomy enough to enable comfortable toe spread, and most users love the fit. It receives praise for great ventilation, too.
Fan’s who’d begun to despair about the Wave range returning to its peak will be thrilled with the Inspire 10. Almost no reviewer could find anything bad to say about this shoe.
The Asics Gel Kayano 18 is a wholly synthetic shoe. The upper on this one is amazing, although its arch support could be a touch better. The heel clutching system on this updated model makes sure you never need fear instability from the back of the shoe, and the advanced gel pad provides decent cushioning.
Although it’s in the stability category, it’s worth noting that it is more neutral then earlier versions in the line. It’s great for a high-mileage runner who wants a touch of pronation control and a luxurious fit.
Some users do warn that breaking-in is needed for this brand, though narrow-footed users adore it for the extra comfortable fit. The Asics Gel Kayano runs small, so be prepared to shuffle your normal street size upward.
Our top cushioning running shoe picks
A staple in the cushioning trainer market, the Nike Zoom Vomero 10 comes with big shoes to fill. Those used to its old softness may not like the newer firm feel. They’ve been tinkering with this fan favourite all around, removing the hell pad and revamping the midsole.
The re-designed upper on this model is fantastic, with their Dynamic Fit system offering a unique customised fit via a serious of bandings with great breathability that sadly doesn’t carry forward into the toe box. This shoe offers great impact protection and fabulous comfort.
For all the changes to this model, Amazon customers seem convinced. This shoe rates a magnificent 4.5 stars and almost no user could find something bad to say about this shoe. While they’re no cure-all, users mention reduction to knee pain and joint ache with these shoes.
Those few who had niggling issues generally had them with the changes from the Zoom Vomero 9. Users do caution that Nike shoes run small, and advise taking a ½ size bigger than your normal choice.
The breathable uppers on the Brookes Ghost 9 are an immediate draw for any runner that likes to get sweaty. The new 5 range has tightened up its overall look, and there’s greater cushioning and flex than in previous models.
They’re light for a cushioning shoe, but some users still do find that they need a little extra support when using them. They’re versatile enough for a range of environments- they can even withstand a little light trail work- and they take to the track easily.
The Ghost 9 has extended the crash pad to allow for more mid-foot support.
Some user mention a slightly wider fit to the upper of the Ghost 9, but it doesn’t seem to have caused fitting issues that can’t be solved by lacing. In general, the Ghost 9 is great for those with wide feet.
Bonus: Best Budget Buy
It’s always advisable to go with the best running shoe your budget will allow, but sometimes that’s not a lot. All the same, trainers exist that offer good support, comfort and cushioning with a more gentle drain on funding, and the Brookes Pureflow 3 takes this spot this year. Users love it, and it’s easy to see why.
If you’ve been a fan of this line before, you’ll be glad to know that the new tinkering has not altered this shoe’s functionality too much. It appears to be a low shoe, but adequate cushioning cleverly used means this doesn’t cause impact problems. There’s a touch better flexibility than before, and the uppers been overhauled to a better fit.
If you’ve got a low arch, this shoe will give you a comfortable run with a wide toe box to enable grip and spread. There’s enough stability to provide support against over pronation- and all for a thoroughly decent price tag, too.
No matter what your particular needs from your running shoe, the perfect shoe for you is out there. With these best running shoes for women from each category of trainer, you’ll know you can’t go wrong.