The Best Running Shoes for Women: Reviews by Wirecutter

Neutral shoes

The Mizuno Wave Rider 21 barely missed being a top pick because the shoe seems to run a half-size smaller than other companies’, which makes ordering online difficult. Many testers praised the Wave Rider 21 shoes’ excellent rebound and firmly cushioned 12 mm drop sole, which provided top-notch propulsion. Others, though, thought the lack of plushness made these shoes good for shorter runs only.

Although many testers described the New Balance 880 v7 as “supportive,” “responsive,” and “easy to run in,” one worried the shoe lacked adequate cushioning for long runs—“I did a 6-mile run and my forefoot and toes on my left foot hurt for the last mile. Very frustrating!”—while another thought the 10 mm drop sole overencouraged a heel-striking gait.

A very padded heel cushion and extra-roomy fit were both a blessing and a curse for the 10 mm drop Adidas Supernova. Most testers loved the plush feel and lively rebound: “It felt like I was running on clouds and the responsiveness was amazing,” wrote one tester. Still, others were put off by too much of a good thing: “The uppers are nearly structureless…and the heel cushioning is excessive,” another tester wrote. Some testers also felt it ran large.

Our fit panelists agreed that the Under Armour Charged Bandit 3 is sized well and they thought the seamless upper felt great on their feet. Our run testers were not quite so effusive, though. One described the Bandit’s ride and 8 mm drop sole as “flat,” “blunt,” “stiff” and “rigid.” Another tester complained about its traction, saying, “If it was between no run at all or running on a muddy trail in these, I would always choose no running.”

The densely cushioned Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 34 took longer to break in than most of the other shoes we tested. Testers also commented that the Pegasus 34 ran narrow in the standard width, and some worried that the shoes lacked traction on slick surfaces. For what it’s worth, they did like the shoe’s stylish looks.

The Reebok Harmony Road made our list largely because Runner’s World praised it as a “best debut” and in several ways, we can see why: Our testers complimented the snug, supportive arch and roomy toe box, as well as the lightweight feel of the ultra-padded 10 mm drop sole. It’s possible for a shoe to be too padded, though, and one tester said the Harmony Road felt “a little unnecessary and bulky.” In fact, “bulky” was a word that came up in a few tester reviews, ultimately knocking this shoe out of contention compared with our top picks. Also, though we generally think fashion takes low priority to function, no one really liked the looks of the Harmony Road. “Visually, these shoes are more discordant than harmonious,” wrote one tester. Of note: After our testing period ended, Reebok released a second version of the shoe, which doesn’t appear to be a major change from this one. Still, we’ll keep an eye on it for future updates.

Stability shoes

Despite its cushy appearance, the 10 mm drop New Balance 860v8 provided testers with a firm, responsive ride. These shoes just missed out on being the top stability pick because of their heavy feel, which makes them less versatile. They’d be good for easy or long runs, but not for speed work or races.

Although testers praised the Asics GT 2000 v6 model’s supportive upper, 10 mm drop sole, comfortably firm impact absorption, and surefooted feel across all terrain, this shoe was too narrow in the “medium” option, which our testers all requested, though it does come in wide and extra-wide widths in some colors.

One tester loved how “quick and lightweight” the Nike Zoom Structure 21 felt; others criticized the lack of responsiveness and cushioning. The worst review came from a tester who experienced toe numbness on two separate runs, despite trying different socks. Two testers also reported laces repeatedly coming untied.

Low-drop shoes

The Hoka One One Clifton 4 was polarizing: Some testers enjoyed the curved, rocker-like 6 mm drop sole, and others found the fit and feel unappealing. Although I like more minimalist shoes, I found these to be remarkably smooth and light-feeling. However, a less-than-satisfied tester complained, “I thought I would be getting a deluxe cushion-y running experience, but it really ended up feeling like I was running on a couple bricks.”

The On Cloudflow has a rigid 7 mm drop sole, making it very different from anything else in our test pool. On the one hand, one tester liked how light the shoe was and how responsive it felt on both pavement and a wood-chip path. On the other hand, another tester complained about a lack of “support in the arch and the sole to keep my feet happy.” Most thought the sizing was on-point, though one tester felt that the Cloudflow ran a little long and narrow.

With a wider-than-most toe box, anatomical fit, and low 3 mm drop, the Topo Fli-Lyte 2 draws obvious comparisons with the Altra Escalante. Indeed, one tester applauded the Topo model’s ample forefoot fit, light weight, and lack of chafing, even in wet road conditions. The parallels ended there, though, as testers described the ride as “stiff” and “plodding” despite the shoes themselves not being heavy.

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