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Best running shoes for women 2021

Pound the pavement in performance-ready trainers

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Nike, Photography_AB
By
22 January 2021
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fter signing up for the London Marathon 2020 that was due to take place last April without running a day in my life, I was thrust into a world of speed tests, time trails and previously unfathomable distances as I embarked on my 26.2-mile journey.

As a newbie in the running sphere, I am not alone. With gyms closed and the only opportunity to leave our same four walls through exercise, there has unsurprisingly been a huge surge in the sport. During the first lockdown, the retailer Sports Direct sold 218 per cent more pairs of running trainers online than in the same period a year earlier. Programmes like couch to 5k have also played a huge role in initiating those who may never have previously considered it to get one foot in front of the other. The start of the year is also always a time where people pledge to change up their lifestyles and running is the easiest and most cost-friendly place to start. It also plays a huge role in your energy levels and for your mental health.

Running can be a daunting process. But the most challenging part is always before you head out. Once you are on the open road and you have your carefully curated soundtrack or podcast blaring in your ears, it’s actually not as bad as you may expect, and the feeling once finishing is unrivalled. It’s entirely mind over matter.

While I am yet to actually run in a marathon (I have trained for two thus far - thanks Covid!), I have picked up some crucial tips as I began to clock up the mileage. The number one most important thing that I can stress for anyone looking to get into running is to pay close attention to the shoes that you are wearing.

Your ultimate companion as you pound the pavements, it couldn’t be more important to ensure that you are wearing the correct ones. Running is a high-impact sport and can put a lot of strain on your body. You will notice early on if the trainers aren’t right as you will likely be met with pain at your knees, calves, or feet, injuries or real damage. Blisters and lost toenails are unfortunately par for the course in the hunt for the optimal shoe.

What should you look out for in running trainers?

To keep your training on track, you should look out for sneakers with shock absorbing and cushioned soles. This prevents your feet taking the brunt of the impact and instead gives you energy return to propel your forward.

Fit, of course, is paramount. Try on the shoes right after your workout or in the evening when they are at their largest. Make sure the heel is secure and the laces don’t cut off your circulation - see here for a variety of lacing techniques.

What kind of trainers should you buy?

First, consider the type of surfaces that you will be running on. Pavements will need more cushioning, while trails need grip, a deeper tread and better ankle support due to the uneven nature. There’s also models that are the best of both worlds.

Distance-wise, marathon runners will need a more supportive, cushioned shoe whereas those doing shorter distances looking to break their personal bests will prefer something more lightweight.

Next...consider your pronation.

What is pronation?

Runners are split into three categories that refer to their gait or landing pattern; over, under or normal pronation. This depends on the extent to which your feet naturally rolls inwards as you run. If you are unsure, take a video of yourself running and watch the way your foot lands as you stride.

If you overpronate, this means that your feet rolls inwards too much. There are models that have undetectable motion control to ensure you are at the ideal gait line.

If you underpronate, it means that your feet don’t roll inwards enough. Opt for more cushioning to absorb the shock and remove the pressure on your joints.

How often should you replace your running trainers?

According to Asics, you should be changing up your running shoes every 450 to 550 miles to prevent the risk of injury.

Natasha Cockram, British marathon champion, Welsh record holder and Revvies Ambassador shares this advice to keep your motivation going:

  • Something that I’m still not great at but find helpful is keeping a training diary. I find it motivating to see all the work I’ve put in and the progress I have made.
  • Now that the mornings and evenings are dark definitely invest in a good headtorch, reflective clothing and a waterproof jacket. If you are new to running outdoors build gradually as it is different to treadmill running. 
  • Usually, I’d say find a running buddy to help hold each other accountable but obviously with Covid that is not a safe or legal option but there is nothing to stop you setting up virtual challenges with your friends.

See our pick of the best running trainers for women.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

If the compliments you’ll get sporting these sleek Nike running trainers aren’t enough to win you over, the difference they will make to your PB just will. We found that we did our fastest ever 5k wearing them and there’s no surprises there based on their design. The shoes are kitted out with React foam to put an extra spring in your step and a breathable mesh upper to keep your feet cool and collection no matter the weather. They’re a great lightweight shoe and come in a range of colourways.

Nike

Adidas Ultraboost 21

The Ultraboost 21 is here to get 2021 off to a good start. The redesigned model has a revamped torsion system with a “15 per cent increase in forefoot bending stiffness”, according to the brand for a more responsive shoe. In true Ultraboost nature, the trainer has the Boost technology within the midsole but for this silhouette, there’s an exaggerated heel curve for better energy return and greater comfort. Also, in line with the brand’s commitment to more sustainable practises, the upper is crafted from recycled material with at least 50 per cent Ocean Plastic.

Adidas

Asics Gel-Nimbus 23

The newest addition to Asics’ range of runner-favourite trainers, the Gel Nimbus 23 is here to get you going faster for longer with comfort at the forefront.

The sole is designed to offer greater stability with every stride, absorbing impact that could wreak havoc on your joints with the pillow-like Gel cushioning unit. If you have previously had pain in your knees or calves when road running, this is commonly due to the shoe and these may just be the solution. There is an additional gender-specific pillar under the toe to support the specific makeup of a woman’s foot.

The upper is crafted from mesh for breathability with a stretch midfoot and engineered eyelet that adapt to your movement with the appropriate flexibility, while still promising a snug and secure fit.

The shoes are crafted with a normal pronation in mind so if you tend to under or overpronate, you may need an insole addition or to look for a shoe with support.

Asics

Brooks Ricochet 3

Get an extra spring in your step thanks to Brooks’ new Ricochet 3 silhouette, one of their most lightweight to date. Weighing in at just 238.1g, they have a barely-there feel. Despite this, they pack a whole lot of innovative features like the breathable knit upper, 8mm midsole and cushioned sole with great energy return. The pretty pop of pink at the lace gives a stylish finishing touch.

Honourable mention also goes to the Ghost 13 with reflective detail that is ideal for winter runs in the dark.

Brooks

Nike React Infinity Run 2

Harnessing the power of Nike’s cult proprietary React foam technology, this latest addition to the sportswear giant’s line-up may just be its most show-stopping to date.

The Flyknit upper has been given a revamp for even greater support through Flywire cables and increased breathability. Long and short-distance runners alike will also appreciate the added padding at the collar.

Most importantly of all, these shoes show the brand’s determination to reduce injury thanks to the maximised foam designed to absorb impact that will otherwise be felt at your knees or feet. There’s also a widened midsole for improved stability and for a more fluid transition that has got you covered as you start to rack up the mileage.

Nike

Nike ZoomX Invincible Run

If the name alone doesn’t pull you in, then the next-gen features just might. These shoes are designed to nail the optimal balance of cushioning and stability, without feeling bulky or weighing you down. With the higher mileages in mind, the trainers have been embellished with a souped up sole where there’s more of the React foam for greater energy return and a softer landing with every stride. The knit and wider mesh at the forefront will help with balance and fluidity.

Nike

Women's UA HOVR™ Phantom 2 Running Shoes

Not only do these sneakers from Under Armour look the part but they are performance-ready. The Phantom 2 certainly wins points for the name but also the airy feel that gives you energy return without the potentially painful impact. The upper feels like a sock when slipped on but also happens to be breathable, soft and most importantly, secure. The oversized heel offers stability with an almost web-like design that nails both style and substance and gives the shoes elevated traction and durability.

Under Armour

Hoka Women’s Clifton 7

Hoka has been given the seal of approval by athletes everywhere with its Clifton range. The latest addition - the 7 - takes all the beloved features and steps them up a notch to form an even more elevated model than ever before.

The shoe has a streamlined silhouette that is designed to be lightweight yet cushioned. The engineered mesh offers a breathable upper, there’s pull tabs for ease in taking on and off, and a plush collar.

The flat sole provides stability with a slight bevel at the heel to ensure a fluid stride. It is also fitted with a full-compression EVA midsole with the brand’s renowned signature cushioning.

There’s so many colourways to choose from and the option for a regular or wide fit.

Hoka

Saucony Women's Endorphin Speed 2

Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned marathon athlete, running may feel like a chore sometimes but that’s where these sneakers from Saucony come in. The update to the Endorphin Speed silhouette will make you want to get out and go as they are packed with features to make the process that much easier. The ultralight PWRRUN cushioned sole has great power transfer that will help you reach those speed targets while reducing your fatigue. This is enhanced by the reactive Speedroll element underfoot that gives a much welcomed propulsion.

Saucony

On Running Cloudflow

May we draw your attention to this very attractive looking shoe from On Running that comes in an array of new and cult colourways. From this rusty rose, to a grey and yellow, there’s something to match both colourphobes and those who like their activewear bold, bright and fun.

While they look good, you would be wrong to underestimate the performance elements. Feature-wise, they are packed with training and racing-ready details to help you on your way to the finish line no matter the distance.

The lightweight and responsive Helion superfoam at the sole is designed to transform “impact into acceleration” which ensures that you power off with every stride. The heel is curved for stability and durability - elements furthered by strategic taping and the super secure lacing configuration. They also feature a mesh upper that is reinforced to keep you going when fatigue hits.

On Running

Puma Calibrate Mono Trainers

Puma has teamed up with MIT to offer the brand’s most innovative and futuristic-looking trainer. The Calibrate Runner Mono features XETIC technology that is designed to provide a unique and personalised response to your individual running style.

There’s also a curved design with cushion in all the right places and a forward-thinking knit upper that is constructed with a woven Kevlar panel to give support where you need it without additional weight.

The shoe is offered in black and white with subtle pops of colour.

Puma

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21

There’s a reason why Brooks has long been a go-to brand for budding and professional runners alike. The Adrenaline GTS 21 are versatile all-rounders that suit the majority of strides - whether you have a normal, under or over pronation. They are also the goldilock when it comes to cushioning - just the right amount so as not to weigh you down but still gives support in all the right places. They are the ideal silhouette for road running and are available in a range of colours to suit all preferences.

Brooks