Skip to content (Press Enter)

Best Running Shoes for Women 2021

Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet

Shop All Women's Running Shoes

Finding the best women’s running shoes is our main focus at Fleet Feet.

Whether you’re training for a marathon or just wanting to get outside for a few miles, we want to find you the best running shoes for your feet. To do that, we use millions of data point from our fit id® outfitting process to figure out how shoes fit certain feet, and we research and test as many women’s running shoes as we can to ensure we recommend the right pair.

We also break down any differences between the women's models and the best running shoes for men if shoe designers tuned them specifically for each gender.

Of course, there is no one best pair of women’s running shoes for every runner. But based on our own experiences in these shoes and our database of fit id® scans, with think these are the best women’s running shoes for most female runners and most types of runs:

[Updated February 3, 2021. This article is part of the Fleet Feet Buyer's Guide for The Best Running Shoes 2021. Find all the best running shoes from the top brands for all situations.]

Brooks Ghost 13

A runner wearing the Brooks Ghost 13 shoes

Versatility is what makes the Brooks Ghost 13 one of the best women's running shoes.

The newest Ghost 13 is comfortable, cushioned and lightweight; it's roomy enough for a wide variety of foot shapes, and it comes in wide sizing for runners who need it.

New this year though is a more generous helping of Brooks' DNA Loft foam. By using more of one of the softest foams in Brooks' lineup, designers gave the Ghost 13 a cushier underfoot feel and smooth transition. The DNA Loft works with BioMoGo DNA for a responsive takeoff.

In the Brooks Ghost 13 review, Fleet Feet testers said they love the updated ride and softer feel. Even with the updated components, though, the Ghost 13 remains a well-rounded running shoe that we think works for most people.


The mesh upper on the women's HOKA Bondi 7 running shoe

HOKA knows cushioning, and the women's HOKA Bondi 7 is the best-cushioned shoe in a lineup of the best-cushioned running shoes.

Designers packed the Bondi 7 full of soft and bouncy EVA foam. The big bed of foam beneath the shoe creates a supremely soft ride and gives you a buttery transition from heel to toe. Plus, with a 31 mm stack height in the heel and 27 mm measurement in the forefoot, you'll never bottom out.

In the HOKA Bondi 7 review, Fleet Feet runners said they loved the best-in-class cushioning because it feels plush without being too heavy.

The softness makes the Bondi perfect for easy runs, big mileage and recovery days, but it's also ideal for people who work on their feet all day, like nurses (HOKA even makes the women's HOKA Bondi SR with a leather upper and slip-resistant outsole).

If you're looking for the best women's running shoes with the most cushion, the HOKA Bondi 7 is your best bet.

On Cloud X

The On Cloud X is made to move in any direction, making it a great all-around running and training shoe for women.

On built the Cloud X on top of a lightweight Zero-Gravity foam midsole that won't weigh you down, and they gave it a molded heel counter to help lock your foot into place. The knit engineered mesh upper is strong, light and breathable, which helps keep you cool when your workout heats up.

But the Cloud X isn't just for running in a straight line: Designers specifically tailored the shoe for lateral and diagonal movements, too. The multi-directional function makes it as great for the gym and HIIT workouts as it is for walking around town.

Plus, the Cloud X has the same minimalist design as all On running shoes, so you know it'll look as good at the gym as it does at the coffee shop.

New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11

The New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 is one of the best women's running shoes because it delivers a cushioned and engaging ride, mile after mile.

New Balance packed the 1080v11 full of its Fresh Foam cushioning to make it the premier expression of the technology. The foam creates an ultra-cushioned ride that feels lightweight and transitions smoothly from step to step.

The knit upper stands out, too. New Balance created the upper with different zones of stretch and structure: The toe box is very stretchy to accommodate a wide variety of foot shapes, while the midfoot is more static for a locked-in fit.

In the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11 review, Fleet Feet runners said they love how light and smooth the updated shoe feels while still providing a ton of soft cushion for miles on pavement.

With New Balance's Ultra Heel design that molds around your foot, the Fresh Foam 1080v11 is ready whether you're pushing the pace or taking it easy.

Saucony Ride 13

Saucony's newest Ride maintains the reliability of the classic everyday trainer, but it has an update fit for a more comfortable experience.

The Saucony Ride 13 uses the brand's FORMFIT technology to dial in the fit. Designers built the shoe with three layers of cushioning that conform to your unique foot shape, weight and gait pattern. The result is a dynamic fit that works for most runners.

Beneath the shoe, Saucony used its new PWRRUN foam for consistent cushioning from heel to toe and a responsive takeoff at the end. In the Saucony Ride 13 review, Fleet Feet runners said the stellar cushioning makes it one of the best running shoes for beginners, too.

Despite the shoe's accommodating fit and generous cushioning, though, the Ride 13 is one of the best women's running shoes because it does it all without weighing you down. The women's Saucony Ride 13 only weighs 8.6 oz.

Karhu Ikoni 2020

A runner ties a pair of Karhu Ikoni running shoes

Karhu used 3D scans of real feet to design the last that shaped the Ikoni, which makes it a comfortable fit for most women.

Designers used the scanning data captured during Fleet Feet's fit id® outfitting process to developed a shoe that fits comfortably for a wide range of foot shapes, while still delivering a performance-minded ride. Testers in the Karhu Ikoni 2020 review said Karhu nailed both.

As a bonus, Karhu designed the same Ikoni with a higher-volume fit. The Ikoni HiVo accommodates larger or wider feet while providing the same peppy ride (and the same look) as the standard version.

The newest Ikoni is an excellent women's running shoe for up-tempo days on the track, Sunday long runs and walking around the neighborhood.

Altra Escalante 2.5

Altra's FootShape toe box prioritizes comfort, and that's what makes the Escalante 2.5 one of the best running shoes for women.

Altra designed the toe box to match the real shape of your foot—wider through the midfoot and forefoot with a more squared-off toe. That shape lets your foot splay naturally when it lands and push powerfully when you take off.

For the second version of the Escalante, Altra developed a more flexible midsole and outsole, and they draped it in a new knit upper for improved comfort.

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37

The women's Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 on a piece of wood

Nike made big updates this year to its best-selling running shoe of all time, including female-specific details to give women a better feel.

The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is the same lightweight and snappy everyday trainer it has always been, but designers this year updated the midsole and Zoom Air unit for a faster ride.

Nike swapped out the Cushlon foam midsole from the previous version for a React foam midsole in the Peg 37. React is a proven performer in other Nike running shoes, like the Epic React Flyknit 2 and the React Infinity Run, and it now brings its bouncy, durable ride to the Pegasus family.

Inside the new midsole, designers used a single Zoom Air unit in the forefoot instead of the full-length unit in the previous Pegasus. The Air unit is shorter, but Nike doubled the thickness to create greater rebound than ever before.

This is also where Nike used feedback from its female testers to create a unique ride. Women who tested the Pegasus 37 wanted a less stiff feeling, so Nike tuned the Air unit to roughly 15 psi—a little softer than the 20 psi unit in the men's model.

Nike made the big changes to the midsole but kept the Peg's same low-profile silhouette and lightweight feel that makes it a great women's running shoe.

Whether you're logging serious miles or hitting the track for some speedwork, the women's Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 remains a versatile and speedy performance running shoe.

ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23

The ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is the newest member of a classic collection. With more than two decades of experience packed into the latest version, the Nimbus is better than ever.

ASICS used two GEL cushioning units—one in the heel, one in the forefoot—to create a soft landing and smooth transition, and they used FlyteFoam in the midsole to give the Nimbus a responsive feel.

Additional reinforcements come from ASICS' Trusstic technology, which helps mitigate twisting and provides strategic arch support. Whether you're logging easy miles leading up to a race or hammering out your longest run yet, the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 is up for the challenge.

Mizuno Wave Rider 24

A pair of women's Mizuno Wave Rider 24 Waveknit running shoes

The women's Mizuno Wave Rider has long been one of the best-selling running shoes on the market, and the Wave Rider 24 is sure to maintain its spot on the list.

Mizuno updated the women's Wave Rider 24 with a new type of foam, called Mizuno Enerzy. The new foam gives the shoe a plusher feel than before, and it lends the shoe a bouncy ride. Designers paired the Enerzy with the U4icX foam for consistent performance.

A Wave Plate helps disperse impact forces and leads to a smooth transition, while a generous amount of rubber underfoot adds traction and durability.

Mizuno also added a Waveknit option this year. The Wave Rider 24 comes with an engineered mesh upper or a Waveknit upper. The knit provides a more sock-like feel, while the mesh is familiar to most runners.

In the Wave Rider 24 review, Fleet Feet runners say they appreciated having different options for the upper. Some runners like the mesh, while other preferred the knit.

Women looking for a comfortable and consistent running shoe will find it in the Wave Rider 24.

What Does “Best” Mean?

The best women’s running shoes for you won’t always be the best shoes for your sister or mother or woman in your running club. There are so many factors and preferences that go into deciding which shoe is actually the best one for you.

So our choices for the best running shoes for women are not the absolute. Instead, we try to pick the best running shoes for most women, most of the time. These running shoes have the most accommodating fits and wide sizing where available; they’re generally comfortable; and they excel at the task they’re created for.

If you’ve tried one of these shoes and it didn’t work for you—or you want to try on any shoes before you buy—stop by the nearest Fleet Feet location to get expert one-on-one advice and go through our fit id® outfitting process.

How We Picked the Best Women’s Running Shoes

We used data from our fit id® outfitting process, interviews with designers and real-life wear testing to determine the best women’s running shoes for most runs and the most runners.

You can shop with confidence at Fleet Feet: We offer free shipping on all orders over $99, and you have 60 days to return any gear if you don’t like the way it looks, fits or feels. Plus, with our price-match guarantee, you can make sure you never pay too much for a new pair of running shoes.