Best Running Shoes for Women 2021
Buyer's Guide | Fleet Feet
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.
We use millions of data point from our fit id® outfitting process to figure out how shoes uniquely fit women, and we research and test as many women’s running shoes as we can to ensure we recommend the right pair.
We brought together our database of fit id® scans, designer notes and feedback from the ladies of the Fleet Feet review team to determine the best running shoes for women:
- Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
- Brooks Ghost 13
- HOKA Bondi 7
- On Cloud X
- New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v11
- Saucony Ride 14
- Karhu Ikoni 2020
- Altra Escalante 2.5
- ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23
- Mizuno Wave Rider 24
[Updated June 15, 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.]
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38
The Pegasus is a mainstay in the running world, and the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 picks up right where the last one left off.
Nike packed the Pegasus with a full-length React foam midsole. React is a popular choice for many of the best Nike running shoes because it's lightweight, bouncy and durable. Those characteristics make it great for short, fast runs or long, slow ones.
On top is a new mesh upper that's comfortable around your foot, and designers created a slightly wider toe box to give your feet a little more room.
Nike made major updates to the Pegasus when it moved from the Peg 36 to the Peg 37, but the changes this time around weren't nearly as drastic. The Pegasus maintains the same speedy silhouette and Zoom Air unit in the forefoot as its predecessor.
Whether you're brand new to running or starting your next training cycle, the Nike Pegasus 38 is an outstanding choice for many runners.
Brooks Ghost 13
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.
HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 7
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 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 14
Saucony updated one of it’s most popular stability shoes with a fresh new upper and a confident fit underfoot.
Our female reviewers loved the secure, yet flexible fit of the Guide 14. “It has a more triangular fit that locks in your heel and secures the midfoot but allows your forefoot to move naturally.”
Read more about what women said about the Saucony Guide 14 in our review.
Designers used Saucony’s unique FORMFIT system to wrap your foot in contoured support from top to bottom. The shoe’s TPU guidance frame is great for women looking for increased medial stability or for overpronators.
Even with the additional stability elements, the Guide 14 remains super-lightweight and sports a bold mesh upper that provides a look as fast as it feels.
Karhu Ikoni 2020
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. Female 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.
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.
Read more about what women said about the ASICS GEL-Nimbus 23 in our review.
Mizuno Wave Rider 24
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.
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.