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Running is more popular than ever – and if you’re one of the record numbers of women tackling road and trail routes this year you’re going to need a great pair of running trainers to keep up with you.
What should you look for in a running shoe?
Most running shoes are aimed primarily at either road or trail runners.
While you can easily take your road running shoes off-piste for the occasional trail run, and vice versa, if you’re a dedicated pavement pounder or 100% into running on country trails it’s definitely best to pick a pair of shoes designed for the environment you like to train in.
Best running shoes at a glance:
- Best for comfort on the road: On Cloudflyer
- Best for all-round performance: Asics Gel Nimbus 23
- Best beginner trail running shoe: Merell Agility Peak 4
- Best for your daily 5k: Hoka Clifton 8
- Best for great grip: Nike Wildhorse 7
- Best for trail ultra-runners: Merrell Long Sky Women’s Trail Runners
- Best for hitting your personal best: Women’s UA HOVR™ Infinite 3 Storm
- Best road show on a budget: Decathlon Kiprun Ultralight
- Best for keeping feet cool and comfortable: Giesswein Wool Cross X
- Best for cold and wet weather: Mizuno Daichi 5
Road or trail runner?
Road runners typically prioritise light weight, bouncy soles and good breathability. Trail runner? Look for good grip, with deeper lugs (the indentations in the sole of the trainer) than a road shoe.
Some trail shoes are also waterproofed with technology such as Gore-Tex – they won’t keep your feet 100% dry if you’re venturing into deep puddles or heavy rain, but they will keep your feet dryer and warmer for longer.
Get the support you need - do you under pronate, over pronate, or are you a neutral striker?
In any running shoe you buy, look for cushioned inner soles, tough but bouncy outer soles and, of course, good comfort, with no tightness or pressure when the shoe is laced up.
More advanced runners might also want to consider the pronation of their feet, which refers to how your foot may roll inwards or outwards with each stride as you run.
Most running shoes are neutral, but you can also buy ‘under pronation’ (feet angling out as you run) shoes and ‘over pronation’ (feet angling in) running shoes with support in key areas to help you to avoid injury.
What to pay?
Expect to pay around the £100 mark for a decent pair of running shoes, although we’ve also included good options for tighter budgets in our round-up of the ten best running shoes for women.
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Key specs – Trail or road? road; Weight: 210g; Size range: 3-9; Colour options: 3
The Cloudflyer is designed to keep up with you even if you’re working towards a marathon, and boasts some of the most comfortable cushioning of any road shoe we tested out.
The wider fit doesn’t constrict toes, and the light weight makes the Cloudflyer feel springy even on longer slogs.
We also found the grip reliably good even in adverse conditions, ideal if you primarily need a road shoe but sometimes like to hit the trail.
A waterproof version of the Cloudflyer is also available for £155
Key specs – Trail or road? road; Weight: 261g; Size range: 4-8.5; Colour options: 2
You’d expect Asics to get their popular Gel Nimbus trainer perfect after 22 other iterations, and there’s definitely lots to like here – a mesh layer provides good breathability, gel cushioning in the sole absorbs shocks from hard road surfaces and the Gel Nimbus feels tough yet flexible underfoot, mile after mile.
We like that this space age colourway is reflective in low light, which is handy for night running.
The Gel Nimbus 23 is a neutral shoe but Asics also specialise in shoes for runners with underpronation or overpronation.
Key specs – Trail or road? trail; Weight: 255g; Size range: 4-8; Colour options: 1
Our top pick for anyone who is just getting into trail running is the well-priced Women’s Agility Peak which, as its name suggests, feels brilliantly flexible underfoot when you’re moving over varied terrain but which still offers good protection thanks to a thick rubber toe box and a grippy sole.
If you find most running shoes constrictive you’ll love the generously wide cut of the Charge Flex, which leaves plenty of room for your toes to splay out.
Like many Merrell running shoes, the Charge Flex is fully vegan.
Key specs – Trail or road? road; Weight: 201g; Size range: 3.5-9.5; Colour options: 9
Hoka reckon the Clifton 8 is the ‘perfect combination of soft and light’ and we’d have to agree – comfort is at the forefront of this lightweight road trainer.
If you run shorter distances day-in, day-out this is a great companion, and the Clifton 8 boasts enough grip to deal with easier trail routes as well as road surfaces.
You can also easily wear this smart, versatile trainer to hit the gym or about town, and with no less than nine colourways available you’re likely to find a version you love.
Key specs – Trail or road? trail; Weight: 255g; Size range: 2.5-9.5; Colour options: 4
While you should never judge a running shoe by its looks, we can’t help but love the eye-catching colourways and styling of the Wildhorse 7.
When testing this trail-ready shoe out we especially loved the sock-style ankle, which hugs your foot and stops debris and rain getting in.
That rather massive outer sole has indentations almost like a football shoe that grip even wet and muddy ground very well.
We found the Wildhorse fit slightly on the small and narrow side, so you may want to try a half size up from your usual.
Key specs – Trail or road? trail; Weight: 230g; Size range: 2.5-8.5; Colour options: 2
Serious about running off the beaten track? Merrell’s aggressive Long Sky was designed with ultrarunners in mind and is ideal for keeping up a good pace even over miles of challenging terrain.
The toughest hiking boots sport Vibram soles and that technology works just as well in this trail running trainer, offering sticky grip even on slick surfaces.
These comfortable trainers are very breathable but still offer good protection thanks to high abrasion mesh, and don’t feel too clunky at 230g per shoe. The Long Sky is also vegan friendly.
Key specs – Trail or road? road; Weight: 247g; Size range: 3-8.5; Colour options: 8
Push your ability and keep up to speed with all your running stats as you train with Women’s UA HOVR™ Infinite 3 Storm Running Shoes.
A built-in chip in the sole tracks your performance and feeds your data to Under Armour’s MapMyRun app in real time, so you can get guidance and coaching straight to your earphones mid-run.
The Hovr shoe is best suited to neutral runners with narrower feet, and you may need to try a half-size up.
This may be a road run-ready shoe but it’s also brilliant for the gym and smart enough to wear day to day.
Key specs – Trail or road? road; Weight: 170g; Size range: 3-8; Colour options: 2
If you’re just getting into road running or like to run as part of a varied exercise routine, it makes sense to look for an affordable running shoe.
Decathlon’s trainer range offer great quality considering their pocket-friendly price tags, and for tarmac we rate the Kiprun Ultralight, which weighs an amazingly paltry 170g per shoe and feels barely-there to wear but still offers decent grip on manmade surfaces.
These shoes are also very breathable thanks to plenty of built-in mesh – ideal for warm weather road running.
Key specs – Trail or road? trail; Weight: 225g; Size range: 3-9; Colour options: 8
Trainers made from wool? They’re a thing, and Giesswein’s brilliant Wool Cross X might convert you forever.
Merino wool is great at regulating body temperature and wicking away odour, making it the perfect material for running shoes – Giesswein even reckon you can wear the Wool Cross X without socks without working up a sweat.
These trail trainers offer decent grip even on wet ground and we liked the large bouncy sole, which makes the Wool Cross X feel comfortable and flexible even over long distances.
A great trail shoe for every season.
Key specs – Trail or road? trail; Weight: 280g; Size range: 4-10.5; Colour options: 1
Hit the trail in any weather in the sturdy Daichi 5.
It may be the heaviest trail running shoe in our round-up but for that extra weight you get full Gore-Tex waterproofing protection, which keeps feet warm and dry for longer on the trail, and Michelin soles with a deep tread, for good grip even in wet weather.
We were impressed by the comfort of the Daichi 5, but reckon they’d be too warm for hot summer weather runs – save them for your autumn and winter running adventures.