Until relatively recently, the common approach from sportswear companies towards women’s running shoes was the now sarcastic motto “shrink ‘em and pink ‘em”, as womens running shoes were no more than a mens shoe in feminine colours.Nowadays, sports company understood the huge market potential represented by female runners and they are starting approaching the design and engineering of running shoes for women in a different way.It is a fact that womens are bio-mechanically very different from men and by focusing on those differences and addressing specific issues is now the main driver by those companies who consider female runners as an important chunk of their market.
Why do womens running shoes need to be different from mens running shoes?
There are a few, significant differences between mens and womens when it comes to their running bio-mechanics. Let’s review a list of the most important and the solutions running companies are implementing to address them.
- Women have a wider Q-Angle.
- Women’s Body Mass is Lower.
- Women’s Feet Have a Different Shape.
The Q-Angle is the angle of incidence of the quadriceps muscle relative to the patella (see picture).Women have usually larger hips rather than men. This means a wider Q-Angle. As a consequence of the wider angle, women tend to pronate more than men.For this reason it is very important that while engineering a womens running shoe, the designers and developers take this into consideration and work on addressing this by having a different midsole/outsole on the womens version, a combination of shapes and materials that can offer women the extra support they need.
Statistically, women have approximately 15% less body mass than men with the same foot size. This means that when designers calculate how much bouncy the foam material in the midsole (for example) needs to be, they have to take into account the fact that for the same shoe size, the womens version should be lower and/or softer, as it would have to sustain 15% less of the impact.
For the same reason the flex grooves, which are the carved lines in the forefoot outsole that help during the toe-off, need to be more accentuated in the women shoe, as the lower body mass makes it more difficult to flex the foam material of the midsole and needs to be aided.
Men have broader and longer feet than women of their stature. Results show that women’s feet have different shape characteristics than men’s, especially in the arch, the first toe, the lateral side and the ball of the foot. This should should be considered when designing sports shoes for women.
While the previous points had impacts on the way a shoe’s sole unit had to be built, this point is about the upper.
The last of a shoe is the shape around which the upper of the shoe is constructed. They are characteristic of each brand and are very crucial to the final fit of the shoe around the foot. Usually a women shoe is just a smaller version that the mens one, and the last used is the same.
Lasts are very expensive (the research to get the right one is) and using women specific lasts is a great commitment by a company towards their female running consumers.
We highlighted the three main differences between mens and womens running bio-mechanics and the characteristics that a proper women running shoe should have to accommodate them. Here below we are recommending a few shoes that we believe were built with an eye towards female runners.
As usual, let us know your opinion in the comments!
Choose The Best Women’s Running Shoes
(If you don’t know the difference between cushioning and stability running shoes, you can find all the info in our article “3 types of running shoes for 3 types of feet“.)
The 3 best cushioning running shoes for women
Cushioning (Neutral) running shoes for women should be soft, with deeply carved flex grooves, with some inerent stability (ie. with the addition of a TPU bridge). The ones we are recommending below, have specific women’s construction.
|The Nike Zoom Vomero 7 is most likely the most cushioned running shoe in the market. It comes in a women specific version that has sole and upper engineered for women and different from the mens’ version. Despite being so soft, it also offer a good degree of protection, thanks to a wrapping upper and a stability bridge.|
|Nike Zoom Vomero 7 Full Review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|
|The Cumulus is the shoe that fight the Vomero for the title of most cushioned running shoe. It’s an excellent high-mileage trainer with plenty of shock absorption and support. It is less flexible than the Nike, therefore indicated for slightly heavier female runners.|
|Asics Gel Cumulus 14 review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|
|The Ghost entered the market only 5 years ago but soon gathered a lot of fans. Great cushioning and flexibility make it a shoe that works well both on short and fast workouts and long races.|
|Brooks Ghost 5 review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|
The 3 best stability running shoes for women
Stability (Support) running shoes for women should offer at the same time a decent amount of cushioning and support. Choose among these three if your ankle rolls inwards excessively while you run. These are listed from the least to the most supportive. It is not a good-better-best, but simply a matter of preference.
|The Asics Kayano 18 is a luxury shoe. It’s not (just) the price, but the plush feeling of its upper and cushioning. It is a stability shoe, but we recommend it for light stability needs and the preference for a soft, sweet run.|
|Asics Gel Kayano 18 Full Review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|
|The Structure Triax is a safe bet. If you are in need of support you should try it and chances are that it will fit you perfectly. We like the fit, the amazing support even on very long runs (perfect for marathon training) and the trademark Nike Zoom cushioning, that ensures a soft – but not sloppy – landing. Comes in a womens’ specific version.|
|Nike Zoom Structure 15 Full Review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|
|The Adrenaline is the most supportive of the three. It is Brooks’ best selling shoe and it has a GREAT forefoot flexibility compared to all shoes in this stability class.|
|Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 Full Review, including PROS/CONS, readers’ votes and price comparison!|