Many people believe that running shoes for women are simple adaptations of male models, with other colors and smaller sizes.
They are completely wrong. There are physiological and biomechanical differences between men and women that condition the way of running of one and the other, but what are those differences? And most importantly, what should a woman consider when choosing a running shoe?
In this article we will try to clear, once and for all, the doubts about women’s running shoes and end years of prejudice against athletes. Not so long ago, in 1981, this was the cover that Runner’s World dedicated to women runners… no comments
Men and women: our main differences
Women and men are anatomically different, but those differences are not limited to a smaller weight or size. The shape of the foot, the muscular movement and the bony structure of the woman are different from those of the man. Differences that are transferred to the way of practicing athletic exercise and the material used for it.
- The foot – in general, and the heel in particular – of the woman is narrower than that of the man.
- The feminine instep is higher and the arch of the foot longer.
- The Q angle, (angle of the quadriceps) – or the anatomical relationship between the hip and the knee – is 5 to 7 degrees higher in women and that causes them to tend to move more weight to the outside of the feet, which can cause an excess of pronation, instability in the impact of the foot and an increased risk of injury.
- The space between the metatarsal bones (those that join the phalanges with the rest of the foot) is different. This is especially relevant because although the metatarsal normally supports 43% of body weight, women tend to overload the area when wearing shoes with heels. With a heel of 6cm, up to 75% of the body weight falls on the metatarsus, subjecting it to an effort for which it is not prepared.
Un study by the Center for Motor Research at the University of Pennsylvania shows that “female feet and legs are not simply versions of male feet on a reduced scale, but rather differ in a number of shape characteristics, particularly in the arch, the lateral side of the foot, the first toe and the metatarsus“. And concludes that these differences should be taken into account in the design and manufacture of sports shoes for women.
How do women’s running shoes adapt to their characteristics?
Although morphological and biomechanical differences between men and women have been known for hundreds of years, however, men’s and women’s sports shoes have been virtually identical for years. Fortunately, this has begun to change and leading sports brands have begun to design models with specific characteristics for women.
The main sports brands already design their main models of shoes specifically for men and women and even launch models designed solely for them.
- The difference in weight between men’s and women’s shoes is not as big as it seems, but it is largely due to the difference in height that is taken as a reference. Normally, the weight that is indicated for men’s shoes is in the size 9 USA, which corresponds, generally, with a 42 EUR and 27 centimeters while the women’s is usually referred to the 7 USA, that is, a 38 EUR and 24 centimeters. If we equalize the size in both shoes and choose the shoe of 27 centimeters of both sexes (9 US for men and 10.5 US for women) or the 24 centimeters (5.5 US for men and 7 US for women) we would have two shoes with an analogous weight.
- Some brands slightly increase the drop (the difference in height between the heel and the toe) to combat the lower flexibility and strength in the Achilles tendon (where women are more likely than men) to suffer from tendonitis, due to the use of heels on most occasions. For example, the women’s version of the Asics Gel Kayano 24 has a drop of 13 mm, 3 more than men.
- Less cushioning is usually used to compensate for lower body weight and it is distributed differently to better protect the front of the foot, much more delicate, but without forgetting to put a good amount of cushioning in the rear area to compensate the different distribution of body weight.
- The shoes tend to be narrower in the heel and wider in the forefoot to adapt to the shape of the female foot and some adapt the shape of the upper to increase the space intended for the instep, although the majority delegate to the laces the adaptation to the female arch and instep.
Can a man wear women’s running shoes?
Of course, … but the special characteristics of the same makes it not especially advisable and that normally we only recommend it for extreme cases for very small sizes in men.
In general, brands usually start men’s shoes in 5.5 US or 6 US, that is around 38-39 EUR or 24 – 24.5 centimeters and they do not do it in all their models so, for men who have sizes equal to or lower than 7 US (40 EUR) the option to look between women’s shoes is feasible.
The opposite, women with large sizes does not usually pose so much problem because there you can find shoes above the 8.5 US, that is, 40 EUR.
In the case that you are trying different sex shoes that you usually use, bear in mind that not only the length varies but also the width because the “normal” or “standard” width is different and in women it is narrower. Although in Europe it is not very common to find them, brands usually manufacture versions of their main models with different widths. The default width for women is “B” while for men it is “D”, so, men should buy only models with special width “D” … or not, if they have a foot narrower than normal.
The best running shoes for women
Nowadays, runners can already find an extensive range of running shoes for women and, if not, look at the extensive catalog that we have in Runnics for you.
If you want a little help or guide, then we propose a set of shoes that having a specific version for women or not, usually work very well and that’s why we usually recommend when you ask us. As always, we group them according to type of use and take them as a starting guide because, as you know, the final choice will depend on each particular case: how are you and how are you going to use them.
If you want some good running shoes, comfortable and durable, in Asics you can find some of the best wheels that stand out among the Asics Gel Nimbus 20 if you are neutral and the Asics Gel Kayano 24 if you need support.
If you are in average weights and you want something a little lighter and agile without renouncing those great levels of cushioning and comfort, do not fail to try the Asics Gel Cumulus 19 if you are neutral or the renovated Asics GT-2000 6 that, in this sixth version they have made a tremendous quality leap.
The Germans Adidas are also very aware of the specific design theme for women and their slightly wider fore tops are well known to give more space in the area of the bunions or the more adaptable uppers. In that sense, the recommendations of the Adidas Supernova Glide 9, tend to give me very good results, when they ask me for neutral training shoes, cushioned and comfortable.
Of course, the Adidas Ultra Boost is a safe bet and is the model that I usually indicate when you want something a little more agile, flexible or if you want to prioritize comfort. They are also perfect if you want walking shoes.
At New Balance they are also doing a very good job, and here I have it very clear, because the New Balance 1080 v8 are tremendously versatile in the types of tread as well as in the paces and even the weights they are able to cover, they are practically shoes “all audiences” and, in addition, in this eighth version and yes that they support very well the custom insoles and eliminate completely the risk of chafing in the area of the arch.
If you are one of those who need a little support you have other very firm candidates, because with the evolution that the New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v2 have had, you have a plus of stability without it supposing that they are intrusive and, given the morphology of the Female body seems to go even better than 1080v8. I think that there has not been a woman who has been recommended them and told me that they have not done well.
And, to close the section of training shoes could not miss the contribution of Baltimore where the thing is also quite clear as with the couple who make the Nike Vomero 13 and the Nike Pegasus 34 win many women over.
The first (Vomero 13) something more flexible and comfortable and the second (Pegasus 34) for those who want something a little more agile and dynamic or a shoe for medium and long distance competitions.
Infinity of colors to choose from, soft and adaptable uppers like few others, pleasant touch and with response in the case of Pegasus or very comfortable in the case of Vomeros, suitable for templates, good behavior in almost any surface and contained prices, … something is seen in so many feet of runners.
If you give a chance to mixed shoes, because you need something to step on the accelerator in series or in competitions, you will enjoy a lot and probably cost you choice, not because there are no options but on the contrary because, right now, the segment of the mixed shoes is possibly the most worked designs to capture the female audience.
If you do not need something very hot or you prefer something that, even if it is mixed, allows you to roll with some comfort in medium or even long runs, with the resurrected New Balance 890 v6 you do not fail and if you notice too much “training”, then nothing, take the leap to the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante v4 or even the New Balance 1500 v4 that in addition to giving a plus of support, it brings you a lot closer to what would be already flying shoes.
Nor do I think you will dislike the two Adidas: Adidas Adizero Boston 6, comfortable and cushioned but with a lot of sparkle and a little more gentle and with more support than Adidas Adizero Tempo 9. In both cases, they are clearly differentiated from the male version, with upper more adaptable to the morphology that you usually have women in the feet.
We complete our suggestions with the Mizuno Wave Shadow that, since they appeared in the fall of 2017, many runners have won and could not miss the legendary Asics Gel DS Trainer 23, stereotype of how mixed shoes should be with support.
And, to close the section, two suggestions a bit “gourmand” and daring for the incorporation of the closure BOA as a system of tying, both in New Balance and to which you cannot but take a look if you are triathletes. On the one hand the firm, broad and responsive New Balance FuelCore Sonic v1 and, on the other, the New Balance 1500 T2, both designed by and for the triathlon, beautiful, comfortable, …
Competition shoes (or flying)
Did the shoes from the previous section fall short and you want something stronger? No problem, look to see how the new Mizuno Wave Emperor 3 that comes from the Far East to facilitate the achievement of your best brands in short races, typically 10K or less.
Although, if you see that they are too (do not forget that they replace the Mizuno Wave Ekiden 11), do not worry because, without leaving the Japanese brand you have the Mizuno Wave Sonic, a tad more moderate and another of the models of the autumn – winter of 2017: tremendously comfortable, breathable, fresh, soft, …
In case it has not been demonstrated that and although we speak of flying shoes, they can be relatively cushioned, versatile shoes, etc. Look to see what you think the New Balance 1400 v5, so as valid to flirt with dizzying paces of 3 ‘/ km as serving a half marathon or even marathon if you have a good technique.
We could not forget the dose of closure BOA in this segment where we can highlight the Asics Gel 451 that, on the platform of the Asics Gel Hyper Tri have mounted an upper equally adaptable, thin, lightweight and breathable with this so peculiar and so close fashion lately.They are Ideal for short distance triathletes.
Shoes for trail running
So far, all we have been seeing is mainly for asphalt but we know that many like to run on the mountain, so we also give you a few suggestions.
For terrains not too complicated and thinking that they are versatile shoes that are worth as long as you want, we started strong with the renewed New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v3 and its striking upper with HypoSkin and body format.
If you value the resistance and are virtually indestructible, try one of the Adidas Terrex family although we have a certain predilection for the Adidas Terrex Tracerocker that, although they are somewhat less famous than the Adidas Terrex Agravic, give a lot and have a more attractive price.
You cannot stop trying something La Sportiva when we had La Sportiva Akyra that revolutionized the market last year and with the classic La Sportiva Bushido if you are thinking about competing or going a little faster. The first is softer, the second harder, both capable of getting into any terrain, however complicated and complex it may be.
Surely you are surprised if we recommend the Nike Wildhorse 4 because there is not much talk about them, but we play with them, especially if you have in mind a versatile shoes, that are worth a bit for everything.
And we closed section and article with two classics that we have left for the end as a cherry, the versatile, rolling and typical “shoes for everything” Salomon Wings Pro 3 and one of the queens of the greasy and muddy ground, the Salomon Speedcross 4 you can also find with waterproof membrane (Salomon Speedcross 4 GTX) and with repellent treatment thanks to the ClimaShield membrane (Salomon Speedcross 4 CS).