Altra Olympus

11 Best Women’s Shoes Overall for 2018

We all know it: Some shoes are better than others. We keep some pairs near the front of the closet (or spilling out of it) because we look forward to running in them every day, and when we wear out one pair we buy the next version of the same model. Maybe we bought the shoes for a specialized purpose, but running in the rain is a great reason to throw on your favorite trail shoes for extra traction, and a road workout is the perfect opportunity to make sure your favorite racing shoes are in shape for your upcoming PR attempt. We asked over 11,000 runners to pick out their favorite running shoes, and based on their responses, these are the eleven best women’s running shoes available now.

Number 11

Hoka One One Tracer 2

Hoka One One Tracer 2

Hoka One One leads off the list with two models. At just 6.7 ounces in a women’s size 8, the Tracer 2 is the lightest model on this list, which isn’t the only clue that this is a shoe for racing and faster workouts. The moderately cushioned heel transitions to a firmer forefoot to accentuate the fast and responsive ride, and the low 4 mm heel-toe offset is typical not just of Hoka, but of racing shoes from many companies. For women’s running, 2018 is a great year for going fast.

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Number 10

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4

Hoka is primarily known for maximally cushioned shoes with a higher profile than the Tracer. What surprises people about Hoka running shoes, though, is how light they are, and the Challenger ATR 4 is no exception. The Challenger is a trail shoe with a high-traction sole and a toe cap to protect the foot, and a full 31 mm of cushion under your heel—but at just 8 ounces, it’s tied for the fourth-lightest shoe on this list. The amazing ratio of cushion to weight has made the Challenger ATR 4 one of the most popular trail shoes today.

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Number 9

Asics Gel DS Trainer 23

Asics Gel DS Trainer 23

The Gel DS Trainer 23 stands out as the best Asics women’s running shoes. The DS Trainers are exceptionally light and are designed for speed and responsiveness. With just 14 mm of sole between your toes and the ground, runners can expect excellent ground feel. Women who are looking for an uptempo trainer with moderate support features should put the DS Trainer at the top of their list.

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Number 8

New Balance 1260 v7

New Balance 1260 v7

When you’re helping a newer runner pick out running shoes, sometimes it’s best to avoid the experimental models and slimmed-down racing flats. That’s why the best women’s running shoes for beginners on this list might be the New Balance 1260 v7. The 1260s offer maximum support for runners who need additional stability, and any runner will appreciate their premium level of cushion. When you’re just starting out and every run is literally farther than you’ve ever run before, the 1260’s reliable shock absorption and smooth transitions will help your days-old fitness resolution turn into a lifelong passion.

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Number 7

Brooks Levitate 2

Brooks Levitate 2

In the competition to determine the best women’s running shoes, 2018 is the year when upstart companies like Hoka and Altra (both founded in 2009) gained the upper hand, taking over half the spots on the list between them. But traditional running shoe companies like Brooks (founded in 1914) aren’t sitting still. Brooks has built the Levitate 2 around its DNA AMP midsole material that provides soft cushion in the forefoot and heel, and an energetic, bouncy ride. The offset from heel to toe drops from the traditional 10 or 12 mm down to 8 mm, closer to what the upstarts like Hoka offer. Brooks’s renowned fit now comes in the form of a knit upper for a true sock-like fit.

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Number 6

Altra Escalante

Altra Escalante

We will now turn the time over to Altra: After less than a decade in business, Altra takes the award for the best women’s running shoes brand, with four of the top six spots on this list. The Escalante, nearly as light as the Tracer, is Altra’s top model for faster running, whether in workouts or for racing. The Escalante shares the generous toe box and zero-drop sole format of other Altra models, and achieves outstanding energy return through the use of EGO foam in the midsole. The Escalante has been recognized with a Runner’s World Editor’s Choice award for its outstanding combination of cushion and response.

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Number 5

Altra Intuition 4.5

Altra Intuition 4.5

If you’re looking for the best women’s running shoes on a budget, Altra can help you with that, too. The Intuition 4.5 has the lowest retail price of the shoes for daily use on this list, and it really is a shoe that can be used almost every day, no matter where you go. At just 8 ounces, it’s light enough to pick up the pace on your faster days, and the sole is ready to carry you over almost any kind of surface.

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Number 4

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v2

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo v2

Are Altra and Hoka going to out-innovate their competitors and take over the market? New Balance begs to differ. Its Fresh Foam lineup aims to show that soft can be fast, and the smooth ride of the Vongo v2 is winning over skeptics. The Vongo combines great stability in a daily trainer with a minimal 4 mm drop between the heel and toe, similar to the aggressive offsets typical of the running shoe upstarts.

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Number 3

Mizuno Wave Paradox 4

Mizuno Wave Paradox 4

As the top stability trainers on this list, the Vongo and the Mizuno Wave Paradox 4 are nearly tied as the best women’s running shoes for overpronation. The two shoes take very different approaches, however. The Paradox’s heel provides a full 32 mm of cushion under your heel, with a 12 mm offset from heel to toe. And what’s under your foot isn’t just foam, but also Mizuno’s thermal plastic Wave plate for increased cushion, energy return, and stability.

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Number 2

Altra Superior 3.5

Altra Superior 3.5

And now back to Altra for the top 2 models, both designed for trail running and built around Altra’s commitment to zero-drop shoes with a wide toe box, but otherwise quite different from each other. The Superior 3.5 keeps its weight low by reducing the stack height—identical at the toe and heel because it’s Altra we’re talking about—to just 18 mm. Keeping the cushioning to a moderate level helps give the Superior a more natural ride and versatility for taking on anything from dirt roads to technical trails.

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Number 1

altra olympus 3.0

altra olympus 3.0

The Olympus 3.0 towers above the other models on this list—literally. In contrast to the Superior, the Olympus provides 33 mm of cushioning, more than any other shoe on this list. It’s a level of cushioning, in combination with a lugged sole, that’s ready to meet the challenge of hundred-mile ultramarathons over rugged mountain trails. Or for the rest of us, enough cushioning to be fantastically comfortable, no matter where we run.

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or get it on Amazon