In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Best for everyday training: Nike Structure 24
- 3. Best for everyday training: Saucony Ride 15
- 4. Best for everyday training: Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
- 5. Best for neutral support: Brooks Glycerin 20
- 6. Best for neutral support: Asics Kayano Lite 3
- 7. Best for neutral support: Brooks Levitate 5
- 8. Best for neutral support: adidas Solarglide 5
- 9. Best for rocker ride: Asics Glideride 3
- 10. Best for short races: adidas adios 7
- 11. Best for cushioned trail runs: Brooks Caldera 6
- 12. Best for faster trail runs: Saucony Peregrine 12
This is a slightly different take on the men’s buyer’s guide on the same topic. However, our criteria for selecting the shoes for this guide are the same, so have a quick read if you can.
But hey, we understand – you’re pressed for time and don’t want to go to the trouble of toggling screens, so here’s an overview.
As a heavy runner, do not buy pillowy-soft running shoes – though that’s the most likely advice you’ll receive from store associates or online forums. You’ll hear or read things like ‘soft cushioning provides better impact protection for heavy runners’, or ‘they’re good for your knees’.
People may also suggest ‘stability’ running shoes. You know, the ones with a firmer wedge called the medial post.
That has been the conventional wisdom passed down the generations. But that’s far from sound advice.
Let’s assume that you’re 5’7’’ tall and weigh 180 pounds with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 28. Or you’re a muscular athlete with the same height and weight, in which case, the BMI is a meaningless metric. The above-average bodyweight could also be a result of a large frame.
If any of the above apply to you, running in extremely soft shoes do more harm than good. Such running shoes are usually unstable and may cause injuries since the musculoskeletal system will constantly try to compensate for the soft ride.
We’re not saying that your running shoes should be rock hard; just avoid shoes with max-soft cushioning if you’re heavy. That is why we do not have the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run on this guide.
Women with a higher body weight should also stay clear of stability shoes with a biased ride – a design that makes the outer side of the midsole softer than the inner sidewall. For this reason, you won’t see models like the Asics Kayano 29 here. We do, however, recommend the Kayano Lite 3 – since it’s a completely different shoe than the Kayano 29.
On a side note, the medial post bias of present-day shoes is nowhere as intrusive as it used to be. But when superior alternatives are readily available, why settle for less?
If running shoes from the said categories are off the menu for weighty women, what kind of footwear should you buy?
Or to be specific, what qualities should you look for in a running shoe?
The cushioning should be smooth and supportive with a hint of firmness
There is a difference between the terms ‘ultra-soft’ and cushioned. A shoe can be cushioned without being mushy. Examples would be the Nike Structure 24 and Brooks Glycerin 20, two of the many on this list.
Not only do those shoes have a cushioned ride; their resilient midsoles and grippy outsoles also add stability. The neutral midsole design produces a smooth ride without ‘sinking’.
To sum up, a cushioned midsole works for heavy runners as long as it isn’t unstable. The level of support should be based on both the midsole geometry and foam density.
Look for non-EVA foam midsoles
New-age materials like the adidas Boost, Saucony Pwrrun+/PB, and Brooks DNA Loft V3 have superior cushioning retention over time. At the same time, these foams do a better job than EVA at cushioning delivery for heavy runners.
Technologies like the Nike React and Brooks DNA AMP (used on the Levitate 5) also have properties that help with long-term cushioning retention.
This isn’t to say that standard EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foams are bad. The Nike Structure 24 uses compression-molded EVA, yet is stable and long-lasting. Even the Asics Kayano Lite 2 is also based on an EVA foam blend.
A secure upper fit
A stable midsole isn’t very useful when paired with a sloppy upper fit. An interior that grips the foot securely benefits the overall stability.
We’ve curated a dozen running shoes spread across a wide range of ride characters. The shoes are grouped into sub-categories. Some models cater to different use-cases and range from cushioned trainers to lightweight speedsters.
Many websites only recommend heavy running shoes for heavy runners – that’s silly, we think.
Best neutral running shoes for heavy women
1) Nike Zoom Structure 24 Women’s
The Structure 23 transformed into a ‘supportive neutral’ running shoe, a term that we came up with to describe shoes that are neutral in their cushioning delivery yet provide a supportive foundation.
The Structure 24 is nearly identical to the 23, as both share a common midsole and outsole. So it doesn’t really matter which Structure (23 or 24) you buy.
As a result, the ride character hasn’t changed. The forefoot Zoom Air cushioning adds a responsive pop to the ride, whereas the wide midsole makes the ride very supportive.
Given the ride stability, the Structure 24 is a good pick for heavy runners. The segmented outsole grips well and helps with quick turnovers.
Like most (recent) Nike running shoes, the upper is fully sleeved, and thus fits snug and warm. The midfoot strapping system does an excellent job of securing the foot over the midsole, and there’s plenty of plushness in the tongue and heel.
Also see: The Zoom Vomero 16.
2) Saucony Ride 15 Women’s
This well-known neutral trainer’s firm and supportive ride make it extremely versatile – not just for different running activities but for various weight categories as well.
Unlike many neutral trainers, the Saucony Ride 15 isn’t overly soft. Even with the recent switch to the Pwrrun foam, the midsole character retains the firm underfoot feel. A firm ride also equates to better stability for light and heavy runners alike.
At the same time, the Ride 15 isn’t lack in ride comfort. The thicker footbed made of expanded PU (Pwrrun+) and tall midsole delivers a high level of cushioning for long-distance runs. Our detailed review has all that you need to know about the Ride 15.
The engineered mesh upper fits true to size and is also available in a wide. The Saucony Ride 15’s upper combines a breathable mesh with soft-touch lining and a secure fit.
Also see: The Saucony Guide 15.
3) Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 Women’s
There are changes on the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 that make it more supportive than the 21; here’s our detailed review of the GTS 22.
Brooks has firmed up the midsole, so that means there’s a increased level of support for a higher body weight. While the midsole isn’t soft, the insole and foam lasting are – thus providing a cushy layer of step-in softness. The outsole traction is excellent too.
The upper is plush, smooth-fitting, and holds the foot securely without any slippage. An internal gusset and seamless construction make the interior free of potential hot spots.
As a firmer stability shoe alternative, we recommend the Saucony Guide 15.
4) Brooks Glycerin 20 Women’s
The Brooks Glycerin 20 is a premium neutral cushioned trainer that relies on a single-density midsole and Ortholite insole to deliver a smooth, comfortable, and supportive ride.
This form factor works for most situations, be it daily runs or long-distance cruising. The rubber outsole and transition groove produces the familiar transition and grip quality that is associated with Brooks running shoes.
Need we say more? The latest Brooks Glycerin 20 also has an upper that securely holds the foot in plushness. It’s worth noting that the Glycerin 20 no longer has an inner sleeve as the Glycerin 19 did. To find out more about what’s changed between the Glycerin 19 and 20, our review is worth a read.
For a higher level of under-arch support, we recommend the Brooks Glycerin GTS 20. That shoe is exactly like the Glycerin, but with ‘Guiderails’ – raised midsole sidewalls that cup either side of the foot. If you’re wondering where the Brooks Transcend went, that’s because the Glycerin GTS is its successor.
5) Asics Kayano Lite 3 Women’s
The Kayano has a spin-off called the ‘Lite’ version (not to be confused with Lite-Show).
The cushioned Flytefoam midsole is comfortable enough for most runs, long or short. At the same time, the wide heel create a stable foundation for heavy runners. Asics has redesigned the Kayano Lite for this year, but it has a ride quality that’s similar to the previous Kayano Lite.
The soft mesh and padded lining makes the upper comfortable as well as secure – it locks the foot down over the supportive Flytefoam midsole.
Editor’s note: The women’s Kayano Lite has a 2 mm thicker heel than the men’s version. The men’s Kayano Lite also has a lower heel-to-toe offset of 10 mm.
6) Brooks Levitate 5 Women’s
The Levitate 5 has a unique midsole design with qualities that makes it a good fit for this buyer’s guide.
A dense core of Polyurethane foam is protected by a thick urethane sheath to create a cushioning experience that is stable as well as responsive.
The softer core delivers the desired underfoot comfort whereas the thicker ‘skin’ prevents it from shearing. When compared to other foams, the ride quality is distinct; the cushioning responds vertically and has a quick rebound. It doesn’t flatten as EVA foams do, so this makes it a good fit for heavier runners.
The outsole grip is excellent, by the way. There’s a more supportive version of the Levitate called the Levitate 5 GTS; it has raised midsole edges that Brooks calls ‘Guiderails.’
7) adidas SolarGlide 5 Women’s
Though the Solarglide 5 doesn’t have a lot in common with the last year’s Solarglide 4, that’s not a relevant discussion for this product guide.
The extremely high level of ride stability is the reason why the Solarglide 5 features on this list. Not only is the wide Boost midsole supported with a firmer EVA rim and Continental rubber outsole, but the plastic LEP shank also forms a ‘wing’ over the midsole.
As a result, what we have here is an extremely stable, yet cushioned running shoe for heavy runners. Our in-depth review explains what the Solarglide 5 can and cannot do.
Though the upper breathes very well, we’re not exactly fond of the scratchy tongue and high weight. At nearly 12-ounces, the shoe outweighs its peers by at least 2 ounces. This limits the Solarglide 5’s on-road performance, so it’s best used as a daily trainer at slow speeds.
8) Asics Glideride 3 Women’s
The Glideride 3 is a fun running shoe that’s sufficiently supportive for heavier runners.
Two layers of Flytefoam create a cushioned yet stable midsole for high-mileage runs. But that’s not the end of the story; the Glideride 3 has a stiff Nylon plate that enables quick forefoot turnovers. The plated design isn’t to be mixed up with the likes of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 or other plated racers.
Here, the plate’s purpose is to help the foot ‘roll forward’ during the transition process. As a result, the Glideride 3 delivers a happy blend of speed-friendly transitions and long-distance comfort.
The smooth engineered mesh upper has a very snug fit, so that locks the foot down over the tall midsole.
Best women’s racing shoe for heavy runners
9) adidas adizero adios 7 Women’s
Most speed shoes are moving away from traditional racer-type silhouettes, so the adidas adizero adios 7 comes as a breath of fresh air.
The adios 7 isn’t a racing flat, but strikes a satisfying balance between ride comfort and speed-friendly road manners.
The dual density midsole with its Lightstrike Pro forefoot is comfortable enough for 10K runs, whereas the firm ride and aggressive outsole geometry prove useful while setting personal bests during a road race.
The mesh and synthetic upper securely locks the foot down, and offers excellent ventilation.
If you already own a pair of the adios 6, then it may not be worth upgrading to the adios 7. Both the versions are based on an identical sole design, so the ride character stays the same.
Best women’s trail-running shoe for heavy runners
10) Brooks Caldera 6 Womens
The Caldera 6 is a cushioned trail running shoe that’s also supportive. In many ways, the Caldera 6 is like the Brooks Glycerin 20, but for the trail. That comparison is apt, because like the Glycerin 20, the Brooks Caldera 6’s midsole is made of the same DNA Loft V3 foam.
However, that’s where the similarities end. The ultra-wide and tall midsole is more stable and cushioned than the Glycerin, and trail-worthy features like the grippy trail-tack rubber, gaiter attachment points, and reinforced upper make the Caldera 6 suitable for long-distance trail runs.
Despite its max-cushioned ride, the wide outsole footprint and resilient DNA Loft v3 foam provide the stability that heavier runners need.
11) Saucony Peregrine 12 Women’s
The many desirable traits of the Peregrine 12 make it an excellent trail running for heavy women runners. Our trail-tested review has more.
The firm Pwrrun foam midsole makes the ride very stable regardless of the bodyweight. There’s also a rock guard for protection, along with an aggressively designed outsole made of a grippy rubber compound called Pwrtrac.
This year’s model has a cushy insole made of the responsive Pwrrun+ (e-TPU) foam, so the Peregrine 12 feels softer under the foot than the 11.
The layered upper is comfortable, secure, and uses a closed-type mesh to keep the debris out. If that wasn’t enough, there are gaiter attachment points should the situation demand one. There’s also a ST variant with an elastic bungee-cord lacing.