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Best running shoes for heavy female runners – 2019


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This is a slightly different spin on the men’s buyer’s guide by the same name. That said, our rationale for selecting the shoes for this guide is 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 a recap.

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 reasoning on the lines of ‘a shoe with soft cushioning provides better impact protection for heavy runners’, or ‘they’re good for your knees’.

People might also suggest the use of ‘stability’ running shoes. You know, the ones which have a firmer wedge called a medial post.

That has been the conventional wisdom passed down through the generations, but far from being sound advice.

Let’s assume that you’re 5’7’’ tall and weigh 180 pounds with a 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 measurement. Your above-average weight could also be a result of being a large-framed female.

If any of the above conditions apply to you, running in shoes with an extremely soft midsole will do more harm than good. Such running shoes are usually unstable and may cause injuries because your musculoskeletal system will constantly try to compensate for the shoe.

We’re not saying that your running shoes should be rock hard; just avoid shoes with max-soft cushioning if you’re a heavy female. A few examples would the Nike Vaporfly 4%, the Hoka Clifton and their kind. Even the New Balance 1080V9 is a borderline choice.

Heavy women runners should also stay clear of stability shoes with a biased ride – a design which makes the outer side of the midsole softer than the inner sidewall. For this reason, you won’t see models like the Asics Kayano 26 or the Saucony Hurricane ISO 5 here.

On a side note, the medial-post bias of present-day shoes is nowhere as acute as it used to be. But when you have superior alternatives, taking chances makes little sense.

If running shoes from the said categories are off the menu for weighty women, what kind of footwear should you buy?

Or more specifically, what qualities should you look in a running shoe?

The cushioning should be smooth and supportive with a tinge of firmness

We’ve only cautioned you against ultra-soft shoes and not cushioned footwear; there is a difference. A shoe can be cushioned without being pillowy. A good example is the Brooks Glycerin 17, one of the recommended shoes on this list.

Not only does the G-17’s have a cushioned ride, but it’s relatively firm midsole foam and grippy outsole also adds stability. The single-density midsole construction ensures a smooth ride without instability-inducing sink spots.

In short, a cushioned midsole works for heavy women as long as it doesn’t create an unstable ride. The level of support should be a result of both the midsole geometry and the foam density.

Look for non-EVA foam midsoles

New-age materials like the adidas Boost, Saucony Everun, and Reebok Floatride Energy – which are based on expanded Polyurethane – hold their cushioning better over time. At the same time, these foams do a better job than EVA when it comes to delivering cushioning for heavier runners.

Technologies like Nike React and Brooks DNA AMP also have similar properties with respect to cushioning retention.

Standard EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foams tend to pack and lose their structure over time; that ultimately leads to instability.

A secure upper fit

A stable midsole isn’t of much use when paired with a sloppy upper fit. An interior which locks the foot down securely over the midsole increases the overalls stability levels during runs.

We’ve curated a list of top ten running shoes spread across a wide range of brands and ride quality.

1) adidas Solar Drive 19 Women’s

We recommend the Solar Drive 19 over the other adidas Boost models because of its lower-volume midsole.

This way, you get the comfort and durability of adidas Boost cushioning but without the uber-soft feel.

2) Brooks Glycerin 17 Women’s

We already discussed the Glycerin in our preface, pointing out why it was a running shoe suitable for heavy female runners.

Need we say more? This smooth-riding daily trainer is comfortable, stable, and also comes with a plush upper which keeps the foot in place. And here’s the full review.

3) Brooks Levitate 2 Women’s

The Levitate 2 has a unique midsole design, the kind which 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 which is stable and responsive.

The softer core delivers underfoot comfort while the thicker covering prevents it from bottoming out.

4) Brooks Transcend 6 Women’s

The Transcend 6 does everything what the Glycerin 17 but with a lot more stability. Just like the latter, the single-density midsole made of the DNA-Loft foam delivers a smooth and cushioned ride.

At the same time, the wider outsole footprint and the elevated GuideRails cup the foot from the sides. These attributes make the Transcend 6 a great choice for 180 lb+ women runners.

5) Mizuno Wave Rider 23 Women’s

Regardless of the gender, the Wave Rider 23 has always been a safe choice for heavy runners. The plastic Wave plate is sandwiched between two layers of firm midsole foam, a set-up which serves cushioning with a healthy level of stability.

If you own a pair of the Wave Rider 22 and have plans to upgrade, the Wave Inspire 15 is also an option.

6) Nike Epic React 2 Flyknit Women’s

A synthetic rubber midsole with dense cushioning. A flared forefoot and heel midsole geometry. A secure Flyknit upper with a stabilizing heel clip. These are all ingredients of a running shoe which is suitable for heavy runners. You get a high-quality cushioning without any of the mushiness.

The Epic React Flyknit 2 is the lightest shoe in this guide. So if you find the other shoes bulky, then you know which shoe to buy.

7) Reebok Harmony Road 3 Women’s

Reebok’s Floatride e-TPU foam is firmer than adidas Boost so it strikes a fine balance between cushioning comfort and stability.

Making things more supportive is the firmer midsole heel plug, so the Harmony Road is a safe bet for heavy or large-framed women.

8) Saucony Triumph ISO 5

The Saucony Triumph ISO 5’s midsole uses Everun, a firmer version of adidas Boost if you will. Small e-TPU globules are packed in a dense formation to create one cohesive cushioning unit. The Everun midsole is tinged with firmness and is resistant to excessive compression, so the Triumph ISO does a good job at managing body weight.

It’s also a great shoe for warm summers; the breezy ISOFIT upper lets the air circulate freely.

9) Saucony Freedom ISO 2 Women’s

For some female runners, the Triumph ISO 5 might feel like too much of a shoe. If that happens to be you, give the Saucony Freedom ISO 2 a try.

The Freedom features the same Everun foam as the Triumph but in a lower-to-the-ground avatar. The heel drop is lower too at 4 mm. The dense and low-profile cushioning is ideal for runners with an above-average body-weight.

If you want a Freedom ISO 2 with a hint of support, then the Liberty ISO 2 is your shoe.

10) Saucony Liberty ISO 2 Women’s

What’s the difference between the Saucony Freedom and the Liberty? Not a lot. If you didn’t notice it already, even these two words are synonymous.

But there exists a separation in features. The Liberty ISO 2 has a tiny plastic stabilizer (not a post, though) over the inner midsole as well as an outsole design with more exposed space. If you pay close attention, you’ll also observe slightly raised midsole sidewalls and a more supportive ISOFIT upper.

So there you have it – the Liberty and Freedom are similar running shoes which work equally well for heavy female athletes. The Liberty is a bit more supportive, that’s all.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this guide by sharing your insights – submit a review here.