Best running shoes for heavy female runners

by Solereview editors

Best Running shoes for heavy women

This article has been updated with current models for May 2021. The Altra Lone Peak 4.5, Brooks Glycerin 18, Saucony Freedom 3, Saucony Peregrine 10, and Saucony Ride 13 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Nike Structure 23 is a new addition.

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 identical, 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 of that article.

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 ‘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 body weight could also be a result of a large frame.

If any of the above apply to you, running in extremely soft shoes does 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 27 here. We do, however, have the Kayano Lite recommended here. That’s a completely different shoe than the K-27.

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 tinge of firmness

We’ve only cautioned against ultra-soft shoes and not cushioned footwear; there is a difference. A shoe can be cushioned without being marshmallowy. Examples would be the Nike Structure 23 and Saucony Triumph 18, two of the many on this list.

Not only do those shoes have a cushioned ride; their resilient midsoles and grippy outsoles add stability as well. The neutral midsole design ensures a smooth ride without the 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 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 Reebok Floatride Energy – which are based on expanded Polyurethane or PEBA – 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 also have similar properties that help retain long-term cushioning.

This isn’t to say that standard EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foams are bad. The Nike Structure 23 uses compression-molded EVA, yet is stable and long-lasting. Even the Asics Kayano Lite 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 list of over a dozen running shoes spread across a wide range of brands and ride characters. The shoes are grouped into sub-categories. Some models cater to different use-cases and range from 9-ounce cushioned trainers to 5-ounce 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) Asics Kayano Lite Women’s

The Asics running shoe line is evolving – and fast. And this infusion of newness isn’t mere lip service to updates, but a strategic move that appears to be well considered.

How else would one explain the introduction of models like the Novablast, Glideride, and the Metaracer? Even legacy models like the Nimbus and Kayano have received noteworthy ride and fit upgrades, and it doesn’t stop there.

The Kayano has a spin-off called the ‘Lite’ version (not to be confused with Lite-Show). The thick midsole provides sufficient ride comfort for most runs, long or short. At the same time, the medium-soft Flytefoam and flared heel create a stable foundation for heavy runners.

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s our full review of the Kayano Lite – it’s the men’s model but is almost identical. The Nimbus Lite 2 is somewhat similar to the Kayano Lite, but it isn’t as supportive.

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.

2) adidas SolarGlide ST Women’s

The ST suffix implies that this variant is the stability version of the namesake neutral trainer. And it is, to a certain extent.

While the SolarGlide ST has a cushioned Boost midsole that makes distance runs less punishing on the feet, there are additional support features. A sizeable EVA ‘rim’ separates the Boost foam from the upper – more so on the inner side.

It’s worth pointing out that the e-TPU Boost foam is highly resistant to long-term cushioning loss, and it does not firm up during frigid winters.

The plastic ‘Torsion’ shank extends into the forefoot and heel. This too, adds a layer of stability under the midsole, and so does the full-length Continental rubber outsole.

The snug and smooth-fitting upper secures the foot over the midsole without any slippage.

3) Brooks Glycerin 19 Women’s

This premium neutral cushioned trainer 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. A combination outsole (blown and firm rubber) produces the familiar transition and grip quality that is associated with Brooks running shoes.

Need we say more? The latest Brooks Glycerin also has an upper that securely holds the foot in plushness. It’s worth noting that the Glycerin 19 now has a full inner sleeve rather than a partial gusset.

While the sleeve makes the insides smoother, the fit runs narrower and warmer. That’s a good thing for narrow-footed runners, but a potential red flag for runners with wide feet.

For a higher level of under-arch support, we recommend the Brooks Glycerin GTS 19. That shoe is exactly like the Glycerin, but with ‘Guiderails’ – raised midsole sidewalls that cup either side of the foot. Based on our understanding, the Glycerin GTS replaces the Transcend.

Also see: The Mizuno Wave Sky 4 Waveknit.

4) Brooks Levitate 4 Women’s

The Levitate 4 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.

5) Mizuno Wave Rider 24 Women’s

Regardless of the gender, the Wave Rider 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 that blends cushioning comfort with healthy levels of stability. And this isn’t a heavy shoe either; the Rider 24 tips the scale at 8.3 ounces.

If the Wave Rider 24 feels noticeably different under the foot versus the 23, you’re not imagining things. The Wave plate is smaller and no longer forms the midfoot shank.

These updates make the ride softer without compromising on the familiar stability feel that Mizunos are known for. The upper fits snugger than older Wave Rider models like the 22, but the insides feel near seamless and plush.

Also see: The Mizuno Wave Inspire 17.

6) Nike Zoom Structure 23 Women’s

Like many other stability models elsewhere, the Nike Structure 23 leaves the medial post in the past.

The 23 has transformed into a ‘supportive neutral’ running shoe, a term we came up with to describe shoes that are neutral in their cushioning delivery yet provide a supportive foundation under the foot.

That’s an apt description of the latest Structure; 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 23 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 15.

7) Saucony Ride 14 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 14 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. The Ride 14 and 13 share the same midsole and outsole, so there’s no perceptible difference in the ride quality.

The 8.4-ounce weight and 8 mm heel-to-toe offset puts the Ride 14 in the sweet spot of neutral trainers.

The knit upper fits true to size and is available in a wide too. The Saucony Ride 14’s upper breathes better than the 13 due to the new mesh, and the tongue flap has added plushness.

Also see: The Saucony Guide 14.

8) Saucony Triumph 18 Women’s

A couple of years ago, the Saucony Triumph swapped its dense and firm Everun foam for Pwrrun+. Both are made of expanded Polyurethane foam, but they differ in their cushioning delivery.

With the new Pwrrun+ foam, cushioned responsiveness is available right out of the box. The overall ride resembles adidas Boost, but has a firmer overtone.

And why is the Triumph 18 a good fit for runners with a higher bodyweight?

Regardless of the cushioned ride, the wide midsole creates a supportive foundation under the foot. Also, the e-TPU based foam is fatigue resistant; it will retain its cushioning over the life of the shoe.

9) Saucony Freedom 4 Women’s

If the Triumph 18 feels like too much shoe, then it may be a good idea to consider the Saucony Freedom 4 in lieu.

The Freedom features the same Pwrrun PB foam as the Endorphin Speed, but in a lower-to-the-ground configuration and minus the plate. The V4 is markedly different than the V3 due to the change in midsole material. (From Pwrrun+ to Pwrrun PB)

Saucony_PWRRUN_PB

The new Saucony Pwrrun PB foam.

The resilient and low-profile cushioning (4 mm offset) is ideal for runners with an above-average bodyweight. The e-TPU foam resists permanent deformation, and that’s good news for long-term cushioning retention.

At mere 6.5-ounces (184 grams), the Freedom 4 is light as it gets. The low weight and sleek midsole profile make it ideal for speed training while delivering mileage-friendly cushioning.

Though the sleeved upper is relatively breathable, it’s got a snug fit. That’s a good thing for faster runs, as the upper securely holds the foot over the midsole.

Best women’s mild-stability running shoes for heavy runners

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 Women’s

Just like the rest of Brooks’ ever-evolving line, the Adrenaline GTS 21 is nothing like what it used to be. Since the midsole no longer has a firmer medial post, the raised ‘Guiderails’ are what gives the GTS 21 its supportive character.

The midsole is rather soft, and not dissimilar to the neutral Brooks Ghost 13. Even the midsole is now single-density, instead of using a second density crash pad.

That said, the high sidewalls provide a cupping action and under-arch support that’s lacking on the Ghost. This way, the Adrenaline GTS 21 offers mileage-friendly cushioning that is also supportive.

The upper is plush, smooth-fitting, and holds the foot sans slippage – what’s not to like?

As a firmer stability shoe alternative, we recommend the Saucony Guide 14.

Best women’s racing shoe for heavy runners

Skechers GoRun Razor 3+ Women’s

The Hyperburst midsole is the only reason why the Razor+ features on this list. After all, this EVA-blend compound offers an exceptional weight-to-cushioning ratio, all while being very stable for its class. It’s easy to forget that this is a 5-ounce speed racer.

Unlike regular foam-based midsoles, Hyperburst is resistant to bottoming out when loaded. That’s one of the many good things about the Razor+ – this ride character is excellent for fast runs while keeping the foot adequately supported and cushioned.

This upper fits narrow and a half size short, so try before you buy.

Also see: The Brooks Hyperion Tempo – it uses a similar lightweight EVA-blend midsole as the Razor, but comes at a price premium.

Best women’s trail-running shoe for heavy runners

1) Altra Lone Peak 5 Women’s

The Altra Lone Peak 5 has everything that a versatile trail running shoe should have. The closed mesh and synthetic leather upper are equal parts protective and comfortable, with bonus features like the gaiter attachment points. The Ripstop mesh keeps the dust and debris out.

Underneath, a sticky rubber outsole combines aggressive lugs and a stone guard for traction and protection. Between the outsole and upper is a 0 mm offset foam midsole that’s cushioned and supportive.

And yes, the Lone Peak gets the special Altra treatment; the upper fit is specially designed for women’s feet. Yay.

2) Saucony Peregrine 11 Women’s

The many desirable traits of the Peregrine 11 make it an excellent trail running for heavy women runners.

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.

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.

The Peregrine 10 and 11 share the same midsole and outsole, so buying the V10 on sale makes better financial sense.

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