Elastic knit uppers are a ubiquitous sight today, but it wasn’t always so. Before adidas and Nike turned knit uppers into the new industry standard, it was hard to find a running shoe that fit narrow feet.
In the old days, footwear choices were mostly binary. You either had a snug upper fit or a standard sizing that was too baggy for narrow feet. Sometimes you found a running shoe that hit the sweet spot of upper fit, but that was only after you struck gold after several days of search.
Those days are far gone. Today, you can enter any running shoe store and walk out with a pair that fits narrow feet.
Let’s establish what ‘narrow’ means here.
A ‘D’ sizing (B for women) is also known as the medium width, the default fit for all running shoes. A ‘B’ width is one size narrower than D. It is more common for brands to offer a wide (2E) and extra-wide (4E) than a narrower B size. The exceptions are companies like New Balance and Brooks who offer B widths whereas most do not.
There are four categories of running shoes on this guide.
The first category has running shoes that are not narrow in their standard ‘D’ fit, but compensates by offering a B (narrow) sizing.
The second group has shoes with regular D widths that inherently fit snug. This includes stretchy knit uppers that accommodate a variety of foot shapes. Regular mesh uppers with a conforming fit are also grouped into this category.
However, if you’re located in an area where the full range of widths (including a B) isn’t available, we recommend sticking to the second or fourth category.
The third section has narrow shoes for faster runs. Here, you’ll come across models like the adidas adizero Boston and the New Balance 1400.
Lastly, we’ve featured a couple of affordable narrow-fitting shoes that cost less than $100 at retail.
Here’s a hack if you happen to have small feet – say, size US 8 or under. It isn’t a bad idea to get a boy’s model or even women’s running shoes in neutral colors. Buying a boy’s model will get you a narrower fit with 20-30% of price savings over the adult version.
Category 1: Neutral and stability running shoes available in a B (narrow) width.
1) Brooks Ghost 13
This very dependable neutral trainer sells in four widths; a narrow ‘B’ size is one of them. So if you want something snugger than the just-right ‘D’ width, then getting the B will do the job perfectly. The upper, as always, is put together using quality trims and upholstery to create a comfortable interior.
For 2020, the Ghost 13’s midsole leaves the dual-density business behind. In its place is a single piece stack of foam that blends distance-friendly cushioning, smooth transitions, and stability. Be it everyday runs or distance cruising, the Ghost 13 does it all.
2) Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21
For this year, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 goes the way of the Ghost 13. The heel crash pad is now part of the main midsole, and the only firmer piece of foam is the ‘Guiderail’ on the arch side.
So what does this mean for the Adrenaline? It’s closer to the Ghost than ever before. We’d go as far as to say that the GTS 21 is a Ghost 13 with raised midsole sidewalls. Other than that, the level of cushioning softness and support is nearly identical to the Ghost. This is no longer the firm, medial posted Adrenaline GTS that runners once knew.
The upper is well-built, no complaints there. Buying the optional ‘B’ width will provide a squeezier fit for narrow-footed runners.
3) New Balance Fresh Foam 880 V10
Most New Balance shoes are switching to the Fresh Foam platform, and it’s the 880’s turn this time. The new midsole swaps the multi-density set-up for a simpler Fresh Foam cushioning.
Though the knit upper fits true to size, a narrow (B) width makes the interiors tighter.
Even with all the changes, the 880 continues to be an excellent neutral daily trainer pick.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam 860V11
With a brand-new Fresh Foam midsole and heavily updated upper design, the New Balance 860 looks unrecognizable.
The only clue of its 860-ness is the small wedge that is visually integrated into the midsole. This, too, is a lot smaller than the older medial posts. So not only does the 860 look different, but it rides differently too.
At most, there’s only a slight hint of motion control within the ride character. The Fresh Foam 860 is a good daily trainer pick for runners who crave the medially-posted ride experience.
Even with the radically changed upper design, New Balance keeps one thing constant – widths. Among the selection of different widths is also a narrow ‘B’ size for slim-footed runners.
5) New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V10
New Balance’s 1080 is in the best phase of its life. The Fresh Foam midsole and the outsole have been tweaked to increase ride comfort for long runs.
The foam is soft without being mushy, and the split outsole works effectively with the midsole to enhance the overall cushioning experience.
And you can have all of this cushy goodness in a narrow B width too.
Category 2: Cushioned daily trainers with a standard snug upper fit.
1) adidas UltraBoost 20
adidas Primeknit uppers – like the one used on the UltraBoost 20 – have a snug fit due to the built-in mechanical stretch. adidas doesn’t offer widths but this shoe will fit most narrow-footed runners.
It helps that the redesigned upper uses softer midfoot panels that make the fit more comfortable than the 19. The Boost cushioning hasn’t changed so you get the same ride comfort that works for easy runs or casual wear.
2) adidas SolarBoost 19
Though the new SolarBoost isn’t as narrow as the 2018 model due to the upper design tweaks, it still has a narrow fit.
Along with the snug upper, you also get the full-length Boost midsole that delivers responsive and durable cushioning. And the Continental rubber outsole that lasts a long time.
Category 3: Affordable narrow-fitting shoes below $100 retail.
1) Nike Renew Run
As far as Nike shoes go, the Renew Run is excellent value. It costs just $10 shy of a hundred dollars, and in return, you get a cushioned ride that’s comfortable enough for everyday runs of shorter distances.
This is also one of the few Nike shoes that features a softer Lunarlon core – a midsole material that used to be all the rage a decade ago.
The upper is the reason why the Renew Run shows up on this list. The insides are smooth and comfort-oriented, but the forefoot is rather pointy. With pointy-ness comes narrowness; and that’s a positive if a snug-fitting shoe is what you need.
2) Reebok Endless Road 2
Here’s a $70 running shoe that squeezes your foot without doing the same to your wallet.
The Endless Road 2’s upper last and layered construction work together to create a vice-like fit. Though there’s enough (firm) cushioning in the simple EVA midsole to make this shoe a daily trainer, the narrow fit makes it fit like a road-racer.
Category 4: Speed trainers and racers with a standard snug upper fit.
1) adidas adizero Boston 9
One of adidas’s credible performance trainers, the lightweight and speed-friendly adizero Boston 9’s narrow upper has a secure fit.
A ‘B’ width isn’t required here; the very nature of shoes in this category calls for a snug fit. And that’s what the Boston delivers. That helps, because adidas doesn’t sell widths in most of their shoes.
And what’s the difference between the Boston 8 and 9? Not much – just a few upper changes.
Also see: The adidas SL20.
2) adidas adizero adios 5
Throughout its history, the adidas adizero adios has always been a narrow-fitting shoe. The adios 5 is more of the same. The spacer mesh upper fits narrow, especially on the small toe side.
There’s a reason why the upper fits narrow. The adizero adios 5 is a road racer, so the upper needs to lock the foot down securely during high-speed runs.
3) New Balance 1400 V6
The New Balance 1400V6 is one of our favorite road-racers. The Revlite midsole feels fast while offering a cushioned layer for protection from the road.
As with most racers, the mesh upper has a secure fit that suits runners with narrow feet.
4) Skechers GoMeb Speed 6 Hyper
Though the GoMeb Speed 6 is marketed as a racing flat, it is a lot of shoe. Nearly 20 mm of Hyper foam cushioning separates the foot from the ground. And it’s a 4 mm drop shoe.
So a true flat the Speed 6 is not, but a capable speed trainer it certainly is.
However, there’s one thing that the Speed 6 has in common with racing flats, and that is the uber-snug upper fit. If you’re a narrow-footed runner looking for a low-profile trainer capable of speedy training runs or races, the GoMeb Speed 6 is worth considering.