Buying sneakers for women is really hard and I actually really hate it. Here’s why.
- The market is a mess. I never know if I’m looking at street-style sneakers or Olympic athlete-level sneakers because they look the same and they all cost a bomb.
- I have my own little sneaker quirks. I like lowish support, very into those technical knit style fabrics but thick soles can get in the bin. However, any time I go into a sneaker shop the sales assistant has different ideas about what I should buy, probably based on their sales figures that day.
- I don’t really care. I just want comfortable shoes I can hit the gym in and I don’t want to notice or think about them ever again.
To me it’s the same as buying a swimsuit or jeans. It’s something I put off until I just can’t anymore, or in the case of jeans I just stopped wearing them altogether. This is the state of my current sneakers. Literal holes. You can see my socks through the ends.
These are about 5 years old and they’re Allbirds. I really like them. They did me proud and to be honest they do pretty ace sneakers for women. I’m just keen to try something a little different this time. So I did what any normal girl would do – I did a 5 hour Google deep dive on the best sneakers for women and packaged it all up in a handy comprehensive blog post for your convenience. I really let this go on too long. They have holes in the soles. Don’t be like me.
Here’s how I found my new dream sneakers (which I am yet to actually buy because I live in the country and haven’t been to the Big Smoke yet to purchase them). I do know which ones I’m buying though and here’s how I decided.
First, I turned to my trusty Instagram community and asked them about their favourite sneakers for women. Here’s what they said.
A few came up regularly – Hokas (which I had never heard of), Asics, Nikes. Brooks was another. I’m already a big fan of Nikes but that’s just a personal preference. I like light sneakers and most of their styles are fairly lightweight. I also recently watched the movie Air about the story behind Air Jordan shoes. That movie influenced me so much I nearly bought a pair of Air Jordans which would have been a bad idea because everyone says they’re really uncomfortable and also not really designed for exercise. In general, as a company I quite like Nike. They’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years but they’re making the effort to do better. Any big clothing manufacturer is going to have its issues but their sustainability rating on Good on You is It’s a Start which is actually pretty good for a huge company that was built through the 80s when no one gave two hoots where their clothes came from. I’ve also had several pairs of Nikes over the years and they last FOREVER. I still wear my 2009 pair in the garden. Hoka’s rating is also It’s a Start, Asics is Not Good Enough, and Brooks is also Not Good Enough. I wanted to include that info in case it’s important to you.
So now I was at the point where I could figure out exactly what I needed.
Here’s my top requirement list.
- Not too heavy or clunky
- Running not essential – I rarely run – but also I would like to be able to run in them a little as part of HIIT classes or an occasional social jog with some mates
- Walking very essential – rough terrain and in the rain (not quite hiking but certainly trail walking)
- Mainly used for gym so good cushioning a plus
- Available in all black – every time I buy sneakers in bright colours I regret it
- Flexible soul – I hate brick-like soles
After going through the recommendations I narrowed it down to a few top contenders.
From what I’ve heard from women’s sneaker enthusiasts Metcons are durable, stable and versatile. They’re mainly designed for cross-training and functional fitness. Word on the street though is that they’re definitely not for running. They have a low-profile and wide flat soles for stability and support. Great for weightlifting and intense workouts. They have a grippy outsole for traction, a breathable weave for comfort and a responsive midsole for cushioning and impact absorption. They seem to be a pretty top all-rounder for gym go-ers.
Nike Metcon Frees combine the features of the Metcon with the flexibility and natural movement of Nike Free shoes.
It seems like Metcons are more for lifting and Metcon Frees are better for cross-training and HIIT. I also just realised there are Soccer Frees, Gymnastics Frees… there’s a lot of them. FYI.
This was confirmed by one of my Instagram followers (you can see her Metcon Insta DM above!).
Hoka Bondi 7s are super popular (heaps of people mentioned them in my Instagram poll) and are known for their plush cushioning and comfort. They’re quite extra-looking with a thick, cushioned midsole for shock absorption and support. They have a roomy toe box, and durable construction, and are mainly suitable for road running and other low-impact activities. These seem to be a proper runners’ shoe – lots of runners on Instagram recommend these. They’re also more affordable than Nikes sitting closer to $150 rather than $220 as a price point. Straight up, these aren’t for me. That sole is way too chunky.
Asics Gel 1000 or 2000
The Asics Gel range got some serious love on Instagram and they’re known for their cushioning support. There’s a gel layer in the sole that’s supposed to offer shock absorption. They’re supportive, made from breathable materials and have a durable outer sole. They’re mainly a running sneaker (from what I’ve been told) and seem to be a pretty great all-rounder shoe.
Lots of recommendations for Brooks – no models mentioned, just Brooks. Brooks sneakers are a highly regarded classic brand of sneakers. They offer a variety of cushioning options to suit different preferences and comfort and support are their main priorities. They incorporate user feedback and make adjustments for stride in their designs. Fun fact – a family friend of ours is a physiotherapist and he will only wear Brooks sneakers.
This one came straight from my sneaker-obsessed mate who used to be a fit expert at Athlete’s Foot. Here’s what they had to say about the Nike Trail Pegasus.
Their profiling of my sneaker needs was close to perfect, so I reckon these might be the go for me. I never even considered Gortex but they know I go for lots of outdoor walks so that was a feature that was more essential than I realised.
I still haven’t bought new shoes but here are some tips for shopping for sneakers for women if you seriously need to upgrade yours.
5 Tips for Buying Sneakers for Women
- Go to a physical store – I haven’t done this yet because I live in the country and haven’t had time but in-store visits can give you the chance to check out the fit, comfort, and overall feel before making a purchase. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll make it to a store but if I could, I would. For those who can’t, I’ve provided links to all the top sneakers in this post.
- Think about what features are important to you – Features such as lightweight materials, breathable uppers, or responsive midsoles. Maybe traction outsoles for stability and grip? Whatever it is that bothered you about your last pair of sneakers should be a priority fix for your next pair.
- Focus on comfort and fit – Pay close attention to the fit, make sure there is ample room for your toes to move comfortably. Consider things like width options, and cushioning levels. How they lace up. Sneakers are really personal so you’ll need to figure out what lights you up inside and what annoys you. I know through my discussion on Instagram that support is a real issue for a lot of people and it’s much less of an issue for me. So choose your own crumpet.
- Set a budget – you can easily spend several hundred dollars on sneakers but you also don’t have to. Choose your budget first and then look at shoes within that budget. You honestly don’t have to break the bank for a pair with all the bells and whistles, just get what you need at a price you can afford.
- Check for discounts – Google the brand you want to buy and add ‘sale’ to your search. You can also check Facebook marketplace for second-hand sneakers for women. I don’t mean beaten-up second-hand ones but heaps of people buy sneakers, wear them once or twice, decide they’re not quite right and sell them for a steal. Great idea if you know exactly what model and size you want or to replace a pair you already have.
The History of Sneakers
As always when I’m researching things like this my mind wanders and I’m like ‘Who invented sneakers?’ so I went down a rabbit hole researching the history of sneakers.
Back in the late 1800s, a man named Wait Webster decided that standard leather sole shoes just weren’t cutting it. They were inflexible and slippery. He decided to attach a rubber sole to the bottom of his own shoes. He was absolutely chuffed with the results and promptly attached rubber soles to the bottoms of all his shoes.
Eventually, Webster’s idea reached the headquarters of a shoe company called U.S. Rubber. They collaborated with him to develop and market the new shoe design. They were initially supposed to be called ‘Peds’ after the Latin word for feet but they realised the name was already trademarked so they went with Keds instead.
Keds hit the market in 1916 and they were an immediate hit. However, there was one weird problem – they were incredibly quiet. The rubber soles made the shoes almost silent when walking, which posed a problem for sales. Traditionally, quality shoes were associated with the sound of loud footsteps. This was a sign of sturdy construction and durability, so the lack of noise made customers sceptical about the shoe’s functionality.
U.S Rubber went all Don Draper on that situation and launched a marketing campaign to promote the ‘stealth’ advantage of Keds. The campaign featured slogans like ‘The shoes that whisper,’ ‘Sneakers for sneaking,’ and ‘The quiet shoe.’ Basically re-branding quiet shoes as preferable to louder ones.
U.S. Rubber also pushed Keds as the perfect footwear for active sports like tennis and basketball and they became the first widely adopted athletic shoe in history.
Over time other shoe companies jumped on the athletic shoe bandwagon and the term ‘sneaker’ became the default word for any style of shoe designed for active pursuits. So that’s the story of the old sneaker, in case you were wondering.
Anyway, I had quite a few people on Instagram asking for me to share the results of the poll so I popped it all into this blog post with the top 5 sneakers for women recommendations of 2023. Enjoy!
Oh and I’ll be getting Gor Tex Pegasus Nike whatever – they seem the best for my needs and I have a good track with Nike. I just have to wait until I’m in a bigger city to try some on.
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Other Cool Blog Posts About Sneakers
Flat Shoe Style: Sneakers – this is a guide for buying plus-size casual sneakers.
Tell me… what’s the best pair of sneakers you’ve ever bought? What’s your favourite brand?
P.S This post contains affiliate links for and I may earn a small commission if you buy something via these links. However, I only mention things I love or have researched way too thoroughly (like sneakers for women) so you can trust me.