Can Women Wear Men’s Running Shoes for Long Distance Races?

In the realm of long-distance running, the quest for the perfect shoe is crucial for optimal performance and comfort, enter the super shoe.

However, the question remains: can women comfortably opt for men’s running shoes, especially for marathon and ultra-marathon distances on roads?

When we look at the structural and biomechanical differences between men’s and women’s feet, the Q angle (from knee to hip) disparities between males and females, is it safe for women to train and race long distances in shoes designed for their male counterparts?

The running shoe department for women is shockingly lacklustre, considering 2018 marked the first year women outnumbered men at the start lines at 50.24% with more and more women taking to the sport, either recreationally or to race.

But there’s a laughable amount of ‘women specific’ running shoes to their male counterparts, why? Does it matter if women opt for the men’s fit? Will it do any harm?

The Fit

Women choosing to opt for Men’s running shoes, the primary concerns revolve around the fit of men’s running shoes on women’s feet.

Men’s shoes are typically wider (especially in the toe box) and designed based on men’s foot anatomy, potentially posing challenges for women with narrower feet or different arch structures.

If you’re a female who needs the wide-size when it comes to the toe-box in everyday shoes it might be worth trying on a few men’s sizes because they’re naturally wider.

If there is too much movement in a shoe, it can be just a nightmare! We’re talking fatigued muscles, black toenails, and blisters galore. But it really depends on the brand – hashtag Not all shoes.

The function

Functional differences in Men’s running shoes may have variations in cushioning, stability features, or heel-to-toe drop compared to women’s shoes.

These are all different from brand to brand too – for example Asics’s Gel-Kayano 29 women’s heel-to-toe drop is 3mm more than the men’s counter model, offering women a steeper design.

While Nike’s women’s heel-to-toe drop is slightly smaller in the Nike ZoomX Invincible Run 2 – so do you, as a runner prefer a steeper shoe and easier toe-off action?

If you know you have a specific gait, or previous injury that requires a specific insole, extra support or style of cushioning etc then please stick with what you know – especially when it comes to building up the mileage.

On the other hand, if you’re not sure where to start, you could get a gait analysis and specify you want a men’s shoe – this might be a little tricker on the trails though as the gait analysis is on a treadmill that cannot replicate uneven trails so, proceed with caution.

Going the distance

It might be seamless to pick a men’s shoe for a park run now and again but adding longer distances, time on your feet and a lot of pavement pounding is where things get… sticky.

For marathon and ultra-marathon distances, you’re spending a fair few hours to multiple days on your feet – so comfort and performance are paramount.

Some women might find that certain men’s shoes offer the necessary cushioning, support, or durability you’re looking for. However, it’s a bit of an expensive trial-and-error game because of the gender differences in biomechanics and anatomy that could potentially influence the suitability of men’s running shoes.

Factors like arch height, foot width, and pronation tendencies might affect how women experience men’s shoes during long-distance runs.

But, there are plenty of examples out there of female runners swearing by certain men’s models for their 26.2-mile challenge. Because men tend to weigh more there’s some perceived idea that the foamy cushioning is better than those found in a women’s shoe – thus enhancing comfort and durability.

Take the popular Nike Pegasus 39 as an example. This shoe model features two Air Zoom units. However, the pressure levels differ in the men’s version, at 20 psi, and the women’s version, at 15 psi.

Some fantastic company policies allow you to try the shoe and return it if no good. A piece of mind while you find your fit.

  • Running Warehouse offers a 90 day return window, even with shoes worn.
  • Brooks offers a 90-day test run and is the best option for trial and error.
  • Shop Women’s Sale at Hoka” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Hoka advertise a 30-day guarantee.

While Nike, Saucony and Inov8 only accept returns for unworn items.

Professional Insights and Expert Opinions

Podiatrists, footwear experts, gait analysists and experienced running coaches will have copious amounts of information surrounding shoe size and fit, mens to womens. If you have regular podiatrist appointments its worth mentioning so they can spot any changes in your feet throughout your training programme.

If you’re not sure, do not just wing it, please seek professional help and guidance.

Stock

Let’s be real there’s often less stock available in the women’s lines, especially in stores which can be an annoying hiccup. For example: A size 7 is a popular shoe size in the women’s line which can be, more often than not, sold out.

But the same model in the men’s fit probably has more available where that size 7 isn’t as popular. Chances are it’s of a similar fit except the toe box width? But then a size 6 in the men’s might offer a snugger fit.

It’s worth considering if you’re struggling for product availability.


It’s not a secret that inherent differences exist between men’s and women’s running shoes in terms of fit and design but that doesn’t mean women can’t embrace the men’s models for concern of injury – it’s all about your foot and that unique model, emphasising the importance of trying various models and seeking expert guidance if needed.

Ultimately, the ideal shoe choice for long-distance runs should prioritise comfort, functionality, and performance, irrespective of whether it’s from the men’s or women’s section of the store.

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