Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and so do feet, which is why buying a pair of running shoes is a personal choice. Importantly, men’s feet and women’s feet have some rather significant differences that are factored in when companies make gender specific shoes.
The shape is the biggest difference between men’s and women’s shoes. A woman’s running shoe last is designed to be wider at the forefoot and narrow at the heel. The men’s equivalent male shoe last is generally wide from heel to toe. Shoes are not personal fit, but as generic as possible to appeal to the widest market, so its assumed that as a general rule, men’s feet are wider and larger than the average woman.
It is vital that you stick to the correct gender relevant to you when buying a shoe. Often the shoes look the same, with a colour variation, but the fit will be very different if the shoe is of a good quality. Women sometimes try on men’s shoes to get the fit that suits them in the heel area, but the forefoot will be too narrow generally, causing a potential injury or blister issues.
Like the fit, the average weight is taken into account when making a shoe. The average height and weight of a male is on average greater than a Women, meaning more impact pressure in every step a man takes compared to that of a woman. Often, the midsole foam durometer (hardness) of Women’s shoes are softer than the male equivalent. Durability will become an issue if the wearer is too heavy, compressing the EVA and deforming the shape of the shoe.
Women more than men are likely to Pronate, due to basic physiological differences in body shape. The angle between the quadriceps muscle and the patella tendon, known as the Q angle, is the key reason why women are more likely to overpronate. The Q angle is higher for women due to their naturally wider hips and pelvis. To counteract this, many Women’s shoes are made from slightly more supportive material.
Understand the shape and biomechanics of your own feet will help you choose the right shoes for you. No brand is the same, each making shoes with their own last and size grading. Your shoe is the key piece of equipment for running, and the most likely piece of equipment that will cause you a potential issue.
Take time to check out our running shoe reviews. We do make reference to differences between the men's and women's models if there are any!