Contrary to popular belief, there are genuine differences between men’s and women’s running shoes and no it is not a marketing gimmick. Each gender has different needs when it comes to their performance on the track.
In the past, most stores offered only scaled down colorful men’s footwear to appeal to women but this proved inadequate and fast. Most ended up being too small for comfort leading to plummeting sales.
Brands that took time to research and design footwear quickly realized that there are large differences between the two. Here is what they discovered:
1. Heel to toe shape differs
The biggest difference between men’s and women’s footwear comes down to the heels and toes. The running shoes of the latter are wider at the forefoot and the heel is narrow while men’s running shoes are wide throughout. That’s because their feet are larger than women.
If women choose men’s running shoes, they usually end up with shoes that are tight in the front but comfortable at the back. This can lead to injuries down the line on the hamstring, knee and also the back.
2. Motion Control differs
Women have wider hips compared to men which basically means that their upper legs create a larger angle or slant. This is known as the Q angle which means that female runners usually strike the ground with the outside of their feet more compared to men. At some point their feet do fall flat but women have to consciously roll their feet inward to ensure this whereas men tend to run with their feet flat on the ground from the get go.
This rolling motion is called pronation and it impacts the knees each time the foot strikes on the ground flat. In other words, running shoes for women have to offer more motion control and have a rigid instep to prevent their feet from twisting as they sprint.
3. The Weight Effect
Women have 15% less muscle mass compared to men which means they weigh less than men even if they have the same height and stature. That is why most running shoes for women are designed with midsoles that can take 15% less impact as they run. That is also why the midsole is softer and lighter than those found in men’s fitness footwear.
Besides this, even though running shoes for both feature flex grooves in the forefront of the outsole, those carved in women’s running shoes are deeper. That’s because women have a lower body mass which means that flexing the midsole is more challenging for them. The deep grooves are there to make this easier.
4. Angled Heels
The heel of running shoes are designed to withstand impact as the foot hits the ground by distributing it along it. Since women’s feet hit the ground at a shallower angle compared to men, their feet are pointed less than men’s.
That is why women’s running shoes are designed with heel that are less angled while men’s shoes have angled heels. In most cases, the former has heels that are flatter.