Can a woman wear men’s running shoes?


Whether you find women’s running shoe colors unappealing, or you struggle to find comfortable shoes, you probably wonder if you can, as a woman, wear men’s running shoes or not. Will they fit you, and is it ok to consider getting them?

Nothing prevents a woman from wearing men’s running shoes. Whether it is the color, the structure, the brand, or because you have comparatively wider feet, it is ok to buy men’s running shoes if they fit you well. Comfort is key.

It is not always easy to find the right shoe, especially for taller women or women with wider feet than average. But also, why do women’s running shoes always come in pink and purple colors? What if you don’t like it? This is why I have laid out a list of the main differences between women’s and men’s running shoes to help you find the perfect and desired fit for your feet.

What are the differences between women’s and men’s running shoes?

Historically, companies and businesses originally only catered to male customers for running shoes. To market them to a wider audience, men’s running shoes were made into more attractive colors with smaller and thinner sizes for women. This is the famous method called the ‘shrink and pink’ method. 

So, in the past, there was no difference other than the color between women’s and men’s running shoes.

However, as the popularity of the sport increased, businesses deviated from the conventional approach and invested in running shoes specifically designed for women’s feet. 

Consequently, most companies are expected to target almost all types of feet, from small to larger sizes and lengths. And the difference between women’s and men’s running shoes is more than just their colors.

We could argue that any gender that fits the shoes could wear them, but there is a bit more depth to consider before deciding whether women can wear men’s running shoes.

Let’s review how men’s running shoes differ from women’s:

The shape of the shoe

The width of the shoe is the main distinction between women’s and men’s running shoes. Women’s shoes generally have a wider forefoot and toe area and a narrower heel than the counterpart’s shoes, reflecting the differences in foot shapes between the genders. 

Several studies (including “sex-related differences in foot shape” by Krauss I. et al., 2008) have shown that on average men have broader and longer feet than women. And the following differences can be noticed in the foot measurement between genders:

  • women typically have wider forefoot width than men
  • women typically have smaller ankles and smaller heels than men

Whereas men’s feet are broader overall, meaning they don’t have much difference between the forefoot and the heel area.

The size of the shoe

Nowadays, running shoe companies offer a wide range of sizes for running shoes, and not only based on length. Most brands nowadays offer models specifically designed for wider and narrower feet for both women’s and men’s running shoes.

However, men’s shoe sizes rarely go below a US woman’s size of 7.5 (EUR 39; UK 5.5). So for women with small feet, it might not be possible to find men’s running shoes in your size. At least not with all brands.

Also, shoe sizes are using different charts between men and women in the US. Therefore a women’s US size 9 does not equal a man’s US size 9. I will cover shoe size conversion between genders later on in this article.

The sole of the shoe

Typically women have less muscle mass than men. This is generally estimated as 15% less muscle than men. This means there is a significant difference in how women’s mass affects the sole of the shoes. To make it simple: typically women weigh less than men. This is why nowadays most shoe designs take into account this characteristic by having a softer midsole than men’s running shoes.

Also, women’s running shoes generally have more flexible soles than men’s. You can notice it by looking at the size of the grooves below the shoes. They tend to be bigger on women’s shoes to help the shoe flex without as much weight as men’s.

So men’s running shoes can be a bit less flexible with a softer midsole than men’s running shoes. So for woman to try men’s running shoes, it can feel a bit different at first but for many women, it won’t matter. It is still very comfortable and the shoe can be more durable.

Pronation

Women tend to be more subjected to pronation than men.

If you have never heard about pronation, it is a movement that can be seen when the foot is hitting the ground and the weight is applied to the inner side of the foot. This is visible on the shoes, wear will appear faster on one side of the shoe.

Pronation is related to the Q-angle which is the angle between the quadriceps and the patella tendon (almost the kneecap) and provides information about the alignment of the knee joint.

Definition of Q-angle

Since women have wider hips than men, their Q-angle is wider than men’s. This is a significant reason that women require more support than men. Running shoe companies have taken this into account in women’s running shoe design by using more supportive material.

So when wearing men’s running shoes, wear can appear faster on one side if a woman is wearing them.

Attractive Shoe Designs

Oftentimes, women-focused brands offer a variety of running shoes with colorful designs and patterns. But so many of them come with pink and purple as the main colors. If you are like me, these colors might not appeal to you. You probably want a more discreet pair of running shoes.

Black running shoes are generally only available for men. So it can be annoying to always have to buy a design you don’t like, especially if there is a color scheme your love in the same shoe model for men.

There is no issue in trying men’s shoes if the design is more attractive to you. But always remember that the most important thing is to find the perfect fit for you. Always try the shoes before buying them. Run with them in the shop or on a treadmill.

How to convert women’s shoe sizes into men’s?

We have seen earlier that shoe sizes are different for men and women in the US. For instance, a woman’s size 9.5 will be a man’s size 8. Below you will find a shoe size conversion chart to help you get the correct size while browsing for shoes in the opposite-sex category.

Foot lengthFoot length (inches)US size WOMENUS size MENEUR sizeUK size
224 mm8.8194352.5
227 mm8.9374.535.53
230 mm9.0555363.5
234 mm9.2135.536.54
237 mm9.3315.5374
240 mm9.449637.54.5
244 mm9.6066.5385
247 mm9.724738.55.5
250 mm9.8437.56395.5
254 mm10.0007.56.539.56
257 mm10.11887406.5
260 mm10.2368.57.540.57
264 mm10.39498417.5
267 mm10.5129.5841.57.5
270 mm10.6309.58.5428
274 mm10.78710942.58.5
277 mm10.90610.59.5439
280 mm11.0249.543.59.5
284 mm11.18110449.5
287 mm11.29910.544.510
290 mm11.417114510.5
294 mm11.57511.545.511
297 mm11.69311.54611
300 mm11.8111246.511.5
304 mm11.96912.54712
307 mm12.0871347.512.5
310 mm12.20513.54813
314 mm12.3621448.513.5
317 mm12.48014.54914
320 mm12.5981549.514.5
324 mm12.75615.55015

But remember this chart is here to help you figure out which size to try on. Sizing is different between brands and shoe models, some are a bit wider or a bit narrower for a given size. Therefore, I recommend you always try on the shoes before buying.

Should you try men’s running shoes?

We have seen that men’s running shoes can be different from women’s to account for gender-specific foot morphology. The differences are the type and location of the supports, less flexibility of the sole, and different internal geometry.

However, some scientific studies (“Effect of Sex-Specific Running Shoes on Female Recreational Runners”, S. Rasmussen et al., 2022) have found that these differences are minor in the shoe design and don’t affect performance or comfort. It doesn’t seem to give a biomechanical or physiological advantage to the wearer of the shoe.

In short, the difference between women’s and men’s running shoes might be more of a marketing thing than something else. The difference might exist, but it is very small. So don’t let these differences prevent you from trying men’s running shoes.

As long as the fit is right for you, and you feel comfortable in the shoes, there is nothing wrong with adopting men’s running shoes. In fact, if your feet are a bit wider than most women, there is a good chance you will find a better fit in men’s running shoes.

Overall it is just a question of personal preference.

So yes it is definitely fine for a woman to wear men’s running shoes!

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