When you go for a run, you want to move like the wind and sweat like no one’s watching. Ideally, you just put your ear pods in, choose your tune, and off you go. Take a break from all those thoughts which whizz round and around inside your head like competitive waltzer cars. You’ve got enough to think about already, like how much me-time you can cram into a busy day.
What you don’t want to spend time worrying about is whether your running shoes are going to be suitably comfortable and durable just because you’re “heavy.”
“Heavy” in running terms simply means that you have a body mass index over 27, and therefore require more counter-loft to accommodate the extra pressure per square inch of sole surface.
Perhaps you’re heavy because you’re athletic. Perhaps you’re an old hand at running and simply want to find a durable shoe for longer distances. Or perhaps you’re returning to running and fitness in general after a long time of putting other people first.
If you would rather go bridesmaid dress shopping with a size 2 girlfriend than wade through 80 pages of shoe possibilities, then this list might be just what you need to cut the job short and do something more rewarding with your time.
We’ve sifted through the expert opinions, paid attention to the feedback of the masses, and handpicked 5 of our favorite running shoes across a range of needs. If you have time, you might want to read on for our buyer’s guide for what to take into account when choosing a favorite shoe of your own.
In a hurry? Here’s our top five selection.
Best Shoes for Heavy Female Runners
OUR TOP PICK
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 33 does a better job selling its lightweight propelling power with its name than in the product description on Amazon. Because it’s an update on many earlier iterations, they don’t give much away in the bullet-pointed specifications.
If we start at the rear, there’s a heel counter (a stabilizer) to set your foot comfortably into place and prevent internal slippage while you’re on the move. Beneath your heel, the footfall is lightened by a Zoom Air unit which cushions and dissipates the pressure of landing. The Pegasus 33 has evolved a little from the earlier 32 version with more cushioning under the ball of the foot for a smoother ride from heel to toe.
This is a neutral shoe (not modified for flat or high arches, or overpronation) but provides good cushion support in the midsole, nonetheless. Still looking inside the shoe, the water-resistant bootie keeps your feet warm and dry in anti-running weather. The rubber sole offers great traction. Across the ball of the foot and down the instep, the round lugs (the tread grips) offer strong lateral grip while the crash rail that runs from the heel along the outside of the foot widens your tread a fraction for better stability. Nonetheless it’s a sleek-looking shoe from above.
The mesh-machined upper is well ventilated and waterproof at the same time, which is a definite plus for runners who aren’t discouraged by drizzle.
This is a durable, comfortable shoe which is available in 8 designs in sizes 5 through 12.
A good all-rounder shoe
Nice spring under the ball of the foot
Good shock absorption
Could do with a little more room in the toe box; some runners are having to go up a half size
On the expensive side—not really an entry-level shoe
The guys over at Runner’s World would write ballads about this shoe, given half the chance. It’s good to know that the running enthusiasts who test these shoes personally, mile after mile, are still giving the Ghost line the thumbs up after so many iterations.
Brooks do two things really well. Firstly, they are diligent about ensuring consistency of fit and wear between iterations of shoes within the same line. Thus, if you’ve tried and loved Ghosts 9-11, then you’ll likely have a great experience with this shoe, too. Their second point of excellence is that they take a holistic approach to shoe design, looking at the musculoskeletal system of the whole runner. They want to support good posture and comfort through the whole body from the feet up, and if their five-star approval ratings are anything to go by, they’re very successful in their endeavor.
So, with the Ghost 11 came the evolution of the DNA Loft Crash Pads, which are designed to mitigate the joint shock to the knees with each heel strike. In plain English, they absorb impact through the rear of the foot and supply spring and propulsion at the front, from the toes. You may find, when running in these shoes, that your stamina is a great deal better than you ever gave it credit for.
There’s a springy, soft feel inside the shoe too, courtesy of Brooks’ own BioMoGo DNA adaptive cushioning, which molds to the foot and cradles it inside the shoe. It’s the closest thing you're going to get to the experience of an off-the-shelf orthotic.
One adaption of Ghost 12 is a redesign of the upper. A properly protective overlay tends to add weight. In Brooks’ quest to streamline the shoe, the upper is now made from a 3D print fit which is not only super light but also gives the shoe a more racy, built-for-amazing-sprinters appearance.
The ghost is also one of the more flexible shoes in this selection, allowing you to summon more speed when you need it.
Exceptional traction in the sole
A very soft ride for those endurance events
A flexible upper which moves with your foot and doesn’t chafe along the base of the toe box
The upper isn’t quite as breathable as it has been previously
Though good value for money, it’s an expensive shoe
- THIS SHOE IS FOR: Neutral runners looking for a lightweight shoe and a smooth ride without sacrificing cushioning. Whether you’re a Ghost loyalist or are lacing one up for the first time, you’ll...
- SUPPORT AND CUSHION: The neutral support type provides high energizing cushioning. Ideal for road running, cross training, the gym or wherever you might want to take them! Predecessor: Ghost 11
- BALANCED, SOFT CUSHIONING: BioMoGo DNA and DNA LOFT cushioning work together to provide a just-right softness underfoot without losing responsiveness and durability - yet it feels lighter than ever.
The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20 is a support shoe version of the ‘Ghost’ line. The GTS 20 supplements the underfoot bounce and lightness of Ghost with medial support for runners who tend to roll their foot inward while running. This involuntary tendency is called overpronation and this is covered in the buyer’s guide. The medial support system comes in the form of “Guiderails”, which lap the instep of the shoe to keep the foot supported in an upright position and take the pressure off the big toe and inside section of the ball of your foot.
As with the Ghost 12, the BioMoGo DNA adaptive cushioning molds to the foot, cradling the heel and keeping the foot upright inside the shoe. This shoe is also fitted with the DNA Loft Crash Pad cushions mentioned previously.
The stability and comfort of the Adrenaline GTS 20 makes this investment shoe a fabulous choice for the heavier long-distance runner.
For all its cushioned protection, this feels like a light wear. The mesh upper is unfussy and streamlined, intended to provide good ventilation and cling gently, like a sock.
The outer soles give good traction and are highly durable. However, they are a little rigid beneath the midsole due to all that supportive engineering. It’s a great half marathon shoe, but if sprinting is your thing, then you might want something more flexible, like the Gel-Excite (coming up).
Comfy for varied foot ailments (bunions, hammer toes and plantar fasciitis) due to the roominess and soft cushioning
Pretty good consistency with the fit of predecessor 19
Great for controlling overpronation
Durable and great value for money
Comparatively dear—very much an investment pair
A rather rigid shoe and better for long-distance running rather than sprinting
They can come up a size too large in the women’s range in terms of width
- THIS SHOE IS FOR: Runners who need a perfect blend of support, cushion, flexibility, and reliability. The modernized, streamlined design satisfies runners who crave a low-profile look.
- SUPPORT AND CUSHION: Provides just the right amount of stability and support, great for overpronation while providing high energizing cushioning. Ideal for road running, cross training, the gym or...
- BALANCED, SOFT CUSHIONING: The DNA LOFT Crash Pad cushions each footfall and works with BioMoGo DNA to adapt to your every stride.
There have been two further iterations of this line since the Gel-Venture 5 was introduced but this model continues to be incredibly popular, and with good reason.
At the upper end of the price scale, you could be paying out over $80 for your size and chosen color. They’re not inexpensive but they are amazingly adaptable. What makes this shoe so special is that you can remove the sockliner (and, if necessary, the inner sole) to make room for your own orthotic. If you have high arches, fallen arches or need accommodation for recurrent plantar fasciitis, then it is so reassuring to be able to adapt a shoe exactly to your own needs.
The inherent structure of the shoe makes it a good performer for heavy runners. As with the predecessor shoes in this line and several others, the soles are made of the trademark Asics High Abrasion Rubber (AHAR), which are overlaid with their special gel cushioning system for a fast, smooth ride which cradles the foot. This shoe is good on trails and highly durable for road running.
In terms of fashion, nothing about the aesthetics of this shoe suggests that you’re wearing something to correct your gait. They look pretty streamlined and they come in some fabulous color combinations of breathable mesh. Whether you opt for the sport-pink and phlox combination (which should prevent any accidental shoe mix-ups in a gym locker room) or a more subtle combination like the frost gray/soothing sea, these shoes look like you bought them because you want to run with style.
They’ve got a generous sizing range too, running from 6 through 11 in half sizes and wide versions.
Robust yet adaptable
Great style options
Hugely popular choice with great feedback
Breathable for hot feet
Not a hugely flexible shoe: inbuilt cushioning a little hard
The women’s sizes come up a little large; perhaps go down a half-size if your feet aren’t particularly wide across the ball of the foot.
If you filter Amazon’s own choices by bestsellers for heavy women runners, this is one of the top choices from the slimmed-down list of options and this line and iteration number has amazing feedback at 80% 5-stars across over 2,400 ratings.
This is a good budget entry-level shoe which is nicely cushioned with an exceptionally tough and durable sole. The rearfoot GEL technology supplies the shock absorption effect that you need from heavy foot strikes, and there’s not too steep a drop between the heel and the forefoot. This aids a natural running style rather than one guided by cushion fit technology.
Asics remain proud of their Ortholite sockliner, which contributes significantly to the durability and hygiene of the shoe. Significant internal cushioning can make things very hot. That said, it may help to guide your choices if we clarify that the Amplifoam cushioning is responsive rather than soft. If you’re coming back to running after a hiatus, or if you’re not planning on aiming for more than a 3-mile/5k track while you work on fitness levels, then this may be a great choice for you.
There’s a nice range of aesthetic designs from sleek-and-discreet to visible-from-space, and there’s a good range of sizes, including halves and wide options. The overall feedback seems to suggest that if you have a slightly wider foot, then it’s worth going up a half size. Although the upper end of the price range looks intimidating, we did a quick click through a selection of sizes and the prices came in under $60 for the vast proportion of size/style combinations.
Generally true-to-size fitting
Lightweight and stable
Comfortable and responsive to gait
Breathable and well ventilated
Impossible to gauge suitability for people who suffer from flat feet: there’s a 50/50 divide as to whether they are painful or like walking on clouds
The cushioning is not as soft as some might expect
- AmpliFoam Midsole - Engineered to maintain durability at softer densities, providing better flexibility, comfort, and platform adaptability ideal for natural running.
- Rearfoot GEL technology cushioning system - Attenuates shock during impact phase and allows for a smooth transition to midstance.
- Ortholite Sockliner - Moisture management (Ortholite is a registered trademark of ATP Manufacturing LLC).
Best Shoes for Heavy Female Runners - Buying Guide
This little section provides a few tips on deciding which shoes are best for you, and answers questions which frequently arise from new or returning runners.
In summary, what are the best things for heavy runners to look out for?
Good ventilation and breathability
If you can, look for shoes with a moderate (4-8mm) offset/differential/’drop’ between the height of the heel cushioning and the height of the forefoot cushioning. Having impact protection under your heel is great, but not to the point that you want your feet sliding downhill inside your shoe.
Look for shoes with good midsole support. See ‘Overpronation’ below for more details
If you have known gait issues, then look for shoes where you can swap in your own insoles or orthotic
If you’re in a particularly hot and dry climate, pick a lighter-colored shoe with a significant amount of upper mesh.
Check reviews to see how other people with a similar foot shape have experienced the ‘true to size’ claim made by the manufacturer. You may find that you have to drop down a size for a narrow foot or up a half for a wide foot, for example.
Is there a good way to get back into running?
If you haven’t run in a long while then you might consider ‘Jeffing’, or ‘Interval Running’, as it’s more widely known. It’s gentler on the joints and it makes fewer intimidating demands on your stamina and fitness levels. There’s nothing more discouraging than setting out for a refreshing run only to find yourself collapsing against a wall three minutes later and having to do the Long Limp Home.
There are quite a few free apps which can guide your progress, such as C25k (Couch to 5k: an 8-week program with three weekly runs). Alternatively, you can set up Interval Timer to match your own preferred rate of progress if you find yourself wanting to skip ahead or lag behind. Both apps allow you to connect with your mobile music libraries.
How do I figure out my BMI?
The calculation is very Euro-centric and requires metric statistics. The formula for your body mass index is your weight in kilos divided by your height, squared. Or you can use the calculator on this site.
The BMI is a blunt instrument. It doesn’t take account of your frame size, bone density or the ratio of muscle to fat, for example. You could be 5’4”, extremely fit, wearing a size 10 pant and weighing in at 155lb and you will still get a result halfway through the overweight bracket.
Your BMI is only one indicator of health. Rather than worry too much about which bracket you fall into, it’s more helpful to monitor your running style, the quality of your footwear, the balance of your diet, and your energy expenditure. You can get help with the last two elements by downloading the free app MyFitnessPal on iOS or Android phones.
What is overpronation?
Pronation describes the natural motion of your foot from heel to toe. Typically, your weight shifts from your heel along the outside of the foot up to the ball, and then inward. Overpronators roll their foot too far inward, by 15% more and above.
If you arrange a gait analysis, then your pronation can be studied in detail. However, there are some telltale diagnostic signs:
- Your shoes wear down significantly faster along the inside of the ball and heel
- You tend to take a lot of weight on your big and second toes in the process of keeping your balance at the end of each footfall
- You may in turn suffer from sore knees
- In severe cases, this may pass upwards to create pelvic or lower back problems
Overpronation can be caused by weakened arches from injury, muscular deficiencies, or excess weight. One way of checking out the shape of your arches is to stand in flour and then on a black sheet of paper to look at your footprint. If you don’t have much of a gap along the instep (beneath your big and second toes), then your arches are reaching the ground a little more than they would be if they were stronger. Shoes like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20 provide more cushioning support beneath your midsole and along your instep, which should make running much more comfortable.