Trend Insight
Consumer Survey of Women Runners
In our latest Trend Insight consumer survey, women runners offer insight on their running routines and the running footwear, apparel and gear they wear and use.

We asked more than 300 women runners about their running routines and the running footwear, apparel and gear they wear and use. What do they like? What would they ask designers to change? They didn’t hold back!

The majority of the women runners we surveyed say they run more than 3x a week, mostly on the road (89%), trail (68%) or treadmill (57%). Nearly 80% say they wear women’s-specific running footwear and the type of store they are most likely to purchase their running shoes at is a run specialty shop (55%).

The most important traits women look for in footwear and apparel for the run? Topping the list is fit, followed by comfort, performance benefits and price. Sustainability was the least important trait in the product for our survey respondents.

We also asked a few open-ended questions about footwear and apparel design: If consumers could ask apparel designers to change one thing about their running apparel and one thing about their running footwear, what would it be? Check out their (very) informative replies on pages 47 and 49. And on the back page of the issue, page 50, see how women runners replied to this question: Head-to-toe in your running wardrobe (apparel/footwear/gear), which item is the most important item for your run?

This survey conducted by MESH01 included 318 respondents, men and women, who are runners. Trend Insight is a feature within runstyle that delivers research conducted on the MESH01 Platform. MESH01 collects data from a select panel of active and outdoor enthusiasts.

If you could ask footwear designers to change one thing about running footwear in general, what would it be?

Once I find a brand and style that really works for me, I hate when the designer makes a radical change in fit. Consistency is important. Also, I appreciate when the treads of the shoes are coming from sustainable sources. Female, Age 55

Stop making white-bottomed soles, or make darker options, like navy or black.  Female, Age 48

Design shoes that are specific to women’s foot shape. Female, Age 32

Make the shoes last longer - and less expensive! Once I break in a new pair of shoes, I grow attached and hate having to put on a new one, lose toenails, and break those in. And when you update models keep the main things the same! I had a favorite shoe for YEARS and one year the new model was horrible and I got injured. Female, Age 34

To stop innovation for innovation’s sake. I don’t like it when the shoe I’ve worn “upgrades” as sometimes those “upgrades” affect the fit and comfort. Female, Age 60

Use colors that fit together, not crazy colors for all models, but also don’t make it boring. Most of the time I either see plain black shoes with a bit of white and some ugly dark blue, or crazy yellow all over the shoe.
Female, Age 30

High top/ankle support. I can’t seem to find running shoes that are high top because I myself have rolled/twisted my ankle before running over ground that’s not level. Having a high top adds a bit of compression and protection for those moments. Female, Age 36

To make running shoes that actually match the wide variety of women’s foot shapes. It’s not just about the length. Female, Age 35

I feel like laces are either too short or too long, nothing in between. Sometimes I think colors are weird but I would never pick a shoe only on a color although if I had a choice it might matter. Sustainability is somewhat important to me but way down the list from comfort, fit, and up to a point, durability. I do not want to replace shoes every other month. Female, Age 54

Why did they switch the old material to new one? Female, Age 28

The thickness of the materials used on the upper and the toe areas. They always wear faster than the outsoles do! Female, Age 42

I’m so tired of shoe designers assuming women want pinks and purples and overly “feminine” colors. Give me neon yellow, give me blue. Give me fun colors. Female, Age 31

I think it would be nice if my shoes lasted longer. After 400 miles or so, they tend to wear out. Female, Age 33

To make better insoles. Female, Age 25

Some people are heel runners, others toe runners, some run on the outside of their feet. I’d like to know which shoes are best for how I run. Female, Age 40

Shoelaces that do not come untied. Female, Age 42

Probably to add more cushion. It’s not all about feeling the road. Some of us need more cushion! Female, Age 40

There have been great improvements in the weight of shoes, but the weight AND waterproof combination would be great! Female, Age 49

To make them last longer. I change shoes like people change underwear! Female, Age 38

To offer more waterproof options. Female, Age 33

To offer a way to track how many miles you put on your shoes so you know when to buy new ones.
Female, Age 42

Shoes seem to wear out quickly - way faster than recommended mileage, normally. Materials could be a bit more durable. Female, Age 51

Sometimes they’re too clunky, they need to be lighter. And also maybe find something to protect our heels because the friction constantly gives me blisters. Female, Age 26

To stop putting carbon plates in every single shoe! Save them for racing shoes. Female, Age 28

Be consistent in how the shoe fits. I’ve had the same model fit differently which gave me blisters. Female, Age 44

More women’s specific shoes! We have different shaped feet than men! Female, Age 36

Make footwear for women, not a smaller version of the men’s shoe. Female, Age 40

Make the model naming easier to not get confused with the other models and make updates understandable. Female, Age 40

I would like them to make the laces long enough to lace properly, and to have laces that aren’t so slippery they keep untying. I would like for the laces not to go directly over the instep, because I have a high instep and that really hurts the nerve right there. Female, Age 42

Focus on women’s body shapes — even if they say they do, they often don’t. Female, Age 56

Make them last longer and be more durable. Make sure there are enough color choices. Make sure the laces stay tied. Make sure the tongue doesn’t slide. Female, Age 39

I would ask that they make a loop on the back of the shoe to make it easier to put on. Female, Age 60

I would like some more athleisure looking high-end running shoes while still maintaining performance. Female, Age 35

I would ask for better insoles that last a long time. Female, Age 52

Make them more visible for added safety. Female, Age 42

I wish there were more narrow options. I have a shallow, low volume foot. Few running shoes offer narrow heels, so I always have to pad the shoe with a wool felt liner (to snug up the fore and mid foot) and super tighten my laces. I will spend a lot on shoes and gear, but if there were more narrow options in running brands, I would be over the moon! Female, Age 34

I would ask them to perform more wear testing with consumers, to find out what is actually working…and what isn’t. Female, Age 51

Perhaps to make running shoes look nicer and more gender-neutral. I am a woman and I wear women clothing and shoes, but I often find the colorways on men’s shoes to be more attractive to me. Female, Age 28

To make the toe area more durable.  Some runners, like myself, move their big toe up when running which eventually pokes a hole in the toe box after wear and tear. Female, Age 43

Making sure the material of the shoe is breathable and getting rid of loose tongues. Female, Age 30

Breathable, but waterproof. Female, Age 47

Wider toe boxes for most brands. Female, Age 34

Better colors and more consistent sizing in the industry. Sizes across brands are wildly inconsistent. To the point where it’s deterred from trying a new brand because I can’t figure out my sizing. Also allow runners to try them out first without returns penalties. It’s so hard to determine if you like a shoe without actually running in it first. And if I buy a shoe and end up not liking and can’t return it, I’m much less likely to try that brand again. Female, Age 32

Please stop tapering the toebox. This weakens the arch of the foot and leads to many other orthopedic problems for runners. The toes should always be the widest part of the shoe. Female, Age 38

Make them a bit more supportive on the sides. When I make turns, it feels like there’s little support there. Female, Age 36

If you could ask footwear designers to change one thing about running apparel in general, what would it be?

Running shorts that don’t ride up. Female 36

I like that designers are moving towards using sustainable sources. As a small woman, I would like more options in petite sizes. Female 55

More plain colors - less designs and logos. Female 48

Every piece of clothing should have at least a key pocket. I have a few shirts with key pockets-these are the ones I wear. I have a hat with a key pocket, this is the one I wear the most.  I can’t believe I still have some tights without a key pocket. I carry something on almost every single run, a key, sometimes a phone, water, gel, etc.  Everything needs a pocket. Everything.  Female 47

It’s really hard to find a good running shirt that isn’t a tank top. I sweat a lot when running and the shirts all seem to keep the sweat inside. Female 37

Invent a high-waisted pant that never rolls down.
Female 40

Shorts that are slightly longer. Female 42

Design shorts and skirts with more pockets and deeper pockets for energy gels etc.  Female 32

Design a place where your watch can pop out. In winter I have to take my watch off before putting on my jacket.  Female 55

More strap styles for sports bras. Female 39

Why are the prices for women a bit more expensive than for men? Female 29

Not only petite people work out, it would be nice to see running apparel meant for slightly bigger people, because most apparel meant for skinny people doesn’t look too good or feel very comfortable for slightly bigger people (think XL and XXL): Female 30

Make more of the leggings and joggers in petite or short sizes.  Female 25

Give us room for muscles in our arms. Not these short, small, baby sleeves. I wear men’s shirts to trail run because they have long enough sleeves to provide cover to avoid chafing.  Female 31

More reflective, make every garment as safe as possible. Washability is also key, cold-water wash for 100 uses per year with dry on low would be ideal. I would pay more for a garment I could wash/wear/repeat for 10 years+  Female 34

More pockets! I think it would be better if they had more pockets for snacks, keys, phone, or any other accessories You have on you when you are running.  Female 35

Please make more shirts and clothing for taller, leaner people  Female 37

Make them more functional.  A small pocket is nice, but the pockets they make are in actuality…USELESS.  Female 38

To have more supportive sports bras for small chested women. Female 31

Sleeves that aren’t too tight or too loose especially in the arm pits. And pay attention to length. Shirts tend to have sleeves that are too short for us long armed women. If pants can be made to different lengths why can’t shirts?  Female 49

To rid the “chafing area” of seams that can totally wreck your fun! (Oops I mean run!) Female 51

More breathable and moisture-wicking materials in running apparel for better comfort during workouts.  Female 23

I like looser fit clothing and most running clothes are definitely not loose. So just having a wider variety. And also I love color block so adding that in would be amazing. Female 26

More natural fibers and longer shorts for older gals.  Just because we run doesn’t mean we are 20 and svelte.
Female 56

We’re not all shaped the same! And we don’t need a million pockets in everything. Female 36

Less pricey and no dangerous chemicals in the materials. Female 25

Using sustainable materials and carbon neutral manufacturing. Female 29

Everything can use a hidden zipper pocket. Female 40

Stop using removable pads in sports bras. Either sew them in or have option without them. Female 46

To think about the fact that there are a few kinds of women’s bodies--especially at the bust! Female 56

More black colors. Why not more black options?
Female 40

Make more supportive bras that won’t chafe. Female 39

Please stop making all women’s specific gear so tight. Sometimes I want to wear an ‘oversized’ shirt for running that is still made for women, so the shoulders aren’t so baggy, and it fits properly. Female 23

Continue to offer classics instead of following trends only. Female 42

Make sure waistband is smooth to avoid chafing.
Female 27

Please make a better selection of supportive running bras for women with bigger cup sizes. Female 47

When it comes to leggings, I would like for the leggings not to rub down, I don’t like having to pull them up so often. Female 34

More pit zips for jackets and more vents. Leggings that have less piling between the thighs (more durability for constant friction).  Female 34

More compression. Female 32

I wish running tops were more “mom” friendly. Women’s bodies change after babies, and it would be wonderful if brands catered to that. Female 35

More in-between choices, items that aren’t super trendy (cropped, etc.) but also not plain or boring. Female 48

I like more classic items personally, no need to align athletic wear with daily wear trends (such as cropped tops - a good option to have but hate if you go in a store and everything is cropped). Female 30

Quit making women’s stuff pink. Some of us like ‘normal’ colors. Female 46

No tags in the neck - they itch.  Female 61

Make more supportive sports bras that aren’t like wearing a straightjacket. Female 33

Increase options for female apparel to be in traditional male colors, like dark blue or red. Not all females like to wear pink or purple.  Female 40

Change where you put seams, so I don’t chafe on every run & shorts that don’t ride up. More wool performance/running bras. Female  32

Less cute sayings on the running clothes. Female 32

Keep it simple. Add reflectors that aren’t gaudy for nighttime runs. Female 46

Please bring back a basic, racerback, non-padded, higher neck sports bra. Female 43

Running shorts that offer more coverage in the thigh area and a higher waist for us ladies with longer torsos and muscular legs. Female 42

Longer shorts for women! Not all of us are comfortable wearing really short shorts and we deserve to have options. This is also important because inner thigh chafe can be hard to manage, especially on long runs. We also deserve to have the same amount of pockets/storage space as men. We run the same distances and need the same number of calories.  Female 34

Fun bright colors and patterns. Holiday options like Halloween leggings or Christmas leggings. Female 45


It’s (not) ONLY About the Shoes for Women Runners

We surveyed more than 300 women runners, asking “Head-to-toe in your running wardrobe (apparel/footwear/gear), which item is the most important item for your run?” While 85% of respondents, not surprisingly, named running shoes as the most important, other items, such as bras, tights and garments with the right kind of pockets, also got plenty of shout outs. Here are some selected comments that put the ideal running wardrobe for women runners into perspective.

A supportive bra that doesn’t chafe. Footwear that fits the run road/trail. Visor when sunny, brimmed hat when raining, beanie when cold. Shorts that don’t ride on my thighs. Tights that don’t have annoying seams that rub. I had an excruciating last 5 miles of a marathon experience!! Handheld water bottle holder that will fit key, gel and TP because you never know. High visibility shirt/vest because the winters are long and dark, and drivers and hunters are not always as alert as they should be. Female, Age 48

My shirt. I don’t want it too loose or too tight, just comfortable enough to move in, with moisture wicking. Female, Age 42

Shoes! Definitely the shoes. They are the foundation. They absorb impact, support your arches, and can prevent injuries. Female 35

Tights that stay up but don’t chafe. Or shoes.
I can’t choose one. Female, Age 25

My shoes, or else I am uncomfortable the entire time. Next would be my leggings/shorts. Female, Age 33

Shoes, sports bra and something on my legs and arms that doesn’t chafe. Female, Age 34

Footwear is the most important. Second would be my apparel. Because if you’re not comfortable you’re not going to be able to run your race like you would like to. And last would be gear, but they are all very important. Female, Age 25

The bra. I want it to stay dry, not rub, not bind, move with me, not show the zipper or zipper puller for zippered bras which are easier to put on as an older woman. No peak-a-boos either popping through. Female 56

Footwear, no question, followed by socks and a good bra. Everything else is up for grabs! Female, Age 54

I like something with pockets. A zipper pocket is most important. Female Age 33

Headphones number one, but shoes would be number two. Female, Age 36

The most crucial item in my running wardrobe would likely be comfortable and supportive running shoes, as they play a significant role in preventing injuries and providing a smooth running experience. Female Age 23

Shorts and sports bra. Between these two I have trouble picking. Sports bra has to be supportive and flattering (32C) for running long distance. Shorts need to have a zipper pocket at least, be short enough to move comfortably in and preferably not low-waisted. Female, Age 28

The most important item is my weather specific gear/apparel. If I am too cold, too soaked from the rain, or uncomfortable in my gear because it is too tight, I will not have a good run. Female, Age 23

A toss-up between sports bra and shoes. Socks are next. Female Age 43

SHOES! hands down. Hydration pack second. Then apparel. And key pocket is important! Female, Age 35

Sports bra, socks and sneakers would be a tie for me as they make the greatest impact if they are a poor material or do not fit properly. Female Age 30

Shoes first, then bottoms, then the top. Shoes for fit, ride, comfort and performance. Shorts for movement and breathability. The top needs to be slightly fitted, move well and breath. Finally, I wear lightweight, low-cut socks that are absorbent and breathe well but offer some cushion at pressure points. Female, Age 53

Sports bra!!! And then shoes! Female Age 45

Pants/bottoms. They make or break a run. If they slide down or don’t fit right, it could ruin a run. Female, Age 40

Shoes, socks, leggings, shirt, headband in the winter. Female Age 33

My sneakers and socks combo. Without them fitting right or feeling good, then the run really can’t go right. Female Age 40

My running shoes, of course. Next is my hip pouch for holding things like keys, my phone. Next is my water vest. Female Age 42