In a 2012 study, researchers examined the risk long time high heel wearers would have in regards to calf Muscle fascicle length and strain. The control group consisted of women who wore heels for less than ten hours weekly and the experimental group consisted of women who wore heels for a minimum of forty hours weekly for at least two years. The experimental group was told to walk down a walkway barefoot and in heels while the control group walked down barefoot as cameras recorded their movements to calculate muscle fascicle lengths. The data showed that wearing heels shortened the length of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle fascicles in the calf significantly as well as increasing stiffness in the Achilles Tendon. The experimental group also demonstrated a larger amount of strain on the muscle fascicles while walking in heels because of the flexed position the foot is forced into. The researchers were able to estimate that when wearing heels, the estimated fascicle strains were approximately three times higher and the fascicle strain rate was approximately six times higher. Additionally, they were able to conclude that the long term usage of high heels can increase the risk of injuries such as strain along with discomfort and muscle fatigue.
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Wearing high-heeled shoes is strongly associated with injury, including injury requiring hospital care. There is evidence that high-heel-wearers fall more often, especially with heels >2.5cm high, even if they were not wearing high heels at the time of the fall. Wearing high heels is also associated with musculoskeletal pain, specifically pain in the paraspinal muscles (muscles running up the back along the spine) and specifically with heel pain and plantar calluses (only women tested).
How fast can you go on technical trails? The Antora is a trail-running shoe for runners who want to get a little crazy in the woods, with a soft ride but lightweight and responsive feel that makes navigating rocks and roots at PR pace a heck of a lot less terrifying and more fun. The shoe uses Merrell’s new Q-Form 2 midsole, which is made from compression-molded EVA engineered specifically for women’s feet. The design places softer zones of cushioning in the heel and forefoot that keep form true when fatigue sets in, while extra air pods at the heel maximize shock absorption. Our testers found that the water-resistant upper protected their feet through rain and puddles while maintaining breathability and lightweight flexibility.
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Fans of Adidas’s springy Boost foam quickly fell in love with the first Solarboost, one of this 2018’s best shoes. The updated SB19 packs the same cushiony-soft midsole as the brand’s Ultraboost, but beefs up support through the midfoot and adds a streamlined “tailored fiber” upper without adding weight or bulk. It also tacks on stabilizing guide rails to secure the heel at the midsole, which are intended to help the Achilles move freely and focus a runner’s energy forward. Our testers appreciated the original Solarboost’s solid energy return and support from the upper, though some felt like it could stand to be more breathable, which Adidas remedied in this version with new air mesh.
The best running shoes for women share the same class-leading features with the best shoes overall—they’re light, comfortable, cushioned, and just supportive enough where you need it most. But that locus of support is where some of the biggest differences between men’s and women’s running shoes can be found. Check out quick reviews below of five of our top picks, or scroll deeper for more in-depth reviews of these and other options, plus buying advice.
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