The Best Running Books for Women

Check out what's on this runner and personal trainer's bookshelf when it comes to the best running books for women. From specific books for women's running, to novels, brain training and inspiration, find something new to read here.

I love reading, but it’s the first thing to fall by the wayside when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life. These days I’m more likely to fall into the couch and throw something on Netflix at the end of the day when I have the boys down. My goal for summer is to work on a long list of books I’ve wanted to read for a while – I’ll be done with marathon training and ready to dial back the intensity a little, giving me more reading time!

What I love about running books, though, is they’re usually structured in a way that you can just dip into them and read a little bit at a time, using them much like a reference book. I thought I’d share with you some of the books I own and some I want to add to my reading list. There are several that are aimed at all runners, but I think it’s important for women to read books aimed specifically at female runners, too.

Bonus: At the end of the post, enter to win two books I have doubles of! (Yup, not sponsored by anyone, I just happen to have extras). This post does contain Amazon affiliate links, meaning if you click on one of these links and buy the book through Amazon, I’ll get a small commission at no cost to you. 


The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Fitzpatrick. This is an easy read and something I’ve dipped back into over the years. The author covers many topics specific to women runners, like menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, amenorrhea and more. I also love that each of the nine parts the book is broken up into ends with an essay by a female runner.

Kara Goucher’s Running for Women: From First Steps to Marathons by Kara Goucher. Because Kara. Lots of practical information in the book, along with smatterings of her own personal experience. There are letters from her fans which she answers on different topics and her favorite quotes are sprinkled throughout. It’s like talking to a girlfriend (who really knows running) about running.

Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running : The Best Advice to Get Started, Stay Motivated, Lose Weight, Run Injury-Free, Be Safe, and Train for Any Distance by Dagny Scott Barrios. This is a great book for beginners! I actually bought it when I was first getting into running and found it really useful as a new runner. If you’re already an old hand at running, though, you can skip this one.


Lore of Running by Tim Noakes. Noakes is a master when it comes to running and writing about running. This is kind of like the bible for runners, except it’s quite possibly longer. Be aware, this is the complete opposite of a beginner guide. Noakes is a physician and a professor of exercise physiology. He writes about physiology, kinesiology and references studies and research into running science. Any time I have a question for myself or one of my clients, I still reference this book.

Check out what's on this runner and personal trainer's bookshelf when it comes to the best running books for women. From specific books for women's running, to novels, brain training and inspiration, find something new to read here.
Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes. 50 marathons. 50 states. 50 days. Yes, DAYS. This man is a machine – an amazingly genetically gifted machine. I challenge you to read this and not want to go out and just run for hours (and okay, maybe after an hour you’ll be rethinking your decision, but this will make you WANT IT).

A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York by Liz Robbins. I read this in 2010 when I was training for NYC – my first marathon. I re-read it in 2013 when I was training for my second. Whether you’re a marathoner or not, whether you have (or want to) run NYC or not, this book made me love my city and my city’s runners and running community. It also psyched me up beyond all belief to run its fair streets.
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by The Oatmeal. This is hysterical. Because it’s true. If you’re not familiar with The Oatmeal, check out The DOs and DO NOTs of Running Your First Marathon and then you’ll go and buy the book because you’ll want more more more. 🙂


Brain Training for Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Results by Matt Fitzgerald. I like the way Fitzgerald manages to meld the mental issues of running with practical training advice to counteract any mental stumbling blocks for runners. It’s fascinating. I think the sample plans included in the second half of the book are a little cookie cutter, but he includes strength training so he gets big points from me on that!

Runner’s World The Runner’s Brain: How to Think Smarter to Run Better by Dr. Jeff Brown and Liz Neporent (you can read my full review of this book and an interview with Dr. Brown here). LOVE this book. I’m using many of these techniques in my training today.

Check out what's on this runner and personal trainer's bookshelf when it comes to the best running books for women. From specific books for women's running, to novels, brain training and inspiration, find something new to read here.


Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. I found this hard to read, in the best possible way. It’s a story about a college student whose ultimate dream is to break a 4 minute mile. When he is suspended from his track team, he gives his dream every ounce of himself, withdrawing from everyday life and focusing on living to train and run. I think every runner will recognize some of their own drive and obsession in this story, although the extent to which the protagonist pushes himself is beyond extreme.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami. This reads like thoughts unfolding on your long run, in a writerly way (which is exactly what it is, of course). It’s strangely soothing and addictive.


ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running by Danny Dreyer and Katherine Dreyer. Am I the only runner left who has not read this book?

My Year of Running Dangerously: A Dad, a Daughter, and a Ridiculous Plan by Tom Foreman. This sounds like it may be something that makes me a little teary. I’m in.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek. Jurek is so inspiring and I eat up anything about ultrarunning these days.

Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons by Bryon Powell. No reason. Just curious. To see what it would take. If I wanted to try an ultra. Maybe. 😉

Want to win a couple of books? I have a copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami, as well as Kara Goucher’s Running for Women, by Kara Goucher, to give away! Enter via Rafflecopter below. I will ship within the US and also to Canada! 🙂 You have to leave me a comment sharing a running book you think I should add to my list to read! (Please. And thank you). Good luck!

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  1. Would love to read

  2. Oh yes, I’ve got a few of these on my bookshelf. Chi Running is one of the first running books I read. I think the dynamic warmup I do is from there. It’s a great read.
    Marcia recently posted…Tell Me Something Good and a GiveawayMy Profile

  3. I have read all of Dean Karnasaz books. Love them! I got The Runner’s Brain for Christmas and have only ready a few chapters in it. From what I read I really enjoyed it. Hope I get some more time to read the rest of it. I always feel guilty reading books for leisure when there is so many more productive things I should be doing. recently posted…Confession TimeMy Profile

  4. Sarah N says:

    Born to Run is a must read in my opinion. Eat and Run was also one of my favorites.

  5. ah…. if I get into NYC marathon lottery (find out on the 8th I think), I’ll have to buy the New York one!!! My all time favorite is still Kristin Armstrong Mile Markers…. not for everyone I know, but I still keep it on my night stand and periodically flip to an entry. recently posted…Sweat, Tears, SeaMy Profile

  6. You know I love a good running book and I have read SO many of these! I actually read Chi Running a very long time ago when I first started, and I was not a fan, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it. Right now, I’m still finishing How Bad Do You Want It and I absolutely love it. Anything about mental game and running I’m a big fan of right now 🙂
    Happy weekend and happy running!
    Allie recently posted…Never Make A Playlist Again, But Still Rock Your Runs with Spring MovesMy Profile

    • I’m off to look up How Bad Do You Want It! I’ve heard mainly good things about Chi Running, so now I’m curious to see what camp I fall into – Chi might be first for me to read.

  7. I recently read Dr. Metzl’s Running Strong and really enjoyed the content. I highly recommend it, there is a ton on information on injuries, prevention and recovery.

  8. Awesome list!! A lot of new ones in there for me! I really enjoyed Bart Yasso’s book, My Life on the Run! It was a really interesting look at how he got his start!

  9. I’ve heard really good things about “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list of books to read!

  10. Stephanie says:

    I love John Stanton’s running books. Easy to understand and a lot of great tips for newbie and veteran runners.

  11. I too love to read and keep vowing to offer more time to it but don’t seem to have that time! A couple months ago I read Confessions of An Unlikely Runner. That would made me laugh out loud! Right now I am reading Tales From Another Mother Runner. I dig the list you have going and will definitely have to read some of those!
    Crystal Renaud recently posted…Do Opposites Really Attract?My Profile

    • I haven’t read Tales From Another Mother Runner and I actually meant to put it on my to-read list! I will have to check out the Confessions one, it sounds great! 🙂

  12. Sadie B. says:

    I enjoyed the Chi Running book.

  13. the female runner and help develop an effective program to prevent injury and improve wellness.
    Female Runner recently posted…The Latest: : Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia sets 10,000 recordMy Profile

  14. I recently finished Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley. It’s a great read and am passing the book around to be read by my (female) running mates. Also Born To Run is my favorite – this books gives you wings, seriously.
    sharkgila recently posted…Run: SJMC Run [10km], 13 Nov 2016My Profile

  15. WoW! I’m adding these books to my list! Thanks Carly! 😀

  16. I have also read
    Running Like a Girl and Born To Run. Time to get some new books. Thanks for the above list and reviews.


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