Stability running shoes are growing in popularity. You may have already heard about them from runners, you know, and you may be considering trying a pair out for yourself. In general, stability shoes are exactly what they sound like.
Both shoes are designed to slow down the rotation of our joints as they move inward. Here is the critical difference between them:
While stability shoes are made for people who tend to pronate, neutral shoes are the best option for everyone who has a proper running form. Unlike neutral shoes, stability shoes have no supporting features. Instead, they allow the foot to move without any assistance.
Most people naturally pronate to some degree. However, excessive pronation can lead to overuse injuries such as shin splints, heel spurs, and Achilles tendinitis.
While the minimalist revolution led to many shoes that lacked protection or proper cushioning, shoe brands started creating more neutral running shoes equipped with more mobility-enhancing features.
The evolution of stability shoes allowed people to avoid relying on rigid control for running.
Who is Stability Shoes for?
Stability shoes are made for neutral to overpronators. These shoes offer support on the sides of the shoe and can help your overpronation align back to the neutral position and balance your pronation during your runs.
Running is the go-to exercise for many people to stay in shape. However, many people throw on a pair of old trainers and hit the road. They may not feel any discomfort at first, but extended training with the wrong shoes can lead to much pain and injury down the road.
It is essential to know whether you are a neutral, over, or under-pronator. You will also want to know how high and flexible your arches are to purchase the best shoe for you.
The best way to get the perfect fit is to head to your local sporting goods or run a shoe store. They should have experts there that can check your stride and find the right shoe for your arches and level of pronation. You’ll see the difference when you take that first run in your new pair of shoes.
Who is Neutral Shoes For?
Neutral shoes are the best choice for people who have a proper “correct” running style where their feet make contact with the ground in all of the right places and push back off again just as properly.
Having these shoes can make your time spent jogging and walking more comfortably without unnecessarily weighing down your feet or trying to provide support where you don’t need it. Once you have figured out that your running type is neutral and correct, you’ll find many advantages to running with them.
The first thing you need to do is determine your pronation rate. Knowing this will help you decide if you need a neutral or stability shoe. You can visit a running shoe store and have them help you, or you can do a running check by yourself to see what your pronation rate is so you can buy the right shoe for your needs.
If you are a person who belongs to the 50 or 60 percent of runners that run with a proper form, neutral running shoes are best for you.
Since a zero drop shoe is only for people with the proper running form, it’s important to start with the right shoes. Ideally, start with a pair that has more support and features.
Should you be a runner that over-or under-pronates, you will benefit from a shoe that gives you better support where you need it.
If you are a neutral runner but weigh more than 180 pounds, having supportive shoes with higher levels of cushioning will help you feel more comfortable when running.
Stability Running Shoes
Stability shoes are designed to help runners who moderately overpronate to run like a neutral pronator. They have extra padding under the arch called the medial post, which offers support on the inward sides of the shoe. This will help the foot back to neutral alignment and offset inward tilting during running.
However, stability shoes are not for everyone. If you already have a good stride with no pronation, the odds are that you don’t need to run out and buy a pair of stability shoes.
Pronation is when your foot rolls upon impact during walking or running. This can affect how your body handles shock absorption. If you find that your foot rolls in a little, don’t worry. Everyone naturally has about 15 degrees of inward pronation when they run—having your ankle roll more or less can cause injuries in the long run.
Some, called maximum support shoes, are ideal for people with extreme over-pronation. These shoes are all about overall shock-absorption for people with weak arches. Stability shoes have a specific design to help provide good balance and support for mild to moderate over-pronators.
Related: What are Maximalist Running Shoes?
To find out what kind of pronator you are, check your shoes’ soles.
- Under-pronators will have the most wear on the outer edge of the shoe, specifically on the heels. If you set the shoes on a level surface, you may see a tilt towards the outside of the shoes.
- Neutral runners should have a ” S ” pattern shaped on the treads. Setting the shoes on the level ground should show no tilting to either side.
- Over-pronators should find more wear on the inner sides of the shoes. Specifically, you should find wear inside the heel and the support for the ball of your foot. These shoes should have a noticeable tilt inward when set on an even surface.
As we’ve discussed, over-pronators are the group that most need stability shoes. For more extreme cases of over-pronation, you should look for a pair of maximum support shoes. For more mild versions, stability shoes are perfect.
Neutral runners have the correct level of pronation and therefore do not require any adjustments or extra support from their shoes.
The more experienced the runner, the less cushioning they will need. Many runners prefer more natural shoes with thinner soles for more ground contact.
The third and last group is the under-pronator or the supinator. This group rolls their feet too far from the outside when running. Naturally, the feet lack shock-absorption on the outside, so supinators are much more likely to have injuries related to shock from impacts. Over-pronators need to look for shoes with extra cushioning all over to help avoid injuries from shock.
Stability Shoes are Not for Everyone
Neutral runners don’t need any extra support for pronation. Added cushioning could throw off a neutral runner’s stride and cause injuries. The same is true for supinators. As they naturally roll their feet outward, support for over-pronation could cause a supinator to roll their feet outward even further.
As we’ve discussed, stability trainers are for people with mild to moderate levels of over-pronation. They will most likely not provide enough support for someone who has extreme over-pronation.
If you fall into the category of mild to moderate over-pronation, then here are some stability features you should expect to see in a good stability shoe:
This type of foam is essentially a wedge between the midfoot and midsole. Its purpose is to support and help the foot to roll inward less. This high density of this foam allows it to provide this support without making the shoe extremely bulky. This foam also helps to provide some extra shock-absorption for the arches.
Many brands that create stability shoes like to put plastic pieces between the outsole and midsole. These are called midfoot shanks. These shanks offer the structure that helps support the foot’s natural build during running. It also helps to support the shoe’s structure and prevent the early breakdown of your new pair of stability shoes.
Guide rails add another level of support and stability to the midsole. These guide rails keep the foot aligned correctly. They help the runner get all the necessary benefits from their stability shoes. These rails also help support weaker arches.
Stability shoes don’t just have support on the underside! The top part of the shoe (also called the “upper”) plays a significant role in instability. These midfoot overlays keep the foot snugly in place and work together with the guard rails to correctly align the feet. When a runner’s feet are securely in place, they will have a much more stable run. These overlays are usually made of lightweight, synthetic materials.
What is a saddle? Saddles are another overlay that covers the midfoot. They connect with the shoe’s lacing system and loosen and tighten with the laces. Saddles help to provide a secure and comfortable fit for the user.
Even with a snug fit, you should always have a little wiggle room around your toes. A shaped footbed helps to provide a little room for your feet while still giving structure and support. When trying on a shoe, your longest toe should have about a thumb’s width between it and the end of the shoe.
Heel counters wrap around the back and sides of the heel. They are used to keep your heel snug and secure. When running, your heel doesn’t need to move side-to-side very much.
Specialized lacing patterns
Did you know that your lacing pattern can provide more stability when running? A good stability shoe should make your arches feel supported once you tighten down the laces. If you find that the laces are uncomfortable tight and you still feel no support, you may need to try a different shoe size.
Stability vs Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes are made to support the heel and arch area of the shoe to prevent overpronation. However, they do not allow for much movement.
These shoes are designed to limit excessive foot movements. They are very durable and provide enough support to prevent overpronating.
If you are looking for motion control shoes, then you will most likely have to go to a specialty store or order online. They usually have a stiffer heel and better support.
Neutral Running Shoes
When looking for a new pair of running shoes, you’re sure to quickly learn that these types of shoes vary in type and function. This type of shoe is specifically designed for people who have what is considered to be a “correct” pattern. In contrast, support shoes are made for runners whose feet roll either too much or not enough to correct their form to the proper position.
Neutral shoes are designed for runners with normal pronation. Normal pronation means your feet pronate normally while you run. For example, your feet do not roll inward (overpronate) or outward (supinate) during running.
If you pronate normally and you want your body to absorb the shock that comes from the surface, you should wear neutral shoes.
If your feet either overpronate or supinate, there are other options for them, such as stability running shoes and motion control running shoes. Wearing the right type of running footwear can benefit you from enjoying running with less chance of potential injury or discomfort.
What Makes Neutral Shoes Different
As mentioned, the difference between neutral shoes and other types of trainers is called pronation. Pronation refers to how your feet roll when the outside of your heel comes into contact with the ground when you are lightly jogging or walking.
With a proper step, the heel will usually roll in smoothly by around 15 degrees, while the remainder of the foot ends up falling flat against the ground before pushing off again with the toes.
- 50 and 60 percent of runners will run in this neutral style
- 30 to 40 percent of people have over-pronation, where the feet roll incorrectly and are never entirely flat on the ground
- 5 to 10 percent of runners experience under-pronation where just the outside of the foot makes contact with the ground
Benefits of Neutral Shoes
Advantages of a neutral shoe typically center around the proper, light level of cushioning right around the heel where neutral runners need it most. They are also typically lighter in weight, unlike support or stability trainers. Their curved or semi-curved nature also keeps the shoe’s sole from touching the ground, as there is no need for additional support in the front half of the shoe.
Neutral Shoes Features
Neutral shoes are known for their stable nature, which adheres to how your feet hit the ground without any additional components. Neutral shoes are typically the most lightweight of all trainers and are quite responsive to the movements of a neutral runner.
Running shoes are often:
- Flexible and responsive to your movements
- Sit very low to the ground
- Strong and resilient enough to endure everyday training
- Lightweight enough to be worn all day long
These are the most baseline, defining features of nearly all neutral shoes, but they vary in different ways, such as support, material, cushioning, offset, and other factors. Shoes don’t need to fall into certain categories that define every aspect of them.
If you need a neutral running shoe, it is best to search for them and find the one with features that match your needs, like having the proper amount of cushioning or an upper this is breathable enough for your needs.
- Neutral runners are best suited for a simple, comfortable neutral running shoe.
- Neutral runners who weigh more than 13 stone, or 180 pounds, might feel more comfortable with a supportive shoe.
How to Judge a Running Gait
1. Pay attention to how you stand
- Stand in your typical shoes with your feet together
- Check the way your feet point; you are likely a neutral-style runner if they both face forward.
- If they are spread out to appear as a “V” when you look down, you probably have over-pronation.
- If your feet form a capital “A” shape, you likely under-pronate.
2. Test your arches
Arch tests will help see if you have a high arched foot, affecting your running style. Performing an arch test is simple and can be done in only a few steps, as follows:
1. Place some newspaper on the ground
2. Slightly wet your feet all over the bottom
3. Stand on the newspaper briefly
4. Step away and look at the imprint
- You have flat feet if you can see the entire outline of the foot
- You probably have neutral arches if both the front of the foot and the heel are visible, and some of the arch
- You have high arches if the front of the foot and heel can be seen, but your arches are not within view
Neutral vs Motion Control Shoes
Neutral running shoes are designed to support and minimize pronation. They are flexible and can easily move with the foot.
One of the key motion control features is that it has medial posts that help reinforce the arch of the foot. However, these features are not very helpful in addressing overpronation.
Some people tend to pronate slightly and therefore should use these shoes. This is because the medial posts of motion control do not help with pronation.
Which One is Better for Me?
Neutral running shoes have much less support than stability shoes. Their goal is to help support the most natural running stride for you. You’ll want to consider your foot strike, your foot shape, and whether you under or over-pronate when you run.
When choosing between them, you need to consider how strong your arches are and flexible.
Higher arches need more support, and lower arches need more shock absorption provided by stability shoes. You may also find that some shoes don’t provide enough flexibility for you. Don’t be afraid to test out many different shoes. Here are the main things to consider when shoe shopping and what shoes you should consider for each issue:
Runners with High Arches
High arches mean low flexibility. If your arches are too high, it can be difficult for your feet to absorb shock while you run. It also can cause your weight distribution to be thrown off. Placing too much weight on the ball of your foot can lead to discomfort and injuries such as Plantar Fasciitis, shin splints, and stress fractures (in extreme cases).
Most runners with high arches will need a shoe with plenty of arch support. They don’t need much stability or motion control.
For high-arched runners, neutral shoes are recommended. Their curved designs give structure to a high arch, and they help to supplement a high arch that is inflexible.
Neutral shoes tend to be very lightweight. They are built for speed and ease of movement, but they still have good shock-absorption capabilities. Typically, most runners with weaker arches tend to try and avoid landing on the balls of their feet, so they stay outside of the feet. Using a good neutral running shoe can help to correct these stride errors.
Runners with Medium and Low Arches
Medium arches with lots of flexibility are the most correct and natural shape for walking, running, and pretty much any other physical activity. However, a medium arch doesn’t guarantee neutral pronation.
Low arches or flat arch can lead to more extreme over-pronation. While this type of arch is extremely flexible, it causes a runner’s feet to sit too low to the ground and become imbalanced. Low arches can lead to heel pain and Plantar Fasciitis.
People with low arch feet will most likely want stability running shoes to help avoid overpronation. These shoes also provide good support for lower, more flexible arches thanks to large amounts of structure in the midsole. They also allow the foot to flex naturally and give lots of motion control to the runner. All the parts of the foot are kept snugly in line.
Someone with a medium arch may find that they need neutral or stability shoes, depending on their level of pronation.
Runners who overpronate
Over-pronators require support on the insides of the feet to keep their ankles from rolling inward upon impact. They need shoes with a lot of midfoot and midsole support to achieve a neutral running stride. They’ll also need heel support features to help keep the whole foot snugly in line.
The best running shoe for a mild to moderate over-pronator is stability. You’ll get all the support and motion control that your feet need. These shoes will help prevent injury in the long run.es here!
Austin is the author of loveatfirstfit.com and a personal trainer with extensive knowledge in nutrition. Austin is passionate about helping others to find a suitable healthy lifestyle and feel good about themselves. Austin’s goal is to help people push their limits and achieve their physical performance.