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. They give you a more stable base for running. Now you may be wondering what makes stability shoes so special. So what are stability running shoes and how do they help runners?
Stability running 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 will 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 than this can cause injuries in the long run.
Some shoes, 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 along with support for mild to moderate over-pronators.
Related: What are Maximalist Running Shoes?
To find out what kind of pronator you are, Check the soles of your shoes.
- 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 pattern that is “S” 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. When set on an even surface, these shoes should have a noticeable tilt inward.
As we’ve discussed, over-pronators are the group who most need stability running 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.
We’ve also talked about neutral runners. This group has the most correct level of pronation and therefore does not require any adjustments or extra support from their shoes. If you fall into this category, look for a neutral running shoe. The more experienced the runner, the less cushioning they will need. Many runners actually prefer more natural shoes that have 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 just 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 actually 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 actually 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.
What features should my stability shoes have?
If you fall into the category of mild to moderate over-pronation, then here are some features you should expect to see in a good stability shoe:
This type of foam is essentially a wedge that goes 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 having to make the shoe extremely bulky. This foam also helps to provide some extra shock-absorption for the arches.
A lot of 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 to support the natural build of the foot during running. It also helps to support the structure of the shoe 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 in the correct fashion. They help the runner to 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 big role in stability. 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 actually 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 actually provide more stability when you run? A good stability shoe should make your arches feel very 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 size of the shoe.
Stability Running Shoes vs Natural Running Shoes
Like we’ve talked about, 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 really want to consider your foot strike, your foot shape, and whether you under or over-pronate when you run.
When choosing between stability shoes and neutral shoes, you need to really consider how strong your arches are and how flexible your arches are.
Higher arches need more support, which is provided by neutral running shoes. Meanwhile, lower arches need more shock absorption that will be 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 unfortunately 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).
Runners with high arches will need a shoe that has plenty of arch support. They don’t need much stability or motion control.
For high-arched runners, neutral running shoes are recommended. Their curved designs give structure to a high arch, and they help to supplement a high arch that is inflexible.
Neutral running shoes tend to be very lightweight. They are built for speed and ease of movement, but they still have good shock-absorption capabilities. Typically, 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 activities. However, a medium arch doesn’t guarantee neutral pronation.
Low arches or flat feet 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 a stability shoe 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, as well as giving lots of motion control to the runner. All the parts of the foot are kept snugly in line.
For very low arches, more support is needed in the form of ultimate (or maximum) stability shoes. These shoes have even more arch support and cushioning.
Someone with a medium arch may find that they need neutral running shoes or stability shoes depending on their level of pronation.
Runners who over pronate
Over-pronators require support on the insides of the feet to keep their ankles from rolling inward upon impact. They need shoes that have a lot of midfoot and midsole support in order 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 a stability shoe. You’ll get all the support and motion control that your feet need. These shoes will help prevent injury in the long run.
A Word from Love At First Fit
Running is the go-to exercise for a lot of people to stay in shape. However, many people simply 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 a lot of pain and injury down the road.
It is so important to know whether you are a neutral, over, or under-pronator. You will also want to know how high and flexible your arches are in order to purchase the best shoe for you.
The best way to get the perfect fit is to head to your local sporting goods or running 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 really see the difference when you take that first run in your new pair of shoes.