Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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DOCTORS OF RUNNING STABILITY RUNNING SHOE RESOURCE PAGE


Welcome to the Stability Running Shoe Resource Page at Doctors of Running. Here we provide a brief intro to stability shoes along with updates on the latest breakthroughs in stability running. We also provide a list of stability shoes we've reviewed to help you find your next running adventure. It is important to be able to find the right stability shoe for your needs to make sure you can get out the door and run as comfortably and safely as possible. If you have any specific questions about the content in this feature, please reach as at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

Introduction

Anyone who follows Doctors of Running knows we talk about stability an awful lot. Stability shoes - and runners - often get lumped into one category. You’re either neutral or stability a lot of places say. We have worked really hard to dispel that and talk about the different elements of shoes that can help runners match their needs. Stability in particular has changed in recent years with shoe brands innovating new strategies and implementations. We decided to take a first start at categorizing the ways stability has evolved through the introduction of this page.


What are Stability Shoes?

When we talk about stability, we are now referring to the many varied ways to add structure to a shoe. This can be through traditional means such as a medial post, heel counters, or wedging. It can also refer to new methods include guide rails, sidewalls, sole flare, internal sole geometry, straight lasts, extreme lateral bevels and more.

"When it comes to support, much of the running shoe industry focuses on stabilization of the midfoot and sometimes the heel. This is traditionally done with posting, or denser foam material meant to slow the inward roll (pronation) of the foot during loading response." - Editor Matt Klein from his feature on Midfoot Arch Support


Example of Medial Post from the Fuelcell Prism v2
What is Posting in Stability Shoes? - Stability for a large portion of the running industry has been focused on rearfoot and midfoot posts. Posts usually involve sections of the midsole material being firmer than the rest of the shoe on the inner or medial side of the shoe. These are frequently referred to as duel-density foam. Since motion occurs through the path of least resistance, the post is designed to resist motion and facilitate it toward a different direction. Most of the time the posts are in the medial heel and midfoot. These particular designs are meant to assist the posterior tibalis, different muscles in the foot, ankle, and lower extremity that control overpronation during the landing or initial contact and mid stance phases of the gait cycle. While posts have long been the forefront of stability shoes, recent years have shown a sharp turn from posts for alternative forms of guidance.

How Do You Know How Much Stability You Need?
A question frequently asked by both patients and readers is "If I do need stability, how much do I need?" The answer depends on several factors that can change over time.

The biggest factor is understanding how much or how little stability you can handle. The amount of stability you can handle may have both a low and high end. Shoes that are too stable or not stable enough both have the potential to cause issues. There is also variability in how much stability each person needs, as some people need a large amount, some people need a little, others can handle a variety and others are very sensitive (in a negative way) to shoe stabilizing methods. Most people can handle a variety of levels of stability. We encourage switching between a few pairs of shoes as the different amounts of stability and stimuli from different shoes provide a cross training effect. This may be helpful in reducing certain running related injuries (Malisoux et al., 2015). How much you can handle will depend on your individual mechanics, strength and endurance. The most common thing to focus on is comfort!!!  While frontal plane (side to side) motion at the foot/ankle has been the biggest focus, we know now that just because someone may move excessively in a certain area does not mean they are going to have problems. Most people focus on pronation, which is the inward collapse of the foot during normal shock absorption. However, it also refers to supination, whereby some people actually collapse outwardly AFTER they land (less common, but there are still some people that do this). This is not to be confused with landing on the outside of your foot and rolling in (that's still pronation). Just because someone pronates or supinates doesn't mean they are going to have a problem. It also may just be the way they shock absorb. If you take away something someone is doing efficiently, you may cause problems elsewhere. However, if they do not have the strength, endurance or stability to handle those motions in that area, then a stability shoe may be helpful. How much stability you need will depend on how much correction you need. If you are having problems/injuries specifically related to excessive pronation/supination including injuries to the posterior tibialis, Achilles tendon or other tissues with known relationships to pronation/supination, a shoe with more stability may be a better idea (Malisoux et al., 2016). If you try those shoes but find them too stiff/uncomfortable, a shoe with a little less may be better.

Various ways On Cloudace provides stability.
How much you stability you need (if you even do) will also depend on the type of run you are doing. Slower and longer efforts may require more stability as your body fatigues or as you tend to land harder. On the other hand, faster efforts, during which people will often have shorter ground contact times, may require less stability. This is a great reason to have a variety of shoes and if you need stability, a variety of levels of stability. The New Balance FuelCell Prism v2 may work very well for shorter/faster efforts or workouts for someone who normal trains in a shoe with more stability like a New Balance 860 or Vongo. Stability shoes generally tend to be heavier, so a shoe like this may nimble enough to use for faster days but not the bulk of someone's mileage. Then when your body is fatigued from a workout, you can switch back to a shoe that supports you more as your body recovers.

It is important to understand that for many people, there is no perfect level of stability. Bodies and biomechanics change over time. Something you may have needed to run comfortable/without injury may change as the many factors in life change throughout your time on this planet. So this is often an experimental process. If you know a certain shoe or type of shoe works for you and you have problems when you try other things, you might want to stick to that shoe. If you are one of the lucky ones that can run in anything, enjoy trying different shoes! If you have stuck with a certain type of shoe for a while and want to try something different, try it on and see how you feel. If there are a few extra requirements that you need to work on to run in that shoe, you may have to put some extra effort into your body (like extra work on strengthening, stability, mobility, etc) to make sure you stay healthy when wearing them.

Please remember shoes are tools. Different people need different tools. There are also different reasons for them. If you are having issues related to excessive pronation, then a shoe with stability may be a good idea to use. If you find that a shoe with a high level of stability is too rigid/uncomfortable for you, you might want to try something with less stability. If you find the shoe with less stability is not enough, try something with a little more. When you put your foot in a shoe, it should feel comfortable and stable. The best bet is to head to a local running store and work with the many experienced experts there. They can help guide you through this process, which can take some practice to understand. Be patient with your self as this process involves some learning and experimentation.

References

Malisoux, L., Chambon, N., Delattre, N., Gueguen, N., Urhausen, A., & Theisen, D. (2016). Injury risk in runners using standard or motion control shoes: a randomised controlled trial with participant and assessor blinding. British journal of sports medicine50(8), 481-487.

Malisoux, L., Ramesh, J., Mann, R., Seil, R., Urhausen, A., & Theisen, D. (2015). Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running‐related injury risk?. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports25(1), 110-115.


Alternative Branded Stability Tools Seen in the Industry Today

The Brooks Adrenaline series help pave the way for more shoes with a focus on guidance..
Brooks Running GuideRails Support System - Featuring two firm pieces of foam extending down the medial and lateral side of the shoe. Medial side features a very minor post with the medial guide rail.. The rails help center the running forward, working to shift the runner from caving into either side of the foot. Most famously part of the Adrenaline series. (Learn more in our conversation with Brooks here.)
Puma runGUIDE - Seen in the Eternity Nitro, runGUIDE mimics GuideRails, providing sidewalls to the shoe's midsole to help center the runner forward.
Hoka J-Frame - Seen in the Arahi series, the J-Frame is a firmer density foam shaped in a J. It sits atop Hoka's regular foam, providing the runner a solid base on the medial side of the shoe and wrapping around the heel to some of the lateral side. The J-Frame provides not only a stable base for the foot, but some gentle forward guidance.
Mizuno's Wave Foam - Their least traditional stability model, the Horizon is somewhat like the J-Frame, combining densities of foam to provide a stable base for the runner. The latest version provides a soft foam - Enerzy - for cushioning, and a denser foam called U4iC to help provide some firmness to land on and prevent the foot from collapsing. A wave pattern helps push the denser foam in tactical places for added stability.
Mizuno's Wave Plate - Utilized for years instead of posting, Mizuno typically (with the exception of the Horizon above) uses a fan shaped design in their rear/midfoot wave plate. There are larger "waves" on the inner side and to some degree on the outer side of the foot, which resists motion in those directions  and facilitates motion toward the center/forward. Seen in the Wave Inspire series.
Adidas Stable Frame - Used in the Solar Glide ST series, the Stable Frame is firmer material that sits at the outer edge of the midsole that guides the foot forward along the more soft center (usually Boost). 

Forms of Built-In Stability in Shoes Today

The underside of the Asics Nimbus Lite 3. Wide geometry and mildly firmer midsole help stabilize
While stability often is approached as a singular device like posts or GuideRails, there are many ways shoes can provide a stable base for runners. Today's market in particular has done a good job of exploring these different methods to create very stable shoes that are overall "neutral," but still very stable at the same time.

Geometry - Perhaps the most popular form of stability right now. Geometry refers to added width throughout the base of the shoe, particularly the midfoot to help provide a wide platform to land on and prevent the foot from crashing medially or laterally.


Example of sole flare seen in Asics Kayano Lite 2.
Sole Flare - Sole flare is when the midsole extends further out than the upper to create a broader platform around your foot. This helps provide a base for the foot to push against, preventing it from collapsing into the ground medially or laterally. The combination of sole flare and geometry and be a simple and effective way to create stability without posts or unique technology. Adding sole flare to more traditional width shoes is often seen in neutral daily trainers to provide a hint of stability to the platform (see Puma Velocity Nitro).
Sidewalls - Sidewalls are usually an extension of the midsole upward alongside the foot. Built typically over the midsole connecting to the upper, sidewalls help provide a bit of structure to lock the runner into the shoe and keep it somewhat guided forward. These are somewhat similar in concept to guiderails, but are much less dense/obtrusive. They share the same density as the midsole material and those work to help keep the foot on the platform. 


Example of a sidewall in the Hoka Clifton 8
Full Ground Contact Outsole - A fully connected to the ground outsole helps provide controlled contact between the runner and surface to help a smooth transition forward. These are inherantly more stable as more surface contact means more inherent stability.
Heel Counters - These are the rigid pieces of usually plastic that surround the heel of many shoes. They provide structure to the back of the shoe and may help guide the back of the foot down the center of the shoe initially. Some people are sensitive to these however.


Heel counters can vary from extremely rigid to entirely flexible.
Plates or Rods- Although most people think of these as being propulsive, plates and rods really stabilize the ride and stiffen the sole (also known as increasing longitudinal bending stiffness). They also add torsional (side to side) rigidity, which tends to keep foot motion centered (depending on the plate and person).
Lateral Heel Bevel - The lateral heel bevel and rearfoot plate resist medial motion, so for those with excessive rearfoot pronation will find this helpful. Those that tend to go too far lateral however will not as it will push you farther in that direction. Best seen in the Adidas Adios Pro 2.

Stability Shoes Reviewed at Doctors of Running

Running Shoes with Posting
Those who want/need a more rigid block of material on the medial side of their feet and those who want the feeling of direct "support" or pressure into their arch may want a shoe with posting. 

Maximal Cushioned
Asics Kayano 29
Saucony Hurricane 23

Running Shoes with Guidance
Those who are sensitive to posting but still want/need the shoe to help guide their foot in a certain direction.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
Brooks Glycerin GTS 20
Brooks Launch 8 GTS
Puma Eternity Nitro
Hoka Arahi 6
Nike Structure 24

Stable Neutral Running Shoes
The following shoes are categorized as Neutral, but have an above average level of stability. Those who are sensitive to the above stability measures but still want a stable shoe will do well here. Stable neutral shoes offer mild stability elements integrated into the shoe, but still remain relatively neutral overall compared to the shoes seen above. We always want to encourage people needing light stability to consider a wide range of options to meet their needs as the stability shoe sector can be limiting. Learn more about Stable Neutral Shoes here.

Road Shoes
Asics Nimbus Lite 3
(A generously wide platform with full ground contact outsole and some slight firmness)
(A rigid and significantly rockered sole with a wide platform keep motion directed forward)
Saucony Endorphin Shift 3
(A wealth of non-traditional stability from sole flare to guidance lines and sidewalls help keep this max cushioned shoe stable)
Hoka Mach 4
(Sidewall reinforcements and a wider base help provide a solid foundation to this lightweight shoe)
(Sidewall reinforcements, wider plate and carbon plate provide a locked in but slightly stiff ride)
Karhu Ikoni 2022
(Firmer sole, rocker, and fulcrum provide a guided, forward transition for the runner. EXCELLENT fit)
Saucony Ride 15
(Sole flaring, good upper reinforcement, and flexible forefoot guiding runners helps promote a fairly stable platform for runners)
(Firmer foam with aggressive outsole provides good traction and grip for the road)
(Wide base, energy rods and laterally biased heel bevel create a high level of stability that is not intrusive)
Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit 3 (New)
(Heel clip provides rear stability along with a wider platform)
Puma Velocity Nitro 2
(Heel counter design helps add some guidance. Firmer heel provides stable rearfoot and full ground contact outsole helps keep shoe feeling stable throughout)
On Cloudstratus 2
(Guidance line through outsole, wider forefoot, firmer midsole, and rigidity from Speedboard helps provide a stable distance cruiser)
On Cloudflow 3
(Lower profile shoe meets On's natural stable mechanics - Speedboard for rigidity and guidance line for centering)
New Balance Fresh Foam More v4 (New)
(Extremely stable. Wide last throughout shoe, good forefoot flexibility, solid bevel, sidewalls make for a high level of natural stability)
Hoka Rincon 3
(Wide Hoka base with a very centered guidance thanks to a heel cutout. Some sidewalls also reinforce the shoe. Due to wider heel though, care for those who have a narrow foot)

Trail Shoes
Hoka Speedgoat 5
(A really well-constructed trail shoe that's tank-like, yet nimble. Ground contact outsole, wide base, and lots of structure to keep you steady on trails)
North Face Vectiv Infinite
(Despite being a high stacked trail shoe, lots of upper reinforcement with a wide base helps provide runners a very secure platform for the trails)
Saucony Xodus Ultra
(Dual sidewalls with extended heel counter provides moderate guidance at heel. Narrow midfoot offset by heel sidewall. Rock plate provides frontal plane motion resistance at forefoot for stable toe-off)


Strength Training
Regardless of shoe, always remember to incorporate some strength training in your work where you can! Visit our Performance and Rehab page for more information.


Further Recommended Reading/Viewing

Forefoot Arch Support
- The science behind a rare posting in today's shoe seen.
Behind Brooks Stability with Dr. Matt Trudeau - We speak with Brooks about GuideRails and their take on stability
Midfoot Arch Support and Post Tib - The two often go hand-in-hand.
Best Marathon Shoe for Someone with Stability Needs (2021) - We discuss some of our favorite marathon shoes that may work for a broader audience
Best Marathon Shoe for Someone with Stability Needs (2022) - Matt follows up with his favorites for 2022
Severe Overpronation - Foot rolls inside aggressively? Learn more on why and what to work on
Sole Flare - How a little extra foam goes a long way.
Stable Neutral Shoes Discussion - The team talks about our definition of stable neutral shoes
Foot and Ankle Strengthening - Help build your core over time to improve foot strength and mitigate rolling ankles
Discussion on Need for Variety of Stability (DPT Section) - Why do you need a few shoes to rotate between? Learn here.

Have any questions? Visit us on social media to send us a question!

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