3 Reasons To Use Stability Shoes
By Steve Manning “The Footman” – intraining Podiatrist and Lvl 4 Running Coach
3 Reasons To Use Stability Shoes
Manage injuries related to pronation
Better support for slower running
Increased shoe durability
Many runners have struggled with the soft, thick, neutral midsoles in modern shoes. Especially if they need some medial stability. If you have been experiencing knee, shin or foot pain you might want to reconsider adding a stability shoe to your running rotation.
There has been a massive evolution in footwear design and technology over the last 10 years. Accompanying this has been a deeper understanding of optimal running biomechanics.
Initially these changes occurred during the minimalist running phase. Shoes became lighter but also moved away from blocking the foot towards foot guidance. Lower heel height to forefoot height differences became the trend. Shoes generally were more flexible to let the foot move “naturally”. The Motion Control category of running shoe became extinct while Neutral shoes went from being one third of the shoes sold to being more than half the shoes sold.
More recently the minimalist fad has been turned on its head with the emergence of the supershoes and maximalist shoes. These shoes have maximum stack heights up to 5cm, have rigid soles that do not flex and prevent the foot from having a “natural” action. Some features from minimalism have still been adopted by this new phase in shoe design. That includes the low heel height and light weight. However, none of these supershoes have any medial control to reduce the amount your foot rolls inwards.
For most runners current running shoe technology has resulted in faster times and lower injury incidence. Unfortunately when a new fad becomes popular it does not suit every runner. While neutral shoes have become preeminent they have lead to increased injury risks for some runners. Softer midsoles feel nicer but can also facilitate sideways translation of the foot on top of the shoe. This can lead to increased muscle and bone stress and even injury.
There is no ideal running style or foot structure for all runners. Really there is no normal when it comes to how to run. Instead there is an ideal way of running and shoe design that suits each individual runner. Ideal can change significantly between runners and even between the same runner at different speeds. That is why there are so many different shoes with different amounts of stability and cushioning
Here are 3 reasons why you should consider including a stability shoe in your shoe collection.
1. Manage injuries related to pronation
Soft, thick midsoles allow for more pronation or rolling inwards during the weightbearing part of the running stride. This can lead to increased knee rotation and knee strain. The muscle alongside your shin will also be strained as it resists the rolling action and collapse of your arch. Pronation may also shift your bodyweight to the inside of your foot blocking your foot function in propulsion. A firmer density on the inside part of your shoes midsole will reduce the work your leg needs to do to control this action. This can minimise muscle fatigue that may lead to injury.
2. Better support for slower running
The faster you run generally the better your biomechanics. Ground contact time is reduced minimising the opportunity for pathological movements. The opposite is also true. The slower you run the more support you may need in a shoe. For easy recovery runs and long runs many runners will benefit by the improved assistance offered by a stability shoe. Using the lighter supershoes for speedwork and races can be complimented by having a stability shoe for most of your other training.
3. Increased shoe durability
If you pronate even mildly you may be putting extra stress on the inside midsole of your running shoes. Over time this increased compression can lead to a permanent reduction to the resistance in the midsole. This can be seen if you look at your shoes from behind and the heel counters are leaning to the inside. Stability shoe midsoles are stronger on the inside so will be able to cope with the increased forces from pronation. For some people this can double the viable life of their shoes.
Even within the stability shoe category there have been many changes. All shoes have become softer and lighter. If you have not tried on a stability shoe recently you might be very surprised how comfortable they have become. The emphasis on guiding the foot rather than blocking the foot has made for a smoother transition from footstrike to toe-off. Each brand has rejuvenated their stability shoes to make them more comfortable and more functional.
The GT2000 v11 has significantly increased the cushioning by adding an extra mm of stack height and incorporating FF Blast into the full length of the midsole. Over decades this has been one of the most popular stability shoes ever created. The newest version feels more responsive and smooth not just because of the change in midsole but also tweaks to the LiteTruss dual density midsole and a drop in overall weight.
The Gel Kayano 29 is the premier stability shoe from Asics. There has been a step up in cushioning with a 2mm increase in stack height as well as full length FF blast like the GT2000. The slightly increased weight is offset by increased durability, cushioning and control. While using LiteTruss like the 2000 it feels like there is more stability on offer from the Kayano as the dual density is a bit firmer and larger. The heel counter has an extra thermo plastic heel counter collar for extra stability.
The Gel Kayano Lite 3 is a modified version of the Kayano. The heel drop is a bit lower and the midsole is flared on the sides and back. The midsole seems softer and lighter although the stack height is actually less than the Kayano. The main difference is the full FlyteFoam midsole and Guidance Line rather than LiteTruss technology. This makes for a softer and more subtle amount of stability compared to the GT2000 and Kayano.
The Brooks stability shoes have the GTS suffix attached to them and incorporate Guiderails technology. Guiderails are a firmer density that is embeded into the midsole that cups the foot but is thicker on the inside of the shoe. This helps to increase pronation resistance the more you roll in.
The Brooks stability line starts with the Launch GTS 9 which is a lighter weight mild stability shoe. This shoe can double up as a training shoe or a racer. The midsole stack height is reduced and the midsole has a firm responsive feel in propulsion. This is an excellent versatile shoe for mild to moderate pronators.
The Adrenaline GTS 22 has been our most popular stability model in our store. You can see why when you have a run in this shoe. It seems to be a perfect combination of softness and control. The guiderails help to smoothly direct the foot from heelstrike to forefoot loading.
The Glycerin GTS 20 is the most cushioned and stable Brooks GTS shoe thanks to increased midsole stack height and flare as well as the supersoft DNA Loft v3. While slightly heavier and more expensive than the Adrenaline it makes up for it with the extra protection it offers.
Most of the HOKA shoes give stability through wide, firm midsoles. The midsoles are wrapped up to cradle the foot. The Arahi 6 is the only HOKA that has the added dual-density midsole. In the Arahi the firmer density cradles the heel and is extended through to the forefoot on the inside if the shoe. This makes it currently the only runner with specific medial control in the forefoot.
The Wave Inspire 19 has a softer feel than the v18 with increased stack height and Enerzy midsole. The wave plate is also a bit more subtle then the previous version. This has translated to a much improved transition from heel strike to forefoot loading. However it still is one of the most stable and durable stability shoes around thanks to a firmer, more supportive feel than most other stability shoes
The Wave Horizon 6 is almost a motion control shoe. The Foam Wave is extended the full length of the midsole. There is full ground contact through the midfoot. Of even more significance is the full length Enerzy Core midsole insert that offers superior cushioning and energy return. This is a solid stable shoe that does not need to compromise its cushioning.
The Fresh Foam X 860 v13 is the recent upgrade to a successful stability shoe. A Dual density wedge in the medial midsole offers extra arch support and rotational stiffness. It has the added advantage of good upper depth and a variety of widths to fit problem feet. This is one of the more stable stability shoes.
The Fresh Foam X Vongo v5 has a larger dual density post that extends from the sole to the upper. However the shoe itself feels smoother and more streamlined than the 860. It has the stretchy toe upper of the 1080 so can conform to different toe and forefoot issues.
The Guide v16 has a thermoplastic insert in the medial midsole. This increases the durability of the inside midsole. The guide has a more traditional firmer feel that can suit heavier runners who hit the ground hard.
The Tempus is one of the most under-appreciated stability shoes. It bridges the gap to the Semi-Supershoe category by using Pebax Foam inside a supportive Frame of firmer PWRRUN EVA. This is perhaps one of the softest most comfortable stability shoes available. It gives you control without blocking foot motion.
Come and try to test run a pair on our indoor 25m runway. See you at 535 Milton Road, Toowong
Steve Manning "The Footman"
Steve has been a running shoe aficionado for the last 4 decades and as the owner of intraining Running Centre has helped thousands of runners find the perfect shoe. He is a member of the Footman Biomechanics Group of the International Society of Biomechanics and a previous President of the Qld branch of Sports Medicine Australia. As a Podiatrist specialising in running sports injury prevention he utilises footwear prescription and modification to keep you running. Contact Steve at the intraining Running Centre, [email protected] for all your footwear questions.