What’s Going On With Stability Shoes?

A customer goes through the Fleet Feet outfitting process.

The stability category emerged in the 1980s as a way for runners who overpronate (the excessive inward rolling of a runner’s foot upon landing) to reduce their risk of injury. No injuries sounds like a runner’s dream, right? The only thing is, there’s no statistical evidence to support the notion that stability shoes reduce injury.

In fact, stability shoes aren’t meant to change your biomechanics or the way you move at all. Stability technology is actually designed to create a more durable shoe for runners who put more pressure on the insides of their feet as they move. This used to be done through traditional medial postings. The inside of the shoe–the medial part–features firmer and denser material than the rest of the midsole, making it more resistant to the extra pressure that overpronators put on the inside of the shoe.

This is designed to prevent the shoes from wearing out unevenly. The result is a more comfortable running experience! After all, who wants to run in a pair of unevenly worn out shoes? That’s like sleeping on a permanently indented mattress. Stability shoes are merely just the shoe equivalent of rotating your mattress regularly.

However, some shoe brands now believe that runners can benefit more from holistic support instead of one-sided reinforcement.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that our favorite brands are doing stability.

New Balance 860 v13

The New Balance 860 v13.

The New Balance 860 v13 is a perfect example of a traditionally posted shoe. The dual-density midsole features a firmer, denser foam on the medial side. The foam compresses less under your weight and keeps the shoe from wearing out unevenly, so you get a stable ride through the entire life of the shoe.

HOKA Gaviota 5

The HOKA Gaviota 5.

The Gaviota 5 features what HOKA calls their H-frame technology. If you were to cut this shoe open (which we do not recommend), you’d see a frame inside the midsole shaped like the letter H.The H-frame offers stability on both sides of the shoe, making it more accommodating to runners with different gait patterns.

If you have flexible feet that tend to move around, the H-frame provides some reinforcement without limiting support to the medial side of the shoe, making the foam last longer and ultimately providing more comfort.

Brooks Glycerin GTS 21

The Brooks Glycerin GTS 21.

The Glycerin GTS 21 uses what Brooks called their Guide Rail technology. A great way to envision this is as bumper bowling for your feet. The Guide Rails are on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe to help reinforce the shoes on both sides, giving it more durability so it wears evenly for those with flexible feet that roll inward or outward.

Saucony Guide 17

The Saucony Guide 17.

In years prior, the Saucony Guide has been one of those traditionally posted shoes. However, the 17th iteration got people riled up because Saucony changed things up on us. Instead of using a traditional post, they use what’s called Center Path Technology. What does that mean?

Saucony’s Center Path Technology is made up of three key components. First, a wide, broad platform offers a stable base for landings. Second, high sidewalls encompass your foot so you’re sitting inside the cushioning rather than on top of it. Third, an asymmetrical profile provides guidance for your stride. This asymmetrical shaping puts additional foam where it needs to be for maximum durability for flexible feet that move within the shoe.

ASICS GEL-Kayano 30

The ASICS GEL-Kayano 30.

ASICS is yet another brand that has moved beyond using traditional medial posting. In the GEL-Kayano 30, they use a 4D Guidance System made up of four key elements.

First, a flared midsole allows you to sit inside of the midsole rather than on top of it, so your foot feels like it’s surrounded by the cushioning. Second, the shoe also has a wider base, all the way from the heel to the forefoot. A wider base means more inherent stability. Third, ASICS increased the heel bevel, which is the rounding or angling of the heel, to lessen impact as you land and help you smoothly transition into the toe-off phase. The fourth element to the 4D guidance system is perhaps the most noticeable. It appears to be your typical medial posting, but it’s actually filled with energetic foam that helps you bounce back after landing.

As you can see, the lines between stability shoes and neutral shoes have changed over the years as we continue to discover more about biomechanics. What’s most important is figuring out which shoe offers the support you need. Come visit your local Fleet Feet to sit down with an expert outfitter, get your feet scanned and see which stability option is going to be the best for you.

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