The existence of the running shoe dates back to the 1800s when various individuals tinkered with the traditional, leather-based boot. Rubber soles were tested as they had the tendency to be more adherent to the surfaces. Rubber also lightly cushioned the foot while allowing for targeted flexibility and in-shoe steadiness. The 1850s and ‘60s were years of massive development in the world of running due to the invention of outsole spikes, patterns of rubber protrusions that tended to heighten grip on the surfaces.
Humankind relied on inherent capacities when it comes to body-to-surface stability. Shoes offered some protection from impact and ground debris, but the infancy of athletic footwear didn’t adequately accommodate the anatomy and kinematics of tendons, muscles, and joints. The decades that went after the initial surge of innovation for running shoes didn’t yield a lot of new stuff.
In the year 1960, New Balance churned out the Trackster, a precursor model of many commercially available running shoes. This product had a sole unit that was constructed to have ripples which, in turn, aimed to prevent stress on the shin. Many would say that the Trackster heralded the beginning of athletic shoes that provided anti-injury measures.
Brooks created the Vantage in 1997. This readily available shoe was the first model to fully embrace the now-industry-standard ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) midsole. People were amazed by its cushioning capacity and its highly agreeable performance. It even utilized a “varus wedge,” an add-on in the medial midfoot part of the platform that helped in the prevention of irregular rolling of the foot as it went through the gait cycle.
The new millennium saw an influx of technologies that are specifically designed to correct anatomical concerns with pronation. Dual-density foam units, stability posts, thermoplastic foundations, and others found their way into the midsole units. Even uppers were overhauled to improve security without restricting movement. Max-cushioned shoes came out as early as 2009, with the Hoka One One brand taking the lead in this anti-minimalist step. Extra thickness to the midsole doesn’t necessarily stabilize the foot, but it can help in alleviating any strain when running for extended periods.
Noteworthy technologies that encompass the best stability running shoes
Men and women’s stability running shoes usually have platforms that are fitted with posts. These layers of dense material are meant to prevent any positional deviation when the foot is idle or taking a movement-transition from the heel to the toe. Some stability posts are made of foam while others are fashioned from thermoplastic fragments. You can quickly spot this technology because it is visually different from the rest of the midsole; it looks like it was added to the rest of the platform, glued-on or wedged to the external part of the relatively soft full-length foam.
Many people may say that the dual-density foam is merely the same as any stability post, and they’re not wrong. This type of stability mechanism began as a thick foam part that is wedged in the midfoot region of the midsole. Innovations in design allowed companies to seamlessly integrate dense foam with the traditionally responsive platforms of running shoes, resulting in aesthetically muted pronation-control features. The additional job of this usually thick add-on is to provide a bit more cushioning for the foot while also enriching the underfoot experience and averting early material breakdown.
Some brands like Adidas, Asics, and New Balance place thermoplastic add-ons between the midsole and outsole of their running shoes. These layers are crafted to promote the original structure of the cushioning unit, staving off sagging and other unsavory effects of continued use. They are also designed to support the tendons and muscles of the underfoot by acting as substitutes to these connecting fibers; as they facilitate the flexion and compression generated by each step, the foot is permitted a chance to be free of discomfort and strains.
Guide rails started out as topsoles that are meant to add a bit more cushioning to the underfoot. These features are principally part of the midsole. Some guide rails are stiff by design while others are firm. Ultimately, they are tasked with centering the foot’s place on the sole unit, preventing any discrepancies to the full-bodied cushioning purpose of the material. There are guide rails that prevent incoherent pronation by having a more pronounced medial slant that supports low-structured arches.
The midsole unit isn’t the only part of the shoe that contributes to a stable ride. The upper also has components that are configured to secure the foot and keep it in place, especially since the act of running tends to cause wobbling or irregular movements. Overlays are extra layers on the façade that add to the visuals of the shoe. They also have the goal of making the in-shoe experience as stable as possible by helping the lacing system and the fabrics in hugging the topmost dimensions of the foot. Overlays can be stitched-on sheets or printed bits of synthetic material. Concentrating this feature is on a particular portion of the upper means more drawn-out support.
Many running shoes are graced with a type of overlay (or underlay) that only covers the midfoot. These add-ons are called saddles, and they’re directly connected to the lacing system of the stability footwear. Saddles adapt to the tightening or loosening of the laces, allowing them to provide a precise wrap that follows the fit preferences of the runner. They are either stitched onto the fabrics of the upper or fused using a bonding process. They are made of leather, thermoplastic polyurethane or pliable synthetic material. Early iterations of this shoe-part made the silhouette a bit bulky, but changes to the designs of later versions eventually reduced the cluttered look.
The best series of stability running shoes of 2018 and beyond
Nike Air Zoom Structure - The Zoom Structure series of running shoes from Nike is one of the most prominent stability options on the market. The models within this family don the usual sporty façade of running shoes, with a smooth and uncluttered look that tells of form-fitting comfort and speed. The difference lies in the midsole as the Structure products have three foam technologies within the cushioned platform, one of which is a solid piece that runs from the heel to the medial midfoot. The notable models include the Zoom Structure 19, Structure 20, and the 21st iteration.
Asics GT 1000 - The GT 1000 family of running shoes takes pride in its bevy of stability mechanisms that correct overpronation and prevent underfoot discomfort. Aside from having the suit of cushioning technologies such as the full-length foam and the GEL® shock-attenuating compound, the GT 1000 series utilizes the DuoMax™ Support System, the Guidance Trusstic System® and the Guidance Line® vertical groove to smoothen the gait and encourage a steady foot structure. The GT 1000 6 and GT 1000 7 are examples of this well-known group of stability running shoes.
New Balance 860 - Substantial and consistent cushioning is the aim of the 860 line of shoes. These offerings from New Balance intend to make each run as comfortable as possible while also heightening confidence in spite of any problems regarding pronation. Three foams of varying densities grace the platform of each model, the medial section housing a full post that blends with the shape of the entire cushioning unit. The precursor versions utilized stitched-on overlays to support the upper dimensions of the foot, but they’re slowly replaced by fused layers and no-sew design philosophy to reduce weight and stiffness. Versions 7, 8 and 9 became favorites among runners.
Adidas ST line - ‘ST’ is a distinction that the fans of the Adidas brand associated with stability. The products within this roster of running shoes are similar to their non-stability counterparts, though changes to the midsole distinguish them as anti-pronation options. The boost™ midsole compound brings responsiveness and protection from impact forces, yet the ST line has dual-density boost™ in the medial section that averts the adverse inward rolling of the foot. The widely held Adidas ST products include the Ultra Boost ST and the Supernova ST. While the latter has a sporty look, the former has a fashion-forward profile that may endear sneakerheads.
Brooks Ravenna - The Ravenna succession of stability shoes has always received positive feedback from consumers. It is an entry-level roster for those who desire a well-supported ride during their daily running sessions. The Diagonal Rollbar serves as the pronation correction feature. It is composed of an internal post that extends to the edge of the midsole’s medial side. This component covers the entire curve of the arch, entirely preventing it from buckling during each step. The shoes themselves have substantial cushioning units, but they’re flexible and highly responsive. The Ravenna 7, Ravenna 8, and Ravenna 9 are some of the iterations had received the appreciation of many consumers.
Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits of wearing stability running shoes?
Wearing shoes that have stability mechanisms can have significant effects on the performance and quality of each step. If you are an overpronator (one whose arch has a tendency to roll inwards more significantly than usual during each step) or someone who is suffering from anatomical underfoot discomfort (tendon strain, muscle twisting, plantar fasciitis, etc.), then the presence of a stability post or shank may alleviate such concerns. After all, the foot can only take so much distress, especially since the act of running involves constant flexing and windlass mechanics, as well as high levels of impact on the ground. Moreover, stability running shoes are optimized to accommodate long-term wear as they embody the core of a well-supported in-shoe experience.
Will wearing stability shoes unnecessarily be detrimental to performance and safety?
While almost all shoes offer adequate cushioning and support throughout the running session, some options on the market improve on such designs with stability features. Industry professionals had taken their time when it came to providing products that are meant to maintain the structural balance of the wearer’s foot. Stability shoes are tasked with delivering something more than the usual cushioned variants; they have physical differences that are technically agreeable to the overpronator.
But you should also know that wearing stability shoes are recommended for people who need the most support—the midsoles are designed to maintain positional equilibrium. So, when a neutral pronator uses a pair, they won’t necessarily feel balanced as they might perceive the stability feature poking the main cushioning compound. High-arch shoes may also cause supination (outward rolling of the foot).
While it is recommended to contact the nearest podiatrist or stability footwear expert for advice regarding shoes, it is also helpful to try one out or to look at online reviews to get an outline of the feedback given by consumers.
Can I wear stability shoes for purposes other than running?
If you are someone who needs to have a well-supported underfoot during the running session, then neutral, cushioned shoes may suffice. The foam platform isn’t just for show. In fact, many midsoles of today’s running shoes have been configured to ensure full-bodied cushioning, flexibility and protection from impact. Moreover, it is traditionally known that the stability needs of supinators (those whose feet roll outwards when taking each step) are addressed by plush midsoles of regular speed trainers.
But if you have an overpronated foot motion or easily inflamed underfoot tendons, then you can definitely benefit from a product that houses a stability mechanic. Most running shoes nowadays have multipurpose builds, which means that people are creative and resourceful enough to use them for casual purposes such as urban walks or fashion. The contemporary and colorful aesthetics of modern footwear may welcome versatile use. You only need to broaden your imagination and mix-and-match your clothing with your choice of foot apparel.
Stability running shoes also function as necessary accouterments to work attires. Jobs involving constant standing or moving around entail the overuse of the lower extremities. You would only do yourself an excellent service if you allow yourself to work both efficiently and comfortably, and your choice of work-shoe may ultimately define the success of your day.
15 best stability running shoes
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20
Asics Gel Kayano 25
Mizuno Wave Inspire 15
Brooks Transcend 6
Brooks Ravenna 10
Asics Gel Kayano 26
Saucony Omni ISO
Saucony Liberty ISO
New Balance 990 v4
Hoka One One Arahi 3
Saucony Guide ISO 2
Nike Air Zoom Winflo 5
Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6
Nike Air Zoom Structure 22
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.
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