Stability training shoes are designed to prevent overpronation, or excessive inward rolling of the foot, which occurs while the wearer is working out, walking, or running. Pronation is a natural part of the gait cycle: as the weight transitions from heel to toes, the foot performs a slight inward roll which helps to propel it forward, preparing for the next step. But the “over-” prefix implies that the angle at which the foot rolls in exceeds the healthy norm.
Overpronation imposes an undesirable strain on the foot and leg muscles, tendons, and ligaments, resulting in all sorts of discomfort, pain, and, sometimes, injuries. That’s why stability training shoes incorporate various components and technologies to ensure a smoother and less exaggerated roll of the medial edge of the foot. In cases of severe overpronation, trainers with motion control features can be considered, as they provide even more advanced supporting and correcting technologies.
How do stability training shoes help?
Even though brands have different approaches to addressing the issue of overpronation, all their developments focus on keeping the foot stable throughout the movement. This is where stability training shoes stem from.
Manufacturers use various materials to ensure support and steadiness. Some of them include TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) shanks, rubber reinforcements, or dual-density foam midsoles. The supporting structures of stability training shoes are mostly concentrated in the midfoot section, preventing the arch from collapsing on the medial side. Some features may also be present in the heel to guide the foot from the earliest stages of the gait cycle. Stability training shoes are also often equipped with firm heel counters, side panels, and midfoot cages that support the foot during side-to-side movements.
Stabilizing technologies in training shoes
Most athletic brands have been concerned with a healthy foot gait cycle for decades now. Even though the trend of stability footwear has been mostly inherent to running shoes, it has spread to training shoes as well.
- The Rollbar consists of two posts, one at the lateral side and one at the medial side, connected by a TPU plate that goes under the heel. The purpose of this technology is to strengthen the heel and prevent overpronation.
- The SBS Stabilizer is similar to the Rollbar but it only has a single post at the medial side of the heel. It is a hard rubber compound that stabilizes the foot, preventing it from excessively rolling in.
Example: New Balance 1865. It is an athletic walking shoe that was crafted to provide comfort, stability, and energy-return despite the length of the journey. The Rapid Rebound Foam is responsible for the rebound, while the SBS Stabilizer enhances cushioned support on the medial side of the heel.
- The Midfoot Bridge is a sturdy yet lightweight TPU compound which is embedded into the midsole of Saucony stability training shoes. It is placed under the arch of the foot to control the pronation during the walking gait cycle.
Example: Saucony Grid Omni Walker. It is a walking shoe that is designed to provide comfort and support to people with mild overpronation. The GRID technology works together with the Super Rebound Compound to ensure centered cushioning in the heel section. The High Rebound Compound makes up the midsole unit for even padding, while the TPU Midfoot Bridge prevents the foot from rolling inwards.
- The DuoMax Support System is the most common feature among stability training shoes from Asics. It is a dual-density EVA foam with the denser portion placed in the midfoot section. It creates a supportive platform that prevents the medial side from collapsing.
Example: Asics Gel 190 TR. It is an all-around shoe for daily workouts. Its midsole employs a combination of the Trusstic System and the DuoMax Support System for arch support and foot stability. The cushioning and rebound are provided by the SpEVA foam. Finally, the Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System enhances shock attenuation in the heel section.
Things to consider when purchasing stability training shoes
Your foot pronation
A consultation with a podiatrist, followed by a few tests, will give you an idea of your particular case of overpronation (if there is one). It is considered normal for the ankle to tilt inwards slightly as a person’s weight shifts from the heel to the ball, preparing for the toe-off. In this case, training shoes with neutral support will suit you best. If the inward roll is extremely pronounced and causes discomfort or pain during movement, you may resort to supportive motion control trainers. Finally, if the degree of overpronation is somewhere in between, this could be the job for stability training shoes.
Type of activity
It is much easier to control pronation during such repetitive exercises as running and walking where the foot goes through the same gait cycle with each step. A wide choice of stability running shoes from different brands are available on the market. However, if you are planning to take up some cardio workout program, lift weights at the gym, or do some plyometrics, then the issue of overpronation gets trickier. The nature of foot movements in these exercises is intensive and ever-changing, which adds to the challenge of creating appropriate stability training shoes. These trainers would have to afford arch support and stability without sacrificing flexibility or weight, the essential features of training footwear.
CrossFit and weightlifting footwear hardly ever feature correcting or stabilizing technologies. They also have a flat and firm sole with minimal cushioning which would only accommodate feet with neutral pronation or underpronation (excessive outward rolling of the foot). A few stability workout shoes are offered for daily workouts and gym sessions. They deliver cushioning and are meant to stabilize feet with mild overpronation. A few brands are offering stability walking shoes that guide the foot throughout a walking gait cycle, preventing the arch from collapsing on the medial side.
The right fit is important in any type of shoes, but it is paramount when it comes to overpronating feet. A basic criterion of a well-fitting shoe is the feeling of it “disappearing” on the wearer. The foot should experience no hindrances inside the trainer, while being supported softly yet securely. The upper unit must provide lateral support when the laces or another type of closure is adjusted. The heel should be held firmly by a heel counter or similar construction to avoid unwanted wobbling of the rearfoot. The toe box should not be too narrow, allowing for toes to splay freely inside the shoe. Most stability training shoes also come in several width options, including medium, wide, and extra wide. They aim to give comfort to people with various foot measurements.
Even though stability training shoes employ firm materials to control pronation, the sole should remain pliable at the forefoot. While the heel and the midfoot may be more rigid, the key flexion point in the front part of the sole unit should allow for natural foot flexibility. As the foot bends in the ball, it ensures that the weight is equally redistributed among toes for a safe and efficient toe-off.
In case of overpronation, the weight is not distributed equally throughout the platform. As the foot rolls inside and downward during midstance, all the pressure is put on the medial portion of the sole. That’s why stability training shoes are supposed to have firmer materials and reinforcing structures in this part of the footwear. Of course, it’s hard to tell how long a product is going to serve you by simply looking at it. A lot also depends on how intense the impact on it is, how often you use it, and on what surface. Here, at RunRepeat, we spend hours researching and studying reviews in order to give you a comprehensive and unbiased overview of each shoe. Durability is one of the essential criteria we examine in each trainer.
If you were not able to find the right pair of stability training shoes, another option is to try using a customized orthotic insert in your neutral training shoes. These inserts are designed with longitudinal arch support and a supportive structure in the medial heel. However, you have to make sure that the trainers have a removable insole, in place of which the orthotics would be used. Quality shoes should also have a lip in the back to prevent the insert from sliding back and up the heel. Consult a podiatrist or a similar specialist to design a personalized insert to meet your specific needs.
Stability training shoes are meant to prevent or ease undesirable consequences of overpronation. However, getting a pair does not necessarily solve the problem. Correcting overpronation is a very sensitive process which requires a holistic approach, and choosing the right footgear is only part of the equation. Thus, it is strongly recommended to see a specialist who would be able to detect the fact and degree of overpronation. You will also receive guidance on treatment and the type of footwear needed.
How can you tell if your feet overpronate?
While self-diagnosis is not always a good idea, there are a few simple preliminary tests that you could do at home to check if you have overpronation. However, it is still strongly advised to visit a podiatrist to get a professional’s perspective on the matter before considering stability training shoes.
- Examine your feet in the mirror. If you tend to overpronate while in motion, it is most often reflected in your feet when you are standing still. Try looking at your feet in front of a tall mirror. You should be able to see the inner side of your foot clearly. Can you see an “arch” on the medial side of the foot, or is the foot planted flat on the ground? Also, look at the medial malleolus, the bony prominence on the inner side of the ankle. Is it aligned with the rest of the foot and leg, or is it forming an angle by tilting inwards as shown in the image above? If the arch is not clearly visible and the ankle forms a protruding curve, then, most likely, you have overpronation.
- Check the outsole on your old footwear. Another way to test pronation is by looking at the sole of your training, running, or walking shoes. If the bottom appears to be more worn out and the midsole is crimped on the medial (inner) part, it’s also a sign of overpronation. It implies that the arch of the foot fails to propel and distribute the weight of the body evenly, putting all the stress on the medial edge of the foot as well as the big and second toes.
- The “wet test.” Overpronation is often associated with fallen arches or flat feet. You can conduct this simple test to check your arch type. Wet your bare foot in water, then step on paper, cardboard, dry concrete, or any other surface that could clearly “copy” your footprint. The mark of a healthy foot would only show the outer edge and part of the middle portion of the foot, while a flat foot would be fully imprinted on the surface. However, it should be noted that collapsed arches may not always be a sign of overpronation and do not necessarily need stability training shoes.
Finally, if you experience any kind of discomfort or pain in the lower extremities or lower back when walking, running, or exercising, there is always a chance that it is caused by an excessive inward rolling of the foot. Other indications of overpronation may include corns, calluses, hammer toes, shin splints, among other conditions.
What are the causes of overpronation?
Most often there is no simple answer to this question as it can involve a combination of the following:
- incorrect posture or previous injuries that lead to muscular compensation in legs and feet;
- excessive load on feet from training, running, standing, walking;
- lack of foot movement and exercise due to illness or aging;
- pregnancy and obesity may result in collapsed foot arches because of extra weight;
- genetic legacy, etc.
How to take care of overpronated feet?
There are a few ways in which you could ease the ache and discomfort associated with pronation abnormalities:
- stretch your legs and feet after running, exercising, prolonged standing and walking; this will reduce stress, increase blood flow and “restart” the tendons and muscles;
- do regular exercises to strengthen foot and leg muscles;
- try getting a massage therapy;
- avoid wearing shoes with too soft cushioning.
Frequently asked questions
How are stability training shoes different from motion control training shoes?
Stability training shoes are designed to correct mild overpronation, while motion control training shoes are meant for people with severe overpronation. The latter employ firmer reinforcing structures in the heel and the midfoot that make them a bit heavier and less flexible than stability shoes. That’s why motion control shoes are mostly made for walking and are not appropriate for high-intensity workouts.
Can I run in stability training shoes?
The sole unit of a stability workout shoe is designed for multi-directional movements, while walking and running shoes typically accommodate heel-to-toe transition only. Workout shoes also don’t have as much heel cushioning as running footwear. However, they can still be used for short running sessions, but it is not advisable if you are a heel striker.
The construction of stability walking shoes is more similar to running shoes. They can be used for short-distance running; however, the cushioning of walking shoes is not meant to withstand the constant pounding of running. This will result in the footwear wearing out ahead of time.
Can I use stability running shoes instead of stability training shoes?
It is not recommended. These types of footgear were designed to serve for different activities which is reflected in the way they are constructed.
While both types of footwear incorporate stabilizing technologies that make them more rigid compared to neutral shoes, the sole unit of stability training shoes tends to be more solid. The soft cushioning of running shoes reduces steadiness of the foot during multi-directional movements.
Another point concerns the drop, or the heel-to-toe differential of the shoe. It tends to be lower in training shoes, providing more sensitive contact with the ground and better proprioception.
Finally, the upper unit of stability training shoes features more technologies for lateral and medial support. It helps in keeping the foot in place during side-to-side movements, which is inherent to cross-training.
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