Best running shoes for flat feet

by Solereview editors

Best running shoes for flat feet 2021

This article has been updated with current models for December 2021. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 has been replaced with its updated version. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are almost identical to men’s. The Asics Kayano 28 and GT-2000 10 have different stack heights for men and women.

If you’ve been a Solereview regular, then you probably know what we think of ‘shoes meant for flat feet’. We are vocal skeptics of brands or retailers blindly recommending a particular running shoe category just because you have fallen arches.

The ‘one size fits all’ approach is flawed, because every runner is different, and so is each shoe model – even if they are made by the same brand or from the same category.

A balanced purchasing process guides the runner through a variety of potential options – after taking into consideration the shoe history, personal preferences, budget, and running conditions. The resulting shoe may or may not turn out to be from the stability category.

It is also likely that a shoe from the ‘neutral’ category will work just fine.

Solereview has been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to interact with thousands of readers, and we’ve come to the following conclusion: flat-footed runners do not necessarily have to wear a ‘stability’ shoe with a medial post or even ‘feel good’ features like raised midsole edges (Guiderails).

Our opinion bucks the conventional wisdom that states quite the opposite.

It is generally implied that flat-footed runners are prone to injuries, and hence the need for specific footwear. That is wrong on so many levels because even runners with regular arch heights aren’t injury-proof – they get injured all the time.

If there is a conclusive study or peer-reviewed research (with a large sample size, control, and consistent methodology) that proves that flat-footed runners are more prone to injuries than non-flat footed runners, then we’d like to read it.

Also, not all stability shoes are alike. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 (review here) works differently than the Nike Structure 24; the latter functions differently than an Asics Kayano 28. And so on.

The stability running shoe category was conceived during the early 1980s when the athletic footwear industry was still in its infancy. In those days, most shoes used a primitive midsole construction that involved pasting a mesh upper to a low-quality chunk of die-cut foam and sheet of outsole rubber.

On vintage running shoes, the rounded edges of the upper heel were often wider than the slim EVA foam midsole.

That’s because early running shoes used a board-lasted construction – unlike the contemporary strobel lasting design that allows the upper to be placed on a much wider (and more stable) midsole base.

All runners pronate regardless of their arch height, and some do it more than others. So in those days, the said rolling motion caused the inferior midsole to flatten on one (medial) side.

Add to that hordes of untrained runners enthusiastically hitting the streets in the wake of the then brand-new running fad, and injuries followed soon. More so, when the flattened medial midsole caused the foot to roll perilously inwards – even when stationary.

This led to the birth of different stability devices and support systems on the inner side of the midsoles.

The high incidence of injuries in that era – certainly made worse by the inferior running shoe design – led to the birth of the paradigm that views ‘overpronation’ or arch type as a cause of injury.

Flat feet were assumed to be a pre-condition for excessive rolling in, hence resulting in the conflation of the two factors.

In short, the entire medial post and pronation thing is a 70~80’s deal, based on a then-valid theory formed under an entirely different set of circumstances.

But this is 2021, and running shoe midsoles have become highly advanced, both from a design and material standpoint.

Standard ‘neutral’ shoes such as the Brooks Ghost 14 or Saucony Ride 14 offer high levels of inherent stability. Also, most contemporary foam materials will outlive the rest of the shoe.

Running shoes with medial posts are becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Companies like Saucony and Brooks are editing the medial posts out of their stability shoes and replacing them with ‘GuideRails’ and plastic stabilizers. Even the Nike Structure 24 is a pale – and softer – shadow of the ultra-firm Structure 22.

So if you have flat feet and are looking for a shoe, what should you buy? Happy that you asked.

It’s pretty obvious that we aren’t going to draw up a definitive list of shoes that are ‘suitable for flat-footed runners.’ There’s no guarantee that this approach works, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to know better – or is trying to make a quick sale.

The best way is to use your existing shoe as a reference. If a shoe has worked for you (in the past) without any problems, then the next purchase should have a similar fit and ride. If it didn’t, then look for qualities that are missing in your existing shoe.

On the other hand, if you’re completely new to the whole running shoe business, then staying with true stability shoes is a safe bet. This also includes supportive neutral shoes that are listed at the end of this article.

What we’re going to do here is recommend models based on the set of attributes you’re looking for, or have (previously) experienced in an existing shoe. For instance, a certain group of runners like a shoe that stays stable without the noticeable ‘motion control’ behavior.

So that you know, a shoe with a noticeable motion-control ride divides the midsole into firm and soft sections, with the medial (inner side) being firmer than the lateral (outer) area.

Others may prefer a shoe that has the said firm and soft set-up. Some may want a shoe that comes with a noticeable sensation of under-arch support. And a small percentage of individuals want none of the medial posting business, and simply need their shoe to be cushioned and supportive.

Ultimately, the best running shoe is what you’re comfortable running in, and we hope we can help point you in the right direction. This isn’t a simple list, nor is it exhaustive – because the process of buying a running shoe is a very personal one.

We’ve split the list into several categories; see which one meets your requirements the best.

1) True stability shoes with a supportive ride quality.

 

Saucony Guide 14

Just like the Guide 13, the V14 relies on a plastic midsole stabilizer on the arch side to deliver the ‘stability’ running shoe experience.

This plastic device replaces the medial post of the earlier Guide models, and maintains the supportive ride character while minimizing the cushioning bias.

The midsole uses the same Pwrrun foam as the Ride 13, meaning that the ride retains its firm cushioning. The removable insole and ‘topsole’ add that initial layer of step-in softness.

From a fit standpoint, there are no complaints at all. The interiors are smooth and secure, the heel grip included. An optional ‘wide’ sizing can also be purchased for more space.

Runners who are transitioning from the Guide 13 to 14 will be happy to find more interior space – thanks to the redesigned heel collar that shifts the foot’s position (to the rear) by a couple of millimeters.

The finished product has a ride that melds ride comfort with plenty of stability for flat-footed runners. Use this as your daily trainer for easy and paced runs alike.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 17

Two versions of the Wave Inspire 17 currently exist. The first is the standard Inspire with an engineered mesh upper. The other variant has a thicker knit upper, aptly named the ‘Waveknit.’

The ride quality is identical regardless of the version. The Inspire 17’s midsole strikes a fine – and familiar – balance between cushioning and support-friendly firmness. Despite the Inspire’s ‘stability’ positioning, it behaves like a supportive neutral trainer.

Unlike the new Wave Horizon 5 (see next) or the Wave Sky 5, the familiar Wave plate is still a part of the Inspire 17’s midsole.

The snappy TPE plate adds plenty of underfoot stability while the foam layers deliver the necessary padding. The forefoot has a distinct flare for stability and is cushioned with a blown rubber outsole for smoother push-offs and landings.

The Inspire 17 now has an internal gusset to keep the tongue in its place – a useful feature that was absent on the previous models.

As a footwear choice, the Inspire is also interchangeable with the softer Wave Rider 25. Though the Rider 25 is classified as a neutral trainer, its Wave plate-infused heel and wide forefoot create a supportive platform that doesn’t compress excessively when loaded.

Mizuno Wave Horizon 5

Brands are moving away from traditional stability shoes, and fast. You know, the ones with a firmer medial wedge. Mizuno running shoes didn’t have one to begin with, so they’re doing the next best thing – abandoning their ‘Wave’ plates.

The Wave Sonic was one of the earliest models without the TPE plate, and the Wave Sky 3 quickly followed. Last year, the Wave Horizon 4 followed the same path. The midsole replaced the plastic Wave plate with a dual-density foam stack.

The result was a Mizuno Horizon with a cushioned ride that had plenty of support due to its wide and high-volume midsole. A wide base translates into a supportive yet comfortable foundation for flat-footed runners.

The Horizon 5 only has minor upper updates and has the same ride as the V4. Hence, it doesn’t matter which version you get.

The way we see it, the rock-solid stability of the older Wave Horizon trades places with a softer ride, so it’s no loss. The Horizon 5’s knit upper is spaciously plush as always.

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo V5

The New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo 5 takes a curious U-turn.

Until the last version (V4), the Vongo wasn’t your average stability shoe. It was cushioned, supportive, and low-drop without a medial post. The split outsole and a deep transition groove kept the weight centered and supported.

On the Vongo V4, the inner midsole had a more supportive sidewall for increased stability and under-arch support. The outer midsole had laser-cut cavities – this made the ride softer while resulting in a slight cushioning bias.

Not sure why New Balance had a change of heart, but the Vongo V5 gets a firmer medial post for the first time. A large medial post is visible on the inner midsole.

It’s anybody’s guess what the outcome is. The Vongo V5 has a healthy amount of medial side support along with a cushioned ride. The thick Fresh Foam midsole and articulated outsole work together to produce distance-friendly ride comfort. The forefoot has softer blown rubber pads for padded landings and take-offs.

After a brief period of New Balance’s strange fixation with Origami-type heel design, better sense has prevailed – the heel collar returns to a traditional cup design.

The Vongo V5, like most new NB releases, uses a soft mesh with plush material trims. The interiors lock the foot down with plenty of supportive comfort.

 

2) ‘Motion control’ shoes with firmer medial (inner) and softer lateral (outer) midsole sidewalls.

Asics Gel-Kayano 28

Though the Asics Gel-Kayano design hasn’t kept up with the rest of the running shoe industry, it is vastly different than the Kayanos of 2012-14. The firmer medial-post has shrunk in size, thus nudging the Kayano closer to the neutral cushioning territory with each year.

And yet the Kayano 28 feels very familiar. The midsole hasn’t lost the firmer wedge, nor has it ditched the plastic midfoot shank. Runners seeking a traditional stability shoe will find comfort in the Kayano’s fit and feel.

A plastic footbridge gives the midfoot structural rigidity and support. On the Kayano 28, the Trusstic shank is relocated to the upper midsole to bring it closer to the foot. The shank on the earlier Kayano versions added merely torsional rigidity; the new design contributes to the transition process.

Considering the medially-posted midsole, the Kayano does have a cushioning bias towards the softer Gel side. The difference in softness isn’t a lot but is noticeable.

While the Flytefoam Blast forefoot is softer than the 27, it is supportive and transition-friendly. As a whole, the Kayano 28 is comfortable enough for daily and long-distance runs. Being an 11-ounce shoe, the Kayano 28 isn’t best used for tempo workouts or short races, but unhurried runs.

The upper sells in many widths, has a plush fit, and runs true-to-size. The heel is very supportive, thanks to the molded plastic clip on the outside.

The Women’s Kayano 28 differs from the men’s model in a couple of ways. It has a 2 mm thicker heel and 1 mm lower forefoot, thus making the rearfoot softer. The 24:11 mm stack height results in a heel-to-toe offset of 13 mm – which is 3 mm higher than the men’s Kayano.

Asics Gel GT-2000 10

The GT-2000 10 is what somebody buys if the Kayano’s higher weight and the retail price are a deterrent. In lieu, the 2000 offers a low-calorie version of the Kayano while being comfortable and versatile.

For 2021, the GT-2000 10 has been updated with milder stability features. For example, the plastic midfoot shank has been filled over by the outsole rubber.

This is also the first time Asics doesn’t highlight the ‘Duomax’ medial post on the GT-2000. In its place is a solid midsole with raised sidewalls – a trend that the Brooks Transcend brought to the mainstream 7 years ago.

Because of these changes, the GT-2000 10 exudes a neutral ride character. It’s worth mentioning that the toned-down midsole design makes the GT-2000 10 softer than the Kayano 28. Though the ride has a supportive character, the forefoot and rear have a softer feel.

Having said that, the GT-2000 isn’t completely free of the cushioning bias. The medial side is made of a firm density Flytefoam that makes the inner midsole more supportive than the side with the Gel window.

Even the upper is less busy. Instead of an external clip, Asics applies urethane reinforcement over the heel and midfoot. The rest of the upper is standard Asics fare, meaning that the shell is made of an engineered mesh with a smooth interior. The padded heel and tongue feel very plush and helps lock the foot down.

Though the women’s GT-2000 10 has the same 10 mm offset as the men’s model, its stack heights are lower by 1 mm throughout.

New Balance Fresh Foam 860 V12

Last year, the New Balance 860V11 finally got updated with a Fresh Foam midsole.

However, the redesign process did not alter the fundamentals; the 860 still had a firmer medial post that made the inner midsole more supportive.

The Fresh Foam 860 V12 is based on the same Fresh Foam midsole as the V11, so it delivers an identical ride.

Speaking of which, the firm triple-density midsole makes the ride cushioned and neutral. The firmer wedge blends seamlessly into the midsole, whereas the rest of the midsole makes the 860 comfortable enough for most runs without feeling lazy.

A combination of hard and soft rubber on the outsole imparts grip and transition-friendly manners. The firm midsole is also useful at runs of higher paces.

We like the updates made to the 860V12’s upper.

The heel collar no longer has the flared Origami-like design, and the midfoot loses the separate panel of the V11. The 860V12’s upper is made of a single-piece mesh that’s also embroidered for visual and functional effect. The way we see it, the 860V12 is an improvement over the 860V11.

To sum up, the New Balance Fresh Foam 860V12 is a versatile trainer that will appeal to most runners, flat-footed or otherwise.

 

3) Cushioned shoes with arch support. These models have a filled-up under-arch area or high midsole sidewall.

Brooks Beast 20

This is a markedly different Brooks Beast from what we have been used to.

It’s rather odd to note that there is no medial post. That was once an unthinkable possibility for the Brooks Beast, but here we are. Instead of a medial post, we have Brooks’s famed GuideRails – a set of raised barriers on either side of the midsole.

If this setup sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of the Brooks Transcend. In essence, the Beast is nothing more than a Transcend with a wider midsole and cushier insole.

But here’s where it gets interesting (and confusing); the Transcend is discontinued and in its place is a new shoe called the Glycerin 19 GTS. But since the Glycerin GTS doesn’t have the same level of support as the Transcend, the Beast 20 is the Transcend now.

Anyway, we digress – the broad midsole provides plenty of support, and the insole is thick enough to be replaced with a custom orthotic – should you require one. Even with its stock insole, the Beast 20 offers plenty of cushioning comfort.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the Beast 20 is a much softer Beast and is nowhere as rock-solid as the versions 14 or 16.

The upper is pretty spacious. That is useful for accommodating aftermarket insoles that provide additional under-arch support. If there’s a trade-off, it’s that the build quality doesn’t appear very robust.

Also see: The New Balance 1340 V3.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22

The Brooks Adrenaline isn’t what it used to be; it has transformed into a completely different shoe. First, it dropped the firmer medial post and adopted the ‘guide rails’ – Brooks lingo for raised midsole sidewalls. In doing so, it exited the traditional ‘stability’ shoe universe.

Last year, the GTS 21 came full circle. Not only did it become softer, but it also got rid of the heel crash pad.

Just like the Brooks Ghost 14, the Adrenaline GTS 21 had a single-density midsole from heel to toe. Only the inner side ‘Guide Rail’ was made of a firmer foam for under-arch support.

The Adrenaline GTS 22 is similar to the GTS 21, but with a couple of noteworthy updates. The midsole is firmer than before, and so is the inner Guiderail.

We see this as both good and bad. On one hand, the firmer midsole is more supportive than the outgoing version. On the flip side, the firmer foam piece located under the arch tends to create a pressure hot spot.

The inner Guiderail of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22.

The Guiderails have never been perfect. Having said that, the Adrenaline is a supportive running shoe.

The Brooks Guiderail has never been a perfect design solution; even our Brooks Transcend review from 2016 called out the errant Guiderail.

Despite the reconfigured midsole, this is still a comfortable pair of Adrenalines, one that can be used as a daily trainer or long-distance shoe. The soft insole adds soft cushioning under the foot, and the softer forefoot outsole rubber also makes the landings and transitions less jarring.

The full rubber outsole does what it does best – it grips effectively while working cohesively with the midsole.

Not much is to be said about the upper or outsole. There’s an expected level of Brooks plushness inside the shoe, all while fitting smooth and true to size. Unlike the Ghost 14, the GTS 22 has a gusseted tongue.

4) Supportive neutral shoes

Supportive running shoes from the neutral category are also worth considering. Many models blend cushioning and support, and are safe choices for most runners regardless of their gait pattern.
 

Asics Kayano Lite 2

Pay no heed to the ‘Kayano’ name. The Kayano Lite 2 might share its name with the medially posted Kayano 28, but the two are nothing alike. Ok, perhaps the plush upper is the only thing that they have in common.

There’s a reason why the Asics Kayano Lite 2 is grouped under the ‘supportive neutral’ section of this guide. Because that’s precisely what the shoe is.

The midsole of the Asics Kayano Lite sliced into half.

In this midfoot cross section, notice how high the inner midsole edge is under the arch. This helps with the stability and transitions.

The single-density Flytefoam midsole (with its token Gel placement) offers a cushioned and supportive ride. The wide flare means that there’s plenty of midsole separating the foot from the road. The cushioning softness is comfortable enough for long-distance runs and everyday training.

The Kayano Lite V1 and V2 are nearly identical due to their shared midsole, so our detailed review of the Lite V1 is a relevant read.

Brooks Ghost 14

There’s a reason why the Brooks Ghost is so popular. It has all the ingredients that make a please-all neutral and supportive running shoe. The said ingredients are in the right proportions too. Everything’s in moderation, be it the cushioning softness, ride stability, or upper comfort.

The highlight of the Brooks Ghost 14 is the single-density midsole that delivers a smooth and supportive ride.

On the previous versions of the Ghost, the heel crash pad was a separate piece of foam. Not anymore. The last year’s Ghost 13 adopted a one-piece midsole that adds smoothness to the ride character. The Ghost 14 is based on the same form factor.

Regardless of the changes, the Brooks Ghost still feels like a Ghost. The engineered mesh upper still fits smooth and is cushy on the inside, and the outsole delivers a grip quality that punches above its weight.

The midsole, while smoother, is supportive due to its just-right cushioning softness.

Brooks Glycerin 19

Though there’s plenty of noise about how ‘soft’ the Glycerin 19 is, consume that with a huge grain of salt.

At its core, the Glycerin 19 is a supportive neutral shoe – just like the past few versions. And what does that mean, exactly? That it’s a cushioned running shoe with lots of ride smoothness. At the same, there’s an underlying tinge of firmness that contributes to overall ride stability.

You won’t get the arch-support levels of the Adrenaline GTS 21 or the Brooks Beast 20, but it fares better than other shoes in its class. There’s a new Glycerin GTS version that comes with raised sidewalls – just in case you’re interested.

A plush upper is standard, as you would expect from the house of Brooks. The Glycerin 19 has a full sleeve instead of a gusset, so the fit is narrower and warmer as compared to some of the previous versions.

The Glycerin 19 is best used as an everyday shoe and the high-mileage cruiser; by no means is this a speed shoe.

Nike Air Zoom Structure 24

When the Nike Structure 23 arrived last year, it did so without the medial post that the 22 had. In the process, it turned into a much softer running shoe. The Nike Structure 24 is nearly identical to the 23. So what is this shoe even doing on this guide?

Since both the versions are nearly identical, it’s worth reading our detailed review where we dive deep into the Structure’s transformation.

The gist goes somewhat like this – the Structure 24 is still a very supportive running shoe, owing to its wide midsole and a snug upper.

And isn’t that what the trend is nowadays? On one hand, we have ‘regular’ neutral shoes like the Pegasus 38 or Vomero 16. Then there are supportive-neutral running shoes like the Structure that marry distance-friendly cushioning with a stable ride.

The medium-soft ride (and that includes the snappy Zoom Air forefoot) makes the Structure 24 very versatile – be it everyday training, slightly higher-paced runs, or even high-mileage outings.

The foot is securely held in place by a sleeved upper that’s generously quilted.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this review by sharing your insights – submit a review here.

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