Best running shoes for flat feet

by Solereview editors

Best running shoes for flat feet

This article has been updated with current models for April 2021. The Brooks Glycerin 18, Mizuno Inspire 16, Nike Structure 22, and Saucony Guide 13 have been replaced with their updated versions. The Asics Kayano Lite is a new addition. The Hoka Arahi 4 has been removed. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are almost identical to men’s. The Asics Kayano 27 and GT-2000 9 have different stack heights for men and women.

If you’ve been a solereview regular, then you probably know what we think about ‘shoes meant for flat feet’. We have been 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 and are 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.

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 and consistent methodology) that establishes the evidence that flat-footed runners are more prone to injuries than non-flat footed runners, then we’d like to read it.

We also have to keep in mind that not all stability shoes are alike. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 (review here) works differently than the Nike Structure 23; the latter functions differently than an Asics Kayano 27. 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.

Back then, the rounded edges of the upper heel often extended over the slim midsole. And why?

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 brands to include all manners of 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 an overall construction and material formulation perspective.

Standard ‘neutral’ shoes such as the Brooks Ghost 13 or the Mizuno Wave Rider 24 offer high levels of inherent stability. And most contemporary foam materials retain their structure throughout the life of the shoe.

And brands are making design adjustments accordingly. Running shoes with medial posts are becoming an increasingly rare commodity. Companies like Saucony and Brooks are editing medial posts out of their stability shoes and replacing them with ‘GuideRails’ and plastic stabilizers. Even the Nike Structure 23 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 do 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 to buy a new shoe 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, 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 we recommend that you stick to true stability shoes – this also includes a few supportive neutral shoes mentioned at the end of this article.

What we’re going to do here is to 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 aggressive ‘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 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 cushioning bias.

The midsole uses the same Pwrrun foam as the Ride 13, albeit in a slightly firmer avatar. The removable insole and ‘topsole’ add that initial layer of step-in cushioning.

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.

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 4 (see next) or the Wave Sky 4, the familiar Wave plate is still a part of the Inspire 16’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 many of the previous models lacked.

As a footwear choice, the Inspire is also interchangeable with the softer Wave Rider 24. Though the Rider 24 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 4

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 – getting rid of their Wave plates.

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

The result is a Mizuno Horizon with a cushioned ride that packs 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 rock-solid stability of the older Wave Horizon trades places with a softer ride, so it’s no loss. The knit upper is spaciously plush as always.

New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo V4

The New Balance Vongo V4 isn’t your average stability shoe; it is cushioned, supportive, and low-drop without a medial post. The split outsole and a deep transition groove keep the weight centered.

The inner midsole has a more supportive sidewall for increased stability and under-arch support. The outer midsole has laser-cut cavities – this makes the foam softer while giving the ride a slight bias.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Vongo’s 4 mm heel-to-toe drop is uncommon for this category. So if you’re not accustomed to lower-drop running shoes, we advise you to build miles gradually on the Vongo.

New Balance gave the 2019 Vongo V4’s upper a few updates for a more comfortable fit – like the bootie construction and a knit heel collar. We haven’t seen a 2021 update yet, so this Vongo is what everyone gets for now.

 

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

Asics Gel-Kayano 27

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 passing year.

And yet the Kayano 27 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 traditional fit and feel.

A large plastic footbridge gives the midfoot structural rigidity and support. However, given 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 noticeable.

While the Flytefoam forefoot is marginally softer than the 26, it is supportive and transition-friendly. As a whole, the Kayano 27 is comfortable enough for daily and long-distance runs.

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

The Women’s Kayano 27 differs from the men’s model in two ways. One, 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 9

The GT-2000 9 is what somebody buys if the Kayano’s higher weight and the retail price is a deterrent. In lieu, the 2000 offers a low-calorie version of the Kayano while being comfortable and versatile.

Just like the Kayano, the GT-2000 9 has a firmer medial-post and slight cushioning bias. That being said, the 2000 feels more ‘neutral’ than the Kayano due to the small visible Gel window on the outside. This design brings a better balance to the midsole softness.

It’s worth mentioning that the toned-down midsole design makes the GT-2000 9 softer than the Kayano 27. Though the ride has a supportive character, the forefoot and rear have a softer feel.

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.

Though the women’s GT-2000 9 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 V11

The New Balance 860 is back, this time in a redesigned Fresh Foam avatar. It’s still got a firmer medial post that makes the inner midsole more supportive. However, this is a changed 860. One with a softer ride and fresh aesthetics. One that also includes a true-to-size upper with smooth and soft interiors.

A triple-density midsole makes the ride cushioned and more neutral than before. 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.

To sum up, the softer Fresh Foam 860V11 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 set-up 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 – 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.

The upper is pretty spacious. That is useful for accommodating aftermarket insoles that provide additional under-arch support.

Also see: The New Balance 1340 V3.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21

In recent years, the Brooks Adrenaline 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 13, the Adrenaline GTS 21 now has a (mostly) single-density midsole from the heel to toe. Only the inner side ‘Guide Rail’ is made of a firmer foam for under-arch support.

In other words, the Adrenaline GTS 21 is nothing more than the Brooks Ghost 13, but with greater under-arch support. The soft and reconfigured cushioning also makes it one of the most comfortable Adrenalines to date, one that can be used as a daily trainer or long-distance shoe.

Not much is to be said about the upper or outsole. There’s the expected level of Brooks plushness inside the shoe, all while fitting smooth and true to size. Unlike the Ghost 13, the GTS has a gusseted tongue.

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

4) Supportive neutral shoes

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

Asics Kayano Lite

Pay no heed to the ‘Kayano’ name. The Kayano Lite might share its name with the medially posted Kayano 27, 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 is grouped under the ‘supportive neutral’ section of this guide. Because that’s precisely what the shoe is.

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.

Read more in our detailed review of this shoe.

Brooks Ghost 13

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

And what’s new for the latest Brooks Ghost 13? Well, the headlining act – if one can even call it that – is the single-density midsole that delivers a smoother ride.

On the previous versions of the Ghost, the heel crash pad was a separate piece of foam. Not anymore. The new midsole is one-piece, a change that adds smoothness to the ride character.

Other things haven’t changed. The engineered mesh upper still fits smooth and cushy on the inside, and the outsole delivers a grip quality that punches above its weight. The midsole, while smoother, feels 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 23

The Nike Structure 23 no longer has the medial post of 22, and is a much softer running shoe. So why is it even on this guide?

It’s worth reading our detailed review where we dive deep into the Structure’s transformation. The gist goes somewhat like this – the Structure 23 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 37 or Vomero 15. Then there are supportive-neutral running shoes like the Structure that bring distance-friendly cushioning and stability together.

The medium-soft ride (and that includes the Zoom Air forefoot) makes the Structure 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.

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

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