If you’ve been a solereview regular, then you probably know our stand on the subject of shoes ‘meant for flat feet’. We’re vocal skeptics of brands or retailers blindly recommending a particular running shoe category simply because you have flat feet.
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 from the same category.
A balanced and well thought-out purchase 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 could or could not turn out to be from the stability category.
It is also likely that a shoe from the ‘neutral’ category will work out just fine.
Solereview has been fortunate 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.
Our opinion bucks the conventional wisdom which states quite the reverse.
Generally available literature implies 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 research ( with a large sample size and consistent methodology) which establishes evidence that flat-footed runners are more prone to injuries than non-flat footed runners, we’d like to read it.
We also have to keep in mind that not all stability shoes are the same. The Brooks Transcend 5 works in a different way than the Nike Structure 21; the latter functions differently than an Asics Kayano 24. And so on.
The stability running shoe category was created in the early 1980’s when the athletic footwear industry was still in its infancy. This meant that most shoes used a primitive midsole construction, which involved pasting a sheet of rubber and mesh upper to a low-quality chunk of die-cut foam.
The midsole profile was also very slim, which meant at times that the rounded edges of the upper heel extended over the midsole edge. And why?
Because early running shoes used a board-lasted construction – unlike the contemporary strobel design which allows the upper to be seated on a much wider (and stable) midsole base.
All runners pronate regardless of their arch height, and some do it more than the others. So in those days, this 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 quickly. More so, when the flattened medial midsole caused the foot to roll perilously inwards – even during the simple act of standing!
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 inferior running shoe design – led to the birth of the paradigm which views ‘over-pronation’ or arch type as a cause of injury.
Flat feet was assumed to be a pre-condition for excessive rolling in, hence resulting in the co-relation of these 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 2018, and running shoe midsoles have become highly advanced, both in overall construction and material formulation.
Even regular ‘neutral’ shoes such as the Brooks Ghost 10 or the Brooks Levitate offer high levels of in-built stability. High-tech foam materials used in models such as the Saucony Hurricane ISO 4 hold their structure throughout the life of the shoe.
So if you have flat feet and you’re looking for a shoe to buy, what do you do? Great question.
It’s pretty obvious that we aren’t going to draw up a definitive list of shoes which are ‘suitable for flat-footed runners.’ There’s no guarantee that this approach works, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to know better.
The best way to buy a new shoe is to use your existing shoe as a reference. Something which worked for you without issues, so the next shoe should ride and fit similar. Or if it didn’t, look for qualities missing in your old shoe.
On the other hand, if you’re completely new to the whole running shoe game, then we recommend that you stick to true stability shoes – this also includes a few supportive neutral shoes mentioned towards 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 which stays stable without the aggressive ‘motion control’ behavior.
So that you know, a shoe with a noticeable motion control midsole is one which halves the shoe into distinct firm and soft areas, with the medial (inner side) feeling firmer than the lateral (outer) area.
Others might prefer a shoe which have these distinct firm and soft sides. Or some want a shoe which offers 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.
Here goes. 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. These models feel stable/supportive in the literal sense of the word.
Nike Air Zoom Structure 21
The Structure has been Nike’s go-to stability shoes for over two decades now. The 21 has a super firm and supportive ride – there’s a harder medial post blended into the inner midsole.
There’s a compressed Zoom Air bag located under the forefoot which makes the front responsive.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 18
With the Adrenaline, Brooks has taken the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ to heart. Over the years, the Adrenaline has consistently produced a ride character which marries support with cushioning. A large medial wedge makes the ride stable, and the rest of the foam midsole gives you the cushioning you need.
The Adrenaline 18 gets a comfortable and spacious upper along with midsole improvements over the 17. And in case you’re wondering, the Adrenaline is softer than the Structure.
Saucony Guide ISO
We’ve often remarked in our Saucony Guide reviews that the shoe will also appeal to runners looking for a neutral shoe. That’s because the Guide ISO is supportive without the side bias which is a part of some stability shoes.
Its firm and balanced ride works for everyone, and the Everun Topsole gives the Guide a bit of responsive pop.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 14
The Inspire 14 is a chip off the old Mizuno block. This means the Inspire continues to deliver a supportive ride courtesy of the Wave Plate. The Inspire has ample cushioning due to its dual-density foam midsole.
And as is the case with most Mizunos, the Inspire comes with spacious interiors.
Nike Lunarglide 9
The Nike Lunarglide has the support you need and the cushioning you want. A softer core inside a firm midsole makes the ride padded and balanced. The upper offers a secure lock-down, and the Lunarglide is lightweight for its class.
There’s one thing you need to look out for. The outsole with the concentric grooves grip well but is a magnet for small rocks and debris.
2) The last word in cushioning and true stability
Brooks Beast 16
Want the ultimate in support? Look no further than the Brooks Beast 16. It’s got a massive footprint under a multi-density foam midsole, and the shoe is packed with tech goodies.
Watch out for the super-narrow fit and short sizing, though. You need to go at least a half-size up over your regular size – even over the Beast 14.
3) ‘Motion control’ shoes with firmer medial (inner) and softer lateral (outer) midsole sides.
Asics Gel Kayano 24
The Kayano has long been a ‘traditional’ stability shoe. This category of running shoe has a firmer inner midsole and a relatively softer outer side. The Kayano has a decent-sized hard foam wedge under the arch, and the visible Gel window makes the outer side softer.
While the Kayano isn’t as cushioned as the older models due to Flytefoam, the midsole packs enough cushioning. If there are any downsides to the Kayano, that’ll be its 11-ounce weight and the price.
Asics GT-2000 6
The GT 2000 6 is Asics’s popular stability shoe which bridges the price and feature gap between the Kayano and the GT-1000.
The shoe does a good job of balancing stability and cushioning, though the 2000-6 has firmed up ride manners due to the new Flytefoam midsole.
New Balance 860 V8
The New Balance 860 harks back to the days of conventional stability shoes. The comfortable upper is a good mix of old and new design, and the midsole has the bells and whistles which were once a part of every stability shoes.
For instance, there’s a visually distinguishable medial post, multi-density midsole, and a plastic shank.
The result is a motion-control shoe which is reminiscent of how stability shoes used to be once. Reasonably priced, and offered in multiple widths.
4) Cushioned shoes with arch support. These models have a filled-up under-arch area or high midsole sidewall.
Brooks Transcend 5
The Brooks Transcend is an unusual one. It lacks a medial post, but it is a stability shoe – both in letter and in spirit. The midsole walls rise high to deliver a cupping action, and its support character is augmented by a wide outsole footprint.
This is also a very well cushioned shoe, so if you’re someone who is looking for a supportive and neutral ride, take note.
adidas Ultra Boost ST
The Ultra Boost ST is an Ultra Boost variant with mild medial-side support. The inner side of the midsole is noticeably higher than the outer side and provides the sensation of arch-support.
And like the regular Ultra Boost, the ST is super-cushioned and responsive. The upper fits wider than the regular Ultra and most adidas running shoes. The 2018 ST has the same ride, but is updated with an improved midfoot panel design.
5) Supportive neutral shoes
An alternative is to consider models out of the neutral category. Many models blend cushioning and support, and these are safe choices for most runners, flat-footed or not.
Brooks Ghost 10
It is categorized as a neutral running shoe, but its balanced midsole design provides plenty of support. The full contact outsole makes the ride smooth, and the midsole construction ensures stability.
Brooks Glycerin 15
This is another Brooks running shoe which does the same thing as the Ghost, but happens to be softer and plusher version of the latter.
The version 15’s upper uses premium materials for comfortable interiors, and the ride is cushioned, smooth, and supportive as ever.
Brooks uses a new Polyurethane foam in the Levitate, a component which makes the ride responsive, cushioned, yet supportive. The balanced midsole design and the TPU skin over the AMP foam make the Levitate stable.
A word of caution, however. The upper fits narrow and tight, more so than the Ghost 10 and Glycerin.
Mizuno Wave Rider 21
It doesn’t matter if you’re getting yourself the Inspire 14 or the Rider 21; all Mizuno’s offer a stable ride due to the Wave Plate. In fact, it’s pretty hard to tell the Rider and the Inspire apart based on stability alone.
Both the Rider and the Inspire mix support and cushioning well, so take your pick.
We hope this guide makes the hunt for your perfect shoe easier. Happy shopping!
And remember: If you do have a foot injury, then see a doctor or physiotherapist first – not a shoe salesman or a review website! A combination of a change in running form or/and incorporating conditioning exercises is probably going to be of more help than that $150 ‘stability’ shoe.