(Updated for 2017) 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 taking into consideration the shoe history, personal preferences, budget and running conditions. The resulting shoe could or could not turn out to be a shoe 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 state quite the reverse.
Most 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 4 works in a different way than the Nike Zoom Odyssey 2, which in turn functions differently than an Asics Kayano 23. And on it goes.
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. Any 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 these two terms being used interchangeably.
In short, the entire medial post and pronation thing is a 70~80’s deal, based on a then-valid theory created under an entirely different set of circumstances.
But this is 2017, and running shoe midsoles have become highly advanced, both in overall construction and material formulation.
Even regular ‘neutral’ shoes such as the Brooks Ghost 9 or the Saucony Ride 9 offer high levels of in-built stability. High-tech foam materials used in models such as the adidas Supernova Sequence 8 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 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 has this 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, but like 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.
|Running shoe type||Shoe name||Midsole medial post||Check price|
|True stability||Nike Zoom Odyssey 2||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||adidas Sequence 9 Boost||No||Amazon|
|True stability||Saucony Guide 10||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||Mizuno Inspire 13||No||Amazon|
|True stability||Nike Lunarglide 8||No||Amazon|
|Super stability||Brooks Beast 16||Yes||Amazon|
|Motion control||Asics Kayano 23||Yes||Amazon|
|Motion control||New Balance 860 V7||Yes||Amazon|
|Supportive arch||Brooks Transcend 4||No||Amazon|
|Supportive arch||adidas Ultra Boost ST||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Brooks Ghost 9||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Brooks Glycerin 14||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Saucony Triumph ISO 3||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Mizuno Rider 20||No||Amazon|
1) True stability shoes with a supportive ride quality. These models feel stable/supportive in the literal sense of the word.
Nike Air Zoom Odyssey 2
This is the update to the Zoom Odyssey V1. The midsole with the ultra-long medial post is the same as last year, so the ride is the same – the shoe delivers a balanced ride without the bias one would expect of a medial post.
adidas Supernova Sequence 9
Pick these up before they’re gone – the upcoming Supernova ST will soon replace it. The Sequence 9 is been a crowd favorite with good reason; the unique ‘Stableframe’ design offers the stability you need without sacrificing the cushioned and responsive ride.
Saucony Guide 10
Now in its tenth year, the Guide 10 comes with a slightly softer ride than the Guide 9. Its Everun Topsole construction makes the ride somewhat responsive, and the firm midsole provides plenty of support. The upper fits narrow compared to the rest.
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17
The Adrenaline has a traditional medial-posted midsole design and provides plenty of support. This being a Brooks, the shoe uses top-notch material for what is a sensible retail price.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
This is not your regular ‘stability’ shoe. As a matter of fact, all Mizuno shoes have a supportive ride character because of the Wave Plate technology. The Inspire 13 has a very ‘neutral’ vibe to it; the ride feels balanced on either side, and the foam layers provide ample cushioning.
Nike Lunarglide 8
The new Lunarglide has a brand new design inspired by the Lunarepic’s laser-cut grooving. A soft Lunarlon core is placed with a firmer midsole casing; this makes the Lunarglide 8 cushioned yet supportive.
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, and even over the Beast 14.
3) ‘Motion control’ shoes with a noticeably firmer medial (inner) and softer lateral (outer) midsole sides.
Asics Gel Kayano 23
Asics’ flagship stability shoe brings together its Flytefoam midsole and a medial post on the inner side. While the 23’s ride isn’t as skewed as the Kayano 22, you get a distinct ‘motion control’ sensation when running in them – thanks to the harder foam wedge on the arch side.
New Balance 860 V7
A lower-priced version of the 1260 V6, the popular 860 V7 adopts a conventional midsole design. The inner midsole uses a firmer foam piece, while the lateral side is softer. A cavity under the heel helps keep the foot centered.
4) Cushioned shoes with arch support. These models have a filled-up under-arch area, which feels good, doesn’t it?
Brooks Transcend 4
The Transcend is updated for 2017 and does what few shoes manage to achieve – an extremely supportive ride complemented with plenty of cushioning. The Transcend does not rely on a traditional medial post and instead uses raised midsole edges and a plastic counter to cup the foot. The upper fits narrow than what most are used to.
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.
5) Supportive, or stable 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 9
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 foam firmness ensures stability.
Brooks Glycerin 14
Another Brooks running shoe which does the same thing as the Ghost, but softer and plusher overall.
Saucony Triumph ISO 3
The new Triumph ISO makes it to the list this year because of its redesigned midsole. It leaves behind the crash pad of the ISO 2, and instead uses a single-density outer midsole with a softer Everun foam core.
This makes the Triumph ISO 3 more supportive than the ISO 2 while retaining the cushioned and responsive ride quality.
Mizuno Wave Rider 20
The Wave Rider has always been a very supportive shoe regardless of the version. That’s the thing with Mizuno shoes; as long as the Wave plate exists, the ride will be stable.
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 physio first, and 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.