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Best running shoes for flat feet

Best_running_shoes_for_flat_feet_2020

This article has been updated with current models for March 2020. We’ve replaced the Asics GT-2000 7, Brooks Beast 18, GTS 19, Glycerin 17, Mizuno Inspire 15, and Saucony Guide ISO 2 with their updated versions. The Mizuno Wave Horizon 4 is a new addition, and the Transcend 6 has been removed.

If you’ve been a solereview regular, then you probably know our stand on the subject of shoes ‘meant for flat feet’. We have been vocal skeptics of brands or retailers blindly recommending a particular running shoe category simply 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 within 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 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 research ( with a large sample size and consistent methodology) which 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 20 works in a different way than the Nike Structure 22; the latter functions differently than an Asics Kayano 26. And so on.

The stability running shoe category was created in 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 sheet of outsole rubber and mesh upper to a low-quality chunk of die-cut foam.

The midsole profiles used to be very slim, so the rounded edges of the upper heel often extended over the midsole edge. And why?

Because early running shoes used a board-lasted construction – unlike the contemporary strobel lasting design that 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, 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 inferior running shoe design – led to the birth of the paradigm that views ‘overpronation’ 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 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 2020, 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 12 or the Mizuno Wave Rider 23 offers 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 sight. Companies like Saucony and Brooks are editing medial posts out of their stability shoes and replacing them with ‘GuideRails’ and plastic stabilizers.

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 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.

The best way to buy a new shoe is to use your existing shoe as a reference. Something that worked for you without any problems, 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 that stays stable without the aggressive ‘motion control’ behavior.

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

Others might 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.

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 22

The Nike Structure is a very familiar name in the world of stability running shoes. The ’22’ suffix tells you that this model has been around for over two decades.

There’s a good reason why it has survived so long. The shoe’s very firm ride lends it excellent stability. The cushioning feedback is provided by the insole and the combination of the forefoot Zoom Air and blown rubber outsole. The partially sleeved upper fits securely, and the Structure 22 is also available in a wide and extra-wide.

With all the noise comparing the new React Infinity Run with the Structure 22, we have a feeling that the 22 is the end of the line for the venerable Structure franchise. So if you want a Nike running shoe with a medial-post, this is your final chance to stock up.

Saucony Guide 13

The Guide 13 doesn’t have the word ‘ISO in its name, so you know what that means. This stability shoe no longer has the strappy ISOFIT upper and reverts to a sleeker, engineered mesh upper with a sleeker exterior.

From a fit standpoint, there are no complaints at all. The interiors are smooth and secure, and that includes the heel grip too.

The upper isn’t the only thing that’s new about the Guide 13. The firmer medial-post is fast going out of fashion, so even the Guide cuts it free. In its place is a TPU support structure, a feature that was first seen on the Saucony Liberty ISO.

Despite all the changes, the finished product has a ride that melds ride comfort with plenty of stability for flat-footed runners.

Mizuno Wave Inspire 16

Just know that there are two versions of the Wave Inspire 16. The first is the ‘regular’ kind – one that welds together engineered mesh and thin overlays. The other ‘Waveknit’ variant has the namesake knit upper.

Regardless of which version one ends up with, the ride is identical. Functionally speaking, the Inspire 16’s midsole strikes a fine balance between cushioning and support-friendly firmness. Unlike the new Wave Horizon 4 (see below) or the Wave Sky 3, the familiar Wave plate is still a part of the Inspire 16’s design.

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 is also interchangeable with the Wave Rider 23. Though the Rider 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 getting rid of traditional stability shoes. 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 help keep the weight centered.

The inner midsole has a more supportive sidewall for increased stability and under-arch support. The outer midsole has compression holes – this makes it softer and gives 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 gives the 2019 Vongo V4’s upper a few updates for a more comfortable fit – like the bootie construction and a knit heel collar.

 

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

Asics Gel Kayano 26

The firm medial post found in motion-control shoes has shrunk in size over the years. Not that it matters; foam materials have improved significantly and are inherently supportive without the need for harder wedges. Regardless, there still exists a market for traditional stability shoes, the kind that the Kayano 26 targets.

The Gel-Kayano 26 comes with a small ‘Duomax’ medial post that makes the inner midsole slightly firmer than the outer side. The visi-Gel makes the lateral side softer so you get the expected bias of motion-control running shoes. The rest of the Flytefoam midsole is cushioned but in a firm way.

Its upper is a mix of traditional features like a heel clip and a new-age engineered mesh. The fit is comfortable and holds well – it gets the job done. The sizing a bit short due to the aggressive heel clutch, so try before buying.

Has the 26 changed over the Kayano 25? Yes, it has. The upper is brand new, and so is the sole composite. The softer forefoot feels less lumpy due to the shorter Guidance line and the outer heel is softer because of the larger visible Gel pads.

Asics GT 2000 8

Not everyone wants to spend $150 on a shoe or want an uber-stable ride. That’s where models like the GT-2000 8 come in.

The GT series has been a familiar playground for flat-footed runners, and there’s a long history to support that. Even before the GT-2XXX series, the GT 2160 was a safe refuge for runners who wanted a comfortable ‘stability’ shoe.

Though the GT-2000 8 continues to have a firmer medial post, it isn’t invasive at all. The midsole is medium-soft; the molded insole is removable and can be replaced with a custom insole – as long it isn’t too thick.

The upper fit and feel have progressively improved over the years, and the GT-2000 8 is no exception. The upper mesh is soft, smooth, and secure on the inside.

New Balance 860 V10

Last year, the 860 traded its traditional aesthetics for a modern, engineered-mesh look – all without straying from its core ride character. Under the sleek-looking upper exists a triple-density midsole with a harder foam wedge on the inner side.

You no longer have the colorized wedge so the overall design is very tonal. Underneath, the full-coverage outsole provides superior traction and stability.

The upper fits true to size and gets a new molded heel counter that we first saw on the 1080. It doesn’t ‘feel’ as secure as the V9, but there’s no slippage.

The 860V10 is available in four different widths.

 

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

1. Brooks Beast 20

This is a markedly different Brooks Beast from what we’ve 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.

These subtle differences make the Beast a better option than the Transcend. 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. Again, that is useful for accommodating aftermarket insoles that provide extra under-arch support.

Also see: The New Balance 1340 V3 and the Saucony Redeemer ISO 2.

2. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 20

The previous GTS 19 marked the Adrenaline’s most noteworthy transformation to date. We like what Brooks did with the 19. Instead of the old-school medial-post, a set of raised ‘Guide rails’ was introduced to create a cupping action around the base of the foot.

The 2020 Adrenaline GTS 20 is based on the same midsole concept as the 19, except that the outer Guiderail is molded into the sidewalls instead of being a separate component. The end product is pretty much the same though. You get a neutral ride but with above-average levels of under-arch support.

The way we see it, the new GTS 20 (and the 19) are extensions of the Brooks Transcend concept. In other words, take a supportive and cushioned neutral platform and then add non-conventional stability features.

The standard ‘D’ upper fit is comfortable and secure. The Adrenaline comes in three optional widths.

5) Supportive neutral shoes

An alternative is to consider models out of the neutral category. Many models blend cushioning and support, and are safe choices for most runners – flat-footed or not.
 

Brooks Ghost 12

If you don’t want the spend the Glycerin money (see below), then the Ghost 12 is an excellent ‘supportive-neutral’ alternative. On one hand, the dual-density midsole has plenty of underfoot comfort. At the same time, the foam isn’t overly soft – and that results in ride stability during runs.

The plush upper fits true to size and is available in multiple widths.

Brooks Glycerin 18

Though there’s plenty of noise about how ‘soft’ the Glycerin 18 is, consume that with a huge grain of salt.

At its core, the Glycerin 18 is a supportive neutral shoe – and a lot like the Glycerin 17. 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 20 or the Brooks Beast 20, but it fares better than other shoes in its class. A plush upper is standard, as you would expect from the house of Brooks.

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