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 certain 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, and 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 states 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 3 works in a different way than the Nike Zoom Odyssey, which in turn functions differently than an Asics Kayano 22. And on it goes.
The stability running shoe category was created in the early 1980’s when the entire 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 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 at standstill!
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 born under an entirely different set of circumstances.
But this is 2016, and running shoe midsoles have become highly advanced, both in overall construction and material formulation.
Even regular ‘neutral’ shoes such as the Brooks Ghost 8 or Saucony Ride offer high levels of in-built stability. High-tech foam materials used in models such as the adidas Supernova Glide Boost 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 the list of 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.
|Category description||Shoe name||Midsole medial post||Buy (US)|
|True stability||Nike Zoom Odyssey||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||adidas Sequence 8 Boost||No||Amazon|
|True stability||Saucony Guide 9||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16||Yes||Amazon|
|True stability||Mizuno Inspire 12||No||Amazon|
|True stability||Nike Lunarglide 7||No||Amazon|
|Super stability||Brooks Beast 14||Yes||Amazon|
|Motion control||Nike Structure 19||Yes||Amazon|
|Motion control||Asics Kayano 22||Yes||Amazon|
|Supportive arch||Brooks Transcend 3||No||Amazon|
|Supportive arch||adidas Ultra Boost ST||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||New Balance 1080 V6||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Brooks Glycerin 13||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||adidas Glide Boost 8||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Nike Vomero 10||No||Amazon|
|Supportive neutral||Mizuno Rider 19||No||Amazon|
True stability shoes with a supportive ride quality. These models feel stable/supportive in the literal sense of the word.
The Nike Zoom Odyssey: It has a huge medial side post, but delivers a supportive ride without much bias.
Saucony Guide 9: Saucony’s latest support model is equipped with an ‘Everun’ insole, blending support with a cushioned ride.
Brooks Adrenaline 16: Brooks has always made supportive shoes regardless of the category, the Adrenaline series just more so.
Mizuno Wave Inspire 12: Mizuno’s are always supportive due to the use of the Plastic Wave plate. This one feels like a stable neutral shoe.
Nike Lunarglide 7: A soft core makes the shoe cushioned, while the firmer sides and large heel counter lend support.
The last word in cushioning and true stability
The Brooks Beast ’14: This is one of the last Brooks running shoe to feature the previous generation DNA gel tech. This shoe is a true beast; at 431 gms/15.2 oz (US 11) and a quad density midsole, this is stability at its highest level.
The insole is a drop-in, multi-layered type which can be removed to accommodate the thickest aftermarket insole if need be.
‘Motion control’ shoes with a noticeably firmer medial (inner) and softer lateral (outer) midsole sides.
Nike Structure 19: The inner midsole side is super firm, while the softer and grooved lateral (outer) side carves the midsoles into two distinct zones of firm and soft.
Asics Kayano 22: The midsole is split into firm and soft sides, while the overall cushioning is of a super soft kind.
Cushioned shoes with arch support. These models have a filled-up under-arch area, which feels good, doesn’t it?
Brooks Transcend 3: No medial posting business here. Just a wide outsole base and a filled up under-arch area.
adidas Ultra Boost ST: Do you love the Boost foam’s responsive cushioning? Do you like the idea of a higher and soft medial midsole? This one’s for you, then.
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 V6: This is not categorized as a ‘stability’ or ‘support’ shoe per se, but has a very supportive ride with a flared midsole for under-arch support.
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.
adidas Supernova Glide 8 Boost: Our choice for the best running shoe of 2016. Cushioned, supportive, durable.
Nike Vomero 10 (not the 11): The firm EVA sides keeps the ride supportive. The Zoom Air bags (front and rear) and softer foam core adds cushioning.
We hope this guide makes the hunt for your perfect shoe easier. Happy shopping! We’ll update this list as we travel further down 2016.
And remember: If you do have a foot injury, then see a doctor 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.