Neutral vs. Stability Running Shoes: What’s the Difference?
A neutral running shoe is designed for people who run with the technically correct form and pattern. They are shoes that do not have any stabilizing features.
If you search for running shoes, you will find shoes in as many shapes, sizes, colors, and styles as there are differences in people around the world. This can make choosing a running shoe a very daunting and perhaps even scary task for some people.
How do you know what kind of shoes you should be wearing? Are there basic rules to guide you as you set out to purchase new running shoes? What are the differences between neutral vs. stability shoes?
How Do You Know If You Need a Neutral or Stability Shoe?
Do you know which is best for your feet? How do you tell?
Let’s start by defining what a stability shoe is.
Stability shoes are made such that they are intended to prevent severe overpronation. Overpronation is when your foot pronates past the point of neutral.
Although some endurance runners have the strength in their feet to provide the stability that these over-pronators need, stability shoes can help other athletes compensate.
What does stability mean in a running shoe?
It means they have more support in the midsole area, specifically under the arch. That stability is often provided by the medial post.
Medial post shoes have that extra support exactly where a runner needs the added stability.
4 Signs You Need a Stability Shoe
- Low arches are often a sign that you need a stability shoe.
- Tread wear: This is your heaviest wear inside the heel and/or under the ball of the foot.
- Knees rub: If you watch a video of yourself running and your knees look like they are rubbing inward at each other, you might need a stability shoe.
- Wet test: Wet your feet, then step onto a paper bag. Is the entire imprint of your foot present? That may signify you have flat feet, low arches and would benefit from a stability shoe.
What Does Neutral Support Mean in a Running Shoe?
Designed for people who run with the technically correct running style or pattern, neutral support running shoes do not have stabilizing features.
Your foot can move, flex, and turn without restriction when wearing a neutral shoe.
Neutral shoes can also work for mild pronators, so don’t think you are totally unable to wear them if you have some pronation.
Can a Neutral Runner Wear a Stability Shoe?
A neutral runner can wear a stability shoe. The question is, why would they want to? The answer may surprise you.
There are two camps on this topic. Some people firmly believe that you should get by with as little support as you can.
On the other hand, coaches and running gurus believe that everyone would benefit from a little support.
It boils down to that a neutral runner can wear almost any type of shoe as added stability does not typically cause harm. However, people with big pronation problems can find painful running with too little stability.
One last point on the topic: some runners believe that no one should wear stability shoes. These people are proponents of the minimalist movement.
Do I Need a Stability Shoe?
Wondering to yourself, “Do I need stability shoes?”
If you fit the criteria above, you may benefit from them. The wet test is the most common method of determining if you may need support.
According to Jackrabbit, however, the tide has turned for stability shoes and how many athletes look at them. Roughly 10 years ago, about 75% of runners were in a stability shoe. It is exactly the reverse: with closer to 75% wearing a neutral shoe.
Are Stability Shoes Good for High Arches?
Typically, people with higher arches prefer a neutral running shoe.
You also may find that a cushioned shoe works well for your high arched foot.
Can Overpronators Wear Neutral Running Shoes?
People who run neutrally can wear neutral shoes. Those who supinate can often wear neutral shoes as well.
While some pronators can wear a neutral shoe, many over-pronators find that they benefit from stability shoes.
If you are torn between stability or neutral running shoes, don’t hesitate to try both.
Did you know that many big running shoe companies allow for a wear-it before you commit policy? That is true.
You usually have somewhere between 30 and 60 days to wear running shoes and if you don’t love them, return them for a full refund.
What is a Cushioned Running Shoe?
Cushioned running shoes are made for shock absorption. Since your body impacts the ground with up to three times your body’s weight, the cushion is beneficial for some runners.
Some shoes, such as the Hoka, are considered to be super cushioned.
In your head are you comparing stability vs. cushion running shoes?
Many runners with a high arch prefer a cushioned shoe, whereas runners with a flat arch often lean toward stability.
Ready to Make a Choice?
- First, be sure you’re selecting a shoe that fits properly. Click here to review our article on how running shoes should fit.
- Wondering what types of running shoes have stability? Here is our list of favorite stability sneakers.
- If you are leaning toward a neutral shoe, we have excellent choices for you too.
- Best cushioned shoes? We have those also.
- Lastly, there are a plethora of shoe recommendations for those ready for the minimalist movement.
Whatever your running style, whichever shoe you prefer, there is a shoe for you.
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