What Are Stability Running Shoes?

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Stability—it’s a byword of athletes of all types, from weightlifters to yogis. And nowhere is having firm, steady balance—especially in your feet and ankles—more important than in running. But having flat feet or feet that tend to pronate or turn inward can seriously compromise your stability when you run, potentially putting you at higher risk of injury or simply making running uncomfortable.

Fortunately, stability running shoes can help. With a combination of the right alignment, arch support, and cushioning, this form of specialty footwear helps hold your feet and ankles steady. This way, you can go on a run with a lower likelihood of pain or injury.  

Here’s an in-depth look at what stability shoes have to offer, who they’re for, and what to look for when selecting them.

What Is Pronation?

Pronation occurs when the foot and/or ankle roll inward when you run or walk. It’s an extremely common issue and is typically is due to pushing off the ground with your big toe and second toe. Though it may not sound like a major problem, when pronation—or overpronation—happens with each footfall over multiple miles, it can put excess strain on your arches. This results in ankle or shin pain. Eventually, overpronation can even cause your feet to flatten.

The research on whether pronation leads to directly to injury is somewhat mixed. Anecdotally, many runners find that the instability of an inward-rolling foot makes them more prone to strained muscles or falls. But a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined that foot pronation was not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing non-specialty shoes.

On the other hand, a small 2019 study in Frontiers in Physiology found that foot pronation contributed to joint loading, or an increased stress on the joints, of the lower limbs after long-distance running. This extra stress could be a factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

In contrast to pronation, some people experience the opposite problem—supination. Supination occurs when the ankle or foot rolls outward from center. This, too, can cause pain or injury, since it increases the likelihood of ankle rolls or sprains.

Features of Stability Running Shoes

Stabilizing your feet and ankles for safer, more efficient running typically isn’t a matter of willpower—it’s a matter of gear. Selecting stability running shoes with the right features could make a major difference in how you feel post-run. Stabilizing shoes often offer the following structural supports.

Arch Support

A firm, high arch support is a common feature in stability running shoes. If your arch is supported, it’s less likely to turn inward.

Midsole Cushioning

Much like arch support, cushioning the entire mid-section of the foot can help hold it steady. You may see stability running shoes that advertise bars, rails, or medial posts to help maintain balance and reduce pronation.

Heel Cups and Counters

A deep heel cup sits under your heel, aligning your foot and ankle in a straight line. Heel counters, meanwhile, are hard plastic inserts that reinforce the back of a running shoe, increasing overall support and holding the foot in place.

Wide Base

A wide platform underneath your foot is one more key to preventing the inward rolling of overpronation.

How to Choose the Right Stability Running Shoes

While browsing online or shopping in person for stability running shoes, an overabundance of options may give you decision paralysis. But take heart—selecting the best shoe for your pronation issues doesn’t have to be overly complex. 

At many athletic supply stores, you can start with an in-store assessment of your gait, foot shape, and running style. Or, if this isn’t available to you, you can consider these factors on your own as you try various shoes on.

Overpronators will want to look for a shoe that has at least some of the features listed above—arch support, midsole cushioning, heel cups and counters, or wide base. If you have narrow or wide feet, seek out shoes made specifically for these issues.

And don’t forget that, in any running shoe, comfort is priority number one. Your feet should feel firmly supported with no pinching, your toes shoes have plenty of wiggle room, and you should be able to lace up without too much hassle.

Benefits of Wearing Stability Running Shoes

Stability running shoes are not only a fun addition to your athletic wardrobe—they may come with benefits for your performance as well. A well-cushioned, well-fitting stability shoe can enhance your comfort as you run, making your workouts more enjoyable.

When you can run without pain, you’re more likely to achieve your best times and stick with running in the long term. Plus, a stability shoe that prevents overpronation can improve your running form as it holds your feet and ankles steady. Having proper form allows you to run faster and more efficiently.

And again, though research is not completely conclusive about the effects of stability shoes on injuries, some studies have shown promising results. A 2021 study in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy explored the potential of motion-control shoes—which are somewhat more stabilizing than stability shoes—on running injuries. The authors concluded that these shoes might reduce the risk of injuries related to overpronation.

Another older study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine compared stability shoes to neutral and motion control shoes in female runners with various degrees of foot pronation. Those who ran in stability shoes had the fewest missed days of training—an indicator that they experienced fewer injuries. However, it’s worth noting that those who wore stability shoes reported more pain while running than those who wore neutral shoes.

Bottom Line

Because of their stabilizing effects on feet and ankles that roll inward, stability running shoes might be the solution you’re seeking for post-jogging pain and injuries. The only way to find out is to try them for yourself! If you know you tend toward pronation, consider selecting a pair of stability shoes to help correct it. Look for footwear with sturdy arch support, plenty of cushioning throughout the midsole, heel counters, and a wide sole. These features can nudge your gait toward straight.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nielsen RO, Buist I, Parner ET, Nohr EA, Sørensen H, Lind M, Rasmussen S. Foot pronation is not associated with increased injury risk in novice runners wearing a neutral shoe: a 1-year prospective cohort study. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Mar;48(6):440-7. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092202

  2. Mei Q, Gu Y, Xiang L, Baker JS, Fernandez J. Foot pronation contributes to altered lower extremity loading after long distance running. Front Physiol. 2019 May 22;10:573. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00573

  3. Willems TM, Ley C, Goetghebeur E, Theisen D, Malisoux L. Motion-control shoes reduce the risk of pronation-related pathologies in recreational runners: A secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2021 Mar;51(3):135-143. doi:10.2519/jospt.2021.9710 

  4. Ryan MB, Valiant GA, McDonald K, et al. The effect of three different levels of footwear stability on pain outcomes in women runners: a randomised control trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2011;45:715-721. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.069849

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.