We’re here to help you pick the right running shoes. A big part of choosing the right running shoes is picking the right level of support - neutral or stability. This article should help you understand what the differences are between neutral and stability running shoes and what might be right for you.
Before we start, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to running shoes and how to run. That’s the beauty of running, you can run in your way. However, with nearly 20 years of experience in matching running shoes to runners, we know that the right level of support matters. Both from an injury prevention and comfort perspective. This means that what works for your friend or fellow run club member, won’t necessarily work for you.
To help you understand why running shoes are made with varying levels of support, this section explains the simple movement that’s called pronation. Pronation happens at your feet and hands. If you hold your hand out in front of you, with your palm facing up to the sky, and roll your hand over so that it faces the ground, that’s pronation. Pronation at the feet is the same, and is simply the rolling in movement of your foot.
The purpose of pronation is shock absorption. The vast majority of people land on the outside of their feet when they walk and run - hence why your shoes typically wear down there. The feet then roll inwards, dispersing impact forces. Running shoes are specifically designed to work with this natural motion and lessen the impact of landing.
As everyone’s feet pronate to a different degree, running shoes are made with varying levels of support. Having the right level of support should improve comfort and lower the chances of overuse injuries.
What’s the difference between Neutral and Stability running shoes?
Almost every neutral running shoe has support built into it. That’s because most neutral running shoes slow down the speed of pronation and provide arch support. Importantly, neutral running shoes aid forward momentum and help transition feet from landing to toe-off. Making running feel easier.
Stability running shoes offer the same benefits. However, stability running shoes have additional supportive structures that actively reduce greater ranges of pronation and leg rotation. Running brands use varying technologies to add more support to a stability running shoe. Each one has the potential to provide different solutions.
When’s a neutral running shoe the best option?
A neutral running shoe is the right choice when no additional stability is required. To explain further, if your feet don’t continue to pronate once your foot is fully planted on the ground, a neutral running shoe should offer enough support.
When’s a stability running shoe the best option?
A stability running shoe is the right choice when the feet and/or legs require additional support to lower greater ranges of movement. To explain further, if your feet roll inwards to greater degrees, reducing some of that movement with additional support may be of benefit. In a similar vein, if you have higher degrees of rotation in your knees and/or hips, minimising some of that instability with additional support, may help.
Reducing greater ranges of pronation and joint rotation should help improve comfort. It should also lower the likelihood of joints, tendons and muscles getting overused. Which may prevent an overuse related injury.
Are stability running shoes all the same?
No, stability running shoes offer varying degrees of support. Running brands also make stability running shoes with different types of added support. For example, some brands make stability running shoes with denser foams in the midsoles - which are typically referred to as medial posts. Medial posted running shoes tend to work best for runners who have greater ranges of pronation and struggle with lower leg problems as a result. Such as, runners who suffer from shin pain, because a high degree of pronation has led to excessive rotation in the lower leg.
Other running brands make stability running shoes with a structure that is normally called a guide rail. This is a horseshoe like structure that sits in between the midsole and the upper, at the heel of the shoe. Guide rail stability running shoes tend to work best for runners who have greater ranges of rotation at their knee and hip joints - and get pain or discomfort in those areas as a result.
Can your feet change over time?
Yes, your feet can change over time. This means that the running shoes which have worked for you in the past, may not necessarily work for you in the future. As a result, it’s best to be open minded when picking new running shoes. This is compounded by the fact that your favourite running shoes may get updated and may not work with your biomechanics in the same way. Don’t worry, we’ll be able to let you know what’s changed in your favourite pair and if another option may be more suitable.
5 ways to pick the right running shoes:
1. Have your gait analysed
At Run4It, our free +runlab process is designed to help you find out which running shoes work for you and which don’t. The collaborative service should enable you to make the most informed decision about what’s going to move you closer to your running goals. If you’re in Scotland, head to your local Run4It running shop. You can also book a +runlab appointment before you head in.
2. Be open minded
We’re all different and have specific biomechanics. While you might have the same issue as a fellow runner, such as a sore knee, the problem may be stemming from a different cause. Meaning what works for someone else, may not work for you. You might also be surprised that something you didn’t think would work for you, ends up being the best option.
3. Don’t pick your running shoes by colour
Most of us would like our running shoes to look good - and there’s usually an option which you’ll like. However, function is the most important part. Always try to find running shoes that work with your biomechanics, and then decide on colour.
4. Don’t rely on ‘step-in feel’
Running shoes feel completely different running in them versus standing in them. That’s because they’re packed with technologies that help you move forward. To explain further, one running shoe may feel really soft under your feet compared to one which feels slightly firmer. However, the firmer shoe may actually feel much better when you run it - as a result of the way the midsole works with your biomechanics. That’s why we ask you to run on the treadmill during the +runlab process and always suggest doing a longer run indoors, before wearing them out.
5. Consider rotating between different pairs of running shoes
While one running shoe may work for all your running, you may benefit from different running shoes for specific runs. For example, the running shoe that feels best for your longer slower runs, may not feel optimal for doing shorter faster intervals. If you’re following a structured training plan, you might benefit from choosing running shoes that match your anticipated effort levels in different runs.
Don’t forget about cushioning
At Run4It, we split our road running shoes into three experience categories that reflect the cushioning properties: The Float Experience, The Connected Experience and The Enhanced Energy Experience. For further information, please read our shoe advice page.
Our website features product descriptions for each shoe. You’ll find technical specifications for each model, alongside who the shoe is suited to and what type of runs it will work best for.