Modern running shoes are feats of design. As the single most important piece of equipment a runner needs, shoes have to provide support, flexibility, grip and stability.
For many people, the stability feature is the most crucial. Pronation, or inward rolling when the foot hits the ground, can result in serious injury over time. Motion control shoes and stability shoes offer ankle support to help correct pronation, but at different degrees for different levels of need.
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Read on to learn the differences between motion control and stability shoes and find the best pair for your feet.
Stability vs. Motion Control Shoes
Motion control shoes, or high-stability shoes, are designed to hold your foot firmly in place, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). These are built with a stabilizer in the inner edge of the shoe to provide complete control and stability. This can make the shoe heavier and stiffer, but it provides added support under the arch.
Stability shoes offer light to moderate stability and don't limit your motion too much, per the AAOS. These shoes also have more flexibility and cushioning than motion control sneakers. They often include a firm area within the midsole to reinforce the arch, and may have a variety of added support features.
What Type of Foot Needs a Stability or Motion Control Shoe?
To understand shoe types, you first need to know foot mechanics. Everyone's foot is built a little differently, which means you need a specific type of running or walking shoe.
You can test your foot shape by wetting the bottom of your bare foot and standing on a surface that will leave an imprint, recommends Mayo Clinic. If your footprint is relatively uniform in width, you're flat-footed and your feet and ankle may tend to roll inward, or pronate, when you run. If your footprint cuts in severely at the arch, you have a high arch and your foot may tend to roll outward. If it's somewhere in between, you have a normal arch.
Stability shoes are recommended for people with a normal arch, to help decrease mild pronation, per the Mayo Clinic. People with flat feet often have more pronation and may need a motion control shoe to provide extra stability and reduce potential injury.
For those who have a high arch and rigid feet, neutral running shoes are best, according to the AAOS. These shoes don't have stabilizing features and are usually more cushioned and flexible.
Can Normal Feet Wear Stability Shoes?
Any runner can wear any type of shoe but it's best to find a pair that's most appropriate for your foot. Stability shoes are built to correct mild pronation. But if your feet don't pronate when you walk, the unnecessary correction can cause other issues.
Controversy Over Effectiveness
While stability and motion control shoes make sense, there has been some controversy over how effective they really are. A 2011 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that assigning shoes by foot type had no real effect on the rate of injury.
Researchers concluded that the current method of controlling pronation by assigning shoes based on foot type was too simple and could potentially cause injury. Conversely, there is some evidence that motion control shoes can ease over-pronation and associated motion in the quadriceps.
If you're not sure whether motion control or stability shoes are best for your feet, you can always consult a physical therapist. And if you have any injuries or joint issues, your physical therapist or doctor may actually recommend one or the other.
Finding Your Best Shoe
Unfortunately, there's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to running shoes. Everyone's foot is different, so it's really a personal journey. Consider your foot shape, but also pay attention to the way your foot moves when choosing between a stability or motion control shoe.
Always buy your running shoes in person, so you can try them on and see how they feel. Also consider having your feet analyzed. Many specialty running stores can actually record the motion of your feet and provide recommendations on your ideal stability level.
Try shoes on at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen, as this can help you get a better fit. Wear the socks you'll wear to run and test the shoes by running up and down the street outside the store.
When you buy new shoes, test them on short runs before taking them on long distances. If they give you discomfort or pain, try switching to a different shoe type or consulting a podiatrist.