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Stability vs Motion Control Running Shoes – What’s the Difference?

We all know that having the right type of shoes for running can make all the difference, but you might be wondering if you need a special shoe like a stability shoe or a motion control shoe.

If you’re interested in learning more about these shoes as well as some similarities and differences between stability and motion control shoes, this article is for you. By the end, you should know which one is the best fit for you!

What are Stability Running Shoes?

Stability shoes are designed with some extra support in the midsole, especially in the arch area, to help a runner’s feet stay in the neutral position. The technology used in stability shoes is often referred to as a medial post or posting.

They are designed for runners who overpronate, or roll too far inward, when they are running, but who do so mildly or moderately. Basically, they are for runners with a slight problem of overpronation. 

Some newer types of stability running shoes made by Brooks have guide rails, which make it harder for your feet to pronate inward as the rails control side-to-side motion. They have stability devices, but they are less rigid lighter weight.

What are Motion Control Running Shoes?

Motion control shoes are designed with extra heavy-duty support in the arch area as well as the heel of the shoe to correct for severe overpronation. Motion control shoes do not allow for a lot of movement of the feet, so they are less flexible than stability shoes.

They are designed for runners who severely overpronate, as they limit excessive foot motions so that it is harder for runners to overpronate. Because these shoes are designed to limit motion, they are heavy and very durable.

If you need motion control shoes, you’re likely going to have to order them online or get them from a specialty running store. They feature a stiffer heel, denser foam, firm posts, and a design built on a straightener because there is more overpronation to correct for than with a stability shoe.

How Do These Differ From Neutral Running Shoes?

Neutral running shoes are for runners who do not overpronate. They are flexible and move with the runner’s feet without any stabilizing or guiding design. Structurally, stability and motion control shoes both have a medial post to reinforce the arch of the foot.

While every runner pronates to a certain degree, some runners do so more slightly and therefore can use a neutral shoe because they don’t need the support of a stability or motion control shoe. 

Similarities Between Stability and Motion Control Shoes

Stability and motion control shoes are both trying to correct the same problem (overpronation) and they do so with a medial post within the midsole to provide needed support for those who need some extra support.

Typically, stability or motion control shoes sare used by runners who overpronate (i.e., their ankles roll inward), who weigh over 180 pounds, or who have flat feet—all runners who can use a little bit extra support to help reduce injuries in the future. 

Differences Between Stability and Motion Control Shoe

The differences between stability and motion control shoes are in degree. Stability shoes are for runners who need to correct a small problem. If you overpronate slightly, you’ll want a stability shoe.

Motion control shoes, however, are for more serious pronation issues. Because they are heavier and stiffer than stability shoes, motion control shoes are best for severe overpronators or heavy runners who also overpronate.

Think about it this way. Motion control shoes provide support almost everywhere on the shoe—from the heel to the midsole. By contrast, stability shoes only have support in the midsole and maybe feature a few other support systems. You will have more flexibility with stability shoes.

How Much Do Different Running Shoes Matter?

In recent years, research has shown that shoes aren’t quite as important as people used to think. While it’s still important to purchase a shoe that fits your foot, the marketing of running shoes doesn’t always align with the science. 

In other words, comfort has much more to do with how you choose the right types of shoes compared to choosing a shoe for injury prevention. While it’s always helpful to get the advice of someone who works at a running store or a podiatrist, the person who knows your feet best is you, and you’re ultimately going to know what shoes are best for you.

When you’re trying on new running shoes, you should remember three things: comfort, fit, and support. If a shoe matches those three things for you—whether it’s stability or motion control—that’s the shoe you should get.  

How Do I Know if I Need Stability Shoes or Motion Control Shoes?

There are a couple different ways to figure out what types of shoes to get, so you can select the option that is best for you.

Go to a Running Store

The best way to know what kind of shoes you need is by getting fitted at a running store. Then you’ll have the opportunity to try on several different types and brands of shoes to see what works best for you.

Remember, though, that it’s best to try on shoes at the end of the day because your feet swell some then, and you want to get a pair of shoes that will fit even if your feet are swollen.

Try the “Wet Foot Test”

Another option is to check your arches/overprontation yourself. For example, you can get a good idea with the “wet foot test.” Simply wet the bottom of your bare foot and stand on a surface like a paper towel or maybe even your bathroom floor that will keep an imprint.

If your footprint doesn’t show much variation in width, you are more likely to overpronate when you run. If you can barely see the bottom of your foot, you’re more likely to underpronate (supinate) or roll your feet outward.

And of course, an imprint that doesn’t completely fit either description is likely someone who needs a neutral shoe.

Check the Wear Pattern on Your Running Shoes

If you’ve been running for a while, you can also check your running shoes to see the wear pattern. If the wear on the shoe tends to be on the inside edges along the heel and the ball of your foot, you likely overpronate.

When you see wear like this, you’ll know that you need either a stability or motion control shoe, and where the wear is located and how severe it is will let you know whether you need stability shoes or motion control shoes if it’s very bad.

Err on the Side of Stability Shoes

If you’re not sure, then you probably want to try stability running shoes first. Because they are less bulky and more flexible than motion control shoes, they are more comfortable and easier to run in than motion control shoes.

Now it’s more common to find stability shoes and harder to find motion control shoes, as current research has encouraged more flexibility in running shoes so as to avoid impacting a runner’s stride too much.

You’ll want to make sure that you really need motion control shoes before purchasing them because your movement will be very restricted, something that is necessary if you severely overpronate but annoying if you just need a little support.

Concluding Thoughts

In the end, picking out the best running shoes for you can be a bit of a challenge, but now that you have a better idea of the difference between stability and motion control shoes, you should know what’s best for you.

To summarize, if you need lots of support and/or don’t mind a heavy shoe, pick a motion control shoe. If you need just a little support and/or want flexibility, stability shoes are the way to go.

The Wired Runner