What Are Motion Control Running Shoes? The Pros and Cons

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Running shoes come in different types, but many runners still don’t know if they’re wearing the right shoes for their feet.

One of the most common issues is wearing the wrong shoes for excessive pronation. Close to 70 percent of the population overpronates. Motion control shoes can help some runners – but you need to make sure you really need them.

You are probably wondering, what are motion control shoes exactly, and how do they fix this problem? More importantly, how do you know if you need them?

We have some answers. Keep reading!

What Are Motion Control Running Shoes?

Motion control shoes are a type of running shoe built for support. They’re specifically designed to counteract excessive inward rolling of the foot—called overpronation—by providing firm structural support on the medial side of the shoe (this is the area of your foot that faces the other side).

Most of the extra support comes in the arch, but different brands use different technologies that may provide extra structure in various places throughout the shoe. They’re usually quite durable, thanks to the extra features packed into them.

The point of motion control shoes is to hold your feet in a neutral position so your foot mechanics can work with you. This helps you run properly, improving your performance and lowering your injury risk.

Motion Control vs Stability Running Shoes

Stability and motion control shoes are similar, and overpronators can use both to support their feet. The biggest difference is who they’re designed for. Stability shoes are for mild to moderate overpronators, while motion control shoes are for severe overpronators.

Motion control shoes are usually stiffer and heavier. Stability shoes retain some flexibility and are slightly lighter, although not as light as neutral running shoes.

How to Know if You Need Motion Control Shoes

Technically, you can change between the two if you overpronate. But if your overpronation is severe, a stability shoe may not provide enough support to stop your foot from rolling in.

If you already know you’re an overpronator and you’re using stability shoes, you can check the wear and tear on the shoes. More severe wear on the inner side of the sole indicates that your feet are still flattening quite a bit. In this case, you may need to try a motion control shoe instead.

On the other hand, if you’re wearing stability shoes and the wear on the sole looks evenly spread across the sole, the shoes are doing a good job of keeping your feet in a neutral position. No motion control shoes are needed!

What if you’re trying to transition from neutral shoes to something more supportive? We advise getting your gait analyzed by a podiatrist or a running specialist, who can give you more personalized advice on which would be better for you.

How Do Motion Control Running Shoes Work?

Motion control running shoes feature sturdy foam support, mainly under the arch section of the shoe. This is designed to hold your arch up throughout your gait—instead of flattening underneath it as your foot lands.

It could be a section of extra-firm foam that doesn’t compress as easily as others. But in most cases, stability shoes stop at the foam, while motion control shoes offer extra support features to ensure that your foot doesn’t roll.

Overpronation isn’t comfortable on your feet. It throws your joint alignment out, causing pressure and aches all the way up the kinetic chain. Also, as your foot is sitting in a strange position within the shoe, it might end up chafing in places it shouldn’t.

Some shoes use stiffening frames in the midsole to stop the shoe from flexing, keeping your feet stable. A solid heel cup is a common feature, holding the heel in place so it’s harder for the foot to rotate. Many shoes use multiple stability features to keep your foot in place.

Are Motion Control Shoes Good for Flat Feet?

Yes, motion control shoes are suitable for flat feet, as they help keep your feet in a more neutral position, reducing strain on the muscles, ligaments, and joints.

However, it depends on the extent of your flat feet—if they’re severe, motion control shoes are likely to be the most effective for you.

On the other hand, if you have mild flat feet, motion control shoes might help, but they also may be a little uncomfortable. You most likely won’t need excessive support, so a stability shoe would probably be the best first choice if your overpronation is mild.

Pros of Motion Control Running Shoes

The pros of motion control running shoes can’t be understated for overpronators. This is why these kinds of shoes were made!

Reduced Risk of Injury

Overpronators are naturally more prone to certain injuries, usually due to the excess strain on the tissues, ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the feet and lower legs as your feet turn inwards.

Put on a motion control shoe, though, and your foot is suddenly in proper alignment. And it stays that way throughout your gait, significantly reducing that strain on your feet and legs.

When the joints are aligned, nothing works against anything else. You can run more freely, with much less risk of ankle pain, plantar fasciitis, IT band pain, and shin splints. You may also find that things like knee and hip pain improve.

Better Arch Support

Motion control shoes are designed with powerful support in the arch. When the support in stability shoes isn’t enough for those with severely flat feet, motion control shoes can usually offer better arch support.

This is the main factor in keeping your foot joints properly aligned. Without strong support underneath the arch, your foot could collapse inwards and throw that joint out of alignment… Which is what happens when you wear other shoes.

Enhanced Stability

You might not feel “unstable” on your feet, even if you do pronate. The body adapts, but it does come with a price… Which you sometimes only feel years later. But switching to motion control shoes early can enhance your stability, which you might notice even though you didn’t feel it was lacking before.

Better stability on your feet, especially going around corners or down hills when running, can also give you a performance boost. It’s particularly helpful for those struggling with weak ankles, but all overpronators can benefit from it.

Improved Comfort

Overpronation isn’t comfortable on your feet. It throws your joint alignment out, causing pressure and aches all the way up the kinetic chain. Also, as your foot is sitting in a strange position within the shoe, it might end up chafing in places it shouldn’t.

But when your arch is supported, your foot is held in a neutral position, you’re more stable on your feet, and your foot sits snugly inside the shoe, you’ll notice that your shoes feel more comfortable.

Running Efficiency and Performance Are Improved

Better support, increased comfort, aligned joints, improved stability… How can that NOT improve your performance? When you wear shoes that keep your feet in the right position, your running performance is likely to improve.

You’ll still need to work on it, but you should find that it’s easier to run with good form, step up your cadence, increase your pace, and feel better while doing it.

Cons of Motion Control Running Shoes

Like all good things, motion control shoes do have some downsides. However, if your feet need the support they give and respond positively, you may find it easier to live with these few cons.

Heavier Than Other Types of Running Shoes

Motion control shoes are heavier than other types because they’ve got more tech packed in them to protect your feet. This could be a downer for those whose aim is speed, but when your feet are held in place correctly, you’ll probably still find that you run faster than you used to.

On the other hand, depending on what kind of shoes you’re used to wearing now, you might not notice a significant difference in weight on your feet.

Reduced Flexibility

Generally, motion control athletic shoes have firmer midsoles, stronger heel counters, and a less flexible upper. The whole point of this kind of shoe is to hold your foot in a neutral position and not let it move out of it, which is why they tend to be more rigid.

For some, the reduced flexibility might be uncomfortable, difficult to get used to, or may hamper their form. But work with them slowly, break them in properly, and your body should adapt.

Potential Discomfort

The stiffness and heaviness of motion control shoes might be a deterrent for some. Those who prefer lightweight, speedy shoes or like a minimalist style might find these shoes highly uncomfortable.

Finding a happy medium can be challenging. If your overpronation is causing injury, you NEED a more supportive shoe. But you may have to sacrifice some of your comfort and running goals to be able to run injury-free.

Higher Cost

Thanks to the extra tech, motion control shoes tend to be more expensive than others. But can you put a price on comfort, safety, and performance?

Not Suitable for Everyone

Neutral runners and supinators are unlikely to be able to use motion control shoes comfortably. This isn’t likely to be a problem performance-wise, but it can be a disappointment when you spot a great-looking pair of shoes… Only to discover it’s a motion control shoe!

Tips for Buying Motion Control Running Shoes

Are you planning on getting yourself a pair of motion control shoes? Here’s how to ensure you get a pair that will work for you.

Get Properly Fitted

Get your feet measured! Feet change over time, so it’s worth doing this even if you think you know your shoe size. You should be able to get a professional foot measuring and shoe fitting at your nearest running store.

Knowing your foot size in inches or centimeters is also handy if you buy shoes online and follow a sizing chart. Overseas sizes aren’t always the same, so having an actual measurement is helpful.

Know Your Pronation Type

Motion control shoes are for severe overpronators. If you aren’t sure of your pronation type, check it before you shop—you don’t want to buy a motion control shoe if you don’t actually need one.

Your Running Goals

You already know you need extra support. But it’s also important to get a shoe that’s designed for the type of running you will do. Are you planning on hitting the roads or the trails? You need a shoe that’s created for the kind of terrain you’re going to be on.

Also, if your running goals involve speed and agility, you may need to shop around to find effective motion control shoes that offer a good combination of support and lightweight.

If you can’t find a suitable motion control shoe for your goals, you may need to visit a podiatrist, a biokineticist, or a physiotherapist and see what else you could do to improve your pronation.

Doing strength exercises for your feet might be an option, or you could look at supportive insoles rather than changing your shoes. You may want to work with a running specialist to train your feet in a more neutral position to wear shoes more conducive to your goals. However, this will likely cost quite a bit, so it may not be an option for everyone.

Look for Adequate Cushioning

In addition to the support in the shoes, you also want a decent amount of cushioning. Padding preference differs from runner to runner, so it comes down to how much cushion you want underfoot.

In many cases, the cushion is naturally firmer to stop it from compressing, but you can find motion control shoes with a softer cushion around the arch of the midsole.

It’s also worth mentioning that you should match the heel-to-toe drop to something you’re already used to. Don’t go from a 12 mm drop in your old shoe to a zero-drop motion control shoe—this is a recipe for pain and discomfort!

Try On Multiple Pairs

Don’t be afraid to try on multiple pairs to find the one that feels right. Your feet and legs will have to deal with these shoes for the next 500 or so miles, so it’s important to get it right. Shop later in the day and walk in each pair to get a feel for them.

If you’re shopping online, do ample research and read real-people reviews before deciding.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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