Support levels and foot type/stability
Within running shoes today there are broadly speaking 4 different levels of support; (we will discuss different types of shoes like marathon or racer in part 3 of this series) Neutral, Guidance, Moderate Support and Stability/Motion Control.
Most specialist running shops will offer some kind of assessment to ascertain which shoe suits you best. Bear in mind that even with all the assessment in the world, it is still only an indicator, there will be exceptions to rules and it is always worth considering goals, terrain, comfort and other aspects of fit and performance of a shoe, as well as assessment of the foot and leg. Historically ‘foot type’ and rear foot position were/are still used, however more recently these have been incorporated into an assessment that involves ascertaining an idea of stability and alignment of the foot and leg.
For example, a ‘normal’ or ‘neutral’ foot structure/type (good congruent arch, no real collapse of flattening) would be recommended a neutral shoe based purely on foot type. However, the foot may be particularly unstable in single limb stance or the knees may fall inward when bending them, and the foot may roll inwards when walking/running. Therefore, a more supportive shoe might be more beneficial. Conversely a very flat foot may actually be very stable and the alignment of the leg good, so a neutral shoe would be recommended.
What is support in a shoe? Well with most shoes the ‘support’ is achieved by using a denser or firmer material in a specific place within the midsole (the bit between your foot and the ground). The more support the denser the material, or longer the block. Support is also achieved by different lasting (usually wider and straighter), flared midsoles, trusstics (plastic inserts in the mid foot area of the midsole) or sometimes plastic reinforcements into the dual density block. The addition of support adds both weight and stiffness to a shoe.
So let’s run through some of the features of different support levels;
Neutral– Usually lighter weight than supports shoes, have a softer feel, no additional dual density block in the midsole. Suitable for a stable foot and leg, or someone looking for maximum cushioning.
Guidance– A small dual density block is placed in the midsole, offering a good mix of cushioning and a little extra support, without adding too much weight. Suitable for a mostly stable foot and leg, with perhaps a few signs of mild instability that may benefit from the added support later during a run once fatigue sets in.
Moderate support– As the name suggests a moderate dual density block is placed in the midsole, other factors affecting stability mentioned above may start to be introduced at this point too, a slightly firmer feel but stiffer midsole. Suitable for a more unstable foot and leg.
Stability/motion control– A larger, denser block is placed into the midsole, almost always a wider straighter last, much heavier and stiffer midsole. Suitable for a very unstable foot and leg.
This is a broad and brief overview, for any further advice please get in touch, make an appointment to come see us or visit your local specialist running shop. Be sure to look out for part 3, does one shoe do it all? An overview of different types of running shoes, from marathon shoes to racing flats.