Neutral Verses Stability Running Shoes

Ever since I started running 3 years ago, I’ve been in stability shoes. I was fitted for them and I found a pair that I loved. I asked before if I still needed them and was told that once you’re in stability shoes, you’ll never leave.

They’re like the Hotel California of running shoes apparently.

However, I’ve found out that this isn’t always the case and you can check out of that crazy hotel.

With my recent hip injury and journey through PT this summer, my therapist told me that my current shoes were providing me with too much stability.  They were too restricting.

He explained that when shoes over stabilize, it can lead to hip injuries and IT band troubles.  Interesting because I’ve had IT band issues training for my first half.  I’ve had a strained hamstring. I’m currently now dealing with a hip issue.  All on the same leg.

My right leg is a bit of a drama queen.

I was told by the therapist to be fitted for some neutral shoes.  I was kind of amazed and also highly excited.

There are way more varieties of neutral shoes than there are stability shoes.  I think running companies feel they can really get creative and unique with neutral shoes and with stability shoes, it’s a necessary product.  They have to make them because they are needed but they don’t really want to.

I recently went and bought my first pair of neutral shoes.  It was a great experience and I walked away with a fab new pair of kicks.

Running in neutral shoes vs. stability shoes is a very different experience.

Stability shoes are like hard little bricks.  Because they have to have extra support to keep the foot moving in a forward stride there isn’t much give with them.  There also isn’t a ton of cushion.  They are already heavy because of the center support so adding in more cushion would weight them down even more. A heavy shoe is highly undesirable for running.

With all of that support, the shoe isn’t terribly flexible and it takes time to break them in.  You can only break stability shoes in so much because eventually they’ll lose the cushion they do have and the support.

That means it’s time for new shoes.

I was replacing my shoes about every six months.  If I was running a lot, then I would switch them out with the change of seasons.

Neutral shoes are the lightest things I have ever worn.  Compared to the stability shoes, it is almost like I don’t have anything on my feet.

The first thing I noticed was that my foot had more movement because the shoe was more flexible.  I could really feel the whole roll process from heel to toes as I ran.  With stability shoes, you can never really roll all the way out to your tippy toes. Stability shoes just aren’t that flexible.

Neutral shoes, you have all the movement you want.

There is also a lot more cushion.  With the neutral shoes being so light, it is like you are walking on little puffs of clouds. Or really fluffy slippers that conform to your foot.

Right now I’m in love with my new neutral shoes.  Because of their flexibility and cushioning, I’m not sure if this means they’ll need replacing more frequently or not.  I’ll have to see how it goes once I get back up to running more and increasing my mileage.

I have to say that I feel a little bit more free and not quite as restricted with the new shoes.  Is that all in my head? I’m not sure but leaving Hotel California so far has been awesome.

If you run, what kind of shoes do you wear? Have you been able to switch out styles?

Andrea

About Andrea Ratulowski

Andrea Ratulowski is the proprietor of Food Embrace. She eats and cooks with real foods. She feels that cheese is always acceptable and that beer is the right answer.

Comments

  1. says

    Ok here’s a dumb question…How do you know if you have stability shoes or neutral shoes? When I was fitted for mine, I don’t believe the employees used those terms. I know I don’t have very cushioned shoes (I wear Mizuno Wave Rider 14s), but I’m not sure if they’re stability or neutral.

    • says

      Jen, Yeah whoever fitted you for shoes should have told you the style of shoes you were trying on and why. Looking them up, the Mizuno site says that the Wave Riders are moderate neutral shoes. That means that they don’t have quite the intense support that a stability shoe has but that they do offer some support. Being a more neutral shoe they’ll have more cushion, be lighter, and a little bit more flexible. I hope that helps!

  2. says

    My right leg is also the queen of drama! ;) I was in stability, but am now in neutral as well. Aside from my foot issues due to high arches, I am doing much better in the neutral shoes.

  3. says

    I moved to a neutral shoe at the beginning of the season and absolutely loved it. As the mileage moved into the double digits, I had to go back to the stability shoes. I also have found that not all stability shoes are created equal and that insoles such as Superfeet make a difference.

  4. Taylor (Columbus IIN student!) says

    First off, I’m so glad I found you through the OEF, I’m really enjoying your blog! I went to Road Runner Sports over a year ago and found out I have high arches (which I never thought I did!) and needed neutral shoes! They are awesome there, very thorough with examining your feet and running style to determine which shoe is best. I don’t like Front Runner, they just watch you walk a couple of feet (yes, walk) and determine what you need. They said I needed stability but then i went to Road Runner and went with their suggestions! I’m currently running in Newton’s (neutral) shoes! Designed for mid to toe strike running. I got them for my birthday a month ago and I love them! I feel faster in them too.

    • says

      Hi Taylor and welcome! Thank you for sharing your experiences with running stores, it’s important to know what people have deal with when buying shoes.

  5. Julie says

    Hi! SO glad to read this. I have had great luck with my Nike Vomeros (neutral, lots of cushion), but every time I decide to visit a running store, they insist that I pronate and need a stability shoe. And every time I try it and get achy knees immediately, then go back to my Vomeros feeling like a sneaky kid (wearing a neutral shoe when I clearly need a stability!)

    • says

      Hi Julie! That’s interesting that you get achy knees. Either you need a really light stability shoe or because of the weight difference your legs need some time to adjust. OR you don’t need one at all. :)

  6. Kim says

    Hey Andrea:

    I’m SO glad to have found your blog and especially all this great info regarding running/walking shoes.

    After hearing from my P/T that I am over-pronating (have zero arches left) she recommended Brooks Adrenaline (stability). I, actually, really loved the Brooks Ghosts (neutral). I’m also someone who last spent about $50 for Asics. The Brooks, like the others are about $100-110. Lot of dough and I’m still not sure if I need orthotics just yet. Here’s my question. Do you think it would be safe to go with a neutral shoe (less $$ and consider Superfeet inserts or orthotics in the future) or just bite the bullet and go for the Brooks (where I may still need inserts/orthotics)? I’m, obviously, taking my time with the process and have found some good local, independently-owned stores but would like your take. Thanks so much!! Kim. (BTW – no foot pain at all, but shin pain when speed walking if that helps…)

  7. Antoun says

    Hi! I just switched to a pair of neutral running shoes and although they are amzingly comfortable to run in, my feet seemed to ache or even throb a little afterwards…is there usually an adjustment period after you switch from a stability shoe to a neutral shoe???

    • says

      Hi Antoun,

      I’m not a professional so I can’t really answer your question. It could be a whole number of reasons for that to be the case. Your best solution would be to talk with a sports doctor about what you are experiencing.

  8. Claire says

    I started running in neutral shoes, basically because I didn’t know of anything else. When it was time to get better trainers as my milage was in to double figure I did some research, my doctor told me I had low arches so I thought stability would be the best for me. I bought Mizuno wave Paradox. I wore them twice and couldn’t go on. They hurt my arches, hip and ankles do badly. I switched back to my original trainers, which still hurt my arches when I run 15 miles plus. Anyway it turns out I have an extra bone in my foot about my arch it’s called Accessory Navicular syndrome. Know I have no idea what shoe is best for me. I’m running the London marathon in 8 weeks, I really need to find my perfect shoe and soon

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