Choosing an Athletic Shoe – Motion Control, Stability, & Neutral Cushioned Shoes Deconstructed

Jan 10th, 2009 by keelyh | 10 Comments So Far

When looking for the perfect athletic shoe fit it is important not only to consider the width and size of the shoe, but also the type of shoe you will need to be comfortable and prevent injury. The first question to ask yourself is what activity you’ll be engaging in. Will you be primarily running or walking? Running, particularly on pavement, requires a shoe with a greater amount of shock absorption because a runner’s foot hits the ground from a higher altitude than a walker’s foot. Walkers may require a more flexible topsole than runners in order to not interfere with the rolling heel to toe motion; however, many running with problem ankles prefer to wear running shoes for greater injury prevention when they walk. For a discussion of whether you should wear a walking shoe or a running shoe during fitness walking read “Walking Shoes Vs. Running Shoes – A Walker’s Dilemma – Why It Makes a Difference”.

The other questions to ask are what type of arch do I have and how does my foot normally move when I am running or walking. A professional gait analysis at an athletic shoe specialty store is the best way to determine the latter, but if one is not available in your area you can also make an educated guess about whether you tend to pronate or suppinate (place more weight on the outside of your sole) by examining the wear patterns on the bottom of your shoes. If the outsole ridges have been worn down evenly you probably have a neutral walking gait. More pronounced wear on the inside of your foot indicates pronation, which is one of the most common gait problems, while greater wear on the outside indicates suppination which is one of the least. Once you have determined your foot type it is time to decide between a motion control, stability, and neutral cushioned athletic shoe.

Motion Control Running & Walking Shoes

Motion control athletic shoes provide runners and walkers with the maximum amount of biomechanical correction. This gait correction is accomplished through the presence of posting along the side of the outsole that encourages the ergonomically misbehaving foot into a healthier walking or running stance. Depending upon your foot type this can be a good or a bad thing. Motion control shoes are an excellent choice for athletes who are at an increased risk of being injured while running or walking. This includes over-weight walkers, diabetics, athletes with flat feet, athletes with ankle problems, athletes with severe over-pronation, and those recovering from plantar fasciitis. For runners and walkers with normal feet and high arches motion control shoes can feel oppressively restrictive and may actual cause discomfort due to over-correction. They also don’t always work well for orthotics wearers, the reason being that a motion control shoe is a corrective shoe and when combined with a corrective insole the two may actually work against each other. When in doubt consult your doctor.

Stability Running & Walking Shoes

Stability running and walking shoes are the middle of the road choice in support and injury prevention. Many fitness walkers prefer them over motion control shoes because their topsole tends to be more flexible allowing for greater comfort during high speed walking. If you have a normal foot, but still like the solid feeling of having a little guidance and support present, a stability shoe is the way to go. Conversely if you have mild pronation, but don’t like the rigid feel of a motion control shoe go with a stability shoe. If you have very severe pronation or your flat feet are causing you foot pain, a stability shoe will probably not offer enough support and control.

Neutral Cushioned Running & Walking Shoes

Neutral cushioned running and walking shoes provide shock absorption and comfort with only minimal biomechanical correction. Neutral cushioned athletic shoes are frequently the best choice for runners and walkers with high arches because motion control and stability shoes tend to encourage the foot to place more weight on the outside of the sole, something people with high arches already do naturally. Wearing a neutral athletic shoe ensures you won’t experience discomfort from inappropriate correction. Due to the absence of posting in the outsole, neutral athletic cushioned shoes tend to be lighter weight then motion control and stability shoes. Runners like them because their flexibility increases their responsiveness providing the runner with an enhanced sense of connection to the terrain. Some power walkers prefer a neutral cushioned athletic shoe for the same reason. Neutral athletic shoes frequently feature a spring step toes that more easily propels the runner or walker with each step than does the flatter outsole of most motion control athletic shoes. A neutral cushioned athletic shoe with a removable footbed may be a good choice for an orthotics wearer. A neutral shoe provides a blank orthopedic canvas for podiatrist-prescribed correction. But as always consult a doctor for advise on the best shoe type for your custom orthotic.


10 Comments on “Choosing an Athletic Shoe – Motion Control, Stability, & Neutral Cushioned Shoes Deconstructed”

  1. Brooks Beast said:

    nice post!

    it is indeed true that one needs to know the type of feet of the runner so that one knows the type of shoes needed, so that injuries are preveted in running.

  2. Sheri said:

    I wear orthotics and also wear Brooks Ariels which are motion control shoes. However, I think I may be overcorrecting. If I am wearing orthotics in a shoe what type of shoe should I use? Can I wear the Ariels without my orthotics? Which is better?

  3. amandas said:

    Hi Sheri- our specialist suggests you either step down to a Brooks Addiction 8 or other cross trainer shoe or you use the Ariels without your orthotics so that you don’t over-correct. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  4. WARREN SMITH said:

    I have High arches and I am wearing orthotics. I run and walk on the outside of my feet. What type of shoe do I need?
    Neutral etc….?

    Thank you for your help.

    Warren Smith

  5. Marie said:

    Love this help – for my malformed feet/toes
    They are very painful (arthritis) and shoes are almost
    impossible. I only wear old Merrel clogs with mesh upper.
    Had these for years and they have formed to me toes,
    I need 10 W and sift upper, but with some support.
    Can you help in any way? Thank you, Marie

  6. Jenna Goldberg said:

    Hi Marie,

    These two styles may work for you:

    Also see all of our women’s arthritis shoes:

    Thank you for your comment!

  7. Linda said:

    I have a disc herniation in my lower back and I wear orthotics. My doctor recommends that I wear a shoe which supports my heel. My feet are normal. Can I get some recommendations? Thanks!

  8. jeanette said:

    I also have high arches and tend to walk on the outside of my feet (looking at the wear patterns on my shoes). My feet are wide and short (size 5 – 5 1/2). I also have disk herniation in my lower back, and my doctor has said I may NOT run, but I may walk. He suggested a running shoe because it has more cushion. I just want to make sure I get the right running shoe.

    Hope you can help!

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