[Editor’s note: Slowtwitch has several editors-at-large for footwear, including: Jeroen van Geelen who owns Total Running, one of the more important running and triathlon retail establishments in The Netherlands; Pete Beauregard and Doug Smiley, both principals at City Sports, a chain of 15 specialty footwear stores along the Eastern Seaboard.]
I prefer to call them Structured Cushioning running shoes, but we’ll go with “Stability” so to come into conformity with industry norms. What we’re talking about are shoes that are not for runners with neutral footfalls, rather are all built with a small to moderate medial post (not as much as would place them in the Motion Control category, currently written about on Slowtwitch by my colleagues from City Sports).
I will cover a few brands at a time, as was the case with my series on this season’s Lightweight Trainers (the chosen Slowtwitch nomenclature for what most of the industry calls “neutral” shoes). First up are shoes by Asics, Adidas, Brooks and Avia.
Adidas has three different collections. Their top collection is the Adistar Collection, the one below that is the Supernova collection, shortened in most models with the name Snova and their “budget” Response collection.
I will review models from the first two collections since those are where triathletes are most likely to choose from. The models in the Adistar and Supernova collections are protective enough and suitable for triathletes.
It’s pictured at the top of the article, and is formerly known as the Adistar Control. This shoe has excellent cushioning. From the moment you put the shoe on it grabs your foot and it fits snugly. The reason is Adidas’ Geofit. Adidas adds some padding to all seams, overlays and pressure points on the inside of the upper of the shoe. This make it less suitable for athletes with wider feet since they fit a bit on the narrow side. They compare in supportive to the Asics Kayano 15, perhaps even more supportive, especially in the forefoot. This is the big upgrade from the Adistar Control out a year ago in Spring 08—that shoe was less stable.
Adidas uses in this shoe its proprietary Formotion heel system. This is the lateral part of the heel—midsole and outsole—which is de-coupled from the rest of the midsole allowing you to adapt to your individual running style. This works really well in adding support and slowing the pronation movement, except for runners as I'll write below—in the Asics review—with an exceptionally sharp heel strike. They tend to slow down the transfer from supination to pronation, impeding the runner in his ability to run with a natural gait.
These shoes have a very comfortable ride, flexible forefoot and are suitable for a lot of runners. The only group that needs to take care with this shoe are the runners with a hallux valgus or rigid big toe joint. These runners have a habit of pushing off to the lateral side of their shoes due to the limited capacity to bend their big toe joints. The Adistar Salvation enhances this by having a slightly thicker midsole on the medial side and by using different types of outsole: harder on the medial side and softer on the lateral side. The weight of this shoe is 12.3 oz but somehow it does seem to feel much lighter.
The Sequence is a sort of downstream or downscale version of the Salvation and used to be known as the Snova or Supernova Control. It uses some of the same Adidas technologies as Geofit and the Formotion heel system. The big difference with the Salvation is that in this shoe the Formotion system is not completely de-coupled. The Formotion heel part of the midsole is smaller in the Sequence, and the outsole on this Formotion section is still connected to the rest of the shoe. So the free movement is less “free” than in the Salvation.
Just as in the Salvation the medial post in combination with this Formotion system works very well and gives this shoe good stability—only slightly less than the Salvation, and maybe it’s not an issue, depending on the runner.
The Sequence is even slightly narrower in fit so definitely not for the wider feet.
The friendlier price can make this a big hit for Adidas. Weight of the Sequence is around 12.2 oz.
This is Brooks’ flagship, in which it lets fly all its technologies in one shoe. The most important is Brooks’ BioMoGo midsole. In addition to its very good cushioning it is fully biodegradable. After breaking down the sole it can be used as fertilizer for plants. If there ever was a green shoe, this is it.
But about the Trance 8 running experience. This is the shoe for the runner who wants to have a soft ride with lots of cushioning. It feels soft, flexible and relaxed.
The midsole is build with a dual density medial post. This is different than with most other brands, where the medial post is built of one density. Brooks builds its medial posts starting with a small part of slightly harder material then the rest of the shoe —blue in the adjacent picture—with the larger part of the medial post even harder than that (the grey part in the picture). The point is to control the pronation progressively.
Running in the Trance 8 is driving a Cadillac. Soft, comfortable, not exactly built for speed, but the shoe does what it’s supposed to do. A weight of 12oz make this shoe only slightly heavier then the Adrenalin GTS 9.
Adrenalin GTS 9
The 9 is slightly different then the 8. It feels a bit harder than the 8, not that this is bad but it just is this way. It is not as plush as the Trance 8, but surely one of the more stable Structured Cushioned models. If I compare the Adrenalin to the Trance the biggest difference is in the forefoot. The forefoot of the Trance feels thicker and softer.
As in the Trance 8 Brooks uses its proprietary Progressive RollBar which means that the medial post is build from two different densities and gives a lot of support to control your pronation.
In the regular version I find them a bit wide, but since Brooks makes this model in widths from narrow to extra wide there is always a width to suit your feet.
At 11.3oz it’s on the lighter side, but this is a higher performance shoe, and weight is of less importance.
This is a lightweight lightweight trainer at only 8.5 oz. It’s really a category breaker. It’s not a racing flat but is as light as some; it's lighter than all but a few shoes in the Neutral category. But it’s not a neutral shoe, so here it is in Stability, certainly the lightest shoe that’ll go in this category.
It was a very easy shoe to run in. It is so flexible in the forefoot that there is no need to break them in. You can pick them out of the box, lace ‘em up and run off. They feel very cushioned in the forefoot and stable in the rear foot.
The model I received was built with a slight medial post and Avia’s anatomic cradle. This will take care of athletes with even more than slight pronation. To my personal taste the post was a bit too much—I normally run in a more neutral shoe. It’s just a bit too much for me with my running gait. That’s why it’s here in the Stability round-up.
The fit is a bit on the roomy side in the toe box but very secure in the heel.
Were this shoe in the Lightweight Trainer category, where most neutral shoes go, it would be one of the best tested in terms of stability. It might make a good racing flat for a runner who does overpronate, and that describes a lot of triathletes.
Avia makes this model in a specific men and women version.
In this category Asics has three very good models. Two of them are well known; one is underestimated but could be an excellent shoe for runners with some pronation. I will start with the two popular models.
Asics Gel Kayano 15
Asics, as most other brands, adds a number to its models and this means that every January there is an new Kayano and for this year it’s the fifteen version. Is it a lot different then the previous model, the fourteenth? In some ways it is.
If you loved the 14 for its cushioning there is no doubt that you can run in, and appreciate, the 15 as well. The fit seems to be slightly different due to the fact that they now made this shoe with asymmetric lacing. The laces are not on top of the shoe, but angled in the direction of your big toe.
Did the fit change a lot? No, the amount of stability did. The 15 is slightly less stable than the 14, because they took some material out of the midsole. This makes the shoe feel a bit lighter, but also less stable. It is not much, but if you needed all the stability in the 14, the 15 is maybe just shy of enough.
The Kayano 15 is still one of the best cushioned shoes with its big Gel units to absorb the impact of gravity while running. The weight is 13oz and it’s available in different widths.
The GT-2140 is the new GT-2130, same model just add 10 points every year and you have the new one. But this season’s model is almost in every way the same as last season’s. There is not much to say about it. It is a stable shoe with slightly less cushioning then the Kayano 15 due to smaller Gel units. But it’s one of the most-oft sold shoes so how much wrong could there be with it, and Asics wisely didn’t change much.
How to decide which model to buy if you are an Asics fan? If you want to choose between these two models and don’t know if an upgrade from a GT-2140 to a Kayano 15 is a wise decision you need to look at your wear pattern. For some people a Kayano can add some extra cushioning due to the larger Gel units, as well as more stability. This happens because of the placing of the gel units in the lateral side in the midsole. If you look at a Kayano 15 you can see that Gel unit in the heel is much bigger and thus softer—versus the GT-2140—when you are striking on the lateral side of the heel. The softer Gel material will easily absorb the impact but also will slow the pronation movement of your ankle. But this is only of value if a GT- 2140 is not stable enough.
If you are an extreme heel striker the angle of your heel during the strike is sharp, and the shoe could be too soft for you. In this case, your pronation moment, or phase, will be lengthened in duration—you’ll tend toward remaining in a state of supination too long. Your foot will take too long to get to your normal running gait.
So, to come back to your wear pattern. See if you have excessive wear on the lateral side of your GT-2130 outsole, at the heel. If so, stick with the 2140, the Kayano 15 may be too soft for you. If you’re not a pronounced heel striker, the extra stability and cushioning might be worth the upgrade to the Kayano 15. If not sure, go to a specialized running store and ask them to give you a gait analysis. The weight of the GT-2140 is 12oz.
Next to the Kayano 15 and the GT-2140 Asics does have another model with a specific stability support which is not found in most other brands.
The Gel 3000 is at first glance a shoe just between the Kayano and the GT-2140, judging by the price. But in matters of stability it’s an completely different shoe.
It is excellent for runners who pronate later in their running gait—in their transition from mid-phase to toe-off. There is a category of runners which in this typical phase are needing more support but cannot find this in traditionally build shoes, with the medial post placed between the heel and midway to the midsole. This category of runners is entering their pronation phase just when the medial post stops. To support this kind of pronation Asics added on top of the standard medial post its proprietary Dynamic Forefoot Cradle. This extends medial support to under the big toe to aid stability during the push off.
If you are a runner who is likely to get blisters where the arch segues into the big toe joint, this could be your shoe. These blisters are likely to form because of this forefoot pronation. During this pronation phase your foot tends to hang over the sock liner in the shoe, and friction here will generate these blisters. If this sounds familiar gives this shoe a try.
Cushioning is about the same as the Kayano 15, weight is 12.6oz. These Asics models are available in men’s and women’s versions and in width sizing.
[If you like what Jeroen has written for our Slowtwitch readers, and if the Netherlands is a convenient country from which to buy, most of these shoes can be purchased at Jeroen's click and mortar store: Total Running.]