Last time I wrote about shoes in this category from Asics, Brooks and Adidas. This time I will write about the shoes offered by Nike and New Balance.
Nike has always been big in running but they've carved out a special reputation for great racing flats and lightweight trainers. They always struggled a bit with their more stable shoes.
However they hit it just right with the Nike Structure 10. This was lightweight—in comparison to other SC shoes—a very stable shoe that had a really snug fit, even a bit on the narrow side. Nike didn't change the shoe much in the follow-up version (Structure 11): the same full-length Air Unit, the same fit. Exactly what most runners like.
In the latest version, Nike decided to make slight adjustments to the shoe. Of course it's now the Structure 12, but the shoe is (in the standard width) slightly wider in fit than the 10 and 11—not much, but you can feel it.
The shoe still has the full-length Air unit for maximum support. For the lighter runners, who need this type of shoe, it can feel a bit stiff at first try, but it will get better. What sometimes happens in this model is that the Air unit in one of the shoes is slightly misplaced—it isn't deep enough in the midsole. This sometimes leads to complaints: cramping feet; or the feeling that your foot is “sleeping”; not enough blood flow to your toes; or, that they simply hurt.
If you experience any of this go to your running store and let them check your shoe. This isn't a typical problem, but we have seen this a few times in our store. Nike provides great service and will change the shoes without any questions asked.
This is another great model from Nike. It's more expensive then the Structure 12 and also slightly less stable. The big plus of this shoe is that it isn't as stiff as the Structure 12. It feels a bit softer, more cushioned and it is also a little roomier in fit, especially in the toe box.
If you need some extra support and you like a plush, soft ride this may be your shoe. This plush sensation comes from the two separate Zoom Air Units, one in the heel and one under the forefoot. This gives the shoe more flex under the forefoot. Zoom Air is thinner than Nike's standard Air units and also more responsive.
Air Span 6
Nike has a third shoe in this category named the Air Span 6. The Air Span changed a lot over the years in feel and function: variously more or less stable; wider or narrower; and so on. This version is by far the most stable of the Air Span iterations, but it is again slightly less stable than the Structure 12 or the Equalon 3 (but that's exactly what Nike meant for this shoe to be). It falls just below the models above so Nike covers a whole range of runners with these 3 shoes. This particular model uses the full-length Air unit as in the Structure 12 but is more soft and flexible than the Structure.
For the lighter runner with slight to moderate pronation this could be a fine shoe.
All Nike models are made for their Nike+ partnership with Apple, and they are all made in both women's and men's versions.
NB is one of the few brands that still maintains production in its own factories. It is the brand with the largest range of shoes in different widths.
Their top model Structured Cushioned shoe is the 1224. This model uses NB proprietary AbZorb cushioning material. This material is very soft but, to my taste, doesn't feel very responsive.
The fit of the shoes is not a problem, since it's available in 3 widths for men and 3 widths for women. Almost anyone can try a NB 1224 on his feet regardless how narrow or wide his feet are.
It's an excellent Structured Cushioned trainer with very good stability and it feels pretty light on your feet. The forefoot has excellent flex grooves and you feel that the shoe follows the flex of your foot. The placement of the flex grooves makes for a bit of extra support under the ball/big toe of the foot. If I had to say one minor negative thing about the shoe it is that it has a very high toe box front. It gives some runners the feel that their toes are floating around. But overall it is a very good shoe and one of our best sellers in the store.
Where Nike seems to build down in stability in each model from Structure to Equalon to the Span, NB is building a high stability SC shoe which could easily also be placed in the Motion Control shoe category, so stable is the 859. The medial post in this shoe is a bit harder than in the 1224, but also more stable. It feels a bit heavier and stiffer. It uses only 2 flex grooves in the forefoot which contribute to this sensation. But for a runner who needs more stability than the 1224, but a bit less than the typical NB motion control shoe (like the 1011) this 859 could be a very good choice. Of course it also uses the AbZorb cushioning system and as you can expect from NB.
The NB 769 is a sort of stripped down version of the 1224. Not that this is bad, but it feels like the 1224 without that shoes superior cushioning. It is also a little less stable, but it gives you great value for money. The flex grooves are positioned the same way as in the 1224, and the upper looks and feels a lot like its more expensive brother.
If you like the 1224 but this is a bit too much money for you just go for the 769. And even though it's cheaper, it doesn't mean NB is going to cut back on width sizing. Also 3 for men and 3 for women.