Not only do stability shoes last significantly longer than their lightweight counterparts, but they also provide similar sensations to what most players grew up with. Stability tennis shoes have wide, supportive foundations and stiff, uncompromising uppers that provide a true, one-to-one response. Nowadays, they are lighter and more natural feeling than ever and don’t require the decade-long break-in they once did.
Here are our top 4 favourites, in no particular order.
Nike Air Zoom Vapor Cage
The Vapor Cage is the first tennis shoe I've seen with a raised, rocking heel section on the outsole. It almost looks like a runner. And the first time I saw it, I thought to myself: "what a stupid concept; it's going to be so unstable and potentially dangerous."
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Nike rarely makes serious design mistakes, and the Vapor Cage is no exception. The odd looking rear area has no detrimental effect on the shoe's stability and gives the unique sensation of a seamless heel-to-toe transition when running during a rally. It almost feels like a running and tennis shoe combined into one, with few downsides from either.
Beyond that, the shoe is extremely comfortable, combining Nike's widest last with a soft and flexible upper. The knit material is thick and padded and moulds seamlessly to the foot after a little break-in.
The Vapor Cage is a stability and durability shoe in its truest form. The outsole is stiff, and the upper, while soft around the foot, remains rigid on lateral cuts. Rubber elements are also littered throughout, making it very durable, especially compared to other Nike shoes. One thing to remember: the rubber elements and the thick knitted upper make this shoe pretty toasty on summer days. Make sure to grab a light colour if you're playing in 30+ degree weather!
Asics Gel Resolution 8
The fact we are on the 8th generation of the Gel Resolution is testament to the quality and performance of this shoe. Usually, when a model falls behind the industry curve, it is dropped or renamed to create a sentiment of anticipation. That never happened with the Gel Resolution.
This shoe is synonymous with stability and durability, and the updates from generation to generation represent tweaks for perfection rather than drastic overhauls. Why change a good thing, after all?
This version of the Gel Res is undoubtedly the best. Asics have reduced the shoe’s weight while sacrificing none of the core elements that make the Gel Resolution great. The upper has bulletproof durability, the sole is stiff and unyielding, and the Dynawall sidewall provides fantastic energy return on hard cuts and lateral movements. Somehow, this version also feels natural and forgiving and requires barely any break-in. And it is remarkably breathable.
In terms of fit, it’s true to Asics; a low, wide heel area with a fairly standard width throughout and a bit of added length at the toe. Asics have rarely changed the last of the Gel Resolution, so if they fit you in the past, the 8th will fit as well.
New Balance LAV V2
The first LAV was awesome and became an instant classic.
The shoe was very comfortable and fit various foot types well. Controversially, I think that shoe was mediocre if we're talking about pure performance. The upper was very soft but sewn onto a stiff, thick outsole. It felt like the two pieces moved in disconnect, resulting in quite a bit of rollover. That one-to-one feel we expect with stability shoes wasn't there, but that has drastically changed with the LAV V2.
At first glance, the shoes are very different.
So are the performance characteristics. The initial step in comfort is not as good but develops over time; however, the shoe shines in its stability on the court. Because the upper is stiffer, it reacts with the outsole and provides a stable response on lateral cuts. The sole is also pancake flat, like it was on the V1, giving you that grounded and stable sensation similar to Nike Vapors of old, albeit with a much higher stack.
There is little fancy technology in the LAV V2, so the shoe doesn't feel bouncy or springy, and New Balance doesn't make claims of x% in energy return when cutting or stepping. Instead, you get a grounded, responsive stability shoe with a comfortable upper and a classic New Balance shape.
Durability-wise, the LAV V2 is much better than its predecessor. The tighter weave of knit and generous rubber elements make it one of the more durable shoes out there.
Unlike the Gel Resolution above, the Barricade did leave Adidas' lineup for some time. The model's popularity had waned, and as Adidas have notoriously done with their soccer shoes, they killed the line, only to bring it back in a sort of resurrection attempt for the Barricade.
This version is drastically different from what it has been in the past but still maintains its stability and durability status.
Adidas has designed this Barricade to be sleek and tight-fitting throughout. The heel cup is narrow, slanted inwards, and has quite a bit of padding to hold the heel in tightly. Throughout the rest of the shoe, the upper is fairly low volume. It is a tight-fitting Barricade, and the width is adequate but not substantial enough for those with very wide feet (like it has been in the past). All this makes it perfect for those who may not have been able to use the wide, bulky Barricades of old; it brings Adidas' structured, stability style to those with lower volume feet.
That said, the actual outsole of the Barricade is wide, providing a stable platform. The upper is durable but also flexible. Because of its tighter profile, it is a responsive shoe and is lighter than it has been in the past.
This Barricade may not reflect the line's history, but it is a great shoe to bring the model into the modern game.
Some have tried to bury stability and durability shoes into a grave with the dinosaurs.
While the marketing behind their tech and target audience may not be as sexy as that of their lightweight counterparts, these guys aren’t going anywhere. The lockdown and robust response they provide will never be emulated by something with much less material, and their durability often dwarfs shoes considered more lightweight. Now, we are fortunate to have a plethora of great stability shoes that are pushing the needle for what we thought possible from these styles.