When a brand says that a particular running shoe is ‘neutral,’ that simply means that the midsole does not have a medial wedge or a similar support feature. By this broad definition, the opposite of neutral happens to be ‘stability’ – in which case you’ll need to refer to our buyer’s guide for stability shoes.
But just like not how all stability shoes are the same, neutral running shoes also come in different guises.
Generally speaking, neutral shoes are differentiated by their price bands and use-cases. For every Saucony Ride, there is a higher-priced Saucony Triumph. Similarly, the Brooks Ghost is positioned as the mid-priced neutral below the more expensive Glycerin.
Historically, a higher retail price has usually translated into more cushioning and upper plushness over a lower-priced variant. While this generalization still holds today, exceptions apply.
For example, a mid-priced neutral shoe can have an equal or higher level of cushioning than a higher-priced model. Recent advancements in foam technology have proved to be a great equalizer.
The level of support is another factor. Some neutral shoes are more supportive than the others – even within the same price range. It is hard to tell unless you run in them.
The definition of ‘neutral’ goes all the way down to lightweight trainers and road-racers. The stability thing isn’t prevalent in those categories but you occasionally see shoes like the Saucony Fastwitch 9 or the New Balance 1500V6.
For any running shoe to be truly neutral, the midsole should have a balanced ride. In other words, the other side should not be overly soft versus the inner midsole. This criterion excludes stability running shoes with firmer medial posts. Not that there’s many left more left in the wild; only the likes of the Asics GT-2000, New Balance 860, and the Nike Structure survive.
We’ve left out shoes with deep cushioning. For example, while the New Balance 1080 and Hoka Clifton 7 are great shoes, they’re too soft to be truly neutral. A 150 lb runner may find the ride neutral; a 200 lb person will not.
Also, this guide excludes affordable trainers below $100 retail; Solereview has a separate list just for those.
Given the complexity of the selection process, the best way to recommend neutral running shoes is to group them by ride character. That brings us to the following three categories:
Category 1: Neutral shoes with soft cushioning
This is fairly self-explanatory, isn’t it? This is the cushioned end of the neutral running spectrum where each step sinks into midsole plushness. Shoes in this category either rely on high-volume foam or proprietary cushioning tech.
1) Saucony Triumph 18
The last edition of this guide featured the adidas UltraBoost 20. We’ve replaced it with the Saucony Triumph 18; it’s a better running shoe. The upper fits securely without compromising on comfort.
The Triumph 18 is also the UltraBoost’s closest match in cushioning technology; after all, both shoes are based on a midsole made of expanded Polyurethane. Adidas calls it Boost, whereas Saucony’s name for the foam is Pwrrun+.
But that’s where the commonalities end. The Triumph has always been a shoe targeted at serious runners looking for long-distance comfort. The adidas UltraBoost, on the other hand, has its roots in athleisure.
Saucony’s version of Boost feels better. It feels more resilient while being cushioned and responsive at the same time. The midsole has a wide base through the heel and forefoot with similar sidewalls on the both sides. This produces a neutral ride experience from the deeply-cushioned Pwrrun+ midsole.
2) adidas SolarGlide 3
The Solarglide 3’s midsole is softest at the heel and tapers down to a firmer forefoot. A lot of that has to do with the design. The Boost foam core is exposed in the back whereas the midfoot and forefoot are supported by the firmer EVA frame.
There’s a satisfying blend of cushioning comfort and support, one that also makes the ride character neutral. The rearfoot cushioning doesn’t favor sides, and that happens to be the classic definition of neutral-ness.
The SG3 works best as a do-it-all daily trainer while possessing long-distance capabilities.
The comfortable and smooth-fitting upper looks cleaner than the Solarglide 19. The mesh change and the re-designed layering certainly helps with the appearance.
3) Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo V2
The Nike Pegasus Turbo V2 has the best cushioning-to-weight ratio on this guide. It’s also very unique because its softness doesn’t limit its use-case.
The Turbo is a versatile running shoe that can be used for daily training at medium-paces as well as races. The ZoomX and React foam delivers a perfect blend of comfortable softness and lively responsiveness.
Despite its many gifts, the Turbo will not suit everyone. The midsole lacks rigidity so the foot doesn’t feel supported underneath. The upper fits better in the toe-box area than the V1 but this year’s Turbo has a shorter tongue with no foam fill and lacks collar padding. Win some, lose some.
4) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
Though the React Infinity is the unofficial replacement for the Epic React, there are notable differences. The ride is softer due to the higher-volume midsole, and the upper fit is more forgiving.
But as far as the ‘neutral-ness’ is concerned, the Infinity performs as well as the Epic. The heel and forefoot are flared wide to create a supportive base under the foot, and the balanced ride is helped by the firmer heel clip.
There’re copious amounts of distance-friendly cushioning that is delivered in a smooth and neutral fashion.
Category 2: Neutral shoes with medium-soft and supportive cushioning
Running shoes from this class of footwear aren’t very soft, but instead, deliver a neutral ride with a higher level of support.
1) Adidas Supernova
adidas released a new shoe this year, and it’s nice. It’s called the Supernova, and has several qualities that make it a noteworthy neutral trainer.
There’s a lot of shoe for $100. Apart from the smooth and comfortable fit, the upper looks more expensive than its price tag. The lacing and midfoot hugs the foot securely, and there’s even reflectivity for running in low-light conditions.
However, the real reason why the Supernova reserves a spot on this list is its mild-mannered ride quality. The adidas Boost + EVA foam set-up is a tried and tested form factor that usually delivers satisfactory results. And it does here as well.
A softer Boost core keeps the weight centered, whereas the firmer EVA casing on the sides and top keeps the ride stable. This optimal blend of softness and support is what makes the Supernova very neutral in its cushioning delivery.
Be it daily runs or long-distance workouts, there are a lot of use-cases for the Supernova.
2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 22
The Cumulus and the Nimbus have been Asics’s go-to neutral trainers for years now. The Cumulus is the mid-priced running shoe, whereas the Nimbus (see below) is the latter’s ‘premium’ version.
There are many updates to the Cumulus 22, with most of them being good. The midsole is more comfortable, and you still get a neutral ride experience from the Flytefoam and Gel set-up. At the same time, the rearfoot stays centered due to the transition groove under the heel.
The upper design is simple, and it works. The one-piece engineered mesh construction creates a smooth interior and a secure, true-to-size fit. The foam-quilted heel and the tongue add comfortable plushness.
Also see: The Asics Gel Nimbus 22.
3) Brooks Ghost 13
The Ghost 12 did not make it on the previous edition of this guide due to its dual-density midsole. Ok, that’s not correct. The Ghost 12 would have made that list, except that we preferred the smoother Glycerin 18 and its single-density midsole.
Now it’s the Glycerin 18’s turn to be dislodged from this list. The Ghost 13 has a single density midsole, so it’s smoother and feels more ‘neutral’ than the outgoing Ghost.
The 13 is still the excellent everyday trainer that runners have come to appreciate. The reworked midsole integrates the (formerly separate) heel crash pad, so the result is a more balanced and consistent ride.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam 880V10
The 10th version of the 880 is new for 2020, and this newness is accompanied by plenty of design tweaks. The midsole is now laid out in a softer Fresh Foam configuration, one that is smoother and more comfortable than its predecessor.
A rigid Urethane clip over the rear midsole helps with the stability, and so does the molded heel cup. The balanced design of both the sidewalls create a ride experience that is neutral as it gets.
The upper fit and feel is also equally well-behaved. The knit upper has a smooth interior in a true to size fit profile. Note the absence of the flared heel collar here; the 880’s traditional heel fit is secure and predictable.
The 880V10 also retails in a waterproof version.
5) Mizuno Wave Rider 24
When compared to the Wave Rider 23, the 24’s ride is softer. But it’s worth mentioning that the shoe is still called the ‘Wave’ Rider.
The secret of Mizuno’s ‘neutralness’ still exists on the Rider 24, and that’s the reason why we’ve showcased it here. The plastic Wave plate may have met its demise on more expensive models like the Wave Sky, but it’s very much a part of the Rider 24.
This rigid piece of plastic is a cushioning equalizer – at least in the rear. This gives the Wave Rider 24 its signature ride with an unmistakable neutral character.
There are no complaints with the upper. It’s spacious and near-seamless on the inside, all while locking the foot down during runs.
6) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37
You get the idea – the 37 is a Pegasus that has been redesigned ground-up. The biggest change for the 2020 Pegasus 37 comes in the form of a redesigned midsole that edits the heel Zoom Air bag.
In its place is a React foam core and brand new midsole aesthetic that is based on the Vaporfly. The forefoot still has a Zoom Air unit.
One would imagine the React rearfoot to be super cushy. As it turns out, that isn’t the case. Though the heel is softer than the Pegasus 36, the concave sidewalls prevent the midsole from turning overly soft.
And unlike some of the previous Pegasus models, the midsole sidewalls have a balanced design. There’re no deep compression grooves on the 37 that produces a cushioning bias. As a result, the ride quality is very neutral. A deep groove under the foot keeps the foot centered too.
7) Saucony Ride 13
The Saucony Ride, along with the Brooks Ghost and Glycerin, has to be one of the most neutral ‘neutral’ shoes for sale. The snug and smooth upper is also unlikely to polarize runners – thanks to its traditional construction and fit.
This safe and dependable ride quality is the result of a straightforward midsole design. A single-density, EVA-blended piece of foam is what forms the midsole. Except for the ‘Topsole’ and insole, there’s not a lot of softness in the actual midsole. This trait helps produce a supportive ride that also feels very neutral.
The neutral ride isn’t the only reason why this Saucony shoe shines. Thanks to the firm-soft ride, the Ride 13 is also one of the most versatile trainers on this list.
8) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2
The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 should be on the top of your shopping list if you’ve got $100 to spend.
This under-rated gem from Reebok gets so many things right. The upper fit is secure, smooth, and comfortable. The midsole and outsole are ultra-durable, thus giving you more mile per dollar than most shoes.
The sole hasn’t changed since the Floatride Energy V1, so the midsole delivers the same cushioning excellence. By that, we don’t mean an uber-cushy or bouncy midsole, but the ride versatility.
The expanded Polyurethane midsole is a near-perfect blend of cushioning comfort and support. The density is medium-soft, so if you’re planning on slightly faster runs, the shoe is up to the task. On the other hand, the density and balanced nature of the e-TPU Floatride foam give it a supportive and very neutral behavior.
Category 3: Neutral shoes with low-profile cushioning
Do you need a lightweight shoe to speed up your training runs? Then this list is for you. These shoes bridge the gap between all-out racing flats and traditional trainers. This way you get the cushioned protection without the added weight.
1) adidas adizero Boston 9 Boost
The adidas Boston 9 is a capable workhorse with a rearfoot loaded cushioning system; the full-length Boost midsole is thicker at the rear than it is at the front.
The Boston uses a firmer EVA layer on top to keep things nimble – there’s no mushy softness here. The grippy Continental outsole and the Torsion shank also contribute to the Boston’s serious character.
With these features, the Boston 9 ends up being a great shoe for speed-focused training runs. At the same time, there’s ample cushioning to run longer distances in.
You’ll need to buy a half-size larger if you value (more) interior space. There’s not a lot of difference between the Boston 8 and the 9, so if you’re getting a better deal on the older version – take it.
2) Asics Dynaflyte 4
Of all the Asics shoes that feature Flytefoam, the Dynaflyte and DS-Trainer are the best fit for it. The lightweight construction of Flytefoam helps make transitions efficient on the Dynaflyte 4 while being cushioned enough to go the distance.
The 4th version of the Dynaflyte also manages to lose an ounce and improves its upper fit and feel. So if you loved the tempo-friendly Dynaflyte 3, the V4 is worth an upgrade.
3) Saucony Kinvara 11
Lightweight trainers with a low heel to toe drop are a rare find. It’s harder to find shoes that are both low drop and versatile neutral trainers. The Saucony Kinvara 11 happens to be both, and that’s the reason why it’s on our list of recommended neutral running shoes.
The Kinvara had lost its way for a while, but the shoe returned to its roots last year.
Just like the V10, there are no unnecessary overlays or the ‘Prolock’ strapping system on the Kinvara 11. The engineered mesh shell wraps the foot softly and securely while creating a smooth interior environment. A sleeve keeps the tongue in place.
The simple midsole design is the Kinvara 11’s secret sauce. A lightweight Pwrrun+ foam midsole is in the Goldilocks zone between ride comfort and tempo-friendly transitions.
The medium softness and the balanced midsole geometry adds a supportive – and neutral – overtone.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam Tempo
The midsole lacks any complicated support features; it relies on a single-density slab of Fresh Foam to make things happen. The cushioning is delivered in a smooth-spread manner without bias, and that’s what lends the Tempo a neutral overtone. Additional support is provided by the plastic clip on the upper and the secure forefoot fit.
The 6 mm drop Fresh Foam midsole is cushioned yet low-profile enough for higher-paced runs.