This article has been updated with current models for January 2023. The Asics Hyper Speed has been replaced with its updated version.
In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Daily trainer with a comfortable ride: Nike Zoom Pegasus 39
- 3. Daily trainer with a comfortable ride: Asics Cumulus 24
- 4. Daily trainer with a comfortable ride: Brooks Ghost 15
- 5. Daily trainer with a supportive ride: Saucony Ride 15
- 6. Daily trainer with a supportive ride: Nike Structure 24
- 7. Daily trainer with a supportive ride: Brooks Glycerin 20
- 8. Daily trainer with a firm ride: adidas Supernova 2
- 9. High-mileage trainer with a plush ride: New Balance 1080 V12
- 10. Low-profile trainer for tempo runs: Brooks Hyperion Tempo
- 11. Low-profile trainer for tempo runs: Saucony Kinvara 13
- 12. Low-profile racer for short distances: Asics Hyper Speed 2
- 13. Versatile trail shoe for short distances: Saucony Peregrine 12
When a brand says that a particular running shoe is ‘neutral,’ it 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 relevant buyer’s guide.
But just like not how all stability shoes are the same, neutral running shoes also come in different flavors.
Generally speaking, neutral shoes are differentiated by their price bands and use cases. For every Saucony Ride 15, there is a higher-priced Saucony Triumph 20. Similarly, the Brooks Ghost 15 is positioned as the lower-priced version of the more expensive and plusher Glycerin 20.
Historically, a higher retail price has usually translated into a higher level of cushioning and upper plushness. While this generalization still holds, exceptions will apply.
For example, a mid-priced neutral shoe can have an equal or greater level of cushioning than a higher-priced model. Recent advancements in foam technology have proved to be a great equalizer.
The New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V3 (not on this guide yet) out-cushions more expensive shoes.
The level of support is another factor. Some neutral shoes are more supportive than others – even within the same price range. It is hard to tell unless you run in them.
The ‘neutral’ classification also applies to lightweight trainers and road racers. A medial post isn’t commonly seen in those categories but we occasionally come across shoes like the Saucony Fastwitch 9 or the New Balance 1500V6. And the Asics DS-Trainer 26, of course.
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 are any left in the wild; only the likes of the Asics Kayano and New Balance Vongo survive.
Running shoes with overly soft cushioning are excluded. For example, while the Nike Zoom X Invincible V2 is an excellent shoe, the super bouncy ride affects its neutralness. A 150 lb runner may find the ride neutral; a 200 lb person will not. Instead, we recommend the superlative New Balance 1080 V12 as the running shoes for long miles.
Also, this guide excludes affordable trainers below $100 retail; Solereview has a separate list just for those.
The best way to recommend neutral running shoes is to group them by their ride character. That brings us to the following two categories, and the shoes are arranged in our order of recommendation:
Neutral shoes with medium-soft and supportive cushioning
These running shoes aren’t overly soft, and deliver a neutral yet supportive ride.
1) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39
The Nike Pegasus is back, and how. Solereview was very upfront about the disappointing Pegasus 37 and 38 that strayed away from the balanced ride character of the earlier Pegasus models.
Nike makes amends with the Pegasus 39. In many ways, it’s a return to the neutral running excellence of the Pegasus 34. Two Zoom Air bags – one each under the heel and forefoot – create a cushioning balance, and the softer React midsole makes the ride more comfortable than the 37 and 38. Our comprehensive review has everything that you need to know about the redesigned model.
The ride character is very neutral – the balanced midsole design makes sure of that. The Pegasus 39 is an excellent do-it-all trainer that works for runners of different experience levels.
Design refinements have been made to the upper to improve its fit. While fully sleeved, the upper is spacious and true to size. Nike uses a softer spacer mesh as the sleeve to make the interiors comfortable.
2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 24
The Cumulus and Nimbus have been Asics’s go-to neutral trainers for years now. The Cumulus is the mid-priced running shoe, whereas the Nimbus is the ‘premium’ version.
Over the years, several updates have been made to the Cumulus 24, and all of them are good. We covered all the changes in our in-depth review.
The Cumulus’s neutral overtone hasn’t changed; the comfortable Flytefoam and Gel midsole still produce a balanced ride experience. The transition groove under the heel also contributes to the neutral character.
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: Consider the Asics Gel Nimbus 24 as well. It’s an excellent – and more expensive – alternative with a higher level of ride plushness.
3) Brooks Ghost 15
The Ghost 15 continues to be the excellent everyday trainer that runners have come to know and love.
The midsole softness is just right, so the ride comfort and stability feel perfectly blended. The removable insole and foam lasting add the step-in softness.
The true-to-size upper is as comfortable as the midsole. A soft engineered mesh upper creates a smooth fit that secures the foot over the midsole. That said, an inner sleeve or gusset would have made the fit better – a feature that the Ghost 15 (and 14) lacks.
The heel and tongue are generously padded for non-slip plushness. The Ghost 15 is also available in multiple widths – including a B (narrow), 2E (wide), and 4E (extra wide) sizes.
4) Saucony Ride 15
The Saucony Ride, along with the Brooks Ghost, is one of the most neutral shoes that money can buy. Our in-depth review explains why.
The soft, smooth upper is also unlikely to polarize runners – even with the completely redesigned exterior. If anything, the Ride 15’s new upper is more comfortable and breathable than the outgoing Ride 14.
The safe and dependable ride quality is the result of a simple midsole design. A single-density, EVA-blended piece of foam is what forms the midsole.
Except for the thick insole made of Pwrrun+ (expanded Polyurethane foam), there’s not a lot of softness in the actual midsole. The firmness creates 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 15 is also one of the most versatile trainers on this list. It’s a better daily trainer for tempo runs when compared to some of its softer peers.
Included in the 2022 update is a deep transition channel that increases the stability and transition economy.
5) Nike Air Zoom Structure 24
A couple of years ago, it would have been unimaginable to include the Nike Structure on a list of neutral running shoes.
For over two decades, the Structure was Nike’s most well-known stability shoe with a medial post. Till just a few years ago, the Structure had an ultra-firm ride and firmer foam wedge.
How things have changed. Last year, the Structure 23 transformed into a cushioned and supportive everyday trainer with a very neutral ride.
The Structure 24 is virtually indistinguishable from the 23, as both shoes share an identical sole and similar uppers. The deeply cushioned midsole has a forefoot Zoom Air unit that makes the transitions responsive.
The midsole is very wide as well – thus imparting the Structure 24 with a balanced and neutral ride quality. A shallow transition groove under the midsole helps center the weight for linear transitions.
The smooth and plush upper also happens to be supportive; a fully-sleeved interior keeps the foot secured over the neutral midsole.
Also see: The Nike Air Zoom Vomero 16.
6) Brooks Glycerin 20
If you haven’t read our review of the Brooks Glycerin 20, here’s the gist of it.
The Glycerin 20 gets a brand-new midsole made of DNA Loft V3, and we’re here to tell you how it feels under the foot.
Contrary to Brooks’ marketing claims, the DNA Loft V3 midsole isn’t super soft. The foam stack is deeply cushioned, but firm. On the bright side, this new midsole offers a near-perfect blend of cushioning comfort and support.
There are no corrective features or cushioning bias, so the Glycerin 20 has a supportive and neutral ride character. The upper fit is excellent as always; the interiors are plush, secure, and true-to-size.
7) Adidas Supernova 2
The Supernova is a lot of shoe for $100. Besides the smooth and comfortable fit, the upper looks more expensive than its price tag. The lacing and midfoot hug the foot securely, and there’s even reflectivity for running in low-light conditions.
However, the real reason why the Supernova 2 features here is its balanced 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 makes the Supernova 2 very neutral in its cushioning delivery.
Be it daily runs or long-distance workouts, the Supernova 2 is a good fit for many use cases. By most benchmarks, the Supernova V2’s softer and plusher ride is an improvement over the Supernova 1.
8) New Balance Fresh FoamX 1080V12
There aren’t many neutral cruisers that get long-distance comfort right, but the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080V12 is an exception.
This shoe is a stellar example of various footwear best practices coming together, and also demonstrates that a shoe doesn’t require a high-tech foam to be exceptional.
The Fresh Foam X is an EVA-based material, but the means justify the end.
Which is – an uber-comfortable yet neutral ride quality that makes high-mileage training runs or marathons easy on the feet. The generously cushioned midsole contains a deep reservoir of comfort that doesn’t feel mushy.
The upper is excellent. The stretchy upper creates an interior environment that feels secure yet utterly plush at the same time; not many shoes can achieve that. Did we pique your interest? Our detailed review can be found here.
Neutral shoes with low-profile cushioning
Do you want a lightweight shoe to speed up your training runs? This list is for you, then. These shoes bridge the gap between all-out racing flats and traditional trainers.
1) Brooks Hyperion Tempo
We have a high opinion of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo. It’s lightweight, versatile, and very neutral – thanks to its peculiar midsole foam that is nitrogen-infused.
The ‘DNA Flash’ foam is a firm cushioning foam that’s good for several things. It delivers an efficient ride that feels comfortable at higher paces. At the same time, the stack provides adequate levels of impact protection during long runs.
Besides the speed-friendly character, the Hyperion’s firm midsole is affirmatively neutral in its cushioning delivery. The sidewall design is balanced on both sides, and the firmness has inherent levels of stability.
The upper is surprisingly comfortable for a speed shoe. The forefoot is relatively accommodating with the soft mesh making the insides comfortable.
2) Saucony Kinvara 13
The Kinvara is, without any reasonable doubt, one of the most – if not the most – well-known running shoes with a 4mm drop. And its low heel-to-toe offset isn’t the only reason for Kinvara’s inclusion on this list.
This lightweight trainer is also a versatile running shoe with a markedly neutral ride. Though the Kinvara always did well on the ‘neutral’ scale, the redesigned midsole of the Kinvara 12 made it even better. The Kinvara 13 shares the same midsole with the 12, so nothing has changed from a ride viewpoint. Our detailed review is here.
Not only does the midsole flares outwards under the heel and forefoot, but it also lacks any cushioning bias that could potentially make one side softer than the other. The EVA-blend midsole (Pwrrun) has a supportive quality, with the step-in softness delivered by the ‘Topsole’ and removable insole.
And sorry, there’s no Pwrrun+ insole on the Kinvara 13 like the Peregrine 12 or Ride 15.
Summing up, the Kinvara 13’s midsole occupies a sweet spot between ride comfort and tempo-friendly transitions.
The new upper’s fit and feel are superb – the mesh is soft and the exteriors have a clean profile. The true-to-size upper disappears over the foot during runs.
Just know that the Kinvara 13 no longer has a full sleeve like the 12, but only a partial gusset.
3) Asics Hyper Speed 2
The Hyper Speed V2 is almost a road racer. In the sense that it’s halfway between a low-profile trainer and a racing shoe. That gives the Hyper Speed 2 a ride that’s cushioned enough for 10k runs while feeling at home during higher-paced (4:30 min/km or 7 min/mile) training runs and races.
We reviewed the Asics Metaracer on this site, and the Asics Hyper Speed 2 is heavily inspired by the more expensive Carbon-plated shoe.
The styling and comfortable upper fit are not the only things that the Hyper Speed inherits from the Metaracer; the low-profile EVA midsole (Flytefoam) delivers its cushioning in a very neutral way. The foam stack has a supportive side profile that keeps the weight centered through the gait cycle.
This is the second iteration of Asics’s under-rated speed shoe; we reviewed the original Hyper Speed here.
Neutral trail running shoe
Though trail running shoes are not grouped by stability and neutral categories, the Saucony Peregrine 12 is as neutral as it gets.
1) Saucony Peregrine 12
Some trail running shoes are more neutral than others. The Saucony Peregrine 12, with its firm low-profile ride and protective rock plate, exhibits a very neutral ride behavior.
And it’s not just the midsole firmness that makes it neutral. The midsole has a balanced sidewall design that does not promote any cushioning bias.
Besides the neutralness, the Saucony Peregrine 12 is also a versatile trail running shoe.
The outsole is grippy, and the minimal midsole is good for proprioceptive feedback. For 2022, the Peregrine gets an insole made of expanded Polyurethane (Pwrrun+) that places a layer of underfoot cushioning. Our full review is here.
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