Best neutral running shoes

by Solereview editors

The best neutral running shoes

This article has been updated with current models for November 2021. The Asics Solarglide, Brooks Ghost 13, Nike Structure 23, and Saucony Triumph 18 have been replaced with their updated versions. The adidas Boston 9, Mizuno Wave Rider 24, New Balance 880V11, Nike React Infinity Run V2, and Nike Vomero 15 have been removed.

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 14, there is a higher-priced Saucony Triumph 19. Similarly, the Brooks Ghost 14 is positioned as the lower-priced version of the more expensive and plusher Glycerin 19.

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 $100 Reebok Floatride Energy 3 and its expanded PU midsole is an excellent example. Even the New Balance Fuelcell Rebel V2 (not on this guide) 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.

The inclusion of the Nike Structure 24 here may come as a surprise. However, the new Structure is more neutral than even the Pegasus 38. So we’ve swapped the Peg with the Structure.

Running shoes with deep cushioning are excluded. For example, while the Nike Zoom X Invincible 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.

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 their ride character. That brings us to the following two categories, and the shoes are arranged in our recommended order:

Neutral shoes with medium-soft and supportive cushioning

These running shoes aren’t overly soft, and deliver a neutral yet supportive ride.

 

1) Brooks Ghost 14

Last year, the Ghost 13 traded its dual-density midsole for a single-density foam stack.

As a result, the ride acquired a smoother and more ‘neutral’ feel. The Ghost 14 has a brand-new midsole and outsole design, but it retains a similar ride character as the Ghost 13.

In short, the Ghost 14 continues to be the excellent everyday trainer that runners have come to know and love.

The midsole softness is just right, so ride comfort and stability co-exist in harmony. 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.

The heel and tongue are generously padded for non-slip plushness. The Ghost 14 is also available in multiple widths – including a B (narrow), and 2E (wide), and 4E (extra wide) sizes.

Also see: The Brooks Glycerin 19, Asics Nimbus Lite 2.

2) Asics Gel-Cumulus 23

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.

There are many updates made to the Cumulus 23, and all of them are good. The Cumulus’s neutral overtone hasn’t changed; the comfortable Flytefoam and Gel midsole still produce a balanced ride experience. Also helping the neutral character is 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.

For 2021, the mesh receives a decorative texture that makes the Cumulus more premium-looking.

Also see: Consider the Asics Gel Nimbus 23 as well. It’s an excellent – and more expensive – alternative with a higher level of ride and fit plushness.

3) Saucony Ride 14

The Saucony Ride, along with the Brooks Ghost and Glycerin, is one of the most neutral shoes that money can buy. The soft and smooth upper is also unlikely to polarize runners – thanks to its traditional construction and fit.

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 ‘Topsole’ and removable insole, 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 14 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.

4) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 3

The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 3 is an excellent pick if you’ve got $100 to spend on a neutral trainer.

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 delivering a lot of miles per dollar spent.

The midsole and outsole may have changed for this year, but rest assured – the midsole delivers the same cushioning excellence. By that, we don’t mean an uber-cushy or bouncy midsole, but a versatile and very neutral ride.

The expanded Polyurethane midsole is a near-perfect blend of cushioning comfort and support. The density borders on firm, so if you’re planning on slightly faster runs, the shoe is up to the task.

On the other hand, the firm density and balanced nature of the e-TPU Floatride foam give it a supportive and very neutral character.

5) adidas SolarGlide 4

The Solarglide 4’s midsole is softest under the heel and tapers down to a firmer forefoot. The Boost foam core is exposed in the back whereas the midfoot and forefoot are supported by a 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 if that isn’t the classic definition of neutral-ness, what is?

Thus, the Solarglide 4 works best as a do-it-all daily trainer with long-distance capabilities.

The use of thin overlays and deco-stitch over the mesh exterior results in a comfortable and smooth-fitting upper.

6) 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.

7) Saucony Triumph 19

The Triumph has always been an excellent neutral running shoe for long-distance comfort; the Triumph 19 is no different.

The Pwrrun+ foam feels resilient while delivering its cushioned and responsive ride. The midsole has a wide base through the heel and forefoot with balanced sidewalls on either side. The midsole is made of expanded Polyurethane, and that translates into several hundred miles of reliable comfort.

This produces a neutral ride experience without being overly soft. The Triumph 19’s upper has been redesigned with a lighter and better-ventilated mesh that also creates a more accommodating interior. So much so that we featured it on our breathable shoe guide.

8) Adidas Supernova

adidas released a new shoe last year, and it’s nice. This running shoe called the Supernova possesses several qualities that make it a noteworthy neutral trainer.

This is 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 hug the foot securely, and there’s even reflectivity for running in low-light conditions.

However, the real reason why the Supernova features here 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 makes the Supernova very neutral in its cushioning delivery.

Be it daily runs or long-distance workouts, the Supernova caters to a lot of use-cases.

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) Asics Hyper Speed

The Hyper Speed is almost a road racer. In the sense that it’s half way between a low-profile trainer and racing shoe. That gives the Hyper Speed a ride that’s cushioned enough for 10k runs while feeling at home during higher-paced (4:30 min/km or 7 min/mile) everyday sessions.

We reviewed the Asics Metaracer earlier this year, and the Asics Hyper Speed happens to be heavily inspired by the more expensive Carbon-plated shoe.

Asics Hyper Speed heel stability

The ride stability is good, and the cushioning is neutral.

The styling and comfortable upper fit are not the only things that the Hyper Speed inherits from the Metaracer; the low-profile EVA midsole delivers its cushioning in a very neutral manner. The foam stack has a supportive side profile that keeps the weight centered through the gait cycle.

Our detailed review of the Hyper Speed is here.

2) 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.

DNA flash on the Brooks Hyperion Tempo

The DNA Flash midsole has a very neutral cushioning quality.

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.

3) Saucony Kinvara 12

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 12’s redesigned midsole makes it even better.

The heel midsole of the Saucony Kinvara 12.

The midsole sidewalls have a wide flare – both under the heel and forefoot. That’s good news for ride stability.

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.

In short, the Kinvara 12’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 the cleanest profile we’ve seen on the Kinvara in a long time. The true-to-size upper simply disappears over the foot during runs. Our in-depth review is here.

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