When a brand says that a particular running shoe is ‘neutral,’ it just 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 as how not all stability shoes are the same, neutral running shoes also come in different guises. Generally speaking, neutral shoes have been differentiated by their price and use-case. For example, for every Saucony Ride, you have a higher-priced Triumph ISO. Similarly, the Brooks Ghost is positioned as the mid-priced neutral with the more expensive Glycerin over it.
Historically, a higher retail price usually translated into increased cushioning and upper plushness over a lower-priced variant. While this generalization still holds today for the majority, exceptions are now finding their way in. For example, a neutral shoe from a mid-priced category might have an equal or a higher amount of cushioning than higher priced models.
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 1500V5.
In our view, for any running shoe to be truly neutral, the midsole must have a balanced ride. In other words, the other side should not be overly soft as compared to the inner midsole. That is the reason why you see the Glycerin recommended here over the Ghost.
This guide excludes affordable trainers below the $100 price; we created a separate list just for those shoes.
Given the complexity of the selection process, the best way to recommend neutral running shoes is to group them by ride character. Which brings us to the three following 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. The downside? These shoes aren’t very supportive and can feel wobbly under certain circumstances.
1) adidas UltraBoost 19
The UltraBoost 19 is adidas’s top-of-the-line cushioned neutral trainer. The soft midsole made of high-volume Boost foam makes the UltraBoost one of the softest shoes on the list.
The UB 19 is popular with the casual crowd due to its comfort and aesthetic appeal, but it also performs well as a daily trainer for easy runs. The full-length Continental rubber outsole has excellent traction and longevity.
When compared to the outgoing Ultraboost, the knit upper fits better and the midfoot panels aren’t as invasive. We like what adidas has done with the heel clip; it extends over the midsole sidewall and enhances stability.
Also see: The adidas Solarboost.
2) adidas Solar Glide 19
If you want a Boost running shoe which is more performance-oriented than the UltraBoost 19, then try the Solar Glide 19.
The midsole is part-EVA, part-Boost and melds cushioning softness with support. Despite its softness, the Glide has a very neutral character. The raised EVA rims and the heel clip add support on either side.
If you have stayed away from adidas running shoes before due to their snug fit, the Solar Glide will come as a relief. There’s plenty of forefoot splay room. For 2019, the Solar Glide’s midfoot loses the thick layer of urethane so the upper fits smoother than the previous model.
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 which 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 areathan 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 Epic React Flyknit V2
The Epic React V2’s Flyknit upper is far more forgiving than that of the Turbo. The seamless upper snaps on the foot with a fit which feels just right.
The midsole and most of the outsole is made of the React foam. This foam material offers high quality cushioning of a dense yet lightweight nature. The React is great for daily runs or long-distance road races.
The ride is very neutral too; a plastic rear-foot stabilizer and the heel clip keeps the Epic stable during runs.
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) Asics Gel-Cumulus 21
The Asics Cumulus has a been regular fixture in the neutral cushioning world even before the term was coined. Its fundamentals haven’t altered during all these years; the Cumulus 21 is still a good do-it-all shoe despite (somewhat) its dated looks.
Stacking Flytefoam and regular EVA together produces a cushioned ride. The rubber outsole spans the midfoot to make the transitions feel better connected.
And if you’re wondering where the Asics Nimbus 21 is, here is the answer: We prefer the Cumulus over the latter due to the softer ride (that’s right) and the lower price and weight.
2) Brooks Glycerin 17
If there was an ideal for the neutral running shoe concept, the Glycerin 17 personifies it. Don’t get misled by Brooks’s claim of soft cushioning. The Glycerin 17’s DNA Loft midsole has a medium-soft density with the Ortholite insole acting as a soft top layer.
The midsole is designed in a way which promotes a neutral transition – the ride is very supportive without a side bias. Since the Glycerin 17 is an 11-ounce shoe, it is best used for daily training and long runs of a relaxed kind.
There’s a full-length sleeve inside the plush upper so the G 17 runs warmer than some of the older (14, 15) Glycerins.
For the sake of brevity, we’ve just mentioned the Glycerin here. If you want an equally dependable Brooks neutral trainer without the Glycerin price tag, go with the Brooks Ghost 11.
3) Saucony Triumph ISO 5
Think of Saucony’s Everun midsole foam as adidas Boost but noticeably firmer and denser. Hence, if you like the resilience and durability of adidas Boost but kept away due to the softness, the Triumph ISO 5 could be just the shoe for you.
The midsole uses a full-length Everun which is cushioned and supportive at the same time – thanks to its densely molded structure.
Running long miles are comfortable with better transitions than softer Boost midsoles of comparable volume. The Triumph is also a good choice for heavier runners too, and the build is very durable. The Everun midsole exhibits excellent long-term cushioning retention, and the crystal rubber outsole makes the underside longer-lasting than the previous Triumph models.
The true-to-size upper has a smooth and secure interior. The ISOFIT strapping system goes over the inner sleeve to lock the foot in.
4) Mizuno Wave Rider 23
The Mizuno Wave Rider 23 isn’t your typical daily trainer with an all-foam midsole. Most Mizunos -and as does the Rider 23 – use a hard TPE Wave plate which not only adds stability but also makes the ride neutral. Since the Wave plate extends across the breadth of the midsole, it helps limit the foam compression.
Unlike the Wave Sky 3, the Rider 23 gets to keep the Wave plate. Thus, the signature Mizuno ride quality comes included. In sensory terms, that means a relatively firm forefoot with a cushioned and stable rear-foot – all with a bit of Wavy snap. The mesh and synthetic leather upper is airy with plenty of interior space.
5) Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36
Easily one of the most recognizable models in the neutral cushioning segment, the Nike Pegasus 36 is a daily trainer with a medium soft ride. We noted in our Peg 35 review that the ride had firmed up for 2018, and the same applies for the Pegasus 36 since both the models share an identical midsole set-up. A thinner Zoom Air bag and a firm EVA casing make the versions 35 and 36 the firmest Pegasus yet.
The newly acquired ride manners mean quicker transitions and decreased bias – all while delivering the cushioning required for a variety of workouts. The partially sleeved upper fits true to size and has adequate space. And just like the Turbo V2, the Pegasus 36’s tongue loses the extra length and the foam fill.
6) Saucony Ride ISO 2
The Saucony Ride used to have a dual-density midsole till version 9. Later versions – including the Ride 10 and the ISO switched to a single-density midsole. And why is this important? Because a single-density midsole makes the ride more neutral.
As a result, the Ride ISO 2 has very neutral road manners along with lots of cushioning for daily runs. The shoe can manage faster paces too; the consistent stacking of EVA foam and the Everun Topsole makes the loading efficient. The strap-based ISOFIT upper is plush and comfortable.
7) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
There’s a new entrant in the neutral cushioned trainer category, and its name is the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy. Quite the mouthful, we know.
This new running shoe from Reebok uses a lightweight e-TPU foam which is similar in composition to the adidas Boost but firmer. Reebok has named this foam Floatride Energy, and is used on the Forever Energy with optimal results.
This is an excellent daily trainer pick if you value soft cushioning, responsiveness, durability, and low weight. The upper isn’t very plush but has a decent heel and midfoot grip with plenty of room in the front. As noted in our review, the fit runs slightly longer.
8) Skechers GoRun Ride 7
With the Skechers GoRun Ride 7, what you see is what you get. The thick midsole has resilient and lightweight cushioning for most runs except fast races.
The simple mesh and synthetic upper is comfortable but the overall fit needs improvement. We suspect that the existing upper fit has something to do with its dual-insole set-up.
Category 3: Neutral shoes with low-profile cushioning
Do you need 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. This way you get the cushioned protection without the added weight.
1) adidas adizero Boston 8 Boost
The adidas Boston 8 is a capable workhorse with a rearfoot loaded cushioning system. The full-length Boost is thicker in the back than the front, with the forefoot getting slim pickings.
However, we have to remember that the Boston uses a firmer EVA layer on top which keeps things nimble – there’s no mushy softness here. The grippy Continental outsole and the Torsion shank also helps maintain the Boston’s more serious demeanor.
Resultantly, the Boston 8 ends up being a great shoe for training runs of a speedy kind. At the same time, there’s ample cushioning to run longer distances too.
Like the adios, you’ll need to buy a half-size larger if you value upper room.
2) Asics Dynaflyte 3
Asics’s Flytefoam finds a good home in the Dynaflyte and DS-Trainer series. We say that because Flytefoam is lighter and firmer than regular EVA – this makes a good case for lightweight trainers where quick transitions are paramount.
The Flytefoam deployed on the Dynaflyte 3 is a firm kind, so most of the cushioning softness is delivered by the Ortholite insole and the lasting below it. The narrow upper fit is part and parcel of the lightweight trainer category.
3) Saucony Kinvara 10
The Kinvara 10 is a lightweight trainer for those who seek a lower offset midsole. There is only a 4 mm gradient from the heel to toe, thus making the Kinvara the lowest drop shoe on this guide.
The ride isn’t as firm as we would like it to be, but the Kinvara 10 remains a great lightweight neutral trainer choice. The upper is very comfortable – no Prolock or ISOFIT excess here, thankfully.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Pursuit
The Pursuit is a deconstructed Zante of sorts. The upper is reduced to a knitted piece devoid of overlays; the lightweight Fresh foam midsole is protected by a full-coverage rubber outsole.
The lightweight upper and the low-profile midsole work very well together. The sleeved upper grips the foot securely and the midsole has the speed-friendly cushioning suitable for most run types.
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