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 have been differentiated by their price 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 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. That is the reason why you see the Glycerin recommended here over the Ghost.
This guide excludes affordable trainers below the $100 price; 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. The downside? These shoes aren’t very supportive and can feel wobbly under certain circumstances.
1) adidas UltraBoost 20
The 2020 edition is one of the best UltraBoost editions to date. We say that because of the new upper design that uses soft, rubbery midfoot panels that make the interiors more comfortable.
The design of the midfoot panels has been a contentious issue throughout the UB’s history, so we’re happy to report that the UltraBoost 20 addresses that. The rest of the upper has no flaws; the knit construction has an easygoing fit that also does a decent job at locking the foot in.
You get the same midsole as the 19, and that translates into a soft yet markedly neutral ride. The high-volume midsole doesn’t favor one side over the other, thus keeping the foot centered. This isn’t the most stable shoe once the pace picks up, so it’s best used as a daily trainer at slow speeds.
Also see: The adidas Solarboost.
2) adidas Solar Glide 19
If you want a Boost running shoe that is more performance-oriented than the UltraBoost 20, 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 previously avoided adidas running before due to their snug fit, the Solar Glide will come as a relief. There’s plenty of forefoot splay room. The Solar Glide’s midfoot lacks 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 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 Epic React Flyknit V2
The Epic React V2’s Flyknit upper is better fitting than the Turbo. The seamless upper snaps on the foot with a fit that 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 heel clip keep 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 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.
2) Asics Gel-Nimbus 22
The 22nd version of Asics’s flagship neutral trainer makes much-needed amends, and that’s why it shows up on this buyer’s guide. Even the upper has been upgraded. Besides the just-right fit, the exterior looks and feels premium.
The Flytefoam has been reformulated to result in a softer, more comfortable ride. The stability has been improved too – the midsole has a wide flare that keeps the foot supported throughout the gait cycle.
The re-stacked midsole makes the transitions smoother. A single-density Flytefoam is used in the lower half from the heel to toe, so the Nimbus’s ride consistency has improved.
3) Brooks Glycerin 18
From a ride perspective, it’s hard to tell the past few Glycerins apart. Case in point – the G-17 vs. the 18.
Of course – they look different from the outside, but the core character feels more or less the same.
Just like the previous model, the Glycerin 18’s full-length DNA Loft (some form of EVA blend) midsole has a medium-soft ride. It’s not overly soft so the midsole scores very well on overall stability.
The rounded midsole sidewalls also work together to deliver a balanced, neutral ride quality. The Glycerin 18 is easily one of the most ‘neutral’ running shoes in the market today.
Bringing everything together is a supportive upper that locks the foot in place over the midsole. We see the Glycerin being used as a daily trainer or a comfortable high-mileage hauler.
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, go with the Brooks Ghost 12.
4) Saucony Triumph 17
The 17’s Pwrrun+ midsole packs volumes of springy cushioning without losing sight of its neutral trainer goals.
One of the factors that make the Triumph 17’s ride neutral is its wide midsole. Having a wider base under the heel and forefoot creates a supportive foundation of the foot while minimizing cushioning bias. The upper is narrower-fitting than before, so try before you buy.
Given the thick midsole, there’s a limit to the Triumph’s versatility. Though it’s ideal for easy daily runs or long-distance runs, it struggles during faster workouts. In short – know what to expect, and you’ll be happy.
5) Mizuno Wave Rider 23
The Mizuno Wave Rider 23 isn’t your typical daily trainer with an all-foam midsole. Most Mizunos – and the Rider 23 – use a hard TPE Wave plate that not only adds stability but also makes the ride neutral. Since the Wave plate extends across the breadth of the midsole, it helps limit foam compression.
Unlike the all-foam 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.
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.
As a result, the ride quality is very neutral. A deep groove under the foot keeps the foot centered too.
7) 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.
8) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2
The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 2 should be on the top of your shopping list if you have $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 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? 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 midsole is thicker in the back than 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.
As a result, 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.
You’ll need to buy a half-size larger if you value (more) interior space.
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.