In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Daily trainer with a comfortable ride: Brooks Ghost 15
- 3. Daily trainer with a comfortable ride: Nike Pegasus 40
- 4. Daily trainer with a supportive ride: Saucony Ride 16
- 5. Daily trainer with a supportive ride: Brooks Glycerin 20
- 6. Long-distance trainer with a cushioned ride: Saucony Triumph 21
- 7. High-mileage trainer for tempo runs and marathons: Asics Superblast
- 8. Low-profile trainer for tempo runs: Brooks Hyperion
- 9. Low-profile trainer for tempo runs: Saucony Kinvara 14
- 10. Low-profile racer for short distances: Adidas adios 8
- 11. Versatile trail running shoe: Brooks Cascadia 17
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 how all stability shoes are not the same, neutral running shoes are also sold in different flavors.
Generally speaking, neutral shoes are differentiated by their price bands and use cases. For every Saucony Ride 16, there is a higher-priced Saucony Triumph 21. 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.
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 New Balance 860 and New Balance Vongo survive.
Running shoes with overly soft cushioning are excluded. For example, while the Nike Invincible 3 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 rather excellent Asics Superblast for long-distance tempo runs. If you want to take it slow and easy, we recommend the Asics Nimbus 25.
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:
1) Brooks Ghost 15
The Ghost 15 continues to be the excellent everyday trainer that runners have come to know and love. Our review of the shoe can be read here.
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.
2) Nike Pegasus 40
In many ways, the Pegasus 40 is a return to the Pegasus 34 form factor. Two Zoom Air bags – one each under the heel and forefoot – deliver balanced cushioning. 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 40 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 soft spacer mesh as the sleeve for interior comfort.
3) Saucony Ride 16
The Saucony Ride, along with the Brooks Ghost, is one of the most neutral shoes that money can buy. The Ride 16 has the same sole as the Ride 15, so our review of the previous model will help understand its ride character.
The soft, smooth upper is a crowd-pleaser; the mesh upper is comfortable, secure, and breathable.
The safe and dependable ride quality is the result of a simple midsole design. It is made of a single-density, EVA-blend foam – nothing else. A rocker shape and deep transition channel help with the stability and economy of transitions.
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 16 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) 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 midsole made of DNA Loft V3 foam, and we’re here to tell you how it behaves 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.
5) Saucony Triumph 21
Elsewhere on this site, we’ve often said that the Saucony Triumph 21 is what the adidas Ultraboost should have been. Saucony uses Pwrrun+ foam on the Triumph 21, a material that is similar in composition to the adidas Boost foam. Except here, the Pwrrun+ foam is softer, lighter, and relatively bouncier.
But the foam isn’t the only factor that makes the Triumph’s midsole neutral. This highly-cushioned trainer has a wide midsole with raised sidewalls that ‘cup’ the foot over the heel. There’s also a deep transition groove as well as a balanced midsole design without any cushioning bias.
The forefoot rocker profile is good for building tempo, so the Triumph 21 is ideal for running long distances without the fear of getting bogged down by the softness.
The upper uses a plush material package that works together to deliver a secure fit. The fit has changed from the Saucony Triumph 20, so read our review of the latest model to know what’s changed.
Also see: For a softer ride, consider the Asics Nimbus 25. Just know that it isn’t a great shoe for long runs during the summer as its upper tends to trap heat. Our in-depth review has more.
6) Asics Superblast
Ah, the Superblast. This is one of those shoes with a name that actually means something.
This shoe gets so many things right – it’s lightweight (8.4 ounces), extremely durable, highly cushioned, responsive, and versatile. This is one of the best running shoes released in recent times; here’s our review following a comprehensive road-test.
The headlining ingredient is the Flytefoam Turbo foam – the same material that’s used on Asics’s high-end racers like the Metaspeed. Most of the midsole is made of this material, with only a thin layer of firmer foam under it.
The outsole rubber is applied selectively on high-wear areas, so that makes the Superblast long-lasting.
A few factors give the Superblast its neutral ride character. The first is the raised midsole edges that keep the foot seated in place. Secondly, the wide midsole design resists excessive compression when loaded. This prevents a cushioning bias by keeping the foot supported through the gait cycle.
On the road, the Superblast proves useful for most kinds of road runs. The cushioning is comfortable yet peppy enough for everyday training runs, and the deep cushioning keeps the feet fresh during a long run – including marathons.
7) Brooks Hyperion
We had a high opinion of the Brooks Hyperion Tempo – the shoe that the new Hyperion is based on. It was lightweight, versatile, and very neutral – thanks to its unique nitrogen-infused midsole foam. Barring a few updates, the Hyperion behaves remarkably similarly to the H-Tempo.
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.
8) Saucony Kinvara 14
The Kinvara is one of the most popular 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. The Kinvara series has always done well on the ‘neutral’ scale, and the redesigned Kinvara 14 is no different.
Not only does the midsole flare 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 a removable insole made of Pwrrun+ foam.
Owing to its taller midsole, the Kinvara 14 runs softer than the Kinvara 13 and 12. The upper, while completely redesigned, retains its lightweight and breathable character. Like the previous model, the conforming fit runs true-to-size.
Summing up, the Kinvara 14’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 14 no longer has a partial gusset like the 13, but rather a full sleeve.
9) Adidas adios 8
The Adidas adios 8 is almost a road racer. In the sense that it’s halfway between a low-profile trainer and a racing shoe. That makes the adios 8 cushioned enough for 10k runs while being ideal for higher-paced (3:30 min/km or 5:30 min/mile) training runs and races.
The adios uses the softer Lightstrike Pro foam, but only under the forefoot. Under the heel is a firmer EVA-blend foam with a balanced midsole design. It doesn’t compress as much as the Lightstrike Pro, so it’s more supportive and neutral in its cushioning delivery.
Though this version of the adios has a roomier fit than the adios 6 and 7, it has a secure fit that’s par for a road racer.
There are changes on the outsole as well. The adios 8 drops the rib-like outsole design of the adios 6 and 7, and replaces it with a flat texture. The traction from the Continental rubber outsole is still excellent, though.
10) Brooks Cascadia 17
The Brooks Cascadia has always been an underrated trail running shoe, but the Cascadia 17 has a few tricks that make it stand out in a crowd. Its redesign includes a lot of new bits, so it’s a different shoe than the softer Cascadia 16.
Inside the midsole is a plate with an articulated section under the forefoot and a ‘wing’ like extensions under the rearfoot. This part is visible through the small window (Trail adapt) on the midsole.
The plate is good for three things. First, it’s great for making the transitions efficient. Second, the plate is also a rock-shield and a protective barrier.
Lastly, by controlling the compression, the ‘wing’ section under the rearfoot adds a sense of balance and neutrality to the ride. Not many trail running shoes have this quality, so that’s a good reason to include the Cascadia 17 in this guide.
As a stand-alone trail shoe, the Cascadia 17 excels through its versatility. While it’s not as soft as the Cascadia 16, there’s enough comfort for up to 10K. And thanks to the plate, faster miles come easier than the 16.
The upper has a standard level of reinforcement, with protective overlays applied selectively. Like the last time, the Cascadia also sells a waterproof (Gore-Tex) upper for a $30 premium.