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 other 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, there is a higher-priced Saucony Triumph. Similarly, the Brooks Ghost 13 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 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.
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 ‘neutral’ classification also applies to lightweight trainers and road-racers. The stability thing isn’t prevalent in those categories but we occasionally come across 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. This criterion excludes stability running shoes with firmer medial posts. Not that there are many more left in the wild; only the likes of the Asics GT-2000 and New Balance 860 survive.
The inclusion of the Nike Structure 23 here may come as a surprise. However, the new Structure is more neutral than the Pegasus 37 and 38. So we’ve swapped the Peg with the Structure.
Running shoes with deep cushioning are excluded. For example, while the Asics Novablast and Nike Zoom X Invincible are great shoes, the lower levels of stability limit their 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 ride character. That 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 every step sinks into a reservoir of superior cushioning. Shoes in this category either rely on high-volume foam or proprietary cushioning tech to deliver the ride.
1) Saucony Triumph 18
The Triumph has always been an excellent neutral running shoe for serious runners that sought long-distance comfort.
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 plush upper is smooth and soft on the inside while creating a secure fit environment.
2) adidas SolarGlide
The Solarglide’s midsole is softest at the heel and tapers down to a firmer forefoot. A lot of that has to do with the design. 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 that isn’t the classic definition of neutral-ness, what is?
Thus, the Solarglide works best as a do-it-all daily trainer while possessing long-distance capabilities.
The use of thin overlays and deco-stitch over the mesh exterior results in a comfortable and smooth-fitting upper.
3) Nike Air Zoom Structure 23
A year ago, it would have been unthinkable 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. The Structure 23 is a now cushioned and supportive everyday trainer that feels very neutral. A thick and deeply cushioned midsole conceals a forefoot Zoom Air unit that makes the transitions responsive.
The midsole is very wide as well – thus imparting the Structure 23 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.
4) Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit V2
Now in its second year, (fourth actually, but never mind) the React Infinity V2 strikes an excellent balance between versatile cushioning and neutral ride manners.
The React foam stack is neither too soft nor too firm. Thus the Infinity is suitable for regular runs at average paces ( 6 min/km, 10 min/mile types) as well as good enough for runs that last an hour or more.
The midsole is flared wide under the heel and forefoot to result in a supportive ride that’s also good for high-mileage workouts. The balanced ride is helped by the firmer heel clip; it’s a different matter that this clip is low-key annoying under the arch.
For this year, the V2’s new upper replaces the sock-like entry with a more conventional tongue and heel setup. The refreshed upper is good for the most part, and like most Nike shoes, there are a couple of quirks built into it. Our detailed review has more.
Category 2: Neutral shoes with medium-soft and supportive cushioning
Running shoes from this class of footwear aren’t very soft, and deliver a neutral ride with a supportive undertone.
1) Adidas Supernova
adidas released a new shoe last year, and it’s nice. It’s called the Supernova, and has several qualities that make it a noteworthy neutral trainer.
There’s 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 hugs the foot securely, and there’s even reflectivity for running in low-light conditions.
However, the real reason why the Supernova reserves a spot on this list 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 is what makes the Supernova very neutral in its cushioning delivery.
Be it daily runs or long-distance workouts, there are a lot of use-cases for the Supernova.
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 latter’s ‘premium’ version.
There are many updates 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 produces 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: Check out 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) Brooks Ghost 13
The Ghost 12 did not make it on the previous edition of this guide due to its dual-density midsole. Ok, that’s not correct. The Ghost 12 would have made that list, except that we preferred the smoother Glycerin 18 and its single-density midsole.
Now it’s the Glycerin turn to be dislodged from this list. The Ghost 13 has a single density midsole, so it’s smoother and feels more ‘neutral’ than the outgoing Ghost.
The 13 continues to be the excellent everyday trainer that runners have come to love. The reworked midsole integrates the (formerly separate) heel crash pad, so the result is a more balanced and consistent ride. Read our full review here.
Also see: The Brooks Glycerin 19.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam 880V11
Except for minor updates, the New Balance 880V11 is very similar to the V10. That makes the V11 a capable neutral shoe, and most of that comes from the Fresh Foam midsole with added stability features.
The rearfoot is supported by a rigid Urethane clip and molded heel cup. The foam wedge over the forefoot also adds stability during the gait cycle. Round up all these features, and here is a running shoe that delivers an unmistakably neutral ride.
The upper fit and feel is equally well-behaved. The knit upper has a smooth interior in a true-to-size fit profile.
5) Mizuno Wave Rider 24
When compared to the Wave Rider 23, the 24’s ride is softer. But it’s worth highlighting that the shoe is still called the ‘Wave’ Rider.
The secret of Mizuno’s ‘neutralness’ still exists on the Rider 24, and that’s the reason why we’ve showcased it here. The plastic Wave plate may have met its demise on more expensive models like the Wave Sky, but it’s very much a part of the Rider 24.
This rigid piece of plastic is a cushioning equalizer – at least in the rear. This gives the Wave Rider 24 its signature ride with an unmistakable neutral character.
There are no complaints with the upper. It’s spacious and near-seamless on the inside, all while locking the foot down during runs.
6) Nike Air Zoom Vomero 15
Readers may want to know – why not the Pegasus instead of the Vomero?
That’s because both the Pegasus 37 and 38 have a softer and less supportive heel than the Vomero 15. The new Vomero could have been a better version of the Pegasus; the plastic heel clip adds stability to the inherently supportive midsole.
While there’s plenty of versatile cushioning, the ride is the firmest we’ve experienced so far on a Vomero.
While the ride lacks the plushness that’s usually expected of a Vomero, the overall experience is a very neutral one. The embedded Zoom Air bag adds a snappy yet supportive feel under the forefoot. Though there’s a softer ZoomX core inside, it’s surrounded by a firmer and supportive EVA foam casing.
The upper plays its part too; the sleeved upper and strap-assisted midfoot grips the foot in a true-to-size profile.
7) Saucony Ride 14
The Saucony Ride, along with the Brooks Ghost and Glycerin, is one of the most neutral shoes for sale. The snug and smooth upper is also unlikely to polarize runners – thanks to its traditional construction and fit.
This safe and dependable ride quality is the result of a straightforward midsole design. A single-density, EVA-blended piece of foam is what forms the midsole. Except for the ‘Topsole’ and insole, there’s not a lot of softness in the actual midsole. This trait helps produce 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.
8) Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 3
The Reebok Forever Floatride Energy 3 should be on the top of your shopping list 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 ride with a very neutral nature.
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? Then this list is for you. These shoes bridge the gap between all-out racing flats and traditional trainers.
1) adidas adizero Boston 9 Boost
The adidas Boston 9 is a capable workhorse with a rearfoot-loaded cushioning system; the full-length Boost midsole is thicker at the rear than it is at 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.
With these features, the Boston 9 ends up being a great shoe for speed-focused training runs. At the same time, there’s ample cushioning to run longer distances in.
You’ll need to buy a half-size larger if you value (more) interior space. There’s not a lot of difference between the Boston 8 and the 9, so if you’re getting a better deal on the older version – take it.
2) Asics Hyper Speed
The Hyper Speed is almost a road racer. In the sense that it’s midway between a low-profile trainer and racing shoe. That gives the Hyper Speed a midsole 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.
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.
3) 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 when the runs stretch long.
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.
4) 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 the 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.
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 is 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.