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. Naturally, by this broad definition, the opposite of neutral happens to be ‘stability,’ in which case you’ll need to read up 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 shapes and cushioning levels. Traditionally, neutral shoes have been differentiated by their price. For example, for every Saucony Ride, you have a higher priced Triumph ISO. Similarly, the Nike Pegasus is positioned as the mid-priced neutral with the more expensive Vomero 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 true today for a large number of shoes, exceptions are now creeping 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 worth considering. Some neutral shoes are more supportive than the others even within the same price range, and it is hard to tell unless you’ve run in them.
Given the complexity of the selection process, we decided that the best way to recommend the best neutral running shoes is to group them by ride character, which then brings us to the three following categories:
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 large volume foam, expanded TPU, or a proprietary cushioning tech. The downside? These shoes aren’t very supportive and can feel wobbly under certain circumstances.
|Neutral - soft ride||adidas Ultra Boost||Amazon|
|Neutral - soft ride||adidas Supernova||Amazon|
|Neutral - soft ride||adidas Energy Boost 3||Amazon|
|Neutral - soft ride||Nike Vomero 12||Amazon|
|Neutral - soft ride||Hoka Clifton 3||Amazon|
1) adidas Ultra Boost
The neutral version (ST is support) of the Ultra Boost combines a Primeknit upper with a full-sized Boost foam midsole. The elastic upper has a snug and pointy fit, while the Boost offers predictably plush cushioning without feeling mushy.
2) adidas Supernova M (aka the Glide 9)
Till last year, the Supernova Glide combined a firmer EVA component with Boost, and this gave the ride a balanced mix of firm and soft.
Not so this year. The 2017 Supernova M/W is a much plusher version of its past self, the result of a larger volume Boost midsole. The updated outsole continues to be made of Continental rubber.
3) adidas Energy Boost 3
The Energy was the first model to feature adidas’s Boost tech, and it is now in its third year. The upper and midsole design hasn’t evolved much; the upper retains the plastic midfoot panel stitched over a snug fitting upper, and the full-length Boost midsole provides soft and responsive cushioning.
4) Nike Vomero 12
The Vomero is one of Nike’s premium neutral cushioning shoes. It justifies its higher price by using twin Zoom Air bags over a dual-density foam midsole and a soft outsole.
This shoe fits narrow, so consider the wide or extra-wide option if you have broad feet.
5) Hoka Clifton 3 (for narrow feet only)
It won’t be wrong to say that the original Clifton made Hoka a popular running shoe brand. The 3rd edition (soon going into 4th) carries over the thick and padded midsole while freeing up some upper room.
2) Neutral shoes with medium-soft and/or supportive cushioning:
This class of footwear isn’t as plush as the ones above, but instead delivers a neutral ride with a higher level of support. (Note: Many shoes on this list are due for annual model refreshes shortly. We’ll update this article later this year.)
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Altra Escalante||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Brooks Glycerin 14||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Brooks Ghost 9||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Mizuno Wave Rider 20||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Nike Pegasus 33||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Saucony Ride 9||Amazon|
|Neutral - medium soft, supportive||Underarmour Gemini 3||Amazon|
1) Altra Escalante
These days, the price of admission into a ‘best running shoes for..’ list is a differentiated midsole material. Altra has introduced its own spin on the midsole tech, using a blend of different foam compounds to result in a soft and responsive ride.
The Escalante uses a knit upper with an anatomical fit which Altra is known for, and the midsole is zero (negative when loaded) drop. There’s plenty of outsole below which ensures long-term durability.
2) Brooks Glycerin 14 (supportive)
One thing we like about the Glycerin and Ghost are that both shoes offer a great blend of cushioning and support. In other words, these two are ideal represent ions of true neutral running shoes.
The Glycerin has a soft ride combined with a plush upper fit. And yet, the shoe feels very planted due to the balanced midsole design and full coverage outsole.
3) Brooks Ghost 9 (supportive)
The Ghost is a slightly firmer (and lower priced) version of the Glycerin. That doesn’t get in the way of a supportive midsole which delivers a cushioned ride for runs of a longer mileage.
Both the Ghost and the Glycerin will receive their annual update this month.
4) Mizuno Wave Rider 20 (supportive)
If you’re keeping up with our reviews, you know that even ‘neutral’ Mizuno shoes can be very supportive. It’s not only because of the stabilizing plastic ‘Wave’ plate inside the midsole, but also due to the flared forefoot which gives the Rider 20 its balanced ride quality.
The Rider 20 is the firmest shoe on the list.
5) Nike Zoom Pegasus 33
For over three decades, the Pegasus has been Nike’s neutral running staple. There’s a good reason for that; the Pegasus balances a cushioned ride with a responsive feedback, thanks to the combination of the Zoom Air bag and the EVA foam midsole.
The upper has a well-rounded fit quality, and the outsole is extremely durable. The shoe is slated for a model refresh (Pegasus 34) this month.
6) Saucony Ride 9
When people think of neutral running shoes, the Nike Pegasus and Saucony Ride are often mentioned in the same breath. The Saucony Ride is a great running shoe for all round use; the EVA midsole and Everun topsole provide cushioning accented with a hint of responsiveness.
The Saucony Ride 10 is out in the market now, so a full review and an update of this list will follow soon.
7) Underarmour Speedform Gemini 3 (Supportive)
A couple of years ago, the inaugural edition of the Gemini impressed us with its balanced approach to neutral cushioning. There’s not a whole lot of cushioning give on the Gemini, and we see that as a good thing.
The semi-soft platform is supportive too, and the Gemini gets Underarmour’s unique ‘Speedform’ upper with an integrated heel area.
3) Neutral shoes, lightweight 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.
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||adidas adizero boston 6||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||Asics Dynaflyte||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||Saucony Kinvara 8||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||Saucony Freedom ISO||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||New Balance Zante V3||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||Nike Lunaracer 4||Amazon|
|Neutral - lightweight cushioning||Skechers GoMeb Razor||Amazon|
1) adidas Boston 6 Boost
In the absence of the recently departed Supernova Glide 8, the Boston 6 is one of the few remaining shoes in the adidas stable to serve Boost cushioning with a touch of firmness.
The upper is inspired by 90’s racer silhouette, and the outsole is molded out of the dependable Continental rubber.
2) Asics Dynaflyte
For a while now, Asics has been throwing a lot of shoes at the wall (remember the 33 series?) in the hope that something will stick.
They got a winner with the Dynaflyte, a lightweight trainer which is infused with the new Flytefoam midsole material. Flytefoam is superior to traditional Asics EVA foam, and this midsole is mated to a lightweight upper, making the Dynaflyte a fast and cushioned shoe.
3) Saucony Kinvara 8
With a low drop and a low weight, the cushioned Kinvara is solely responsible for the emergence of the 4mm offset, lightweight trainer category. There’s plenty of cushioning available in a very lightweight package, and that’s what makes the Kinvara so popular.
4) Saucony Freedom ISO
The Freedom is Saucony’s first product to feature a full-length Everun, and that does wonders for the shoe.
The ride is cushioned yet responsive and supportive, and all this goodness is matched with a very comfortable upper. Its high retail price is a downside, however.
5) New Balance Fresh Foam Zante V3
It won’t wrong to say that the Zante put New Balance’s Fresh Foam platform on the map. The first version was soft and responsive; the third version is firmer but retains the lightweight cushioning property of the original Zante.
6) Nike Lunaracer 4
The ‘4’ suffix can be confusing because the Lunaracer has been around for nearly a decade. And it’s been around so long because of the surprising amount of cushioning packed into a featherweight 6-ounce frame.
7) Skechers GoMeb Razor
The Razor is positioned between the relatively (more) substantial GoRun 5/Go Run Ride 6 and the GoMeb Razor, which makes it a lightweight cushioned trainer.
Considering that the Razor has a knit upper construction with an adequately padded midsole, the shoe is great value for money.