10 Best Neutral Running Shoes in 2021

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
10 Best Neutral Running Shoes in 2021

Neutral running shoes are intended for people with neutral pronation, when the foot is not rolling inwards excessively. These shoes have no additional stabilizers or foot guiding features.

Making up around 85% of the running shoe market, there is more than plenty of neutral shoes to choose from. We have personally tested over 100 of these shoes from 30+ brands to pick out the cream of the crop.

Be it a go-to daily trainer that you’re after, a race-day shoe, or a rugged trail option, we’ve got our top picks in five different categories.

You can also learn more about pronation and other nitty-gritties of running shoes in the bottom section of this guide.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to educate, not to make any medical diagnosis or recommendation.

How we select the best neutral running shoes 

There are thousands of good running shoes out there. But we know how to pick the great ones.

How? We are a team of running shoe fanatics equipped with a shoe testing lab and a set of strict criteria:

  • Every shoe gets cut into pieces and is measured on 30+ different parameters, from cushioning softness to upper breathability to shoelace slippage.
  • Our testers log 30-50 miles on average to test each pair in a variety of conditions.
  • We do not receive shoes for free, all products are purchased with our own money to keep us unbiased.
  • Our system aggregates all available expert and user reviews on every single shoe.

Our findings are then summarized in a CoreScore. It is a number from 0 to 100 which helps to compare each shoe against 1700+ other neutral running shoes.

The top picks make it to this list.

Best overall

The GOAT in our list of workhorse shoes, the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38 is just a bag of goods.

For our daily runs, it gave us all the comfort our feet could ever ask for. And when we picked up the pace, the shoe showed us some serious pep. It was fun and lively to run in. 

Make no mistake, this can eat up miles too! And for a neutral shoe, it’s very stable. Its outsole measures 109.5mm wide in the forefoot and 80.7mm in the heel, we had ZERO issues with unsteady strides. 

And when it comes to sturdiness, it couldn’t get more solid than this. 

It’s built like a tank, and we are sure it will last 400-500 miles with serious beating from the pavement. Although the React midsole is 18% softer than the average midsole (in our lab test), it’s still very dense, we don’t see it bottoming out. 

Add in the shoe’s heavy-duty outsole. At 87.5HC, it’s 11% stiffer than the average outsole. No cap, this shoe is just built to last! 

We even took it out for some fun on the dirt, and guess what? The outsole has got major traction. 

If there’s a downside to this do-it-all trainer, it’s on its heft. At 10.25 oz, it’s just WAY up there on the scales. Other than that, it’s a great-value shoe that won’t disappoint! 

See our full review and facts

If you want one shoe for everything, take the Brooks Ghost 14. After putting it to the test, this shoe passed everything we threw at it with flying colors! 

It’s a trainer that can do everything and anything. We took it out first on easy training runs, and it provided us all-around comfort. As in, top to bottom. 

The upper has loads of padding, our feet felt cozy and right at home. It was like a spa-day treat for our feet! And who could forget that very plush midsole? 

It’s flexible and super soft, it only takes 19.2N to bend it. In our lab test, the average shoe takes about 40.2N. And in running shoes, that makes a world of difference.

And when we decided to pace the shoe, it performed well too! But where it shined was in the stability arena. All our strides were surefooted and slip-free. It’s very stable, even on light trails, we had ZERO issues.

And for a road shoe, it doesn’t compromise on traction either. It bit fantastically to just about any surface we took it to. 

It wouldn’t be a true Brooks shoe without its hallmark on durability. It's robust and we are confident it will last 500 miles.

If there’s one thing that the Ghost 14 showed some limitations on, it’s in the long-distance efforts. It’s just too heavy a6t 10.1 oz. To put it in perspective, average running shoes weigh in at about 9.4 oz.

See our full review and facts

Best for race

Even as fault-finding kings, we just had to bow down to the Asics MetaSpeed Sky. It’s the shoe of dreams! 

Nope, we are not getting paid for kissing ass. But the MetaSpeed is just everything we needed to bolt into our next PB. 

First off, it’s a damn featherlight shoe. It was like running on air! It weighs 6.7 oz, and this is by far, among the lightest we’ve tested in the racing category. 

And if it’s a performance-oriented fit you’re after, this is THE shoe. It’s very snug and secure from the heel to the midfoot, but it’s got enough room up front for some swelling and toe splay. 

Comfort doesn’t stop there. The midsole is where the magic happens. Unlike other carbon-plated shoes, it’s not stiff. It’s got a lot of give to make your feet feel cushioned, and enough to give you the bounce that will propel you forward.

To put it plainly, this shoe just screams FAST. 

When we did our flex test, the shoe took 22.5HA to bend. In contrast to other high-stack shoes like the Nike Invincible Run, which has 14.2HA, it’s a no-brainer, the MetaSpeed is much more stable.

Even during slow-paced runs, we didn’t like our feet were falling off the sides. Stability is even made better with the shoe’s outstanding grip. 

In both wet and dry conditions, the MetaSpeed Sky was a star! It just latched onto the pavement, and during some quick turns, there was none of that wobbly sensation. 

At $250, it’s a steep price to pay, but it’s a price we’re willing to pay. 

See our full review and facts

If there’s one thing that stood out to us in the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2, it’s that it’s THE most comfortable race shoe we’ve ever put our feet in.

Racers tend to be on the stiffer side when it comes to cushioning, but NOT the Endorphin. And don’t get us wrong, it doesn’t make it less of a speedster. It's a revolutionary shoe that mixes both comfort and speed so well, it gives your feet the best of both worlds! 

It’s bouncy, springy, and light, beating the competition is not even a challenge. And with its rockered design, you will roll through your strides effortlessly! 

One thing that this shoe is a bit deficient of, it’s its lack of flex. Although this makes a springy toe-off, this means that it’s not a shoe you would want to take out on walks. 

Our lab testing results have shown us that it’s 94.3N (in the flex test), making it stiffer than the Vaporfly (83.7N) and the MetaSpeed Sky (62.9N). 

And surprising for a racing flat, this shoe is durable. At 71HC outsole rigidity (average is at 78.5HC), it’s got promising strength that will last you several hundreds of miles. 

At 7.6 oz, the Endorphin Pro is not the lightest in its league. The Vaporfly and the MetaSpeed are at the 6-ounce range. But it’s not something that will hinder you from going fast.

See our full review and facts

Best for trail

Blazing through the trails was a breeze with the Saucony Peregrine 11. Confidence-inspiring doesn’t even give justice to what this trail bruiser gave us! 

May it be on slick mud, snow, over dry, rocky stream crossing, this just bit through everything. Jagged rocks and roots? This beast smashed them all! 

When we upped the pace and when we ran into some corners, this shoe gave us a 10/10 lockdown. No heel slips, and no wobbling inside. 

Protection is also key in the upper. It’s heavily padded, all you’ll feel is the plush wrap it provides, and none of those harsh trail elements.The tradeoff? It’s not for summer runs. 

But if it’s a winter trail shoe you’re after, you’re in for a treat! 

Where this shoe won us over is in its ride. It’s not cushy, nor is it comfortable, but it’s got everything you need to mute out all the ruggedness underfoot. 

When we took it out for our lab testing, the shoe required 33.6N to bend. That’s INSANELY stiff. On average, it only takes about 26.2N.

The shoe’s rigidity is not all bad. This also translates to a heavy-duty construction. We tell you, this shoe is the armored car of trail shoes!

See our full review and facts

It couldn’t get more aggressive than this! The Salomon Speedcross 5 is everything we needed to get through the mud. 

The Speedcross is very grippy, it bit like cleats into the soft and loose trail surfaces. Having run in a lot of trail shoes, what makes a solid and excellent shoe is its ability to make your ride confident even on the most unfriendly terrain. 

And we got just that from this shoe.

Grip aside, this shoe also gave our feet unrivaled protection. Even when we took it out on some of the rockiest surfaces, we never felt anything poking underfoot. It’s a solid trail monster!

And even though it’s not a waterproof shoe, it showed some serious water resistance during some splashes from creek crossing and snow.

To really put it to the test, we took this shoe out on some of the most uneven surfaces on the trail. And of course, it aced the test. We felt stable and surefooted in all the terrain we ran into. 

Even with its rather firm cushioning, it still has enough give to make the feet comfortable, especially during long runs. Even better, the shoe is smooth-riding! 

If there’s one thing we didn’t like about it, it’s the lack of ventilation. All the padding just makes it feel warm. 

See our full review and facts

Best cushioning

If you want a neutral shoe that’s going to give you both bounce and comfort, we can’t recommend the Endorphin Speed 2 enough. 

It’s the shoe that really made us run with speed, and it didn’t punish our feet for it. If anything, it gave us a lush spa-day comfort. And for a speed devil, it's rare. 

Whether you’re training or racing, this shoe fits the bill! For daily abuse, it’s sturdy enough to take a beating, and it’s comfortable enough to give the feet all the cushion it needs for the easy days. 

And if you want to kill the competition, you can too. It’s got loads of bounce and it’s very springy, it’s almost trampoline-like. Running in it is not only a fun experience but is also a FAST one. 

The quick feeling from the shoe is also aided by its rather stiff construction. It complements the springiness that the shoe delivers. 

In our lab test, it took 39.6N to bend the Speed 2, while the average only takes 37.2N. 

Even better, it’s light. At 8.1 oz, it’s in the ranks of race-day shoes. What’s even more surprising is that it has a better lockdown than its racing sibling, the Saucony Endorphin Pro. Our feet were just locked in place, and it’s structured enough to make us feel supported all throughout. 

There is a lot to love about this shoe, and if you want the best of both worlds - a daily trainer and racer packed in one - then don’t hesitate to buy the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2!

See our full review and facts

It’s not a lively ride, but if you’re looking to treat your feet with luxurious comfort, we highly recommend the Brooks Glycerin GTS 19. 

It’s true to how it's billed - it’s the softest Brooks running shoe we’ve ever tested. Every part of it reminds you of its sheer focus on plush comfort. 

After a series of lab tests, we have found that it’s 37.2HA soft in the forefoot and 39HA soft in the heel.

And if you’re thinking that it’s a mushy ride with zero regard for stability, it’s NOT. The wide platform, which we measured 117.3mm, balances everything and keeps the strides surefooted. Not once did we encounter any slip or tippy sensation. 

To really test this shoe’s caliber, we took it out on different surfaces. We ran on asphalt and on dry roads and found nothing negative to write about. If anything, we found some serious value-adding qualities to this shoe. 

First, it’s durable. It’s 77.2HC stiff in the forefoot and it’s 84.8HC rigid in the heel. Translation: It’s a tank, and it’s one hell of a tank for the heel strikers.

Second, it’s grippy and it latched into everything it came across. 

If you’re expecting a shoe that will bounce you forward, this is not it. The softness it gives also comes with the price of a dull ride. But it’s also not fair to punish a shoe for something it’s not designed to do.

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Brooks on a budget but make it high quality, say hello to the Revel 5! If there’s a shoe that surprised us the most it’s this one right here. 

At $100, the Revel made us feel like we were running in an expensive running shoe. It’s comfortable, it kept our feet cushioned all throughout our daily runs. 

And when we threw in some long-distance stretches, the shoe also wowed us not only with its comfort but also with its unmatched protection. Each pound on the pavement, our feet felt completely pain-free. 

And of course, we just had to pace this shoe to test its limits. It didn’t break. It just continued to give us everything we weren’t expecting. It delivered sufficient bounce and spring, creating a fast and efficient ride! 

Even better, it makes its way into our roster of lightweight running shoes. At 8.7 oz, it weighs WAY less than the average 9.4 oz (in our lab tests). 

In the strength arena, it’s got so much for so little price! The outsole is 79HC stiff while the more expensive running shoes are 79.2HC tough. 

See our full review and facts

A great-value neutral shoe that won’t hurt the bank, the Reebok Floatride Energy 3 made us do everything with ease. 

Just like what we do to the other running shoes we test, we paced the Floatride Energy (in all types of runs, of course).  

In our daily training runs, it welcomed our feet with plush cushioning. So, if you’re a runner who prioritizes comfort over everything, you might want to take a look at this. 

For recovery-paced long runs, ZERO concerns at all. It’s supportive and will keep the feet cushioned mile after mile. And don’t worry about shock during impact, it’s an effective dampener! 

And although it’s not billed as a tempo trainer, we just had to see for ourselves how it would perform. And so we did. And boy were we surprised! Not only were the heel-to-toe transitions super smooth and efficient, the shoe also gave us loads of energy return to run fast with ease! 

If you’re still not sold that cheap running shoes do have what it takes to stack up against the more expensive ones, the Reebok Floatride Energy 3 will make you change your mind. It even made us change ours! 

See our full review and facts

Do you need neutral shoes? 

Yes, if you pronate neutrally or if you underpronate (supinate). This is a widely-known general rule. However, novice runners might use neutral shoes as well, as shown in this comprehensive study of 927 novice runners.

nike-air-zoom-pegasus-38-heel-outsole.jpg

Around 85% of running shoes on the market today are neutral, meaning they have no arch support. Nike Pegasus is one of the most popular neutral running shoes.

To figure out your pronation (foot mechanic), you can look at your arches and used footwear. Compare your findings with the illustrations below: 

Arch-type-recommended-shoes.png

Wet test: discover your arch type

You can also do a so-called wet test to discover the type of your arches. 

  1. Wet the soles of your feet, one at a time
  2. Stand onto a piece of paper while allowing the moisture from your feet to sink into the paper
  3. Step off
  4. Look at the shape of your footprint and compare it to the ones shown below.  

If you have a high arch, the footprint will show only the front and heel of your foot with nothing in between. If there’s a thin line connecting them, you have a moderately high arch - better than the extreme.

Wet-test-results.png

If your footprints look like the 2nd or the 3rd one (or something in between), you’re a candidate for neutral shoes! On the other hand, overpronators usually look for stability shoes and motion control shoes.

If all this sounds too complicated, running specialty stores have treadmills with feet-scanning options. They can easily assess your pronation and tell you which features to look for in a shoe. Going to the specialist is also always a good idea as they can implement a holistic approach.

Features of neutral running shoes

It’s easier to understand the features of neutral running shoes when the comparison is given, for orientation. 

Feature-comparison-neutral-vs-stability-vs-motion-control-shoes.png

Neutral running shoes are usually lighter than other shoes because they don’t have additional stability features. Their outsole/midsole design is simple, without rigid implementations. They are softer and allow the feet to move freely.

neutral-vs-stability-support.jpg

Saucony Ride (neutral) weighs 9.9 oz vs. Saucony Guide (stability) weighs 10.5 oz

These are general properties only. There are extremes like neutral running shoes that are maximally cushioned and weigh more than 500g.

How to recognize neutral running shoes 

If you don’t want to check the features of the shoe online or ask the store employees, here’s how you can recognize neutral running shoes.

For easier comparison, we’ll show how all 3 types of running shoes compare.

how-to-recognize-neutral-stability-and-motion-control-running-shoes.png

Running-shoe market dropdown by stability features

Chances are the model you choose is the neutral running shoe, given that they occupy the majority of the running shoe market.

running-shoes-market-breakdown-stability-features.png

FAQ about neutral running shoes

1. Can overpronators run in neutral running shoes?

Overpronators need stability elements because those prevent the ankle from rolling excessively inward and leading to potential pain and injury. Neutral running shoes are not recommended, especially for severe overpronation cases.

2. Can neutral pronators run in stability running shoes?

Neutral pronators might run in any kind of shoe. In theory. But why risk stability features influencing your gait or why pay for features you don’t actually need? The good news is that 85% of running shoes are neutral shoes.

3. How reliable is the arch-type/pronation test?

It’s not difficult to assess arch type or pronation. The trouble comes when we realize that science doesn’t back this widely-accepted criteria for choosing a shoe (as explained here). That’s why it’s most important to choose the shoe that is comfortable. If you have a history of injuries or are experiencing severe pain, it’s imperative to see a specialist. 

Author
Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic

Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.