Running shoes seem to be getting more high tech by the year, so it’s no surprise that many athletes get confused by the choice out there.
Neutral, stability, carbon, cushioned, barefoot – it can feel like a lot. But here, we list arguably some of the best shoes from (arguably) the most simple and most popular category: neutral road running shoes.
So what makes a running shoe neutral? In short, these are shoes designed for ‘neutral’ runners, or those who place their feet in a straight position when running and not over- or under-pronating.
You can usually get a pretty good idea of which category you fall into by looking at how your bare feet place on the ground when you walk or run, but if you want more of an expert opinion then most running or athletics shops will be able to look at your gait as you run on a treadmill.
Being a neutral runner means you don’t need a shoe with stability features built in. However, it doesn’t mean you are tied to just one design of shoe, so in the list below we’ve included a shoe with a carbon sole, cushioned shoes and more minimal barefoot-style running shoes.
Which you choose will vary depending on what type and distance you do, whether you have any previous injuries that need supporting and how experienced a runner you are.
Best neutral running shoes
Brooks Ghost 15
Any shoe that makes it as far as 15 iterations is bound to be worth a look and the Ghost has been a comfortable and reliable every day running shoe for many years.
This new version ticks some pretty solid eco boxes too, as Brooks tell us the shoe is carbon-neutral and made from 57% recycled materials.
Described as a smooth, balanced shoe with lightweight cushioning, the women’s version alone comes in 26 colourways (including a rather jazzy leopard print!). Our testers found the shoe lightweight and comfortable.
Read our full Brooks Ghost 15 review for more.
On Cloudsurfer 6
Many of the shoes in this round-up follow the recent trend for thick cushioning, but the Cloudsurfer 6 is one for neutral runners who prefer a firmer, more responsive ride.
These were springy and gave good rebound at toe-off, but were a little heavier than other shoes on test despite their more minimal looks, so it may be worth thinking about your needs.
You can read our full On Cloudsurfer 6 review here, as well as find other On shoes which are more suitable for a cushioned run.
Asics Gel-Cumulus 24
Another shoe that’s earned its stripes in the running shoes hall of fame, version 24 of the Gel-Cumulus offers a great fit and proved very comfortable in testing, while our tester liked the high-visibility detailing.
They might not be the fastest shoe out there, but for high mileage they’re a solid contender. Read our full Asics Gel-Cumulus 24 review for more.
Under Armour Infinite 4
Aimed at neutral runners looking to rack up the mileage, the Infinite 4’s are shown here in proper ‘stealth’ mode, but are also available in more colourful options.
Combining cushioning and flexibility our tester found these a little firm to begin with, but confirmed they did soften up with a few uses. Here’s our full Under Armour Infinite 4 review for more.
New Balance Fresh Foam X More v4
Leaping onto the trend for mega-cushioned shoes are these from New Balance, which feature ‘more foam than ever before’ underneath an engineered mesh upper.
Three width options are available, which is good news for runners with slimmer or wider feet. Our tester praised them for being ‘squidgy yet stable’, find our full New Balance Fresh Foam X More V4 review here.
Hoka Clifton 9
Hoka describes this neutral but cushioned shoe as ‘the perfect balance of soft and light’ and that’s certainly something our testers agreed with in our Hoka Clifton 9 review, saying they were very comfortable but also gave enough propulsion for motion.
The shoes are remarkably light for their bulk and come in a wide variety of colours.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
‘Neutral’ and ‘barefoot’ often get confused by new runners – but whereas neutral shoes can come in a variety of drops and levels of cushioning, barefoot shoes are always minimal as they come, designed to replicate the feeling of running barefoot as much as possible.
The Primus Lite III from Vivobarefoot is a classic, but a note of warning: if you haven’t run in barefoot shoes before then start small and build up from walking in them, to allow your muscles and joints to adapt.
These shoes also come in a wide range of colours, including blue, black, red and green.