12 Best Neutral Running Shoes Overall for 2018

12 Best Neutral Running Shoes Overall for 2018

Running is not like driving a car. Fortunately. If you want to pick out the best running shoes, “neutral” doesn’t mean spinning your wheels and going nowhere. Instead it refers to how your foot hits the ground, and what it does after that: landing smoothly toward the outside edge, rolling cleanly toward the inside without rolling too far, and then transitioning after toe-off back to airborne flight. With efficient biomechanics, you don’t need your running shoes to address non-existent problems. Instead you can shop for shoes that are as comfortable, light, fast, responsive, or durable as you wish they could me. Keep reading for the full list of neutral shoes chosen by runners who have worn them.

Number 12

Mizuno Wave Rider 21

Mizuno Wave Rider 21

Foam is soft. Springs are bouncy. Right? For several years, Mizuno has charted a unique course toward the Eldorado of running shoes—a sole that provides both soft cushioning and springy energy return—by combining foam and a midsole mechanical Wave plate. Now start-ups like Newton and multinational corporations like Nike are exploring their own mechanical solutions. If you want to try Mizuno’s best running shoes, neutral pronation suggests you should start with the Rider 21 (runners looking for a stability shoe may do better with the Inspire 14). The Wave Rider is a daily trainer with a smooth transition from its soft heel to slightly firmer forefoot cushioning, plus it’s tied for the least expensive shoe on this list.

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Number 11

Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2

Nike LunarEpic Low Flyknit 2

If the combination of foam and mechanical springs is largely still limited to start-ups and experimental models (apart from Mizuno, of course), the revolution in the upper half of running shoes is a bit farther along. Many running shoe manufacturers are shifting to knit uppers to avoid irritating seams, reduce weight, and achieve a true sock-like fit. For Nike, this means Flyknit. The LunarEpic Low matches Nike’s premium upper to a flexible, dual-density Lunarlon and Phylon midsole for a smooth and cushioned ride.

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Number 10

Brooks Ghost 10

Brooks Ghost 10

In determining the best neutral running shoes, women’s and men’s votes both helped the Brooks Ghost 10 earn a spot on this list. With a soft heel and supportive features in a neutral shoe, the Ghost has developed a reputation as a durable and highly reliable trainer that will get you through a run of any length. It’s also tied for the least expensive shoe on this list. The Ghost 10 is a Runner’s World Editor’s Choice award winner, and a great choice if you’re more interested in running than in using your feet as a test bed for experimental technology.

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Number 9

Adidas Ultra Boost 4

Adidas Ultra Boost 4

Boost rubber is to running shoes what Teflon is to cleaning a frying pan: a miracle of technology that makes easy what used to be difficult or impossible. When your feet land, Boost is soft; when your feet launch back into the air, Boost is bouncy, with a level of energy return unmatched by any previous midsole material. For designing the best men’s or best women’s neutral running shoes, Adidas’s strategy with the Ultra Boost is to apply as much Boot rubber as possible. The result is ultraresponsive cushioning and ultraluxurious comfort (at an ultrapremium price).

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Number 8

Newton Gravity 7

Newton Gravity 7

Newton, founded in the running Mecca of Boulder, Colorado in 2007, has its own innovative approach to cushioning and energy return. For Newton, it takes the form of Action/Reaction lugs, mechanical units in the forefoot that store energy on impact and release it on toe-off. The Gravity 7 combines these lugs with a springy midsole material and a durable outsole, but keeps the whole package at a weight of just 8.8 ounces in a men’s size 9, the same weight as the LunarEpic. The responsive sole and reduced weight make the Gravity 7 an incredibly versatile shoe that’s suited for both everyday running and fasterworkouts.

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Number 7

Hoka One One Tracer 2

Hoka One One Tracer 2

Of all the recent running shoe start-ups, Hoka One One (date of birth: 2009) may have become the most successful. The Hoka formula might be called “high and light”: Hoka running shoes put lots of cushion under your feet, but don’t put unneeded weight on your legs. Especially the Tracer 2—at just 7.6 ounces, it’s the lightest shoe on this list. The Tracer’s heel stack is a bit lower than other Hoka models, as might be expected from a shoe designed with race-day performance in mind. In the search for the best running shoes, neutral women and men are turning to Hoka in numbers the rest of the industry can’t ignore.

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Number 6

On Cloudflow

On Cloudflow

To see how quickly the running shoe industry is changing, take note of this: Fully half the models on this list are from companies founded in 2007 or later. Nike, the next oldest, is geriatric in comparison. On, founded by Swiss engineers in 2010, is the youngest. On’s innovative shoes are not actually powered by cannelloni, however. It only looks like it. What you’re seeing instead are the Cloudtec units on the outsole that provide—as you might have guessed by now—a cushioned landing and a snappy launch. The Cloudflow is extremely flexible, with a firm heel and forefoot, and at just 8.2 ounces, it’s light enough for faster workouts and racing.

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Number 5

Altra One V3

Altra One V3

To really see how the running shoe industry has been shaken up, consider this: three of the top five models on this list are from Altra, founded in 2009 in Logan, Utah. Altra’s philosophy is that for the best running shoes, neutral-foot runners need responsive cushion, flat soles, and plenty of room to spread their toes. Like other Altra models, the One’s sole is the same height at heel and toe (“zero drop”), although the One is more flexible and firmer for a snappier toe-off. Combined with a weight of just 7.9 ounces, the Altra One is an excellent choice for uptempo efforts and races.

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Number 4

Altra Escalante

Altra Escalante

If the Altra platform is intriguing but you demand even more performance, the recently introduced Escalante shaves off a tenth of an ounce. Even more noticeable is the Altra EGO foam in the sole, which provides as much energy return as the Ultra Boost. Runners have rewarded the Escalante’s blend of cushion and responsiveness with strong sales, and Runner’s World rewarded it with an Editor’s Choice award.

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Number 3

Brooks Levitate

Brooks Levitate

Brooks makes running shoes, and only running shoes, and even if it’s been in the shoe business since 1914, it’s not going to let a bunch of start-ups out-innovate it. Once Adidas showed what Boost could do starting in 2012, the race was on to match its performance characteristics. Now Brooks has developed its DNA Amp midsole material, which provides cushioning as soft and responsive as anything from Adidas. Like the Escalante, the energy return from the Levitate’s soleis more than a match for the Ultra Boost.

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Number 2

Saucony Freedom ISO 2

Saucony Freedom ISO 2

For the best neutral running shoes, 2018’s picks don’t just go to start-ups—Saucony has been in business since 1898. The Freedom is Saucony’s bid to create a running shoe that’s ready for any speed and any distance. It combines a midsole based on Everun, Saucony’s Boost competitor, with an updated knit upper for an individualized fit. The flexible, responsive Freedom with a sleek 4 mm heel drop is an excellent daily/uptempo crossover trainer that lives up to its hype.

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Number 1

Altra Olympus 3.0

Altra Olympus 3.0

If you outfit them with the best running shoes, neutral feet can go anywhere. While the Escalante was the lightest shoe on this list, the Olympus 3.0 is the heaviest—not surprising or even a bad thing in a shoe designed for racing across some of the most rugged and technical trails in the western United States. It’s nearly 100 miles from the Altra headquarters in Logan to the peak of Mount Olympus in the Wasatch range, but that’s no problem: The Olympus 3.0 is ready to protect and cushion your feet for ultramarathons whose distances climb into the triple digits.

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