What is a Neutral Running Shoe?

what-is-a-neutral-running-shoe

Today, we’re going to be answering a common question among runners, “What is a neutral running shoe?”

When trying to buy a new pair of running shoes, one question often leads to another. You start by asking yourself “Am I a neutral or stability runner?” only to realize that you actually do not fully understand the difference between the two.

This certainly makes choosing your next running shoes a bit overwhelming.

So, what is a neutral running shoe exactly, and what makes them different?

Let’s dive right into it…

What is a neutral running shoe?

A neutral running shoe is designed for runners who sit neutral in their shoes and want to run without any extra support especially on the medial side.

In other words, a neutral running shoe is for a runner whose body is already happy during its natural stride and wants a shoe to just roll neutrally.

Spoiler alert: later in the article, we’re going to review what we think is the best neutral running shoe right now.

Don’t miss that.

How can you identify neutral running shoes?

You can tell neutral running shoes pretty much by their look. They have one slab of the same density midsole foam which provides the actual cushioning in the shoe.

new-balance-fresh-foam-1080v11-midsole

Often with a non-neutral shoe, you’ll see some kind of color differential, dual-density foam, medial posting, or Guide Rails on the outside.

asics-gel-kayano-27-midsole

brooks-glycerin-19-guiderails-2

new-balance-860-v11-medial-side

brooks-adrenaline-gts-22-guide-rails

Did you know that some new neutral shoes are considered stable neutral shoes?

What?

Stable Neutral Shoes

Nothing stays the same and so running shoes are constantly evolving to cater to different running needs and styles.

So there are lots of running shoes that are stable neutral shoes. The Mizuno Rebellion is a really good example of this. There is no posting on the shoe, but the firmer ride and the way the plate is designed acts like mild stability.

Another good example of this is the neutral Mizuno Wave Rider 24 and 25 are more stable than the stability New Balance FuelCell Prism. Even though the Rider is a neutral shoe, the way the Wave plate is set up is way more stable than the Prism.

The original Prism was very soft and I didn’t notice the stability elements that much. Even though it’s a mild stability running shoe, I found it less stable than the Wave Rider.

Also, I think a lot of Hoka’s neutral shoes end up being relatively stable thanks to their wide base underfoot.

So with some newer models, you can have a neutral running shoe that doesn’t have any traditional methods of stability that is very stable. But you can also have stability shoes that are supposed to be stable but are not.

The Mizuno Wave Horizon is a great example of a shoe that is supposed to be a high-level stability shoe but ends up having the stability so well integrated that I think a lot of people will do well in it.

I think the way the Horizon is designed will work well for either people who pronate, supinate, or don’t do either and just want a shoe that’s stable and kind of in-between.

Overall, a lot of this comes down to how you respond to different methods.

Related: Mizuno Wave Rider vs Brooks Ghost

Neutral Shoes vs Stability Shoes

There are two types of running shoes, neutral and stability or support. However, hardcore running enthusiasts say there’s three main categories:

  • A neutral shoe is good if you don’t pronate very much.
  • A stability shoe is good if your foot rolls inward excessively.
  • A motion control shoe is good if you are flat-footed and your foot does not have the ability to stabilize the runner at all.

Some companies call the neutral category “neutral cushion shoes”. So, neutral shoes are generally for people with higher arches or with normal types of arches. Or, simply, these are for people who don’t overpronate quite so much.

A support shoe is for a runner who may encounter unwanted movement at the ankle or knee throughout their stride.

For example, Brooks’ support shoes feature Guide Rails which is a track of denser foam that helps guide your foot onto the preferred motion path while a neutral shoe simply provides adequate cushioning under the foot.

Stability shoes are designed to stop the rate of pronation of the foot to help keep your foot neutral, which takes stress off the knees, the hips, and the lower back.

Companies now try to provide the same shoe in two different versions, the neutral version and the stability version.

Brooks have their neutral Glycerin and their stability Glycerin GTS, the neutral Ghost and the stability Adrenaline GTS, the Launch and the Launch GTS.

New Balance have their neutral 880 and their stability 860. Essentially, these are the same shoe except one is a neutral shoe and the other is considered a stability shoe.

The 860 has the same midsole material as the neutral 880, but on the medial side, the 860 has a section of material that’s actually a little denser than the surrounding material.

new-balance-860-v11-medial-side

So, runners who overpronate would compress this medial section at a faster rate in a neutral shoe, but in a stability shoe, this more dense medial section is going to hold up better.

Generally, it all comes down to your foot and arch type…

How To Determine Your Foot/Arch Type

You could do what we call the “wet foot test”. You could wet your foot down then step on some cardboard and see what kind of footprint your foot leaves. We specifically look at the arch type.

Some running shoe stores have some foot scanner machine that basically shows how low your arch is.

If you were flat-footed, you would see the arch part filled in more and that’s very common among people.

On the flip side, you could also have a really high arch and you would see you have not much of a footprint in the arch area.

Most of the time, runners who have a lower arch/flat foot tend to overpronate. These runners generally need a stability type of shoe to provide that little bit of extra support to keep the foot a bit more neutral.

Runners who have a medium-to-high arch are considered to be neutral pronators or underpronators (supinators). 

Here’s where things get more interesting. There’s a military study that sees things really differently.

Related:

Best Running Shoes for High Arches
Best Running Shoes for Flate Feet

Military Study On Pairing Foot Type To Shoe Type

This study discusses matching a shoe with a high arch, low arch, supinator, and pronator feet. 

Military studies are usually good because they can have hundreds or thousands of people, which means there’s a lot of power behind their studies.

Their study suggests that matching foot shape or arch height to shoe type did absolutely nothing for predicting injuries at all.

There’s also additional evidence that some of the static tests are borderline useless for looking at what’s going to happen in motion.

They claim that doing the static wet paper test won’t be able to tell you what’s going to happen when you move. If somebody is not watching you in motion, they don’t have a clear idea of actually what your foot’s going to do.

Wrap Up

So, I guess you shouldn’t use the categories as an initial guide, but if you find something super comfortable and works really well with your foot biomechanics, go for it.

Again, there is such a thing as a neutral shoe that has stability based on the shoe’s construction, geometry, wide base, sidewalls, and so on.

Everyone should have a little bit of pronation because it’s part of a natural running stride.

If you don’t pronate very much, we say maybe you underpronate or supinate. Underpronating runners tend to roll outward too much.

The goal behind determining your foot type is to make it so you could run more efficiently and more importantly to stay healthy and injury-free when you run.

Part of it is having good proper-fitting gear in shoes but also the right kind of shoe for your foot.

Related: Pronation, Overpronation, Underpronation, Foot Types and Choosing The Right Footwear

Best Neutral Running Shoe

In this section, we are taking an in-depth look at Asics’ very popular super-soft neutral daily trainer, the Novablast 2.

Asics Novablast 2

asics-novablast-2

I’ve been really impressed with some of the current range of Asics shoes, and the Novablast is always a shoe that I’d like to give a go.

Without further ado, let’s give you a few facts and figures on this new daily training neutral shoe from Asics.

Weight-wise, the Novablast weighs in at 9.7 oz for a men’s size 9 (274 grams) and 8.3 oz for a women’s size 8 (235 grams).

I’m pretty happy with the overall weight of the shoe. Clearly, we’ve got that very deep midsole of cushioning and that obviously adds weight to a running shoe, but at 9.7 oz, it’s felt pretty light to run in and that’s a pretty good weight for a sort of daily workhorse trainer.

It runs off an 8mm offset from heel to toe.

When it comes down to fit, I’ve found it true to size with average width in the toe box.

When it comes down to comparisons, there’s quite a lot of deeply cushioned neutral running shoes out there.

The Hoka Clifton 8, New Balance 1080v12, Saucony Triumph 18 or 19, and Brooks Glycerin 19 and Glycerin 19 GTS would all fill a similar role in your running shoe rotation as that very comfortable daily workhorse trainer. 

If you’re in the market for a neutral training shoe and you want a comfortable shoe for your longer easy efforts or a bit of recovery running and you like a reasonably lightweight shoe with a deep soft cushioned midsole, then the Novablast 2 from Asics is definitely worth checking out.

Related: Asics Novablast 2 vs 1

Moving on to the construction, we’ll start with the materials used first…

Upper

asics-novablast-2-midsole-upper

It is a double engineered jacquard mesh upper to give you excellent levels of comfort and support while keeping your feet nice and cool.

Asics have worked in some structural overlays around those lace eyelets and we’ve got some internal structuring around the toe box just for a bit of extra durability.

We’ve also got this beefed-up heel TPU cradle just to give high levels of stability in the back end of the shoe.

asics-novablast-2-heel-counter

In terms of the tongue, there’s good levels of padding around that ankle collar and in the tongue. I’m happy to say that the tongue is gusseted in the upper, which is going to improve midfoot hold and stop that tongue sliding around in the shoe.

We’ve got some nice perforations worked into the toe and in the tongue just to allow air to circulate through that upper a bit better improving on breathability.

asics-novablast-2-toe-box-perforations

Related: Asics Novablast vs Nike Invincible

Midsole

asics-novablast-2-midsole

Like so many road running shoes these days, we have a deeply cushioned oversized midsole that’s been constructed using Asics FF Blast compound (FlyteFoam Blast).

Asics claim the FF Blast midsole has been re-tuned in this latest version of the Novablast to give you a very soft plush and comfortable ride but to be more energetic when it comes to rebound.

You’ve also got this quite dominant heel design. So, you’re actually sunk down into that midsole just to offer a bit more stability and a bit more support in the heel of the shoe while giving you a smoother transition in your running gait.

Last but not least, we have the trampoline-inspired outsole…

Related: Asics Novablast vs Hoka Mach 4

Outsole

asics-novablast-2-outsole

The trampoline-inspired outsole has been designed to give you a more responsive bounce back. It has been coated in AHAR+ rubber for good levels of traction and durability.

asics-novablast-2-outsole-groove

Let’s go through all the highlights and the features that I’ve really enjoyed, but we’ll also highlight some of the things I’m not so sure about.

Pros & Cons

I found the upper to be very plush and comfortable internally inside this upper. Asics really do know how to construct a very comfortable upper on a running shoe.

I’ve heard a few people say that they found the updated uppers run a bit hot, but I’ve got to be honest, it feels pretty breathable to me and I’ve had no issues with overheating. But to be fair, I haven’t really run in the Novablast in hot conditions.

So, based on different other reviews, the Novablast 2 runs hot in hot conditions. 

But I think having all those perforations around the toe box and in the tongue is actually giving me good airflow around the foot and it’s felt pretty breathable.

The Novablast has just the right levels of padding when it comes to the ankle collar and heel cup for me. So the ankle collar is not overly padded and not too bulky.

The shoe offers really good levels of lockdown around the midfoot and in the heel cup. Overall, it’s just a really nice place to be.

The FF Blast compound in the midsole has performed really well and it definitely offers a very soft level of cushioning underfoot and it feels like it’s giving me a little bit back.

I’m still not sure whether it’s a bit too soft for my liking when it comes to my running shoes, but it has felt very comfortable at that slower pace I’m running lately.

Most of my runs in the Novablast have either been in the pouring rain or out on very wet roads and pavement splashing through puddles. So I can definitely vouch for that outsole rubber which offered really good grip and traction even in very wet wintry conditions.

There was one other thing that really surprised me about the performance and that was the heel offset. 

If I hadn’t known it’s an 8mm drop shoe, I’d probably have said it was a 10 or 12mm shoe because it did feel quite high and quite dominant in the back end of the shoe.

I think a lot of it just comes down to the sheer volume and bulk of cushioning that wraps around that heel.

So, a big percentage of weight is just in the back end of the shoe. And if you grab the Novablast by the toe, you can kind of feel that all that weight is stacked towards the back and so the shoe is not really well-balanced.

Obviously, things like weight, heel offset, and balance are very personal when it comes to our shoes, and a lot of that depends on how we run and how we foot strike.

If you’re predominantly a midfoot/forefoot runner, that heel might just feel a little bit dominant for your running style.

Comfort

There’s no denying the Novablast 2 is a very comfortable running shoe. It has that really nice plush comfortable upper and really good levels of cushioning from that FF Blast compound in the midsole.

Durability

The Novablast is looking pretty solid when it comes to the construction and durability. There are no early signs of wear and tear, no issues at the flex point of that upper, no issues when it comes to the padding in the heel cup, and that outsole rubber is holding up really well to the miles. 

I’d love to hear your feedback. If you’ve been running in the Novablast 2, especially if you’ve run in the original version of the shoe, it’d be great to hear your thoughts.

So, get in the comments and let us know.

Thanks for making it to the end of this “What is a neutral running shoe?” question type of article. It’s always appreciated.

As always, stay safe and keep on running 🙂

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