Touting a soft, pillow-y ride, it’s no wonder that neutral shoes are popular among runners. “Neutral” encompasses a category of running shoes that emphasizes cushioning over stability. This usually means that they will be softer and more flexible than their more supportive counterparts.
In general, neutral shoes have been prescribed to runners who have higher arches and display little to no pronation. As we learn more through lab testing and academic research, however, experts are finding that running shoe prescription isn’t an inexact science.
Indeed, the latest thinking is that comfort may trump any foot shape assessment or gait analysis, so it comes as no surprise that these extra-cushy models are popular.
Within the neutral category, there are a growing number of options in terms of the amount of cushioning. In most cases, the heavily cushioned shoes are slightly more expensive than their lighter cushioned counterparts. When it comes to the construction of the plushest running shoe models, a long list of technologies are used, including polyurethane (PU), ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), gel and air.
The most recent advance in midsole cushioning comes from Adidas in their Boost™ technology. Instead of the EVA foam, Boost utilizes thousands of small pebbles of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). It is said to provide greater energy return, as well as being softer, more durable and temperature resistant.
Even though the jury is still out on how to best prescribe shoes, it is still worth visiting your local running specialty store for informed advice. Especially if you have a history of injuries or are preparing for a long-distance event, the experts in the industry can make recommendations on what model might work best for you. To be sure, there is still value in having someone watch how your feet function in a pair of shoes.
Check out our list of the top neutral shoes on the market this season before you head in for a try-on session. With a wide variety of options, there’s sure to be one that works for you no matter your experience, pace or goal distance.