What Is a Neutral Running Shoe? The Basics of Buying Footwear for a Neutral Stride

Natalie Cecconi
Written by
Last update:

Determining Your Running Pattern

When selecting a neutral running shoe, your run pattern is the most important element to consider. It is determined by how your foot strikes the ground during running.

Your stride is classified into one of three categories: neutral, overpronation, and supination.

Neutral Stride

When running, your foot should first hit the ground heel-first, which is known as your strike phase. As the heel of your foot hits, your toes should lift off the ground which begins the propulsive phase. In the propulsive phase, your foot pushes off the ground to help you move forward. Each part of your foot should be used evenly during your stride.

Overpronation

Overpronation is when your foot rolls inward as you step down to the ground. This means that your heel is the first part of your foot to hit the ground. Over time, overpronation can stress the inner workings of your foot including the bones, muscles, and tendons.

Supination

The opposite of overpronation, supination is when your heel is the last part of your foot to hit the ground. This can put pressure on the outside of your foot as you land, which can lead to knee problems.

What Is a Neutral Running Shoe Best for?

Runners with similar foot types enjoy different benefits from particular running shoes. The features of a running shoe most important to you will depend on how you run.

Softer landings and comfortable, cushioned rides are great for runners with naturally high arches, flexible knees, and high cadence running styles.

More stability, control, and responsiveness are beneficial for runners with a high- or low-arched foot and a lower running cadence, as well as for runners wishing to ease into a barefoot or minimalist shoe.

A neutral running shoe will work for many types of runners. So what exactly is a neutral shoe?

The Best Neutral Running Shoes on the Market

There has been a lot of buzz about neutral running shoes as of late. A lot of runners are beginning to focus their attention on their impact gait and how they can control it better.

They want to see a reduction in injuries that stem from poor biomechanics, and they are turning to neutral shoes to be more consistent in their stride. Most people assume that you need a neutral strike to run properly in these neutral shoes.

The reality is these shoes will improve your stride, whether you have a neutral, heel striking, or forefoot striking gait.

What Is a Neutral Running Shoe?

If you have a neutral gait, wearing a neutral shoe is your best bet to avoid injury and develop better running performance.

There are several different kinds of specialized running shoes available in today’s market. Some focus on stability, others on stability and overpronation control, and still others, like neutral running shoes, focus on simply improving your stride.

What you focus on as the first step in improving your running can actually depend on your injury type. If you have an issue with Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, you’re more likely to try and direct all your attention toward the heel strike and controlling that part of your gait first.

Mizuno Wave Creation 20

Many people are still unsure about what a running shoe for a neutral stride really is. A neutral stride refers to your foot’s neutral position where it is neither pronating nor supinating at either end of your stride cycle.

People with neutral feet experience varying degrees of internal and external rotations of the feet (a few degrees of each).

The shoes are supposed to allow your foot to behave naturally instead of preventing its neutral movements.

Do you think you have neutral or overpronating feet?

Luckily, there are shoes designed specifically for the neutral foot.

If you think that your foot is neutral or close to neutral, then you are in luck because there are many shoes that can suit your feet. An excellent example of a running shoe for the neutral foot is the Mizuno Wave Creation 20.

This is a neutral wear that offers great support and comfort for your neutral feet. It has a breathable mesh and synthetic leather upper.

The two-layer wave plate cushions the heel and cushioning at the ball of the foot. The wave creation 20 has responsive cushioning to help neutral runners land lightly and effectively on the ground.

Nike Men’s Air Zoom Vomero 14

Running Shoes: Who Else Wants a Superior Cushioned Running Shoe?

In this footwear category, we have many selections, ranging from Nike to Adidas. The reality is you can find a lot of different choices to suit your needs and preferences.

This article is therefore specifically geared to give you some tips on how to buy a running shoe that suits your neutral stride. Your neutral stride means that your foot hits the ground directly underneath your center of mass, not on the ball of your foot or your heel. If your neutral stride is unidentified, this buying guide will help you find it.

The foundation for the running shoe’s cushioning system is made up of the foam—whatever type it may be (polyurethane, high-density, or ethylvinyl acetate).

The foam helps to relieve the shock of your landing, as well as control the way in which energy is distributed and prevents movement inside your shoe.

The foam works in conjunction with your chassis (the midsole) and helps to disperse energy. The chassis will have its own unique properties to ensure that the shoe is able to provide enough support for you, while not limiting your natural range of motion.

By providing enough of these elements in your running shoe, you can ensure that you’re able to run well with the minimum amount of stress to your body.

Saucony Kinvara 10

If you are looking for a shoe with a neutral (or zero) pronation, this shoe offers a wide toe-box to keep your feet in great form. It also offers an antifriction layer on the metatarsal pad to reduce stress on your joints.

Though we don't talk about them much, shoes can greatly affect our stride and comfort, so it is worth taking the time to find the best shoes for your stride.

A neutral running shoe provides great midsole cushioning and the outsole material is designed to keep you moving forward. When you wear a neutral running shoe, you are less likely to roll too far inward. The shoe offers a firm bounce-back quality that will help your body maintain a neutral stride.

It doesn't mean your shoe will stop you from landing on the outer edge of your foot or even your heel. It means the shoe is helping compensate for a misalignment of your feet.

You will be able to run faster, longer, and in greater comfort if you choose a shoe that is best suited for your foot’s natural gait.

Benefits of Neutral Running Shoes

It is important to wear a neutral running shoe. In fact, choosing the right running shoes is crucial to running pain-free, injury-free, and faster.

ASICS Gel-Nimbus 22

If your running stride is mostly over the mid foot and involves a very small amount of rolling of the foot inward (pronation), you are a neutral runner.

Many neutral runners are hyper-lateral and have their feet strike straight ahead as if they were walking instead of striking with the outside of the shoe.

Because of the natural alignment of their body, neutral runners tend to run with a straight leg and without a lot of extraneous motion so they are typically considered to be one of the most efficient foot-strike patterns for getting across the finish line quickly.

The benefit of being a neutral runner is that you generally will not suffer injuries or experience problems related to over-pronation.

The key to maintaining a neutral gait as your foot strikes the ground is to find footwear that will allow you to maintain or even gain form and function in your motion.

With the abundance of neutral running shoes available on the market today, it is important to find a silhouette, with a mid-sole construction, that will yield the results you desire while running in a neutral gait.

Choosing a neutral running shoe can be a confusing process because shoes are further designated in terms of firm, stability or motion control.

The athlete should evaluate their needs regarding shock absorption, cushioning and shoe stability.

Understanding Running Shoes Is Crucial

Running can be a daunting activity to master. So many factors come into play as you’re learning to move, jog, or run.

Why do some people run better than others?

Is running just a game of sheer brute force?

Is it more about nature or nurture?

As a novice runner, you can ignore the first two questions. But you can’t ignore needs of your feet and gait.

If you don’t have a neutral gait, you can’t run fast or far using just brute force.

With the right types of foot gears, you can even do the impossible – run with efficiency, injury-free, and grace.This is very crucial at all levels in running from beginners to professional marathoners.

What is a neutral gait? How can you define whether your gait is neutral or not?

Does everything you’ve learned about whether shoes are right for you revolve around a neutral or an overpronated stride?

Do you naturally roll inwards when you run?

It’s important to understand what is a Neutral Running Shoes and how it can help you improve your running efficiency.