7 of the best neutral shoes for 2015
New Balance 1080 v4, 292g RRP: £105 – 7/10
This is New Balance’s flagship neutral shoe so it’s not surprising that it packs a mighty amount of cushioning into its 300g weight. This update features a web of hexagon-shaped foam and rubber in the forefoot, which allows the shoe to bend much more easily. This new version has plenty of welcome width in the toebox, while the upper’s mesh helped keep our tester’s feet dry and comfortable on a tough multi-terrain run. Not one for the barefoot brigade, this shoe is firmly in the heavier runner camp: great durability for bigger runners and more miles.
Adidas Energy Boost 2.0, 275g RRP: £120 – 6/10
All Adidas shoes come complete with a fair amount of jargon. These are no exception, with various boasts about ‘Formotion’ this and ‘Torsion system’ that. Cut through the spiel, and you’re left with a comfortable, responsive running shoe at a somewhat inflated price. They’re grippy in wet conditions, light enough for quick running and very easy on the eye (you could
even wear them as fashion trainers). One criticism: during testing, they began to rub a little on the inside of the foot. Not enough for a blister, but not ideal either.
Puma Faas 500 v4, 250g RRP: £75 – 6/10
The latest evolution of the Faas 500 is equipped with an improved upper and is minimal, lightweight and seriously fast. At £75, it’s also very competitively priced, although there were some slight issues with the heel rubbing during longer runs. The test pair came in white but the blue version is easier on the eye. Overall, these are a solid, versatile performer and a good bet for those looking for a quality shoe that won’t break the bank. However, a few small design tweaks at the front end of the shoe would make a big difference.
Brooks Glycerin 12, 258g RRP: £130 – 8/10
Brooks says this shoe was inspired by the clouds and “designed to feel like running in a meadow toward the one you love”. Having never done that, we can’t really verify whether that’s true. But this shoe does feel like wrapping your foot in cotton wool – it’s extremely comfortable. It has 20 per cent more cushioning with the new Super DNA midsole, while the outsole is designed to disperse pressure more evenly from the heel to the forefoot. It definitely felt like a smooth ride. Now, like Freddie Mercury, we need to find somebody to love.
ASICS 33-DFA, 250G RRP: £90 – 7/10
This shoe from ASICS is so new that, even as we went to press, we were scrabbling around for a price! But it’s definitely worth a look. It’s based on ASICS’ new Natural Foam (and not the much-loved Gel). The result? A 4mm drop that very much surfs the ‘natural’ running wave. It also promises better energy return. New forefoot flex grooves deliver a ride more akin to barefoot, although this is definitely not a barefoot shoe. ASICS has also done away with a heel counter, adding to the natural feel. Slightly weighty in the forefoot.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 31, 310g RRP: £95 – 7/10
Is there a shoe on the market with as much heritage as the Nike Pegasus? This, the 31st incarnation of the much-loved neutral offering from Nike, has been given an upgrade with the UK winter in mind. The upper is constructed to help runners’ feet stay dry, while the reflective detailing turns these shoes into lights for your feet. Of course, you get the tried and trusted performance you’d expect: great cushioning from the Zoom Air unit and some tweaks to bring you closer to the ground for a more responsive ride.
HOKA Clifton, 218g RRP: £110 7/10
This is our ‘wildcard’ entry. HOKA, the brand that made its name with its supersize midsole, has toned down the craziness and produced a neutral road shoe that’s, well, pretty darn good. Don’t be fooled by the look: this shoe is super light. It’s also pretty responsive, with a rocker-type device that encourages a more natural transition from heel to toe. The upper is quite roomy so those with narrower feet will have to pull the laces tighter. To create a shoe this cushioned yet so lightweight either involves trickery or efficiency. Either way, we’re sold.