Ultrasound based shear wave elastography (SWE) is a technique used for non-invasive characterization and imaging of soft tissue mechanical properties. Robust estimation of shear wave propagation speed is essential for imaging of soft tissue mechanical properties. In this study we propose to estimate shear wave speed by inversion of the first-order wave equation following directional filtering. This approach relies on estimation of first-order derivatives which allows for accurate estimations using smaller smoothing filters than when estimating second-order derivatives. The performance was compared to three current methods used to estimate shear wave propagation speed: direct inversion of the wave equation (DIWE), time-to-peak (TTP) and cross-correlation (CC). The shear wave speed of three homogeneous phantoms of different elastic moduli (gelatin by weight of 5%, 7%, and 9%) were measured with each method. The proposed method was shown to produce shear speed estimates comparable to the conventional methods (standard deviation of measurements being 0.13 m/s, 0.05 m/s, and 0.12 m/s), but with simpler processing and usually less time (by a factor of 1, 13, and 20 for DIWE, CC, and TTP respectively). The proposed method was able to produce a 2-D speed estimate from a single direction of wave propagation in about four seconds using an off-the-shelf PC, showing the feasibility of performing real-time or near real-time elasticity imaging with dedicated hardware.