Best Cheap Running Shoes
Find the right shoe for your running style and your budget. From Asics to Saucony, Brooks & Nike, we've analyzed the pros and cons to find the best for less.
What We Considered
The search for the right cheap running shoe is highly personal. No two people's feet are the same, so a model that works for your friend or an anonymous reviewer may not be appropriate for you. Sometimes runners choose shoes that are said to suit their feet but simply aren't comfortable; the consequences of that initial choice are apparent in user reviews.
We Looked At
In most consumers' estimation, a comfortable shoe is one with excellent cushioning, plenty of support, and a fit that makes them want to run. Reviews indicate whether features such as a "triple-density Dynamic Support system" actually perform as promised. The Brooks PureConnect line sports a unique toe-flex outsole, which separates the sole of the big toe from the rest. Some reviewers express initial skepticism that the split design will be comfortable, but an expert writing for Solereview says the feature doesn't have much of an effect, for good or ill.
While running shoe reviews are a good indicator of comfort, the final purchase decision should depend on the way a shoe feels on your foot. Even if you ultimately buy online, experts strongly urge that you try on whichever shoes are in the running before making a purchase.
A Saucony Kinvara review by Runner's World concludes that the already well-regarded shoe is getting better every year. This version promises improved durability, with extra rubber on the outsole and a redesigned mesh upper with a more plush collar (the rim that surrounds the ankle). The magazine declares the Saucony Kinvara 5 a "responsive ride" and names it an Editor's Choice.
The Saucony Kinvara 5 (starting at $63, Amazon) also garners cheers from consumers. At Amazon and Road Runner Sports, reviewers comment on the shoe's sturdier mesh upper and improved forefoot flexibility. One runner who logged 80 miles before posting a review says the shoes hold up well in a variety of training runs, ranging from long distance and speed work to hard-packed trails and runs in mud/ice.
Other reviews, including an expert appraisal in the Running Times, laud the new Pro-Lock lacing system, which wraps mid-foot and provides a secure yet flexible fit. One reviewer mentions that it took him a few runs to get used to the lacing. Overall users are impressed with the comfort of this shoe.
The Saucony Kinvara 5, which comes in men's and women's styles, is a neutral running shoe with a minimalist bent; it's designed for people with normal to high arches and normal pronation. The construction is simple and very light -- just 6.7 to 7.7 ounces, depending on gender and size. Saucony's proprietary technology includes memory foam heel pods, a breathable upper made with FlexFilm, and PowerGrid cushioning in the midsole.
The combination of lightweight, sturdy construction and responsive performance keeps reviewers gushing about the Saucony Kinvara 5. That's enough to warrant placement at the top of our list of recommended budget running shoes.
Saucony Guide reviews heap praise on this stability shoe designed for runners with a tendency toward "overpronation," or a pronounced inward rolling or flattening of the foot when it hits the ground. Both male and female runners swear by them, according to reviews posted on Amazon. Many are loyal fans of the line or converts from Asics or Nike. They report that no break-in period is necessary -- the shoe is comfortable right out of the box. Many mention the arch support, whether it's for hours spent on their feet at work, stints on the treadmill, or training runs outside. As a stability running shoe, the Saucony Guide 8 (starting at $85, Amazon) weighs slightly more than neutral models, coming in at 9 to 10.4 ounces, depending on gender and size. Yet the shoes feel sufficiently light, reviewers say, while providing ample cushioning.
The consensus is similar in reviews at Zappos and Road Runner Sports. Multiple reviews note the extra room in the toe box and one credits the shoe with supreme ankle support. About the only sour note is a couple of comments on Amazon that reference a tighter fit in the women's version; some users suggest buying a half size larger than normal.
Stability in this shoe comes from a molded and contoured sock liner, which cradles the arch while providing cushioning to the heel, and a medial post in the midsole to support the arch. High-density EVA foam provides a plush cushion. The shoe features a mesh upper and special lining to keep moisture at bay.
If you want a stability running shoe and your budget is limited, so, too, are your options. For a stability shoe in the Cheapism price range, this one stacks up well, with comfortable arch support and cushioning. The Saucony Guide 8 hits the cheap ceiling hard but is worth the investment. If you can't find a low price for your size and color choice, look for last year's version, the Saucony Guide 7. Solereview considers the two a 94 percent match.
Runners who have posted Brooks PureConnect reviews at Zappos regard this shoe as extremely lightweight, super supportive, and well-cushioned. This assessment is shared by experts at Solereview, who laud the excellent transition from impact to push-off, as well as the light weight, cushion, and responsiveness of the Brooks PureConnect 4 (starting at $100, Amazon). Compared with its highly regarded predecessor, this model offers a more cushioned ride and a plumper, softer upper. The shoe is available in men's and women's styles.
The Brooks PureConnect 4 is something of a cross between a neutral shoe and a minimalist running shoe. It suits people with normal arches and normal pronation who prefer a barely-there feel but still like a well-cushioned ride. A noticeably contoured insole creates a raised profile for arch support. There's a 4-millimeter drop between the heel and the toe.
The design of these budget-priced running shoes features a few novelties. A unique toe-flex outsole puts a 1-inch split between the big toe and the rest, promising more independent and natural movement, although Solereview says it doesn't do much to help generate more power. Brooks' BioMoGo midsole foam and DNA gel provide the right amount of cushioning for a neutral shoe while keeping the weight down between 7 and 9.13 ounces, depending on gender and size. The upper is made of pliable mesh for plenty of breathability.
A minimalist experience wrapped in a neutral package, the Brooks PureConnect 4 claims its share of devotees. Although the price pushes our Cheapism limit, users have few gripes and generally find true comfort when running in these shoes. If you want to try a minimalist-like shoe with neutral cushioning, this is the one to grab.
This neutral running shoe, designed for people with normal pronation and higher arches, commands positive attention in Asics Gel-Excel33 reviews. Compared with its predecessor, the Asics Gel-Excel33 3 (starting at $63, Amazon) features a snugger fit in the heel and midfoot and is an ounce lighter: 7.4 to 11 ounces, depending on gender and size. There's a 10-millimeter offset, or drop, from heel to forefoot. Deep flex grooves in the outsole allow the shoe to bend easily, providing a smooth toe-off.
User reviews on the Asics website and the retail site Road Runner Sports attest to the comfort of the shoe's gel cushioning technology and wide, roomy toe box. They also praise the flexibility, breathability, and comfort of the seamless upper. More than one reviewer describes the shoe as "springy" and ready to go out of the box. The FluidRide midsole is light, durable, and very responsive.
Overall the shoes are so comfortable, one reviewer says, that she wears them around the house like slippers. Anti-odor sock liners provide a snug feel. Two other reviewers swear by the Asics Gel-Excel33 3 for volleyball practice, training, and half marathons. An expert review from Runner's World lauds the shoe for being well-cushioned and flexible.
Gel technology, responsive cushioning, light weight, and overall comfort earn this shoe votes of confidence from experts and consumers. For a budget price, runners get the support required for a very comfortable run.
Loyal fans of Nike's Zoom Structure line are disappointed in this version, according to Nike Structure 17 reviews. What was once deemed a top stability shoe for runners who like more arch support fell in the rankings with its 16th and 17th incarnations. As Solereview explains, earlier editions of this shoe featured a medial support post to provide stability and discourage overpronation (an inward roll and flattening of the foot with each stride). The Nike Air Zoom Structure 17 (starting at $74, Amazon), along with the previous model, uses a different midsole construction. Foam of two different densities is fused diagonally together. Instead of providing stability, reviewers say, this structure causes each foot to lean toward the outer (softer) side of the shoe.
The apparent rationale for the redesign was to give runners a closer-to-the-ground feel; marketing materials note the "Dynamic Support platform" and patented Zoom units in the heel and forefoot for low-profile cushioning. However, reviewers posting on multiple sites lament the changes in the once-lauded shoe line. As if problematic arch support and instability weren't enough, a few reviews posted on the retail site Road Runner Sports report that the shoes wore out quickly and the sole came apart.
Runners wishing that Nike had left the original design alone can take solace in the newer Nike Air Zoom Structure 18 (starting at $90, Amazon). Reviews by Running Shoes Guru and Solereview herald the return of a once beloved shoe. A midsole post reinforces the dual-density foam, delivering the stability lacking in the Nike Air Zoom Structure 17.
Other Products We Reviewed
If Brooks Addiction reviews are any guide, a fair number of runners are addicted to this line of shoes. At Road Runner Sports, customer reviews attest to the overall performance and comfort of the Brooks Addiction 11 (starting at $120, Amazon) for people with flat arches and overpronation. One user says he's been running in the same model for 15 years; another notes that it stands up to 25 to 40 miles a week on trails.
Reviews at Zappos extol the superior support, breathability, and wide foot bed, which has helped a few reviewers with various foot problems. Severe overpronation, stress fractures, and bunions are just some of the reasons users commit to this motion-control running shoe, with its excellent arch support and cushioning. Several reviewers say they chose the Brooks Addiction on the recommendation of a podiatrist or physical therapist and others happily report that it suits men with large feet who struggle to find this type of shoe.
Although the Brooks Addiction 11 is priced outside the Cheapism niche, it's relatively inexpensive given the motion-control design and construction. Brooks' MC Pod technology and an extended diagonal rollbar provide arch support; gel runs from heel to toe for cushioning; and crash pads add flexibility and make for a smooth transition through the running gait. The shoe is topped with a breathable mesh upper to manage moisture. As expected, this shoe weighs a bit more than neutral and stability running shoes, coming in at 10.2 to 13.4 ounces, depending on gender and size.
The Brooks Addiction 11 is a good fit for runners who need lots of stability and cushioning with a relatively low price tag. This motion-control running shoe garners adulation from many quarters, including people who have jobs that require lots of time on their feet. Recommended by specialists in the field, it provides superior support where needed (that would be the arch) -- even for bigger guys who are tough on running shoes. Brooks hits all the marks with specialized technology for stability and cushioning.