We get it. While everyone likes to say, “All you need is to step out the door and start running,” you at least need some good shoes. And some models can be expensive, costing upwards of $250—hello, VaporFly Next%. Even though a good running shoe is a worthy investment, you don’t have to shell out the Benjamins to get started. We’ve tried and can recommend lots of options that cost less than $100.
How We Picked
The shoes included in this list—with the exception of the competition spikes, the Saucony Kilkenny XC7—received the same treatment as all of the running shoes we’ve tested. We tested them in our shoe lab, measuring their cushioning, flexibility, and stability features among other things, while our wear testers took to the road and trails to evaluate their comfort, speed, traction, and durability.
Our testers, including our most experienced shoe reviewers, took to muddy terrain, earned a few trial-and-error blisters, and even ran a half marathon in some of the shoes listed below.
While some of these options may lack the features of their pricier counterparts—the Asics Gel-Scram 4 trail shoe, for example, doesn’t have a a reinforced rock plate—these running shoes still provide a smooth ride with all the basics you’ll need to put your best foot forward.
We studied all parts of the shoes and put in the mileage to test their resilience and reliability in the long run. Here’s our top picks for the best budget-friendly running shoes—including road, trail, and track models.
[Related: The 8 Best Cross-Training Shoes]
—BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINER—
Skechers GOrun Pure
Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)
What’s remarkable about the Pure is how lightweight it is in spite of its soft feel. This is due to the Ultra Go foam midsole, which is superlight and plush on runs. The nearly seamless upper is another factor that adds to the shoe’s comfort.
Under Armour Hovr Sonic 2
Weight: 10 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)
The Sonic’s midsole uses UA’s Hovr foam, an EVA-based material that you’ll also find on shoes like the Guardian and the Phantom. On its own, Hovr feels soft, without the “mushy” feeling that some runners note in plush trainers. But when nested inside a compressive mesh called Energy Web, Hovr gets an extra bounce that sets it apart from shoes like the Brooks Glycerin. While it lacks the Glycerin’s softness, Hovr foam has an extra pop underfoot instead.
Brooks Launch 6
Weight: 9.4 oz (M), 7.7 oz (W)
Brooks added a little more foam in the forefoot of the midsole for a springier feel. Pair that bouncy ride with a new sleek and seamless upper, and you have a flexible, lightweight trainer that can take on long, hard efforts up to 26.2 miles without skimping on cushioning.
—BEST FOR HALF MARATHONS—
Adidas Edgebounce (Women-Only)
Weight: 7.9 oz (W)
The Adidas Edgebounce is all at once a statement shoe, running shoe, and bargain buy. It is designed exclusively for women with a wide forefoot and heel platform. A wider platform enhances stability, as women tend to pronate due to having wider hips.
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
Weight: 9.3 oz (M), 7.7 oz (W)
At only a portion of the Floatride Run Fast’s cost, the Forever Floatride Energy offers a lightweight, springy performance that’s oh-so-similar to its more expensive sibling. What’s more, our wear testers and several Runner’s World editors loved running in this shoe.
“This shoe is so close to being perfect,” test editor Dan Roe said. “The ride is supple yet there’s loads of energy return. It feels fast and smooth, and it works really well at sexy pace and threshold pace.”
—BEST FOR 5K RACING—
Topo Athletic ST-3
Weight: 7.2 oz (M), 5.9 oz (W)
A roomy toe box and a lightweight design make the ST-3 a fast and flexible trainer that our testers favored for racing short distances. The breathable upper dries fast if you’re caught in a rainstorm, and fits snugly over your foot. One caveat that comes with being a lightweight: There is very little cushioning or arch support.
Asics Roadhawk FF 2
Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 8.0 oz (W)
The latest version of the Roadhawk gets an updated midsole made from Asics’s FlyteFoam, which offers a generous bounce according to our wear testers, and feels pleasingly lightweight and snappy underfoot. While our data from the shoe lab did indicate that the Hawk bulked up a bit in this iteration, our testers found the weight increase was easily countered by a more breathable upper and slimmed-down profile.
—BEST STABILITY TRAINER—
Asics GT-1000 7
Weight: 10.2 oz (M), 8.4 oz (W)
Stability shoes, like the GT-1000, include features that ensure comfort without overstated “enhancements” meant to fix your gait; it’s an incredibly affordable option for runners looking for a stable and comfortable ride. “The GT-1000 7 is a solid stability shoe with a great fit that gives runners an exceptional ride without breaking the bank,” said a wear tester. Overpronators will find the shoe gives them the support they desire, while neutral runners looking for a stable trainer can also slip into this versatile trainer.
Puma Hybrid NX
Weight: 10.7 oz (M), 8.9 oz (W)
The Hybrid NX’s name derives from Puma’s line of dual-midsole shoes, a combination of Nrgy beads fused into Ignite foam. This midsole technology provides lightweight cushioning and high rebound for hitting the road or track.
—BEST FOR SPEEDWORK—
New Balance Fresh Foam Zante Solas
Weight: 5.3 oz (M), 4.4 oz (W)
Incredibly light, there is simply nothing to this shoe—just like its price. The Zante Solas has a thin layer of Fresh Foam to cushion your foot over short distances. You’ll want to ease into going long in these trainers; they have a barefoot feel with a little bounce in the heel that will make you want to sprint from the start of your run.
—BEST FOR TRACK WORKOUTS—
Weight: 7.7 oz (M), 6.4 oz (W)
Whether you’re racing a 10K, doing 400-meter intervals at the track, or strength training at the gym, the Altra Solstice is the chameleon of lightweight running shoes. This formfitting neutral road shoe is heavier than Altra’s Vanish-R, a true racing flat, but still extra light for runners to turn on the speed—or for racers mixing up their training with track workouts and tempo runs.
—BEST MINIMALIST TRAIL TRAINER—
Merrell Trail Glove 5
Weight: 7.0 oz (M), 6.0 oz (W)
With only 3mm of midsole between you and the ground, the Trail Glove 5 makes every last bit of it count. The new Barefoot 2 construction anchors the shoe on a zero-drop platform, which incorporates a sliver of firm EVA foam. The material can twist and flex with the natural movement of the foot, even with a protective forefoot rock plate.
—BEST FOR BEGINNERS—
Asics Gel-Scram 4
Weight: 9.9 oz (M), 8.4 oz (W)
The Asics Gel-Scram 4 may not have bells and whistles such as a kevlar upper, reinforced rock plate, or even a lace garage, but it does have everything you need for a weekend jaunt through your local trails. There’s cushioning in the heel and forefoot for longer outings. The Scram is a bit stiff, but there’s enough flexibility to traverse jagged rocks. A tight wrap around the arch provides the hold necessary for barreling down any hill.
—BEST FOR CROSS COUNTRY RACING—
Saucony Kilkenny XC7
Weight: 5.8 oz (M) 5.3 oz (W)
The Kilkenny is a perennially popular high school spike, due to its entry-level price and cushioned, comfortable ride. The seventh version has a somewhat narrower footprint, particularly in the middle. The durable upper is roomier than most spikes, accommodating a variety of foot shapes by wrapping without hugging too close to any part of the foot.
You Might Also Like