The 10 Best Affordable Running Shoes You Can Buy Right Now

·11 min read
Photo credit: Staff
Photo credit: Staff


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Everyone loves to tell you that running is the sport with the lowest barrier to entry, and that all you need to do is just step out the door and go. But you at least need a good pair of shoes. Some models can be expensive, costing upwards of $250—hello, Nike VaporFly Next%—but you don’t have to shell out for the flashiest models to get some quality support underfoot. We’ve tested running shoes to fit every budget, and can recommend many top-tier pairs that cost $100 or less.

While some of these options may lack the extra features of their pricier counterparts, they’ll still provide a smooth and comfortable ride with all the basics you’ll need to put your best foot forward. Check out our top picks for the best budget-friendly running shoes—including both road and trail models. These are the shoes that most impressed us for their resilience and reliability over numerous months and miles of testing.

The Expert: To make these recommendations, I used my own experience as a longtime runner and running-shoe reviewer, as well as that of Runner’s World test editors Amanda Furrer and Morgan Petruny. I also reached out to Runner’s World deputy editor, Jeff Dengate, one of the running industry’s leading experts, for insight. Dengate, Furrer, and Petruny test piles of new running shoes every year and have access to the Runner’s World shoe test data, a pool of feedback from hundreds of local runners who rigorously test-run the latest running shoes.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Cheap Running Shoe

We considered all aspects of each shoe, from the lacing and upper materials to the outsole tread and midsole cushioning, in selecting these models. Here are some features to note when shopping for a high-value, lower-cost sneaker.

Midweight Foam Midsole

When opting for a less expensive shoe, you may have to forgo a brand’s top-tier midsole foam, like Brooks’s DNA Flash, used on the brand’s $150 Tempo. Brooks’s $100 Trace instead uses a BioMoGo DNA foam midsole. It returns less energy, but still provides a comfortable, well-cushioned ride.

Comfort and Durability

Just because a shoe is more affordable doesn’t make it low-quality or less-than. All the shoes here were rated highly by our test team and wear-testers for comfort, with special attention paid to the fit and breathability of the upper and supportive cushioning at the midsole. We also sought out shoes with durable, long-lasting outsoles that add to the shoe’s value—and bring down the overall price per mile.

Don’t Overlook Past Models

We’re always excited to try the latest and greatest running technology. But the shoes we tested—and loved—last year still make for excellent running shoes, if you can find a pair. In fact, sometimes the year-to-year changes are almost unnoticeable. If you find a running shoe you love and can’t find it on sale, check to see if the previous year’s model is still available online.

How We Picked These Affordable Running Shoes

To select the best shoes for under $100, our team of 225 testers, plus some of our most experienced shoe reviewers, logged up to 100 miles in these shoes over a month of running on the pavement, track, treadmill, and trails. Depending on the season, we also gauged the shoes’ abilities over snow, ice, and wet mud. Runners have worn them for both long runs and speed workouts—earning a few trial-and-error blisters along the way—and even raced a half marathon in the shoes below to determine where each performs best. Here are the models that made our final cut.

—BEST FOR NEW RUNNERS—

Brooks Trace

Weight: 8.9 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)

Testing a new shoe like the Trace can be thrilling but also a little unsettling: You don’t know what you’re attaching to your body, how it will perform, and whether it will make you soar (or sore). Brooks made a bold move etching a “1” into the tag on the tongue—indicating there’s more to come—but this rookie is a top pick. For both minimalists who want a bit more cushioning and Ghost loyalists seeking a soft and speedy option like the Saucony Kinvara, the Trace delivers. The new model has adequate cushioning, enough flex at toe-off, a responsive midsole, and all-around comfort. There is ample wiggle room in the toebox, and our testers reported that the padded heel collar helped reduce blistering and nicely cradled their foot. It’s also sufficiently durable; several runners noted how well the shoe held up after strenuous workouts in tempestuous winter weather. Given the Trace’s price and solid performance, we’d love to see Brooks release a stability version with guide rails for overpronators.

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—MOST COMFORTABLE—

Skechers GOrun Pure 3

Weight: 8.3 oz (M), 7.1 oz (W)

The original GOrun Pure won us over with its lightweight but well-cushioned midsole and soft, breathable upper, along with other plush features that belied the shoe’s $95 price tag. After Skechers changed up the midsole of the shoe with the GOrun Pure 2, this third iteration essentially represents a return to form, reinstituting the shoe’s original responsive, TPU-based Ultra Flight foam (and maintaining the shoe’s $95 price tag, despite the rising costs of pretty much everything else). The Goodyear rubber outsole is grippy and durable, with forefoot flex grooves for easy toe-off; an engineered mesh upper gives the shoe a secure, locked-down feel. Removable insoles inside the shoe are a new touch that help with overall comfort and shock reduction.

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―BEST PLUSH STABILITY SHOE―

Saucony Guide 14

Weight: 10.5 oz (M), 9.4 oz (W)

The Guide has been a longtime favorite daily trainer for its soft, responsive midsole and subtle stability features, like a TPU medial post to offset pronation. It uses a Pwrrun-cushioned midsole, has a streamlined exterior, and boasts lots of luxe bonus features (like padding in the heel collar and a gusseted tongue) that add to the overall coziness of the shoe. It’s plush without feeling bulky or heavy—and at $90 to $95, it’s is one of the best bargains we’ve seen in awhile.

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—BEST FOR LONG RUNS—

Nike Renew Run 2

Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 9.0 oz (W)

There’s no denying that you’re paying for both running performance and the unmistakable Swoosh aesthetic when you lace up a pair of Nikes. Though it doesn’t use top-tier ZoomX foam, the Renew Run doesn’t skimp on speed or style. Testers said the Lunar foam midsole provided balanced cushioning that felt much softer than they expected on long runs, but still felt light and responsive during quicker intervals. “This shoe has a fit similar to the Pegasus,” one tester said. “It has a stiff collar, good traction on wet pavement, a roomy toe box, and still feels stable.” While some testers favored the shoe’s high drop for its propulsive feel and ability to lessen Achilles strain at the end of long runs, others found it a touch too obtrusive.

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—SPEED DAY STABILITY—

Brooks Launch 8 GTS

Weight: 8.8 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)

You’re not wrong if you thought “GTS” stood for “Go-To Shoe.” This year, Brooks is simplifying its naming convention by pairing stability shoes to its neutral siblings and tacking on GTS—now redefined as “Go-To Support.” The next Transcend and Bedlam, for example, have been named the Glycerin GTS and Levitate GTS, respectively. And, in the case of the Ravenna, it’s now being called the Launch GTS—a light stability shoe that’s speedy like the neutral Launch. Testers appreciated the comfortably firm cushioning and found Brooks’s holistic guide-rail system (firm foam along the medial and lateral sides of the heel serve as bumpers to align the knee and ankle) supportive. The most noticeable revamp—besides the name—is the new air mesh upper. Testers liked that it was light and breathable, yet some wished for a more traditional padded heel collar.

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—LIGHTWEIGHT DAILY TRAINER—

Reebok Floatride Energy 3

Weight: 8.5 oz (M), 7.0 oz (W)

Though the latest version of Reebok’s impressive entry-level shoe has dropped the “Forever” from its name, it maintains the best part of both the original Floatride Energy and its sequel—the midsole. Floatride Energy Foam provides a lively, well-cushioned ride that feels great during long efforts and tempo runs alike with energy return that punches way above many running shoes in its $100 class. The 3 also swaps in a redesigned, more comfortable mesh upper that wraps the foot more securely and breathes better than that of its predecessor. “Lighter than some bulky trainers I’ve been in, this Reebok still has enough foam underfoot for big mileage without feeling too chunky. I prefer springy cushioning over super soft, so really enjoy this shoe’s energy return and bounce,” one tester said. “The full rubber outsole is very durable—I strongly prefer daily trainers that coat all touchpoints with outsole rubber, rather than exposed foam, and this shoe had that element. My only concern is that there isn’t much support at the arch.”

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―BEST CUSHIONED TRAIL SHOE―

Nike Pegasus Trail 3

Weight: 10.9 oz (M), 9.3 oz (W)

The most cushioned shoe in Nike’s stable of trail runners, the Peg Trail 3 is equally responsive and at home on dry pavement, fire roads, non-technical singletrack, and bridle paths. If you’re familiar with the standard version of the Pegasus, this shoe will feel familiar—but with a few burlier features for more crossover trail aptitude. The shoe’s upper has been redesigned to be more spacious and durable, with a toe bumper, rubber overlays, and a well-padded ankle collar for added protection. Its outsole provides plenty of underfoot protection and good ground feel, with rounded 4mm lugs that won’t bite into steep climbs or descents—or the gnarliest off-road terrain—but have enough grip for more manicured, less technical trail conditions.

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—STABLE DAILY TRAINER—

Asics GT-1000 10

Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 8.2 oz (W)

For the past decade, the GT-1000 has delivered as a simple and comfy daily trainer that serves up a few added stability features alongside Asics’s signature soft Gel cushioning. This tenth version places a section of firmer foam beneath the arch, and a midfoot support truss to help guide the foot through the gait cycle, while extra Gel at the outer heel absorbs shock on touchdown. Overpronators will find the GT gives them the support they desire, while neutral runners looking for a stable trainer can also slip into this versatile shoe. Though it’s a smidge heavier than the ninth version, the 10 gets a new engineered mesh upper for improved breathability. Plus, Asics has also upgraded the outsole to the more premium, more durable iteration of its high-abrasion rubber.

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—BEST FOR RECOVERY RUNS—

Adidas Supernova

Weight: 10.9 0z (M), 9.2 oz (W)

The new Supernova is a revelation for Adidas’s Supernova line—and for the $100 shoe category across the board. Previous renditions of the shoe were well-cushioned and protective for long runs, but felt clunky and a little sluggish on toe off. Now, it feels like one of the smoothest shoes around, with Boost heel cushioning that soaks up braking forces and seamlessly transitions to a soft EVA foam forefoot. At 10-minute pace or 5-minute pace, the Supernova feels brilliant and livelier underfoot. The mesh upper is similarly great, with no hot spots or uncomfortable seams, and a snug midfoot fit that opens up into a spacious toe box.

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—MOST VERSATILE—

Brooks Revel 5

Weight: 8.9 oz (M), 7.9 oz (W)

The Revel is designed for pure versatility. It excels at everything from intervals to middle distances, and even has a clean enough design and color scheme to moonlight as office footwear. Much like the Brooks Launch, it’s a lightweight neutral shoe that boasts Brooks’s springy, responsive BioMoGo DNA midsole, for a bargain price of just $100. It also has a durable outsole with flexible, arrow-shaped tread that delivers smooth transitions and solid traction on wet pavement. However, the shoe is best suited to runners who like a narrower fit—our testers with wider feet have reported feeling cramped inside the Revel’s knit upper.

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Editor’s Note: Test Editors Morgan Petruny and Amanda Furrer contributed to this article.

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