How to Find Budget-Minded Running Shoes
By Brian Metzler
We all know running is the simplest sport out there. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you can be a runner. That’s still true in this wild and wacky year of 2020, but we’re all pinching our pennies a lot more lately so it might be hard to justify buying new gear. Plus, the cost running shoes has gradually increased in recent years, especially as innovative new gear has debuted with dozens of shoes featuring exorbitant price tags between $130-$250.
One bit of good news — and wow, don’t we need more of that?! — is that you can outfit yourself and chase your fitness goals at bargain prices this year. How? First, and foremost, both local brick-and-mortar running shops and national online retailers (RuningWarehouse.com, JackRabbit.com, FleetFeet.com) have a lot of excess inventory and are selling shoes at a discount because new fall models have arrived or arriving soon. Secondly, most shoes brands are having big sales on their own direct-to-consumer sites (i.e., Brooksrunning.com, Newbalance.com, Saucony.com). Thirdly, there are a lot of closeout sites (6pm.com, Leftlanesports.com) selling shoes from the previous two or three years at very deep discounts.
Lastly, most running brands create entry-level and mid-range shoes, but rarely spending marketing dollars on promoting them. But if you look around, you can find a lot of those brand-new shoes priced from $60 to $100.
Here’s a rundown of a dozen value-priced shoes for frugal, budget-oriented runners.
(All sample weights are list in men’s sizes for reference.)
High-Mileage Everyday Training Shoes
$60, 8.9 oz.
Yes, you can buy a well-made, well-cushioned pair of running shoes for $60. Admittedly, the neutral-oriented Cohesion doesn’t have the bells and whistles of a lot of the models that pop up in ads in your social media feed, but they are great, lightweight medium-mileage training shoes. They offer plenty of cushioning, durability and comfort. What more do you need?
Saucony Cohesion 13
$90, 8.7 oz.
The RoadBlast is a lightweight and lively performance trainer that gives off a bouncy, energetic ride. It’s a neutral-oriented shoe that features a blend of some of ASICS’ best midsole compounds (Flytefoam Blast and Amplifoam) and a gender-specific knit upper that allows the men’s and women’s feet to move and flex naturally. They’re lighter than most shoes and pack loads of cushy comfort in every stride.
$90, 10.6 oz.
While Nike makes some of the most expensive running shoes on the market, they also make dozens of models that are quite affordable. The Renew Run was built with a comfort-first mentality, giving novice and budget-minded runners a soft, smooth-riding shoe at a great price. But Nike didn’t skimp on the materials or technology. The dual-density midsole is made from its soft, responsive Lunarlon foam and a firmer Phylon compound that serves up stability and support.
Nike Renew Run
$100, 9.7 oz.
With a relatively light and snappy demeanor, the Launch is somewhat of a unique ‘tweener that falls between the category of performance trainers and the wide range of high-mileage trainers that are about a full ounce lighter. This shoe is for you if looking for an affordable, do-everything trainer shoe that’s versatile enough to endure long runs and also quick enough to run faster, shorter workouts like tempo runs, fartlek runs and longer intervals, and it could even a race-day choice for 5K to the marathon for some runners.
Brooks Launch 7
Performance Trainers/Racing Flats
$100, 6.0 oz.
You don’t need much to run fast, just a super lightweight shoe with a springy foam midsole. Featherweight and responsive, the Type A9 remains one of the speediest shoes available for fast workouts and short-distance racing. It’s built on the resilient SSL EVA foam midsole, plus it offers a secure, adaptable fit and great traction on wet surfaces.
Saucony Type A9
$100, 8.0 oz.
These lightweight speed burners have one of the best cushion-to-weight ratios on the market. Although they feature a thick midsole, two different foams (Flexible Bounce and Lightstrike) combine to serve up a fast push-off and snappy feel. The airy mesh upper has an internal fit system for a reliable lockdown with a barely-there feel.
$99, 7.1 oz.
Lightweight and low to the ground, the 1400v6 has an energetic, race-ready design that takes cues from New Balance track and field spikes. It’s built on a thin but springy REVlite midsole with a new light and airy mesh upper that provides exceptional support at the midfoot. For runners who need a little bit more support to help control pronation, consider the New Balance 1500v6 ($109), which is a very similar shoe with a little bit of medial side support.
New Balance 1400v6
$90, 5.0 oz.
The springy, featherweight characteristics of the Streak LT 4 will help you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee on race day. A resilient foam midsole enhanced by a Zoom Air unit in the heel creates optimally responsive cushioning, while a TPU midfoot shank helps transfer energy into forward propulsion and promote quick-cadence running. The Flymesh upper is extremely breathable and helps secure the foot in place with an internal strap at the midfoot.
Nike Air Zoom Streak LT 4
Trail Running Shoes
$90, 8.3 oz.
Although it might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about trail running, Skechers has been committed to the performance running category for a decade and its trail running shoes are actually quite good. The GoRun Pure Trail is built on the super-light UltraFlight midsole foam package, while the Goodyear rubber outsole provides exceptional traction on wet and dry terrain.
Skechers GoRun Pure Trail
$100, 10.3 oz.
Brooks unveiled this trail shoe this year for runners who enjoy running trails occasionally and appreciate the fit, feel and ride of their road running shoes. Built on a chassis of a thickly cushioned BioMoGo DNA midsole foam and a sticky rubber outsole, the Divide is a stable comfy cruiser that excels of smooth dirt trails and rolling routes with mild terrain.
$75, 10.5 oz.
Although it has a relatively simple design, this shoe has just enough cushioning, protection, durability and comfort for running a variety of surfaces. The midsole is made from Fresh Foam, which has a cushy feeling and a data-inspired design aimed at keeping runners stable on off-camber terrain. The array of knobby outsole lugs adheres to rocky terrain, rambles over gravel paths and chews through smooth dirt trails. A sturdy toe bumper and a reinforced upper provide protection for your feet. But the best aspect is the price.
New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi Trail
$100, 9.0 oz.
TMerrell made a name for itself with minimalist trail running shoes that allowed runners to run with a natural gait pattern. The Skyfire is its latest fast and light off-road model with a rock plate to guard against sharp obstacles on the trail. It’s a stripped-down trail racer with a responsive EVA foam midsole, an aggressive array of rubber outsole lugs and an internal bootie for a secure, locked-down fit.
Merrell MTL Skyfire
Brian Metzler quite literally wrote the book on running shoes as the author of the very well-reviewed “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture & Cool of Running Shoes.” He is a sports journalist who has tested more than 1,500 pairs of running shoes and has raced every distance from 50 yards to 100 miles. He was the founding editor of Trail Runner and Adventure Sports magazines, senior editor at Running Times, and Editor-in-Chief of Competitor magazine. He has also written for Outside, Runner’s World, Triathlete, Men’s Health, and Men’s Journal.