There’s more to New Balance’s running shoe assortment than meets the eye.
Beneath the surface that makes up the higher-priced Fresh Foam and FuelCell collections, many affordable products are hiding in plain sight. For example, this guide is all about New Balance shoes that are priced below $100.
Modern ‘athleisure’ silhouettes are also making their way into this price-segment. These shoes aren’t meant for serious performance running but rather have a general, multi-purpose design intent.
You can, of course, use them for running as long as the workouts aren’t demanding. During your downtime, these leisure-performance crossovers make for comfortable daily-wear footwear.
Within this buyer’s guide, the Fresh Foam Roav is a good example.
Just like adidas, New Balance sells many trail running shoes below $100. There are a couple of models with Fresh Foam midsoles while the rest have a traditional build. What’s interesting is that some of them are purpose-built trail shoes and not merely road-running models retrofitted with a knobby outsole.
You can visit the New Balance website and go treasure-hunting yourself. You can also read our main New Balance guide to choose the model that’s right for you.
Without further ado, here’re our eight affordable picks sorted by two categories – road and trail.
Road running shoes
1) New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V3
This is a no-frills neutral New Balance running shoe with a basic Fresh Foam midsole and a breathable engineered mesh upper. It even has a regular heel fit – just in case you don’t like the molded heel of the newer Fresh Foam models.
The single-density midsole offers a smooth and moderately cushioned ride for most runs, daily sessions included. At the same time, you won’t find the softness of the more expensive Fresh Foam products; the Arishi has a firm-ish cushioning that is vaguely reminiscent of the original 980.
Not much has changed on the Arishi V3 compared to the previous model. The V3 gets a new outsole with small windows under the forefoot for softer and smoother forefoot transitions. Like the V2, the 9-ounce Arishi is respectably lightweight.
2) New Balance 680V6
This is one of the few conventional road running shoes in this guide. It doesn’t have a Fresh Foam midsole or an upper designed to attract Gen-X consumers. The 680V6 has a toned-down running shoe design with a dual-density midsole; the 680 has a softer Abzorb foam layer under the heel.
Though the upper uses a modern engineered mesh and a sleeve-less tongue, the synthetic toe-bumper, and the regular heel is a reminder of how most running shoes once used to be. The interiors fit true to size and are comfortable enough for everyday wear.
The articulated outsole complements the EVA midsole to produce a cushioned yet supportive ride for daily runs. The 680V6 is good value at $75 retail.
3) New Balance Fresh Foam Roav
Be warned, this shoe is more daily style and less performance running. Though the full-length Fresh Foam midsole provides sufficient underfoot padding, the upper lock-down is found wanting when things get more serious.
The Origami-esque heel design doesn’t grip as securely as it should, and the bootie midfoot fit with its stretch band has an easygoing nature.
As long as you’re aware of the Fresh Foam Roav’s limited performance range, it is a comfortable everyday trainer capable of mild athletic activity.
A 2E (wide) width is available as an optional purchase.
Trail running shoes
1) New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi Trail
Sometimes, keeping it simple works the best. First, take a firm Fresh Foam midsole of a respectable thickness and shod it with a full-length outsole. Finally, take a smooth and secure-fitting upper that is both breathable and protective along with functional bits like a heel pull tab and a molded toe-bumper.
There you have it – a trail running shoe that has a comfortable ride, decent traction, and a fully functional upper.
Naturally, given its relatively minimalist design, there are certain things that the Arishi Trail is not. It is best used on mild trails where the absence of a rock plate and sticky rubber outsole isn’t a pressing concern.
The fit, while being true to size, runs narrow. The low-profile midsole also isn’t the most supportive. If a higher level of stability is required, then skip the Arishi and try shoes like the Shando or Nitrel.
2) New Balance Shando
Like most of the New Balance trail runners in this section, the Shando’s fit is narrow and short. So instead of buying the standard D width, try the wide and a half size larger.
With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the Shando. By the way, we have no idea what the name means.
The Shando is a road-trail hybrid, the kind of trail runner that’s protective and stable enough for mild off-road adventures yet is soft around the edges.
Design features like a split crash pad and relative flat outsole geometry allow the Shando to be used on paved surfaces. The all-foam midsole delivers adequate comfort and road and trail runs alike.
The narrow and short-sized upper is functional and looks the part too. Large side panels serve as protective barriers, and the closed mesh keeps the debris out. Hiking boot-styled round laces pass through speed loops so they are quick to cinch.
3) New Balance Nitrel V4
This trail running shoe carries forward the Nitrel name from the V3 but has been completely redesigned from the ground up.
While the Nitrel V3 was more of a ‘regular’ trail runner with a please-all character, the V4 is quirky in comparison. Instead of the Nitrel v3’s full-length Revlite midsole (of the 1500 fame), the V4 uses a Dynasoft midsole and a high toe-spring that promotes a forward-rolling motion.
It’s not very soft though; the Dynasoft foam has a tinge of firmness – this is no Fresh Foam. And that’s not a bad thing for a trail shoe; a firmer ride equates to better stability over uneven terrain.
The upper fits snug and short, so that’s something to bear in mind while purchasing the Nitrel V4. The fused toe bumper, while protective, makes the ceiling narrower and the sizing at least a half size small.
Don’t get us wrong. The Nitrel V4 is a nice enough trail shoe that gets its basics down pat. The foam midsole provides decent levels of ride comfort, and the full-coverage outsole does its job. The upper, while narrow, delivers a trail-worthy fit.
It’s just that the Nitrel V3 felt more sorted, if that even makes sense.
4) New Balance Fresh Foam Crag V2
This is an interesting shoe with a few pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros. The retro-outdoor theme with its angular upper patterns is straight out of a ’90s hiking boot look-book. The two-toned midsole and the faux suede upper mesh lends the Fresh Foam Crag its classic styling.
And that’s what the Crag Trail is – an athleisure shoe with outdoor pretensions. That, by itself, isn’t a bad thing. The outsole coverage and the thick midsole provide sufficient underfoot protection and traction but this is a soft-roader at best. The Crag V2 is a road-to-trail-to-road shoe, if you know what we mean.
The abundance of stitched layering makes the fit rather narrow and small. When buying the Crag V2, buying a wide in a half size larger should result in a just-right fit.
If you want something more trail-oriented at a sub-$100 price, we suggest the Arishi V4 instead.
5) New Balance 510V5
The 510V5 is so entry-level that New Balance doesn’t even list the shoe on its website. This is a basic trail shoe that competes with the likes of Saucony Cohesion TR.
The design takes a no-frills approach without skimping on the essentials. Be it the EVA foam midsole, the full rubber outsole with its aggressive lugs, or the protective and layered upper, the 510V5 has what it takes to be a basic trail running shoe.
Sure, the absence of a rock plate, special outsole, and waterproofing make the 510 unsuitable for challenging terrain. On the other hand, if your run consists of packed trails or cinder paths, then the 510V5 delivers satisfactory performance.
It’s worth mentioning that the layered upper fits a bit narrow, and the injection-molded midsole has a firm ride.