Best affordable Nike running shoes under $100

by Solereview editors

The best affordable Nike Running shoes

This article has been updated with current models for May 2022. The Downshifter 11, Flex Experience 10, Renew Ride 2, and Zoom Span 3 have been replaced with their updated versions. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are identical to men’s.

We already have a buyer’s guide that covers a similar topic. However, while that piece contained a comprehensive collection of running shoes, we felt that the major running brands deserve separate affordable shoe guides.

Being the $40 billion brand it is, every major release from Nike is backed with a mega-marketing budget and loud organic outreach. But that’s only true for their premium products featuring the latest and greatest tech.

Their affordable shoe options do not get much love. We don’t have the sell-thru numbers, but we suspect that Nike’s $70-90 offering contributes to a sizable chunk of their footwear business. A few years ago, several news reports indicated that the Nike Roshe Run was the brand’s top-selling model of the year.

Nike’s basic shoe collection had always been backed by a couple of strong performers. Even a decade ago, models like the Dart and Downshifter had a great run by offering excellent value for money. If we recall correctly, those shoes were priced at $50 or so.

You won’t find $50 running shoes anymore at MSRP – not within Nike’s playbook at least. But there are plenty of options within a retail price-band of $60-$90. The Nike Downshifter also exists, but it now retails at $60.

Nike used to have a scarcity of affordable products in the past, but that’s no longer the case. With competition heating up in the higher price segments, the budget models are getting hand-me-down tech from their higher-end versions.

For example, the Nike Winflo 8 has a forefoot Zoom Air bag. The midsole geometry of the once-popular Nike Free line has trickled down to models such as the Flex Experience. Lunarlon gets a new lease of life on the Renew Run, now in its second year.

As a side note, we’ve noticed a strange quirk on the lower-priced Nike shoes; most of them have shallow and pointy toe-boxes. Don’t ask us why, though.

If we list all the shoes on this guide without context, it would be a jumbled mess. A better way of doing this is an approximate categorization of shoe models, so that’s exactly what we have done.

Category 1: Regular neutral trainers

1) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 8

The Winflo makes frequent appearances on our guides, and it’s easy to see why. For a retail price of $90, the Winflo offers a forefoot Zoom Air unit inside a cushioned EVA foam midsole.

The outsole is generously rubber-clad with functional lugs, so here’s a shoe that not only grips well but also has sufficient cushioning and responsiveness for comfortable daily runs. The Winflo 8 is one of Nike’s most versatile neutral trainers under $100.

The true-to-size upper is now updated with Flywire-equipped midfoot panels that produce a secure and irritation-free fit experience.

We don’t know if it’s a deliberate design choice, but many sub-$100 Nike trainers have a shallow toe-box, the Winflo 8 included. Other than that, there are no flaws worth mentioning.

The Winflo 8 is available both in men’s and women’s colors.

2) Nike Downshifter 12

14 years ago, the Downshifter was a part of the original affordable shoe squad along with the Nike Dart, its then partner-in-crime.

The shoe is still going strong because it continues to deliver an excellent value proposition for $70. With its recent $10 price bump, the Downshifter 12 is no longer the most affordable running shoe in Nike’s line-up.

You don’t get a fancy cushioning or upper tech at this price, but the shoe gets its basics right. A single-density EVA midsole over a segmented rubber outsole delivers above-average levels of ride comfort and transition.

The upper is nearly all mesh for breathable and secure comfort; fused reinforcement adds durability and structural support to the upper.

And what’s the difference between the Downshifter 12 and 11? Besides the minor tweaks made to the upper, the rear midsole is wider and more supportive than the Downshifter 11 because of the rounded midsole sidewalls.

Also see: The Nike Quest 4.

3) Nike Revolution 6 Next Nature

Though the Nike Revolution 6 Next Nature has been redesigned with a brand-new upper and midsole, it stays true to the product brief.

In other words, the V6 is a basic running shoe, but a functional one. The updated EVA foam midsole is softer than the Revolution 5, thus making it a budget running shoe that is capable of easy runs and daily casual wear.

Nike hasn’t compromised on outsole coverage either. The Revolution 6 has a single-piece rubber outsole that provides better traction and durability than a comparable all-foam design.

The die-cut foam insole is non-removable to keep the costs down.

The mesh and fused overlay upper is pretty basic and at par for the price. New for the Rev-6 is the ‘Next Nature’ upper – which is a Nike euphemism for the use of recycled content. Though the standard Revolution 6 has a narrow fit, Nike also sells an extra-wide sizing for more room.

It is also available in a ‘FlyEase’ version that is easier to take on and off.

4) Nike Zoom Span 4

A long time ago, the Nike Span was positioned as a lightweight stability shoe. It had a small medial post as the token ‘motion control’ feature, and it often appeared in tandem with the more supportive Nike Structure.

That’s ancient history. Even the Nike Structure 24 is a now neutral running shoe, and so is the Zoom Span 4.

Just like the Structure, the Span packs a pressurized Zoom Air bag inside the forefoot to deliver a responsive feel. The outsole is also inspired by the higher-priced Structure 24. A waffle-shaped geometry works together with split lugs for smooth transitions and decent grip.

Like most Nike shoes that are priced below $100, the upper is very basic with fused overlays over a mesh shell. There are a couple of useful features like the sleeved tongue and Flywire lacing system that add value to the midfoot fit.

The Zoom Span 4 is decent value for its $80 MSRP. There’s enough cushioning and responsiveness to make it a versatile daily trainer, and the upper is comfortable as well.

Category 2: Flexible, Nike Free-inspired running shoe

1) Nike Flex Experience RN 11

The ‘Flex’ series – which includes the Flex Experience 11 – takes design inspiration from the Nike Free, a running shoe with an ultra-flexible midsole.

We used the word ‘inspired’, because the $65 Flex Experience 11 is a toned-down version of the Nike Free. Unlike the latter, only the forefoot has deep grooves. The rearfoot has a solid midsole for better stability under the heel.

The all-foam monosole (there’s no outsole here) has deep flex grooves in a side-to-side configuration for generous flexibility.

Though the outsole lacks rubber lugs, the traction is decent – except on slimy and dusty surfaces.

We love how the upper fit and feel matches the flexible character of the midsole. The heel counter is collapsible, and there aren’t any stiff overlays. As a result, the soft upper has a near seamless and secure fit.

Category 3: Affordable trail running shoe

1) Nike Juniper Trail

We haven’t seen a sub-$100 Nike trail running shoe in a while, so any new shoe is good news. This brings us to the Juniper Trail – a budget trail running shoe that sells for $70-80 (the all-black model is cheaper).

For the price, the Juniper trail offers functional value that’s comparable to the Saucony Excursion TR. That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Juniper isn’t a hardcore trail running shoe.

While the dual-density midsole is cushioned and supportive, the lack of protective features like a sticky rubber outsole or a rock plate limits the usage to non-technical terrain. When used on mild trails, the Juniper will deliver satisfactory ride comfort and stability.

Though the upper isn’t waterproof, the closed mesh upper keeps the debris out. The fit is also very snug and secure, thanks to the internal midfoot straps that connect to the laces.

Category 4: Low-impact athletic activity

1) Nike Renew Run 2

Lunarlon is back in the form of the Renew midsole; this soft foam is encased within an EVA outer midsole. The overall styling hints at the source of Renew Run 2’s design inspiration; its aesthetics are clearly borrowed from the more expensive React Infinity Run 2.

We view the Renew Run 2 as a lifestyle-performance crossover shoe that is comfortable enough for casual use and the occasional short run. Nike hasn’t skimped on the outsole, so there’s plenty of carbon rubber for durable traction.

The snug and shallow upper is breathable and looks visually appealing. This shoe’s price is just $10 shy of triple digits, so extras like the soft Achilles heel lining and dual-mesh tongue are included.

Except for the refreshed upper, the Renew Run V1 and V2 share the same sole and an identical ride.

2) Nike Renew Ride 3

We like Nike’s differentiation strategy in their sub-$100 segment. The Winflo is a scaled-down Pegasus. The Flex Experience is a watered-down Nike Free.

And the Renew Ride 3 is a budget blend of the React Infinity and Invincible Run. This being a $75 running shoe, the midsole is made of an EVA blend foam that has just enough cushioning for everyday runs and casual-wear.

The Renew Ride 3 targets the same consumer profile as the Renew Run. This $75 shoe occupies the sweet spot between performance running and casual athleisure.

The wide base makes the cushioned midsole supportive through the heel and midfoot, and the thick rubber outsole also helps with a planted ride. As long as the runs aren’t hardcore, the foam midsole delivers adequate ride comfort.

The comfortable mesh upper, while shallow in the front, creates a smooth and secure interior environment. A fused toe-bumper with reinforced areas provides protection for the foot.

3) Nike Tanjun

The hyper-clean template of the Nike Tanjun is an embodiment of the ‘keep-it-simple’ ideal.

A breathable mesh upper and comfortable lining materials do most of the work, and there’s even a fully functional lacing system.

An EVA foam unisole adds to the clutter-free charm of the Tanjun and produces a functional yet lightweight cushioning character. Its $65 price tag makes it a great buy – provide its usage is limited to low-impact activities.

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