This article has been updated with current models for December 2022. The Nike Winflo 8 has been replaced with its updated version. The Nike Juniper Trail has been removed. Except for the narrower ‘B’ width, the women’s models are identical to men’s.
In this product guide:
- 1. Factors to consider
- 2. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Winflo 9
- 3. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Downshifter 12
- 4. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Revolution 6 Next Nature
- 5. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Zoom Span 4
- 6. Affordable Nike flexible trainer: Nike Flex Experience RN 11
- 7. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Renew Run 2
- 8. Affordable Nike everyday trainer: Nike Renew Ride 3
- 9. Affordable Nike sneaker: Nike Tanjun
We already have a buyer’s guide that covers a similar topic. However, while that covered a comprehensive collection of running shoes, 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 outreach. But that’s only true for their premium products featuring the latest and greatest.
Their affordable shoe options do not get much love. We are not privy to the retail sales data, but we suspect that Nike’s $70-90 offering contributes to a sizable chunk of its 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. Back then, those shoes were priced between $45-50.
You will no longer find $50 running shoes at MSRP – not within Nike’s playbook at least. But there are plenty of options at $60-$90 prices. The Nike Downshifter also exists, but it now retails at $70.
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 9 has a full-length 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 third year.
Without further ado, here’re our top picks – sorted by use cases.
Best for everyday training
1) Nike Air Winflo 9
The new Winflo is different from the previous model in one important way. While the midsole is still made of soft EVA foam, it no longer has Zoom Air. And that’s good news – no, we’re serious.
Instead of the single Zoom Air bag used on the Winflo 8, the Winflo 9 has a full-length ‘Dot Weld Air’ bag. It’s a thinner unit with lower gas pressure. And just like softly-inflated tires, the new Air bag makes the cushioning softer and more comfortable.
The EVA foam midsole, insole-like Air bag, and rubber outsole work together to make the Winflo a versatile everyday trainer. The rubber outsole grips well while making the shoe durable.
The Winflo 9 is available both in men’s and women’s colors. The Winflo 9 ‘Shield’ is the winterized version with a weather-resistant upper and sticky rubber (Storm-tread) outsole.
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 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 5.
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 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
When it was first released in 2007, the Nike Span was positioned as a lightweight stability shoe – a toned-down Nike Structure if you will. 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 reliable traction.
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.
Best for a flexible and natural running shoe experience
5) 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. In comparison, the Flex Experience 10 had a flexible heel midsole as well.
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 complements 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.
Best for low-impact athletic activity
6) 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 borrowed from the more expensive React Infinity Run.
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.
7) 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 protects the foot.
8) Nike Tanjun
The hyper-clean template of the Nike Tanjun is an excellent example of the ‘keep-it-simple’ design approach in practice.
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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