(This list has been updated for 2019)
Running shoe prices are downright ridiculous. Case in point is the Nike Vaporfly 4%. We bought our pair for $280 (after taxes). Let’s round that to 300 dollars and list a few things one can buy with that money.
You can buy not one, but two Instapot 10-in-1 Ultras. You can buy a generously specced smartphone. You can buy a used, high-end task chair like the Herman Miller Aeron or the Steelcase Leap. Or get yourself a couple of GPS-guided fitness watches.
Even more outrageous is the notion is that $100 running shoes are considered ‘affordable.’ Beyond a reasonable doubt, the pricing model of the running industry is broken. And it’s not like the brands and retailers are printing money – we know that. It just shows how inefficient the value (or the lack thereof) chain is.
Solereview hasn’t exactly done a great job at writing more about lower-priced products.
There are plenty of good models with retail price tags in double-digits, and yet most of the running shoes you hear about are the expensive ones. Brands spend their hype dollars on premium products, so the value assortment seldom gets any marketing focus.
It’s important to talk about lower-priced running footwear because not all countries sell shoes at the same (US) retail prices.
A shoe priced at $100 stateside might cost $130-160 in international locations depending on the import duties and taxes – and that’s before taking the potential difference in purchasing power parity into account.
In other words, the same money which gets consumers a top-of-the-line Asics Nimbus 21 or the Brooks Glycerin 17 in the US might only fetch a ‘budget’ running shoe in many countries.
The search for a sub-$100 shoe can get confusing, so we’ve curated a small collection of top 10 running shoes which retail for less than $100. The final selling price will depend on the retailer and your location, however.
This hand-picked list consists of models intended for daily running and excludes race-day or trail shoes. The list reveals a few (pleasant) surprises; some of these affordable shoes use tech and components found in more expensive models.
For instance, the Saucony Liteform Miles uses a memory foam insole instead of a regular one, and the Winflo has Zoom Air cushioning tech. The New Balance Kaymin uses the Fresh Foam platform found in many expensive New Balance shoes.
And surprise, surprise. New Balance and Nike feature multiple times here, who’d have thought? It makes sense though; one doesn’t become a multi-billion dollar brand just by selling 1400s, Zantes, and Pegasus Turbos.
Here’s a list of top ten affordable shoes in the order of solereview’s ranking.
1) Saucony Cohesion 12
We featured the Cohesion as our top affordable shoe pick last year. The Cohesion 12 takes the top spot in 2019 too – it is an excellent budget shoe with very little to dislike. This isn’t just about the price; the Cohesion is a no-frills running shoe which covers all the bases.
The Cohesion won’t win prizes at a beauty contest, but it has a solid and well-fitting upper, a cushioned and supportive ride, and is durable. And what’s more, the sub-10-ounce weight makes it pretty lightweight too.
Its $60 price gives you more shoe per dollar and is proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a decent pair of running shoes. And by the way, do you want a 2E (wide) in Cohesion? You have that too.
2) Nike Downshifter 8
The Downshifter 8 is a $60 Nike shoe. Yes, you heard that right.
It may come as a surprise to many that Nike retails shoe models below $100. The Downshifter 8 is one of them and has been in Nike’s line for many years now. The Downshifter is by far Nike’s best value-for-money performance running shoe. The Nike Dart used to be the ultimate no-frills shoe but it was discontinued (in 2017?) after 12 years.
There’re no fancy foam components or Zoom Air bags on the Downshifter. Just a comfortable foam midsole paired with a seamless upper. The Pegasus inspired rubber outsole makes the Downshifter durable and well gripping too.
3) Saucony Liteform Miles
What’s in a name? A lot, if the Saucony Liteform Miles is anything to go by. The Liteform is a lightweight trainer (255 grams/9-ounces) with shades of the Kinvara.
The seamless upper comes with a semi-collapsible heel counter, and the foam midsole and the memory foam insole combine to produce a cushioned ride. And just like the Kinvara, the Liteform has a 4 mm heel to toe offset.
4) Asics Gel-Contend 5
The Contend 6 is the Asics’s answer to the Saucony Cohesion. The upper has a traditional cut, stitch, and assemble design which feels solidly put together. While there’s no evading the fact that the materials aren’t very premium, the affordable retail price more than makes up for it.
The midsole is a rather straightforward affair. A single density EVA foam with a coin-sized Gel pad has a firm and stable ride. The grip of the rubber-clad outsole isn’t exceptional but it prolongs the life of the shoe.
5) adidas Duramo 9
There are a lot of value running shoes from adidas, but the Duramo series has stood the test of time. It offers a lot of value for its price which, unsurprisingly, has made it a crowd favorite.
The Duramo 9 is an improvement over the 8. For starters, the midfoot loses the plastic cage and the stodgy aesthetic. Only certain areas are reinforced with plastic while the rest of the upper is mesh.
The redesigned upper has a snug yet comfortable fit. The Duramo’s heel gets the raised lip treatment which goes easier on the Achilles.
Cushioning is managed by the EVA foam midsole with a firm and smooth ride. The Ortholite insole is a pleasant surprise (the Duramo 8 had it too) in a shoe which costs $65; it adds soft-top padding just below the foot.
We’re not sure what inspired adidas to put in a tongue flap binding on the Duramo 9; the version 8’s soft tongue was more comfortable.
6) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 5
The Winflo is the price of entry into the Zoom Air platform. The Winflo 5 features a heel Zoom Air for responsive cushioning and there’s plenty of rubber coverage providing outsole grip.
The clean looking upper fits snug, helped by Flywire lacing and an internal toe-bumper. The Winflo retails at $90 so it happens to be one of the more expensive shoes on this list.
There’s a water repellent, ‘Shield’ Winflo but that version costs $10 more than the cut-off price for the guide.
7) New Balance 680V6
If the New Balance 680V6 was ten dollars cheaper, we’d have awarded it the affordable shoe of 2019 or something. Not only does the 680 get the basics like a nice-fitting upper and cushioned ride right, but it also looks and feels like a more expensive shoe.
Take for example, the dual-density midsole with the Abzorb EVA heel insert. Or the comfortable, textured heel lining with an equally cushy tongue flap. The flat laces cinch well while looking great. No-sew overlays and textured mesh add both structure and visual appeal.
The split outsole helps increase the shoe’s lifespan and manages grip and transitions well. If you’re willing to drop $75 on a pair of running shoe, we suggest you look at the 680.
Just know that while the ’80’ part of 680 denotes a neutral cushioned trainer (880, 980 1080 etc), the ride is firm – this isn’t an 880.
8) New Balance Fresh Foam Kaymin
The 680 (featured at #7) has a traditional running shoe silhouette. If the idea of a contemporary design sounds more attractive, then the Fresh Foam Kaymin could be the shoe for you. It’s a great looking shoe on the outside; an all-mesh front and midfoot is supported with fused overlays in the back.
Interestingly, the Kaymin is available in a standard and extra-wide only, with no 2E. The regular version has a smooth and breathable fit which runs true to size.
The Fresh Foam midsole reminds us of the original 980 – cushioned but of a firm kind. The split outsole adds flexibility and grip. For $75, the Kaymin sure packs a lot of bells and whistles.
9) Nike Flex Experience RN 8
The Flex Experience RN series is heavily inspired by the Nike Free’s outsole and upper design. The forefoot outsole has nothing but a dense colony of hexagonal grooves, thus making it extremely flexible. The token presence of outsole rubber lugs is functionally useless and merely decorative – the foam midsole is the outsole.
The Flex Experience rides similar to a Nike Free. The EVA midsole and the insole provide medium-soft cushioning which suffices for daily runs.
We liked the simpler upper design of version 7 over the 8. The ‘new’ upper uses soft material along with a collapsible heel but adds a seam in the midfoot and an asymmetrical toe-bumper placement. There’s no irritation inside but the RN 8’s fit doesn’t feel as sorted as the RN 7.
Still, the Flex Experience RN 8 is excellent value for $65.
10) Nike Quest
The Nike Quest is a very good buy for its 75 retail price. The minimal upper combines mesh with Flywire lacing and thin overlays to give you a smooth and supportive fit quality. The raised heel collar and tongue is soft to the touch and performs the way they should.
The single-density EVA midsole (no fancy tech here) has all the cushioning you need. The outsole is thoughtfully designed; it’s got a separate crash pad and Pegasus-inspired lateral side for smooth transitions. The inner outsole is dotted with hexagonal lugs for grip and midsole protection.
If you’re willing to spend $15 extra (over the Downshifter), then go for the Quest instead.
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