Best affordable running shoes

by Solereview editors
Published: Last Updated on

The best affordable running shoes below $100.

This article has been updated with current models for June 2022. The Nike Downshifter 11, Saucony Cohesion 14, and Saucony Cohesion TR 14 have been replaced with their updated versions.

There’s never been a better time to buy a running shoe.

Most brands are firing on all cylinders, churning out new products at a never-seen-before pace. And this doesn’t apply to just the top-tier running shoes with their Carbon plates and fancy lightweight midsoles; even the sub-$100 segment is finally getting the attention it deserves.

For a very long time, entry-level models were a reluctant afterthought for running shoe brands. With the notable exception of products like the adidas Duramo, Saucony Cohesion, and Nike Downshifter, there weren’t many popular go-to products with prices in double digits.

In the past, entry-level prices also meant an entry-level material and technology package. The midsole was always a standard EVA foam block, and the upper designs were basic. Back then, the situation was so dire that even a $100 shoe stank badly.

That has changed for the better.

In 2022, many brands offer a sizeable collection of budget products. adidas had a credible under-$100 assortment to begin with, and there’re now many new models to choose from. On a related note, the adidas Agravic TR Trail has been removed since it’s no longer an $80 shoe.

The future of affordable Asics running shoes also appears hopeful. The Gel Contend used to be the only Asics running shoe (under $100) worth mentioning. It’s still in the line-up, but let’s face it – the Contend 7 is very basic and visually disconnected from the new crop of Asics running shoes like the Metaracer, Novablast, and Metaspeed Sky.

The $55 Asics Jolt 3 also serves a similar purpose as the $65 Contend 7, so we haven’t featured it here either.

The technology trickle-down that’s deployed by Asics is a strategy that Nike has honed into an art form.

Nike products like the Winflo 8 lean heavily on the older Pegasus models for inspiration; look no further than the Winflo 8’s forefoot Air bag setup or the Flex Experience 11 that is inspired by the Nike Free.

So while running shoe prices can be downright ridiculous, there are plenty of competent models with double-digit prices.

And yet, most of the running shoes we hear about are expensive models. Brands spend their hype dollars on premium products, so the value assortment rarely receives marketing attention.

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 could 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 that gets US-based consumers a brand-new Asics Gel-Nimbus or the Saucony Triumph will only fetch a ‘budget’ running shoe in many countries.

The search for a sub-$100 shoe can get confusing, so we’ve curated a selection of 14 running shoes that retail for under $100. However, the final selling price will depend on the retailer and your location.

This buyer’s guide consists of daily trainers and non-technical trail shoes. The Asics Hyper Speed is an exception, as it’s not a daily trainer but a racer – and that makes it a rare sub-$100 beast.

1) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 8

The Nike Winflo 8 is the price of entry into the Zoom Air platform. The Winflo 8 features a forefoot Zoom Air unit inside an EVA foam midsole to deliver responsive cushioning.

The Winflo has received numerous upgrades over the years, and the Winflo 8 is no different. While it shares the same midsole and outsole, the new upper is an improvement over the 7.

The midfoot side panels now include Flywire-assisted lacing along with an inner sleeve, thus resulting in a more secure fit environment. The toe box also has a fused bumper for a higher level of protection.

Though the Winflo’s $90 price makes it an expensive shoe on this list, it offers excellent value through its do-everything character.

The EVA foam stack complements the Zoom Air cushioning and makes the Winflo ideal for daily runs and slightly faster training. The fully-clad rubber outsole provides dependable traction and protection.

2) adidas Duramo 10

The Duramo 10 is still a $65 running shoe, and that’s a rare feat in this period of price inflation.

And this shoe isn’t mere lip service to the idea of a running shoe. While basic, several bonafide features make it a fully functional running shoe for low-intensity activities.

Even though the midsole isn’t made of high-tech materials, the EVA foam stack is sufficiently cushioned for short-distance runs and treadmill workouts. The firm ride and full rubber outsole also make it stable and durable.

The mesh upper is surprisingly well-equipped for its price. The tongue and heel are padded, and the snug mesh shell has a smooth interior with a secure lacing set-up.

adidas has managed to fit in molded decorations over the heel and a variable lacing system too.

3) Asics Gel-Excite 9

From a ride perspective, there isn’t a lot of difference between the Gel-Contend 7 and the Gel-Excite 9. Both models feature a mostly-foam (Amplifoam) midsole with a rearfoot Gel pad insert. Both the shoes are equipped with an Ortholite insole.

Though there is a $10 price difference between the two, the Excite and Contend work equally well as neutral daily trainers.

Most of the difference lies in the Gel-Excite 9’s upper design. Using no-sew overlays over an engineered mesh shell results in a (more) contemporary styling while making the interiors smoother than the Contend.

At a suggested retail price of $75, the Asics Gel Excite 9 is excellent value. Last year, the Excite 8 was redesigned from the outsole up, so the Excite 9 is an upper-only update. So it doesn’t matter whether you get the 8 or 9.

4) Nike Downshifter 12

Until last year, the Downshifter used to a Nike shoe that retails at $60. This year, it’s a $70 shoe – thanks to the inflation.

The Downshifter is one of the many sub-$100 in Nike’s catalog, and has been around for nearly a decade. It is one of Nike’s best value for money performance running shoes. The Nike Dart used to be the ultimate no-frills shoe but it was discontinued (in 2017?) after 12 long years.

It feels like a long time, but the Dart was originally a $45 running shoe, and a pretty good one at that. Anyway, we digress.

There’re no fancy foam components or Zoom Air bags on the Downshifter; just a comfortable foam midsole that is paired with a near-seamless upper. The resulting product is a functional, everyday running shoe.

The rubber outsole and its waffle-shaped lugs make the Downshifter durable and traction-friendly. The Downshifter 12 uses a brand new midsole and outsole, as both the Downshifter 10 and 11 shared received a contemporary visual update that was inspired by the Vaporfly. The Downshifter 11 is based on the same sole unit but with a different upper – so not much has changed.

The no-sew upper has a sleek exterior that uses a thin mesh and fused overlays for support. The midfoot panels are vented to keep the interiors cool during runs. The fit runs a bit narrow, but the Downshifter sells in a wide as well.

Also see: The Quest 5, Revolution 6.

5) New Balance Fresh Foam 680 V7

One of the reasons why we featured the New Balance Arishi V3 in the previous edition of this guide was its Fresh Foam midsole. Its $70 retail price also made it an attractive value proposition.

However, things have changed with the introduction of the new 680 V7 and its Fresh Foam underpinnings.

For just a $10 price premium over the Arishi, the 680 V7 proves a better pick due to its dual-density Fresh Foam midsole and a more structured upper. Even the outsole has a dual compound geometry. In other words, the 680V7 offers superior versatility and mainstream appeal over the low-profile Arishi V3.

The 680 and Arishi are also fundamentally different. Whereas the 7.2-ounce Arishi is a shoe that’s better suited for speed runs, the 680 is a standard neutral trainer for everyday runs and training.

If the dual-density midsole and full outsole doesn’t give it away, the 680 V7’s 9.5-ounce weight should; it’s two ounces heavier than the Arishi.

There’s not much happening on the engineered mesh upper. It’s a basic engineered mesh shell with minimal layering and a smooth fit. There’s a choice of an extra-wide fit.

6) Saucony Cohesion 15

The Cohesion has been a regular fixture on our affordable shoe lists. The Cohesion 15 reserves a spot in this guide as well – it is an excellent budget shoe with very little to dislike. This isn’t just about the price; the Cohesion 15 is a no-frills running shoe that covers most bases.

The Cohesion won’t win prizes at a beauty contest, but it has a solid and well-fitting (albeit snug) upper, a cushioned and supportive ride, and is durable. And what’s more, the 9-ounce weight makes it pretty lightweight too.

Its $60 retail price gives you more shoe per dollar and is proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a functional pair of running shoes.

And by the way, if you’re looking for a 2E (wide) sizing in the Cohesion, Saucony sells that too.

Also see: The Asics Gel-Contend 7.

7) Asics Hyper Speed

The Asics Hyper Speed is a legit speed shoe, so it’s unlike any other on this list.

We wear-tested the shoe and found its performance to be exactly as advertised – its firm and low-profile cushioning make it an excellent shoe for fast runs and races.

The midsole stack exceeds 20 mm in the front and rear, so this is not a traditional racer. It’s not a regular daily trainer either; it’s somewhere in the middle. Its cushioning makes 10K speed runs less punishing on the feet; at the same time, the firmness makes it suitable for higher paced runs (4:30 min/km, 7 min/mile, and faster).

Asics Hyper Speed outsole

The Hyper Speed may be inspired by the plate-fitted Metaracer, but all we have here is a single-density EVA foam midsole without an internal plate. So while there’s some help from the grippy outsole and firm ride, the foot has to do most of the transition work.

Above the midsole is an extremely breathable upper that offers a smooth interior and optimal fit security.

8) Nike Flex Experience Run 11

The Flex Experience Run 11 is heavily inspired by the Nike Free’s outsole and upper design. Most of the original Nike Free line no longer exists, so the Flex Experience is what you should buy if you want the flexible midsole experience.

This geometry delivers a unique quality of cushioning and transitions, as it’s very flexible in the front and supportive under the heel. The ride is also sufficiently cushioned, so these traits make the Flex Experience Run 11 an excellent trainer for everyday runs.

The soft and pliable upper is a perfect match for the flexible midsole. There are no superfluous layers that restrict the range of motion, and the interiors fit smoothly while locking the foot over the midsole.

9) Nike Renew Run 2

Think of the Nike Renew Run 2 as a budget version of the React Infinity, except that the midsole is made of EVA foam rather than React.

Regardless of the composition, the foam midsole gets the job done. It’s a cushioned neutral trainer that works for daily runs and casual wear. Inside, the soft insole adds a layer of step-in comfort.

The mesh upper has a snug, yet smooth fit with a plush heel collar and tongue. The molded foam on the outside isn’t functional, but adds a design depth to this budget sneaker. A molded heel cup makes the ride stable by cupping around the foot.

The cushioned midsole is protected by a two-piece rubber outsole for traction and durability.

Also see: Nike Renew Ride 2.

10) adidas EQ21 Run

If the $80 EQ21 looks oddly familiar, that’s because the design takes elements from the Ultraboost as well as the Solarboost. The plastic midfoot cage is inspired by the high-end Boost shoe (our review here), whereas the rest of the upper takes inspiration from the Solarglide and Solarboost.

These bits are not merely cosmetic, but functional as well. The flared Achilles heel grips the heel softly without slippage, and the mesh upper breathes well and creates a smooth interior.

The floating-style cage isn’t as stiff as the full version (that comes attached to the midsole), so it delivers functional midfoot support. The sizing runs a mite short and narrow.

Unlike the higher-priced adidas models, the midsole isn’t made of Boost, but of ‘Bounce’ EVA foam. It’s comfortable and stable enough for daily use, and that’s the reason why this shoe features here.

There’s a full rubber outsole for durable traction. However, it’s not a Continental rubber kind.

11) Saucony Cohesion TR 15

Do you love the road-going version of the Cohesion but want it in a rugged form factor for trail use? The Cohesion TR15 is just that, and there’s no upcharge – both the road and trail Cohesions are priced the same.

The TR 15 has an identical upper and midsole design as the road Cohesion but with an outdoor-oriented outsole and a denser mesh.

Due to the road-biased design, the TR15 isn’t meant for technical trails but should be limited to unpaved flats and gentle slopes. We also view the Cohesion TR15 as a budget-friendly road-trail hybrid.

Otherwise, the Cohesion TR15 has a ride and fit character that’s nearly identical to the road model. The layered upper is protective and fits snug, whereas the EVA foam midsole has adequate cushioning for mild off-road use.

If the Cohesion TR doesn’t meet your trail running requirements, consider the Saucony Excursion TR14. It’s a more serious trail running shoe with an outdoors-oriented upper design and outsole geometry for better on-trail performance.

Also see: The Asics Gel Sonoma 6.

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