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Best affordable running shoes – 2020


This article has been updated with current models for December 2019. We’ve dropped the Nike Revolution from the guide.

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 cheap. 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 the pricey 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 selection of 17 running shoes that retail for under $100. The final selling price will depend on the retailer and your location, however.

This hand-picked list consists of daily trainers and non-technical trail shoes. The list reveals a few (pleasant) surprises; some of these cheap running shoes use tech and components found in more expensive models.

For instance, the New Balance Arishi uses a fresh foam midsole and the Winflo has Zoom Air cushioning tech. And the Saucony Excursion TR13 GTX is one of the cheapest Gore-Tex lined (waterproof) shoes money can buy.

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 that 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) Saucony Clarion

The Clarion is a recent 2019 addition to Saucony’s line, and the brand markets this relatively firm riding shoe for speed runs. The overall design of this neutral trainer has a bit of the older generation Saucony Ride in it; the engineered mesh and the fused overlays have a 2014 vibe to them.

And the 8 mm offset midsole uses Powergrid+, a midsole design with hollowed-out sections. The outsole uses a semi-transparent rubber for durability and grip – similar to the Crystal rubber found in more expensive Saucony models.

3) Nike Downshifter 9

The Downshifter 9 is a Nike shoe that retails at $60. Yes, you heard that right.

It may come as a surprise to many that Nike retails shoe models below $100. The Downshifter is one of them and has been in Nike’s line for many years now. 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.

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.

The Downshifter 9 features the same sole as the 8 so there’s no change in the ride quality. The upper gets a cleaner, more fashionable styling along with a simplified lacing system.

Also available in an SE version with a gum rubber outsole and streetwear colors.

4) Nike Zoom Rival Fly

The Nike Zoom Rival Fly is a slightly different running shoe than the other budget options listed here. This is a shoe meant for fast-paced training, and is a replacement – somewhat – for the Zoom Elite.

The forefoot loaded Zoom Air bag results in responsive transitions and push-offs, while the firm midsole makes speedwork fun. The upper has looped lacing and a gusseted construction for a secure midfoot fit.

5) Asics GT 1000 8

We thought to include at least one traditional stability shoe (one with a firmer medial post) on this guide, so here we are. The Asics GT 1000 8 is a comfortable and sensibly designed stability shoe that happens to be an excellent daily trainer.

And the GT 1000 isn’t the same anymore, and we say that in a good way – it is much better than what it used to be. The ride is cushioned without the medial post poking underfoot; the firmer foam section is confined to a small area under the arch.

The upper uses a softer collar and tongue lining than the GT-1000 7 for increased interior comfort over last year. There’s sufficient room inside the upper, and the GT fits true to size.

6) Asics Gel-Excite 6

From a ride perspective, there isn’t a lot of difference between the Gel-Contend (see the next shoe) and the Gel-Excite. Because both models feature a mostly-foam midsole with a rearfoot Gel pad insert. Though there is a $10 price difference between the two, both models work equally well as neutral daily trainers.

The difference lies in the Gel-Excite 6’s upper design. Not only does using no-sew overlays over an engineered mesh create a (more) contemporary styling, it also makes the interiors smoother than the Contend.

At a suggested retail of $75, the Asics Gel Excite 6 is excellent value.

7) Asics Gel-Contend 5

The Contend 5 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.

8) adidas Duramo 9

There are plenty of value running shoes from adidas, but the Duramo 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 that 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.

9) Brooks Anthem 2

For a long time, Brooks had an unwritten rule of only selling running shoes priced above $100. Brooks still sticks to that rule – except for the Anthem 2, that is.

The Anthem 2 is a basic neutral trainer, one which is priced below the Launch 6 and the Rebel. And like most Brooks running shoes, the Anthem is a supportive running shoe with a comfortable upper. The cushioning isn’t soft; the Anthem is closer to the firmer Revel and Launch than the softer Ghost.

10) Nike Air Zoom Winflo 6

The Winflo 6 is the price of entry into the Zoom Air platform. The Winflo 6 features two Zoom Air units for responsive cushioning and there’s plenty of rubber coverage providing outsole grip.

The Winflo has been constantly upgraded over the years, and the Winflo 6 is the best version yet. Though the Winflo’s $90 price makes it one of the more expensive shoes on this list, it has excellent value in the form of its all-round character.

The engineered mesh equipped upper fits snugly, helped by the partial bootie construction. This is 2019, so the midsole draws design inspiration from the Vaporfly 4%.

Also see: The Winflo 6 Shield – a water-resistant and reflective version.

11) New Balance 680V6

If the New Balance 680V6 was ten dollars cheaper, we’d have awarded it the affordable shoe of the year 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 shoes, 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.

12) New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V2

The New Balance Arishi V2 gets you the Fresh Foam experience without the price premium. This $70 retail is a great neutral daily trainer which doesn’t skip on the fundamentals.

An all-mesh upper has a smooth interior fit, and the single-density Fresh Foam midsole gives you ample cushioning for your daily training needs. The full-coverage rubber outsole has good traction and durability.

13) 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 asymmetrical toe-bumper placement. There’s no irritation inside but the RN 8’s fit doesn’t feel as refined as the RN 7.

Still, the Flex Experience RN 8 is excellent value for $65.

14) Nike Quest 2

The Nike Quest 2 is a sensible buy for its $75 retail price. The sleeved upper combines mesh with Flywire lacing and thin overlays to give you a smooth and supportive fit quality. The raised heel collar and tongue are soft to the touch and perform 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.

The Quest 2 is nearly identical to the outgoing Quest V1 except for minor tweaks on the upper. And when say minor, that’s just the repositioning of the Nike logo, a cleaner tongue design, and a different mesh.

15) adidas Terrex CMTK

The adidas Terrex CMTK sells for less than $100 but it doesn’t skimp on the materials. The upper is well protected by Urethane overlays and a closed mesh, and the foot is secured in place by the speed-lacing system. The overall fit is comfortable with any hard edges.

The Continental rubber outsole doesn’t have an aggressive lugging system, so it would wise to limit its use to gentle, non-technical trails. If you want a waterproof Terrex, a GTX (Gore-Tex) version is also available.

16) Saucony Cohesion TR 12

Do you love the road-going version of the Cohesion but want it in a rugged design for trail use? The Cohesion TR12 is just that, and there’s no upcharge – both the road and trail Cohesions are priced the same.

The TR 12 has an identical upper and midsole design as the road Cohesion but with an outdoor-oriented outsole. Admittedly, the TR12 isn’t a shoe for technical trails but it works for most runs on flats and gentle gradients.

Also see: The waterproof Saucony Excursion TR13 GTX.

Do you own any of these shoes? Improve this guide by sharing your insights – submit a review here.