The best cheap running shoes

  • You don't need to break the bank to find a reliable pair of running shoes - so long as you know what to shop for.
  • Some of the best athletic brands like New Balance, Hoka One One, and Brooks offer dependable runners in the range of $100 to $130.
  • Whether you prefer ample cushioning, a shoe capable of logging heavy miles, or just want a wallet-friendly pair for quick weekend runs, there's an affordable running shoe fit for your lifestyle.

I've been running for more than 20 years and in that time, I've tried just about every type of shoe on the market: stability, neutral, minimalist, cushioned, and everything in between. I've run marathons, navigated trails on the weekend, and crested the hilliest of country roads.

So has Brian Metzler, author of Kicksology, a comprehensive look at the history and science behind running shoes. Likewise, Mike Fronsoe, owner of the Fleet Feet specialty running store in Monroe, LA, has decades of running in his legs. Combined, we've put in thousands of miles in running shoes and know what works for us and others.

While the shoes have evolved and changed over time, the one thing that remains constant is the uptick in cost. Today, there are shoes upwards of $250 that promise - and deliver - faster running. For the average runner, however, that's more shoe than you'd ever want or need. Thankfully, the market offers its fair share of affordable options, too. Advertisement

"There are plenty of good, mid-range shoes in the $110 and under market," Metzler told Business Insider. "The challenge is there's a lot of marketing that goes into selling shoes and that jacks the prices up."

Try before you buy

Before you dive in on price alone, you'd be wise to visit a specialty running shoe store to try before you buy.

"I get a lot of customers who buy a shoe online, find it doesn't work for them, and then come in to get fitted," Fronsoe said. "Much comes down to how a shoe feels on your foot."
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Use your time in a shoe store to try a variety of shoes and figure out what works for you in the price range you're after. Once you know, you can then make it more affordable in a variety of ways. Some stores, like Fronsoe's Fleet Feet location, have frequent buyer programs offering credit after a certain value of purchases. You can also look for sale tables that feature last year's versions of shoes - most brands update shoe models about every nine months, which means a past version then moves to a discounted price.

"If it was a great shoe last year, it's still a great shoe this year," Metzler added. Finally, you can find decent mid-range models online and at big-box stores like Dick's Sporting Goods. According to Metzler, these stores don't carry the marquee models but they do have pairs that are functional, and that you can put some miles in.Advertisement

To help narrow down the growing selection of cheap running shoes, we picked a few of our favorites. From brands like Hoka One One and Skechers to Brooks and New Balance, these shoes keep you running comfortably while also staying kind to your wallet.

Here are our picks for the best cheap running shoes:

Updated 4/3/2020 by Rick Stella: Added more information in the introduction on what to look for when shopping for cheap running shoes and how beneficial trying them on at a specialty store can be, checked the availability of each selected shoe, and updated the prices, formatting, and links.

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The best cheap running shoes overall

The best cheap running shoes overall
This is a shoe that works for almost any type of runner, including those looking for some speed.

Runner's World voted the Rincon an "editor's choice" for a speed shoe in its Fall 2019 Shoe Guide — and with good reason. The shoe delivers what is typically hard to produce: a combination of heavy-duty cushioning and a feather-light weight.

I must confess that when HOKA first came on the running scene some 11 years ago, I was a skeptic. The first iterations of their shoes were big and bulky, and I thought I could never run in something with that much cushion. But there was plenty of buzz around the shoes and I finally decided to give the brand a go a few years ago. I've since tried out several of its models and settled on the Rincon as my favorite for the road.

I've put a couple hundred miles on mine and you'd barely notice the wear. I've worn them for a variety of distances, from a six miler around the neighborhood on up to longer weekend runs in the range of 13 miles. It's a responsive shoe that carries me comfortably on any type of pavement. For $115, it delivers performance and longevity.

Pros: Lightweight (only 6.3 ounces in the women's model), cushy ride.

Cons: With the differential between the heel and toe stack at only five millimeters, it can take some time to adjust to the shoe if you're used to a bigger offset — expect a couple weeks of sore calf muscles.

The best-selling cheap running shoes

The best-selling cheap running shoes
Fronsoe says this is the number-one selling shoe in his store and remains a fan favorite, 12 versions in.

Runners hate when their favorite shoe receives an update that changes the feel or ride they've come to love. That's why the Brooks Ghost stays as a perpetual best-seller in many running shoe specialty stores — it's always stayed true to its roots.

It's also an all-around crowd-pleaser that's not too cushy, not too heavy, not too anything. It's designed with the neutral runner in mind and works well no matter your running goal. The shoe is known for its soft ride and it's even able to last up to 400-plus miles.

Pros: 13 different color combinations to choose from, tried-and-true design

Cons: Pushes the limits of affordability at $130

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The cheapest running shoes

The cheapest running shoes
Long known for its street style, Skechers made a push into the running space a few years back and has been well received.

Even Olympic marathoner and winner of the Boston Marathon, Meb Keflezighi, runs in a Skechers model, so the brand must be onto something, right? Coming in at just $65, the GOrun Fast Quake is our most affordable shoe.

The Fast Quake is a lightweight trainer and features the brand's 5Gen cushioning and cooling "goga mat" insole. Skechers bills this as moisture-wicking and high rebound, to deliver energy return with every step.

I've run in an older version of this model and liked its flexible sole and lightweight feel. The men's version weighs in at 7.8 ounces, and I can say the fit is comfortable and true to size. The shoe might not go the distance through heavy mileage, but it will get you through a couple of weekly training runs and should hold up for a few months.

Pros: You can't do any better on price than this shoe.

Cons: Durability could be an issue if you're looking for a long-haul shoe.

The best workhorse/all-purpose cheap running shoes

The best workhorse/all-purpose cheap running shoes
The New Balance 880 is the number two seller in Fronsoe's store with him adding that, "you can use this shoe for just about anything. It's firm enough to take to the gym but cushioned enough to run in it on roads."

I've been a New Balance fan for years and can confirm that the 880 delivers on an all-around basis. I've taken them on roads, black-top paths and even on softer surfaces like a mulch-covered trail and they responded well each time. It's in its ninth iteration and one of the things I appreciate is that the tweaks New Balance tends to make are smaller, less noticeable ones, so I know I can return to the brands' shoes over and over again and know exactly what I'm getting.

The 880 retails with a price tag of about $125, so it's not the cheapest of our choices but one that still checks most boxes. It features plenty of cushioning, a responsive ride, a mid-level weight at 9 ounces, and a mid-range heel to toe drop at about 10 millimeters. In short, it's the average joe of running shoes and will likely work for most runners.

Pros: A shoe that has something for just about everyone.

Cons: The 880 has a wider toe box than some of its comparable models, so for runners with narrow feet, it may not be the ideal fit.

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The best cushioned cheap running shoes

The best cushioned cheap running shoes
Now in its sixth version, the Clifton became one of HOKA's stock models and the shoe many runners think of when mentioning the brand.

HOKA is long known for its cushioning and in the sixth iteration of the Clifton, seems to have found the perfect amount to satisfy most fans of its shoes.

Going back to my dislike for overly cushioned shoes, the Clifton surprised me with its performance. I've put in a couple of hundred miles in my pair and find that the soft landing remains, as does the responsiveness I appreciate.

At $129, it hits the upper end of the affordability range but if you're after cushioning, look no further.

Pros: All the cushion HOKA is known for with an embroidered upper that provides a snug fit to prevent feet from slipping.

Cons: The stack height of the sole, which is quite big, can be off-putting to some runners, reducing the sense of ground feel.