We get it. While everyone likes to say, “All you need is to step out the door and start running,” you at least need some good shoes. And some models can be expensive, costing upwards of $250—hello, VaporFly Next%. Even though a good running shoe is a worthy investment, you don’t have to shell out the Benjamins to get started. We’ve tried and can recommend lots of options that cost $100 or less.
How We Tested
The shoes included in this list—with the exception of the competition spikes, the Saucony Kilkenny XC7—received the same treatment as all of the running shoes we’ve tested. We tested them in our shoe lab, measuring their cushioning, flexibility, and stability features among other things, while our wear testers took to the road and trails to evaluate their comfort, speed, traction, and durability.
Our testers, including our most experienced shoe reviewers, took to muddy terrain, earned a few trial-and-error blisters, and even ran a half marathon in some of the shoes listed below.
While some of these options may lack the features of their pricier counterparts—the Asics Gel-Scram 4 trail shoe, for example, doesn’t have a a reinforced rock plate—these running shoes still provide a smooth ride with all the basics you’ll need to put your best foot forward.
We studied all parts of the shoes and put in the mileage to test their resilience and reliability in the long run. Here’s our top picks for the best budget-friendly running shoes—including road, trail, and track models.
—BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINER—
Skechers GOrun Pure
Weight: 10.8 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)
What’s remarkable about the Pure is how lightweight it is in spite of its soft feel. This is due to the Ultra Go foam midsole, which is super light and plush on runs. The nearly seamless upper is another factor that adds to the shoe’s comfort.
Under Armour Hovr Sonic 2
Weight: 10 oz (M), 8.3 oz (W)
The Sonic’s midsole uses UA’s Hovr foam, an EVA-based material that you’ll also find on shoes like the Guardian and the Phantom. On its own, Hovr feels soft, without the “mushy” feeling that some runners note in plush trainers. But when nested inside a compressive mesh called Energy Web, Hovr gets an extra bounce that sets it apart from shoes like the Brooks Glycerin. While it lacks the Glycerin’s softness, Hovr foam has an extra pop underfoot instead.
Brooks Launch 6
Weight: 9.4 oz (M), 7.7 oz (W)
Brooks added a little more foam in the forefoot of the midsole for a springier feel. Pair that bouncy ride with a new sleek and seamless upper, and you have a flexible, lightweight trainer that can take on long, hard efforts up to 26.2 miles without skimping on cushioning.
Reebok Forever Floatride Energy
Weight: 9.3 oz (M), 7.7 oz (W)
At only a portion of the Floatride Run Fast’s cost, the Forever Floatride Energy offers a lightweight, springy performance that’s oh-so-similar to its more expensive sibling. What’s more, our wear testers and several Runner’s World editors loved running in this shoe.
“This shoe is so close to being perfect,” test editor Dan Roe said. “The ride is supple yet there’s loads of energy return. It feels fast and smooth, and it works really well at sexy pace and threshold pace.”
—BEST FOR 5K RACING—
Topo Athletic ST-3
Weight: 7.2 oz (M), 5.9 oz (W)
A roomy toe box and a lightweight design make the ST-3 a fast and flexible trainer that our testers favored for racing short distances. The breathable upper dries fast if you’re caught in a rainstorm, and fits snugly over your foot. One caveat that comes with being a lightweight: There is very little cushioning or arch support.
Asics Roadhawk FF 2
Weight: 9.8 oz (M), 8.0 oz (W)
The latest version of the Roadhawk gets an updated midsole made from Asics’s FlyteFoam, which offers a generous bounce according to our wear testers, and feels pleasingly lightweight and snappy underfoot. While our data from the shoe lab did indicate that the Hawk bulked up a bit in this iteration, our testers found the weight increase was easily countered by a more breathable upper and slimmed-down profile.
—BEST STABILITY TRAINER—
Asics GT-1000 8
Weight: 10.2 oz (M), 9.1 oz (W)
The GT-1000 8 is a comfortable everyday trainer with a few added stability features, including a section of firmer foam added beneath the arch. Overpronators will find the shoe gives them the support they desire, while neutral runners looking for a stable trainer can also slip into this versatile shoe. Our wear testers loved the fit and ride of the GT-1000 7; this version tweaks the design of the mesh upper, and packs even more support at the midfoot.
Puma Hybrid NX
Weight: 10.7 oz (M), 8.9 oz (W)
The Hybrid NX’s name derives from Puma’s line of dual-midsole shoes, a combination of Nrgy beads fused into Ignite foam. This midsole technology provides lightweight cushioning and high rebound for hitting the road or track.
—BEST FOR HALF-MARATHONS—
Saucony Freedom ISO 2
Weight: 9.5 oz (M), 8.1 oz (W)
Saucony’s ISOKNIT engineered knit upper makes its debut on this well-cushioned neutral shoe. The shoe has plenty of soft, bouncy foam, though lab tests show it to be slightly stiffer than the previous Freedom ISO, with above-average energy return. Our testers also found it had extra space in the toe box and recommended it for runners with wide feet or high arches.
—BEST FOR SPEEDWORK—
New Balance 890v7
Weight: 7.2 oz (M), 5.6 oz (W)
You won’t get a lot of support from this stripped-down shoe, but track runners and those who gravitate toward firm, lean race flats will find plenty here to love. The lightest of New Balance’s 800 line, the 890 has been designed with weight savings in mind, including its deconstructed heel and reduced rubber outsole. A sturdy knit upper brings sock-like comfort and flexibility through the shoe’s forefoot, while a thin layer of EVA foam makes up the midsole.
—BEST FOR TRACK WORKOUTS—
Weight: 7.7 oz (M), 6.4 oz (W)
Whether you’re racing a 10K, doing 400-meter intervals at the track, or strength training at the gym, the Altra Solstice is the chameleon of lightweight running shoes. This formfitting neutral road shoe is heavier than Altra’s Vanish-R, a true racing flat, but still extra light for runners to turn on the speed—or for racers mixing up their training with track workouts and tempo runs.
Puma Speed Sutamina
Weight: 10.7 oz (M), 8.4 oz (W)
The Sutamina is a bit of a riddle. Smaller runners on our test team have found it to be a softly cushioned trainer with high energy return. Clydesdale runners in our test pool found it to be too stiff and firm. And while lab data revealed it to be a heavier-than-average shoe, all our testers found that it felt very lightweight on their feet. Ultimately this is a shoe for light, efficient runners who aren’t prone to injury and want something soft yet springy with high turnover. If this is you, the Sutamina is a bargain.
—BEST ALL-PURPOSE SHOE—
Brooks Revel 3
Weight: 8.9 oz (M), 6.5 oz (W)
The Revel is designed for pure versatility. It excels at everything from intervals to middle distances, and even has a clean enough design and color scheme to moonlight as office footwear. The shoe has lost a few ounces—and four millimeters of heel-toe offset—over its predecessor, the 2, but it still has plenty of soft, comfortable cushioning and solid traction on wet pavement. Wear it to the gym, the coffee shop, or a group run—the shoe is up for any distance or setting.
—BEST MINIMALIST TRAIL TRAINER—
Merrell Bare Access XTR
Weight: 8.0 oz (M), 6.0 oz (W)
If the Topo Athletic ST 3 is for runners predisposed to minimalist shoes, the Merrell Bare Access XTR is for the minimalist skeptics. The lightweight trail shoe gives you just enough protection underfoot for a connected-to-the-ground feel without leaving you vulnerable to sharp debris. A zero-drop platform and flexible midsole add to the free-running vibe, but the shoe’s comfortable mesh upper is far from spare or nontraditional. Sticky 3mm Vibram lugs capably grab ahold of loose dirt and gravel.
—BEST FOR CROSS-COUNTRY RACING—
Saucony Kilkenny XC7
Weight: 5.8 oz (M), 5.3 oz (W)
The Kilkenny is a perennially popular high school spike, due to its entry-level price and cushioned, comfortable ride. The seventh version has a somewhat narrower footprint, particularly in the middle. The durable upper is roomier than most spikes, accommodating a variety of foot shapes by wrapping without hugging too close to any part of the foot.
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