For absolute beginners, running is often sold as the ultimate budget-friendly workout because it requires no special equipment – just your good old reliable trainers and a water bottle. However, running is one heck of an addictive workout, and as soon as you move into running at least once a week, you’re likely to begin noticing that not any pair of cross-trainers or running gear will do.
Cushioning, stability control, comfort, and breathability all begin to matter the more you hit the trail. The specific shoes you will need will likely depend on your particular gait. Overpronators and supinators will often realize that investing a little bit more on quality will save them many evenings of knee pain and hundreds of dollars in recovering from injuries.
Even for the lucky few among us with perfect technique and neutral pronation, a proper pair of road-running shoes will quickly improve your performance and give you the edge you need for your first 5K of the season. Because of this, the market is now full of very high-tech, luxurious options. From celebrity endorsements to the barefoot-shoe craze, running shoes are big business.
Stay ahead of credit card debt without sacrificing your joint health with one of these well-selected, thoroughly tested, and top-rated budget-friendly running shoes.
With an average weight of 11.7 ounces, these running shoes are not too light to feel flimsy, but they won’t hold you back either.
The FuelCell model is a great option for looking for a faithful neutral shoe. No frills and no big branding attempts were made here, which keeps the final price tag free of any wasted resources. Instead, you get good soles, efficient removable inserts, a resilient mesh, and a very precise arch. The boot-like construction can feel a bit tight when first trying it out, but it quickly compensates for it by improving your stability and protecting your metatarsals.
As an added bonus, these shoes are remarkably light with an average weight of just over 8 ounces. Add that to their relatively minimal drop (just 6 mm), and you have a great companion for those days when you are looking for speed.
If that sounds like you, there’s no need to spend a small fortune on gel inserts for extra cushioning. The Cavu running shoe by Hoka One will provide you with the protection you need. These reliable running buddies also come with a superb mesh that will keep scents away even during the harshest of summers. The collar padding and fully adjustable laces will keep them comfortable even when switching to long-distance training.
As a final bonus, the available color combinations look bold without being gaudy. Try the charcoal and black if you are looking to fit in, or go for anthracite and sulfur spring if you are planning to run at night.
As a brand, Skechers has positioned itself well in the market of non-professional athletes who are looking for something equally efficient and eye-pleasing. Good materials, smart design, and a youthful look are now considered the quintessential Skechers qualities. But the GoRun Ride 7 model successfully improves this with impressively lightweight construction, a 6 mm drop, and padding in all the right places.
This includes extra cushioning near the heels as well as a padded collar and comfy tongue that somehow still stays cool even in hot and humid weather.
Nevertheless, this is a great shoe for those with neutral pronation or who are trying to extend their workouts beyond the 5K range. Their breathable mesh and curvy, natural landing is complemented by the design’s versatility and unassuming color combinations, which make this a great gym-to-street show.
For those looking to make the most out of their investment, the Reebok Fusion Flexweave also offers a low-cut design that can be used with any sock model as well as a high-tech rubber sole.
The Cell Surin is a great cross trainer and mid-distance running shoe that won’t have to wait until the next Black Friday sale before it can be squeezed into your budget. Made from 100% synthetic materials, it is a durable and well-made shoe that provides superior breathability, good landing, and proper stability for those who need to pivot or change speeds often.
Also, the design looks very Puma, very cool, and way above its actual price. And what’s even better, they have managed to achieve this without driving themselves into neon or streetlight territory. Just five color combinations, mostly favoring red, black, and gray, are all they needed to make a great-looking and better-performing running shoe.
A cleverly-hidden phylon forefoot offers a little extra edge when speeding uphill or protecting your toes during a long-distance session while the reflective stripes will do their part in preventing a nighttime accident.
These running shoes also manage to offer superb stability and extra cushioning without looking oversized or making you look like a 90s stereotype. It takes a Nike-worthy designer to accomplish that, and the opportunity to offer a wide range of colors (13 different combinations) was not wasted.
Good thing Brooks is still around to defy this trend. The Ghost 11 is a proud running shoe that doesn’t come across as vain or superfluous in any way. Even its flashier edges can all be quickly justified in the name of comfort and performance.
And do they perform! Thanks to their bouncy rubber soles and energizing cushioning, a quick run with the Ghost 11 feels a lot like hitting the gas pedal on a motorbike. Despite their unusually large differential drop (12 mm, a bit above the modern standards), they still offer good arch support and enough room to stretch or bend. They are also very easy to adjust, thanks to their plush tongues and collars as well as their neat laces. All parts of the shoe are made from earth-friendly synthetic materials, available in eight different color schemes.
Sizes tend to run a bit small, especially for those who have wide feet, but they more than make up for this with a soft interior feel, a breathable mesh, and a series of unique zesty colors, which range from lime green to key lime yellow with the obligatory stops in the blue and black palette.
As any brand trying to build a base of loyal fans, these shoes come with a surprise pair of free socks.
The Aerobounce is probably the ultimate budget running shoe, at least where Adidas is concerned. A midsize shaft, 8 millimeters of drop, and a total weight of 7 ounces speak of a shoe meant for good, devoted runners who are not really interested in the Boston Qualifiers but who have logged enough miles to know comfort from blister-worthy. The rubber outsole will perform well both in outdoor trails and inside the gym and offers extra traction on wet floors.
The two-tone synthetic mesh is not only incredibly fresh but also looks nice: colorful yet stylish with the black background providing a great counter-balance to the solar red edges.
These shoes provide all the basics a good pair of neutral running shoes need but with the added perks of Under Armour’s passion for innovation and efficiency. A low drop and an extra-rugged outsole will provide you with a light, travel-friendly, fast companion that will remain dry and efficient across all seasons. This is perhaps why they went with a textile mesh rather than the standard synthetic engineered mesh, although no ugly smells can be expected despite the relatively unorthodox choice.
The only defect, if one must be pointed out, is that the model seems targeted at narrow feet only as the wider sizes remain difficult to locate – or may require a different model altogether.