Running shoes can be expensive, often costing well over $100. Considering that they need to be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, costs can add up quickly -- especially for high-mileage runners. Keep an eye out for sales. Late spring is a good time to get a deal since store owners need to make room on their shelves for the season's new shoes, which are normally launched in June.
There are also several good shoe options for less than $100, so don't let a low price tag discourage you from considering a particular shoe. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in October 2007 found that low- and medium-cost running shoes offered the same cushioning and support as more expensive running shoes. Unfortunately, the study didn't identify the brands tested, but the lesson to be learned is that brand is irrelevant. If the shoe fits well, the name doesn't matter. Along the same lines, paying a high price for a running shoe can be worth it if that shoe provides flexibility and support for your individual foot.
Most specialty running magazines don't focus on the budget category, but user reviews provide ample feedback on running shoes that won't break the bank.
The Asics Gel-1000 series has long been favorite budget-friendly stability shoes. The Asics Gel-1150 (*Est. $80) was a top pick when Runner's World editors labeled it a Best Buy in late 2009, and more than a dozen reviewers praise this shoe on Buzzillions.com. In October 2010, the Gel-1150 was replaced with the Gel-1160 (*Est. $80). There are limited reviews for this shoe, but those from experts and users are positive. The 1150 is relatively straightforward -- supportive, yet cushy. Some reviewers say it's slightly wide. Still, this is a solid shoe at a bargain price. The Gel-1160 is slated to be discontinued in September 2011 and replaced with the Gel-1170.
Another stability option that won't wreck your budget is the Puma Complete Vectana 2 (*Est. $80). Reviews of this shoe are tough to come by, and those that do exist are mixed. Still, for the lower price, the Vectana 2 is well-cushioned and provides nice stability. Some reviewers, however, complain that at 12.2 ounces for men the shoe is quite heavy. Plus, owners say it's not very flexible, which some find uncomfortable.
The Mizuno Wave Nexus 5 (*Est. $85) is another reliable budget pick. The shoe is simple, but "engineered to reduce overpronation, easing stress on your ankles and knees." For the low price, this is a decidedly durable shoe. It may not be as high-tech as other models, but it provides good motion control, stability and performance.
Interestingly, budget-friendly neutral running shoes are easier to come by than their stability-focused counterparts. Previously, the Saucony ProGrid Jazz 13 (*Est. $80) was a top pick. Runner's World praised the shoe, saying it's a "good deal for the price" even though some testers find its toebox too roomy. Other testers for the magazine touted the shoe's breathability and comfortable cushioning. The U.K. edition of Runner's World gave the Saucony ProGrid Jazz 13 an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5, saying it offers excellent cushioning in the heel. This model has been replaced by the Saucony ProGrid Jazz 14 (*Est. $80) and reviews are tough to find, but experts say Saucony changed little from the 13 to the 14 versions.
Last year, Under Armour released an update to its popular Spectre series, the Spectre II (*Est. $85). Under Armour lightened the shoe by a half-ounce and added a more cushy forefoot to this latest version. User reviews of the shoe are limited, but Runner's World editors include it in their Spring 2010 buyer's guide. While some aspects of the Spectre II remain positive -- including the arch support, since this shoe is designed for those with high arches -- several of Runner's World's testers think the toebox is too spacious.
ConsumerReports.org picks the Champion Amp 2 (*Est. $33) as the best bet for runners on a budget. While the shoe achieves good ratings for stability, cushion and flexibility, few running experts would recommend such a low-priced shoe for serious or high-mileage runners. It also appears that the Champion Amp 2 has been discontinued and succeeded by the Champion Amp III (*Est. $60). The Amp III is sold exclusively at Payless Shoes, and we found no reviews of this updated version.
The Nike Air Pegasus+ 28 (*Est. $80), Asics Gel-Pulse 3 (*Est. $75) and Mizuno Wave Precision 12 (*Est. $90) are the successors of popular budget-friendly neutral-cushioned shoes, but have yet to garner many expert or user reviews.
Motion-control shoes are typically quite expensive because extra materials and construction are required to prevent excessive pronation. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a well-reviewed budget running shoe in this category.