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Best Budget Running Shoes for 2021

We all like to think of running as an approachable sport. Just grab a pair of decent shoes, and you’re ready to go – at least that’s how it looks on paper. The reality is that running shoes just keep getting more expensive. If you want the latest tech, your wallet’s gonna pay – literally. Today, we’re here to challenge that idea with the best cheap running shoes around.

We’ll dig into models from all of our favorite companies and do what we can to save you a buck. Each option will have its own technology and features, but they all have one thing in common: these shoes can be had for $100 or less (with just one exception). Can you find shoes for even less? Of course. But if you want the best value for shoes that you can rack up hundreds of miles in, then you can’t go wrong with these.

The Best Budget Running Shoes

» Adidas Adizero RC 3


Use: Goin’ fast and savin’ cash | Drop: 9.5 mm | Price: $100

The Adizero RC 3 is a sleek, minimal trainer that just screams speed from heel to toe. I mean, just look at the Hi-Res Yellow colorway. Adidas hasn’t made many extreme changes from Gen 2 to Gen 3, and you might not even notice a difference outside of a new mesh pattern.

The new Adizero RC 3 did trim 0.5 mm off the drop height, but you’re not likely to notice the change. It packs the same bed of Lightstrike cushioning as the RC 2, and the weight barely tips the scales at 7.4 ounces. The outsole is made of Adiwear, which should keep you cruising along for 5K race days without issue.

Shop Adizero RC 3 – Women

» Atreyu Base Model

Atreyu side

Use: Anything and everything | Drop: 6 mm | Price: $55 to $75

You’ve no doubt heard of Atreyu if you’ve been around Believe in the Run for a while. The small company has just one training model — the Base Model – and another for racing, the Artist. Both come with more than friendly price tags, but you can’t beat the Base Model subscription. It chops your price per pair down to just $55, and you can choose how often a new set shows up on your doorstep.

Thomas and Dave got to take the original Base Model for a spin and found themselves in love with the KISS approach. The shoe doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, and it weighs almost nothing. The design is sleek and comes in plenty of colorways, and the folks at Atreyu have been known to release a special edition or two in their time.

Shop Atreyu Base Model

» Brooks Launch 8

Use: Workhorse training sessions | Drop: 10 mm | Price: $100

We’re not going to lie to you — we didn’t love the Launch 7 overall. However, the Launch 8 is a horse of a different color. A workhorse, that is. The shoe fits comfortably and can easily withstand hundreds of miles, according to Aldren and Jeremy. All four of our reviewers did find issues with the shoe. Nick, for example, just couldn’t get behind the BioMoGo DNA midsole.

On the other hand, Austin couldn’t come up with any real issues during his testing. The good news from all accounts is that the new upper is a delight. It’s light and airy, and it should do wonders with Summer GRIT coming up. Better yet, there’s a Run Happy banana-themed colorway. How fun is that?

Shop Launch 8 – Men Shop Launch 8 – Women

» Brooks Revel 4

brooks revel 4 feature1

Use: Cool weather mileage | Drop: 8 mm | Price: $100

The Revel 3 was a sneaky sleeper of a shoe, but Dave and Gray ran into the Revel 4 review with open eyes. Dave has been a Revel truther for a few years now, after all. The fourth-generation shoe combines a fun BioMoGo DNA midsole with a knit upper, yet it keeps the price on the cheap side. However, you might want to keep these as a Spring and Fall shoe, as your feet might get a little toasty come Summer.

You may not love the Revel 4 for top-end speed as it tends to get squishy at pace, but it’s a smooth operator. It’s an excellent everyday option, as it handles most distances with a smile on its face. Dave and Gray both had some questions regarding the knit upper, though the issues never proved to be dealbreakers in any way.

Honestly, this is probably the most underrated shoe in the Brooks lineup. The Revel 5 is on the way, so pick up the 4 for even cheaper prices any day now.

Shop Revel 4 – Men Shop Revel 4 – Women

» Puma Liberate Nitro

Use: Tempo runs, lightweight daily trainer | Drop: 8 mm | Price: $110

Okay, so it’s more than $100, but it has a nitrogen-infused midsole in a featherlight package. At $110, the value is better than almost anything else you’ll find on the market when you’re talking short races and tempo runs. It weighs only 6.3 oz. for a US M9.0, allowing for some quick miles when you need them.

The mono mesh upper is light and breathable, but – word of warning – not super supportive. It also has a PUMAGRIP outsole which may be the best and grippiest road outsole in the game right now. All that to say, the Liberate Nitro is a straight ripper that disappears on the foot.

Shop Liberate Nitro – Men Shop Liberate Nitro – Women

» Merrell MTL Skyfire

Use: Hitting the trails on a budget | Drop: 6 mm | Price: $100

You didn’t think we would leave trail junkies out in the cold, did you? We got close to it, but Merrell’s MTL Skyfire is here to bring you back. It’s a solid cheap trail running shoe, and the MTL Skyfire is good enough to make Taylor dip back into the Merrell well in the future. He even wrote a bizarre origin story that involves a little bit of Salomon and Nike getting hot and heavy. We’ll spare the details, but you can read ‘em in our review.

Matt is just as high on the Skyfire supply as Taylor, especially in the Exuberance colorway. It brings back some solid retro vibes. Think of the brightly colored trail gear of the late ‘90s, and you’ll know where we’re at. The grip is reliable enough for technical trails, but you may find yourself sticking to shorter distances with the firm midsole slab.

Shop Skyfire – Men Shop Skyfire – Women

» New Balance FuelCell Propel v2

new balance fuelcell propel v2 - lateral 2

Use: Speedy FuelCell on a budget | Drop: 6 mm | Price: $100

We all adore the FuelCell Rebel v2 and its $130 price tag, but the FuelCell Propel v2 was an early hint that FuelCell was close to something big. This cheap running shoe is firm, snappy, and ready to go as a daily trainer. Meaghan, Thomas, and Dave all got the chance to put their miles in on a pair. Dave and Meaghan seemed to have instant chemistry, and Meaghan churned 15 miles right out of the box.

On the other hand, Thomas found it a bit of a miss that left him looking for something more. The Propel v2 is here for your faster paces, thanks to the refined FuelCell formula, but grab the white colorway seen above in women’s sizing if you can — it tops any of the mens’ colorways by a solid margin.

Shop Propel v2 – Men Shop Propel v2 – Women

» Nike Renew Run 2


Use: Plush recovery miles | Drop: 10 mm | Price: $90

The Renew Run 2 is Nike’s update to its basic recovery trainer, and there are heaps of colorways to choose from. We once again don’t have a review in this case, but it’s tough to go wrong with a solid formula.

If there’s one major flaw to the Renew Run 2: its weight. They’re not the lightest running shoes on the block, and you can sometimes notice a lack of return on longer runs. However, we have to give Nike some credit for its style on a budget. Some cheap running shoes are totally blah, but these puppies are stylish.

Shop Renew Run 2 – Men

» Reebok Floatride Energy 3


Use: Lightweight daily miles | Drop: 9 mm | Price: $100

Reebok’s Floatride Energy is onto its third generation, and the price hasn’t changed a penny even though the tech has two years of improvements. It sports a classic Reebok design with a comfortable square knit upper and flared heel counter to keep your Achilles nice and free. We haven’t officially reviewed the Floatride Energy 3, but our team has already put in plenty of miles with good results.

As the name suggests, Reebok went for its soft Floatride foam to keep you chugging along. The full-length carbon rubber outsole is also tough as nails, so you shouldn’t have an issue getting your money’s worth. You can even pick up a special Pride version of the Floatride Energy 3.

Shop Floatride Energy 3 – Men Shop Floatride Energy 3 – Women

» Saucony Axon

Use: Emulating Endorphin excellence | Drop: 4 mm | Price: $100

Last year was an excellent year for Saucony with the smash success of its Endorphin line. However, the range wasn’t exactly cheap, going from $140 up to $200 as you move from Shift to Pro. That’s where the Axon comes in – Endorphin inspiration in a $100 package. The cheap running shoe isn’t quite as thrilling as its half-siblings, but both Thomas and Meaghan enjoyed their experiences with the shoe.

Thomas went as far as saying that he would pick the Axon over the Kinvara 12, which says a lot. The Axon is closest to the Endorphin Shift, with its fat slab of PWRRUN cushioning and rocker technology. We’re not quite talking SpeedRoll, but a little rocker is better than none. Like many budget shoes, the rugged rubber outsole should have no problem soaking up your long miles.

Shop Axon – Men Shop Axon – Women

How we make our picks

We test many shoes here at Believe in the Run, from budget picks to carbon-plated racing options. Nearly all of our picks come from our own experiences, though we also take community opinion into account. Of course, we also seek to recommend shoes that you can buy without much trouble.

All shoes are given to BITR in exchange for review. We make affiliate commissions on some of the shop links.


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