With soaring food prices and energy bills increasing the cost of living, for many runners, splashing the cash on the latest new-to-market running shoes isn't an option right now.
Handily, though, there are some excellent 2022 models still on sale – and, most importantly, many have been discounted now that newer versions have been released. Stock sizes can be limited though, so scour the sales now and bag yourself a bargain before they run out.
What are the best cheap running shoes to buy in 2023?
Ready to bag a bargain? Here are the best cheap running shoes to shop now. Or, keep scrolling to read our verdicts.
How we test running shoes
Runner's World shoe buyer's guides, which we first produced in 1993, are the most comprehensive on the market because we literally go the extra mile. Or, rather, many of them.
First, we liaise with shoe brands to determine which models they submit. We ask for a full range of sizes, or as close as possible, for men and women for each model to be tested. The shoes are then distributed to our team of editors and network of run-testers and tested over the course of a month.
We put each shoe on tall, short, slim, large, fast, slow, old and young runners – as well as those with different gaits – to see how it performs across various testing environments. We ask each runner to put the shoe through its paces over as many miles as possible and in different sessions.
Each tester fills out a feedback form – offering their thoughts on the fit, cushioning, responsiveness, comfort, grip, breathability and other factors.
We then gather all the feedback for each shoe, compare and contrast the data and the comments, look for commonalities of opinion, and distil all that into the reviews you see here.
The best cheap running shoes for 2023
NB: The shoes listed below are those which made it into our 2022 Shoe Guide, including those that scooped up awards.
New Balance Fresh Foam x 1080 v12
Weight: 292g (M), 234g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
A premium-quality shoe, the 1080 is one of New Balance’s bestselling models. The brand says it offers top-of-the-line performance to all kinds of runner, whether you’re training for competition or doing your weekly three-mile loop of the park. The good news is that the updates to the version 11 have turned what was already a good shoe into something quite excellent– the rubber ankle collar that quite literally rubbed some runners up the wrong way has gone, to be replaced by a more traditional and comfortable foam collar. The new Fresh Foam X midsole is softer than its predecessor for a truly plush, cushioned ride.
In addition, there’s a new Hypoknit upper, featuring stretchy mesh which, coupled with the pretty wide forefoot shape, offers ample room for the feet to move on the run, so there’s little danger of rubbing or bruised toes. (If anything, some testers thought the toebox a bit roomy.) While it’s pitched as a versatile model that can do the faster stuff as well, it’s such a comfortable ride that it really feels like a luxury limousine for your feet – soft, smooth and refined – and it irons out any bumps in the road brilliantly.
Reebok Floatride Energy 4
Weight: 238g (M), 198g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 9mm
Reebok's Energy Series is capable of everything from long runs to daily mileage and speedwork, and all for a seriously affordable price tag. The Energy’s fourth iteration is lighter than ever and the slightly soft, bouncy Floatride Energy foam midsole that won us over from the s hoe’s inception remains largely the same. In the third version, Reebok tweaked the heel’s bevel, so it swoops upwards more and it’s not changed since. This lets you land smoothly and softly, without the shoe crossing over into aggressive-rocker-sole territory.
The midsole is made from steam-molded beads of TPE, which tests at the Runner’s World Shoe Lab have shown to deliver better than average cushioning, especially from the softer forefoot. Testers said it doesn’t feel mushy when you crank up the pace and praised its consistent energy return after more than 100 miles. ‘It’s lightweight but has enough support that I felt secure with every step. It has enough cushioning for distance but is responsive enough for sprint workouts,’ one tester said. The biggest change in the Energy 4 is the recycled upper, which delivers extra protection and a more secure fit. The result is a good shoe made even better via considered updates that’s hard to beat for value.
Asics Gel Nimbus 24
Weight: 290g (M) 247g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 13mm
When a shoe reaches its 24 iteration, you assume it ain’t broke and any ‘fixing’ should be minimal. But while sticking very much to the Nimbus spirit, Asics has made some noticeable changes here and the result will both delight diehard Nimbus fans and win new admirers. The FlyteFoam Blast+midsole material is lighter and softer than standard FF Blast, but it still offers good ‘poppy’ energy return. Our testers were impressed with the balance of comfort and pep. ‘The ride feels beautifully cushioned but with plenty of energy on take-off,’ said one. Comfort is a key attribute throughout – the stretchy knit tongue construction locks you in with a softness that doesn’t feel constrictive, while the plush heel and ankle collar are a real joy. The Jacquard mesh upper feels secure, but it flexes well and breathes nicely, too.
The 24 is around 20g lighter than the 23 and much of the weight shaving comes via a lighter, stronger outsole material that delivered great traction on various surfaces and seemed impervious to wear. But while it’s a lot lighter and peppier than the 23 – and impressively so for a shoe this comfortable – the 24 still isn’t quite right for speed sessions or short races, but for long runs and everyday miles in plush comfort, it delivers superbly.
Nike ZoomX Streakfly
Weight: 185g (M) 155g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 6mm
The Streakfly shares characteristics with Nike’s Vaporfly racers, including a paper-thin, feather-light knit upper. A minimal heel collar shaves weight, while offset lacing eases pressure on the foot. Our testers enjoyed the ‘barely there’ feel, but they also felt there was enough support with no stability or slippage issues.A narrowish midfoot widens in the toebox to allow a splay that scored with our testers, and then things get really interesting. The midsole packs the same ultra-responsive ZoomX foam as the Vaporfly, although with a much lower stack height; and instead of a full-length carbon plate, the Streakfly has a Pebax plate in the midfoot. The result is a super-light, low-profile, springy and aggressive ride. One tester loved the way the shoes make you feel ‘fully connected to the road beneath your feet’, while we also heard the adjectives ‘agile’, ‘nimble’, ‘punchy’ and, above all, ‘fast’. Add praise for the excellent traction from the grooved outsole and you have your ideal 5K/10K PB shoe. But with the midsole offering more protection than an old-school racing flat, they may also work well as a half marathon shoe for lighter, faster runners.
Nike Air Zoom Vomero 16
Weight: 309g (M), 257g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 10mm
The Vomero 16 is one of the first of Nike’s high-mileage shoes to use the lightweight ZoomX foam. You still get all the impact absorption you’d expect, but it doesn’t feel as springy as the Alphafly Next% racers.
Perhaps that’s partly due to the Air cushioning under the forefoot and the slab of rubber running the length of the sole. Nike ‘top-loaded’ the Air unit, which you can feel on your first few strides – only a thin sockliner divides you from that firm, responsive component. The result? The back of the shoe is smooth as silk when you heel strike and roll forwards. Once you’re on your forefoot, the platform firms up and stays stable.
At the top, it’s as plush as ever. The heel collar is well padded and it has a pillowy-soft tongue. One tester said,‘I like how much space the toebox has without compromising on the security of the heel and lacing.’
New Balance Fresh Foam X Vongo V5
Weight: 280g (M), 222g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
The Vongo is the stability equivalent of New Balance’s 1080 – offering premium cushioning but with an additional touch of support for mild overpronators. This version sees the introduction of a midsole of the brand’s Fresh Foam X for an ultra-cushioned, light-feeling ride. On top of this is a knitted upper with varying areas of thickness and support – thin and elasticated in the toebox, with perforated mesh for extra breathability, while the embroidery under the N of the logo joins with the laces to wrap around the midfoot for a secure fit. Behind this, there’s also plenty of foam around the ankle and tongue that helps create a plush and more comfortable feel. Rather than a traditional medial post, the inner edge of the midsole is a little higher than the outside, and the foam is also slightly firmer on the medial side. The support on offer is subtle and provides a smooth transition, too – but you won’t feel its guidance if you don't need it.
Overall, this is a really impressive shoe – one that’s cushioned but fairly responsive, too. And it’s also reasonably light for a stability shoe that comes with so much foam underfoot. An excellent choice for overpronators looking for a shoe that can cruise through the miles in comfort but also work when you really want to push the pace.
Weight: 288g (M), 236g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 5mm
Named after one of Australia’s halcyon Queensland beaches (think white sands, tumbling waves), the Kawana takes inspiration from another Hoka shoe named after shores Down Under, the Bondi (seep85). But the Kawana runs more like Hoka’s pacier, punchier Mach4. Like the Mach, the Kawana has an early-stage rocker sole, making your turnover ebb and flow like the beach’s rolling surf (hence the name). The split heel absorbs shock and makes lighter heel strikes feel fluid. Some testers described the shoe as too clunky for flatout speedwork, but all were fans of its abundant cushioning. ‘I liked the support and it made running on roads feel effortless,’ said one tester.
Compression-moulded EVA makes up the midsole, which doesn’t seem terribly exciting in the carbon-plated world of 2023, but it’s lively and gives the shoe plenty of cushioning while still feeling relatively firm underfoot. Testers were mixed ont he traction, with one saying it was the Kawana’s best feature while another found the outsole slippery on wet pavement. Assuming you stay upright, the Kawana serves up a supremely smooth ride.
Hoka Carbon X 3
Weight: 222g (M), 188g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 5mm
The Carbon X 3 is something of an enigma. With its full-length carbon-fibre plate, pronounced rocker and hefty midsole, you might expect a racer along the lines of Nike’s Vaporfly. But as the miles unfold, you find something different. You don’t get the same ‘pop’ springing you forwards as with other carbon-plated shoes; instead, it smoothes your foot strike and rolls you through your turnover with a bit more oomph. It’s on the heavy side for a racer, adding to the feeling that it isn’t built for all-out speed. But our testers did find the shoes far more comfortable at slower paces than most with carbon plates.
Up top, testers found the all-new knit upper too loose, compromising stability on corners and uneven ground. They also didn’t notice much benefit from the ‘swallowtail’ heel. Overall, the X 3 will work well for longer distances and for those seeking a mellower performance boost.
Under Armour HOVR™ Infinite 4
Weight: 298g (M), 232g (W)
Heel/toe drop: 8mm
In early models featuring its softer and more responsive Hovr midsole, Under Armour wrapped the entire foam midsole in a mesh called Energy Web. This limits how much the foam expands, so when it compresses, more pent-up energy returns to your stride. The Infinite 4 uses only a small patch of webbing around the Hovr foam on the lateral edge, with a thinner layer of EVA carrier foam above. This foam cradles the foot and helps to smooth out the ride. However, as the firmer EVA layer meets your foot first, you don’t get a luxurious step-in feel. ‘The cushioning is soft and plush but dense – it definitely did not feel overly soft,’ said one tester.
Heel strikers will notice the cushioning more than midfoot or forefoot strikers, but the 4 rides smoother than the 3, regardless of where your foot hits the pavement. The flex grooves are chiselled more deeply into the outsole, creating both horizontal and vertical channels along which the shoe can bend more easily. Another benefit of the carved-out rubber is that it also functions much like the lugs on a trail shoe. During testing, the Infinite gripped pavement well and offered excellent durability from its outsole’s carbon-rubber combo
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