The best last-season running shoes for men and women

cheap running shoes
The best last-season running shoes

With soaring food prices and energy bills significantly increasing the cost of living, for many runners, splashing the cashing on new-to-market running shoes isn't an option right now.

Handily, though, there's some excellent 2021 models which are still on sale – and, most importantly, 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.

The shoes listed here are those which made it into our 2021 Shoe Guide, including those that scooped up awards.

How we test our 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 wear-testers.

The shoes are 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 a variety of testing environments. We ask each runner to put the shoe through its paces over as many miles as possible and in different types of 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 distill all that into the reviews you see here.

What are the best cheap running shoes to buy in 2022?

Ready to bag a bargain? Here's 2021's best running shoes.

Saucony Endorphin Speed 2

Won: Best In Test 2021

Weight: 224g (M), 198g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Neutral

Our Best In Test award is reserved for shoes that stand out from the crowd – and this is one of them. Judged only by its name and weight, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it is best suited to speedwork or racing, but that would seriously underplay this impressively versatile option, which proved as adept on long runs as it did on shorter, faster workouts. Sandwiched inside Saucony’s PWRRUN PB cushioning in the midsole is a full-length nylon plate, which offers a propulsive feeling, but is flexible and subtle, with less of the obvious rocker motion typical of carbon-plated shoes.Compared with many carbon shoes, the Endorphin Speed 2 offers a more stable, unobtrusive and sure-footed ride – you feel like you can plant your foot down with confidence. The shoe is finely tuned between cushioning and responsiveness: it’s bouncy but you can still feel the road and get plenty of pop from it as you run. In the words of RW editor-in-chief Andy Dixon, ‘Overall, it’s a superb all- rounder, a great option for those who only want one pair of running shoes to cover all their bases.

Shop - women's

Hoka One One Rocket X

Won: Best new shoe 2021

Weight: 210g (unisex)

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road/Performance

This is the first shoe we can remember ever scoring maximum marks in a group-testing process. The reason we haven’t given it a share of the Best in Test award is that it’s quite a niche shoe and won’t be as suitable for as many runners as the Best in Test winner, the Asics Gel Nimbus 23. This shoe, which replaces the discontinued Evo Carbon Rocket, mixes speed with control. It’s one of the lightest shoes in the Hoka range, is low-slung, snug and it features a slim carbon-fibre plate. The RW team were big fans, with deputy editor Joe Mackie commenting: ‘This is a seriously fast shoe. The rocker and carbon plate combine to create a springy, snappy ground contact that feels like it’s giving you a propulsive push every time your foot hits the floor.’ Editor-in-chief Andy Dixon added: ‘They also feel quite stable – not like you’re perched on the high stack height of a Nike Vaporfly, and this gives a feeling of confidence to really push the pace.’ If you’re after a pair of race-day speedsters, your search is over.

Shop now - unisex

Brooks Levitate 4

Won: Highly Commended 2021

Weight: 286g (M), 258g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Neutral

Sometimes you test a shoe that you just know is going to end up being a fixture in a brand’s stable for a long time to come, and from the time we laced up the first Levitate, we thought this would be one such shoe for Brooks. Happily, for fans of the model, version 4 offers much of the same. There have been some changes, such as a slightly adapted midsole foam formula, a tweak to the outsole grooves to allow for better roll-through on footstrike and the upper has been made lighter and more breathable. In truth, only the last of these changes was noticed– it seems radically different– but elsewhere, the overall feel was the same, which is a good thing. This is a shoe that just gets the job done, mile after mile. While £140 is not cheap, the shoe is exceptionally durable and shows less wear after a couple of hundred miles than many of its direct competitors, and the ride and cushioning remain consistent. Think of this one as a loyal buddy for a run when all you want is to switch off and go.

Shop now - men's

Shop now - women's

Read full review

Saucony Guide 14

Won: Best update 2021

Weight: 298g (M), 266g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Stability

When assessing the feedback on this shoe, we kept reading comments such as ‘so reassuring’, ‘heavy and solid, but in a good way’, ‘really reliable’ and so on. This is not a shoe you can use for quicker sessions, but as an everyday shoe for heavier runners and overpronators, version 14 of the Guide is best in class. The cushioning tends towards the firm side and the fit won’t suit narrow-footed runners, but normal-to-wide-footed runners enjoyed a perfect mix of freedom and cradling across the full length of the foot, thanks to a newly designed upper. The outsole grooves have been adjusted to allow for a smoother roll-through from heel to toe. This means that, despite the firm feel, the shoe was responsive. There’s also a curved shank under the midsole that provides medial support; our overpronating runners loved the feeling of that need being met without the clumpiness a traditional medial post can bring. A terrific long-run shoe for beginner-to-intermediate overpronating runners.

Buy now - men's

Buy now - women's

Hoka One One Rincon 3

Won: Best value 2021

Weight: 210g (M) 176g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road/Performance

Cushioned. Responsive. Comfy. Light. Fast. The Rincon’s is a formula that Hoka has wisely decided not to meddle with in its latest model. The Rincon 2 also won the Best Value award in our October 2020 guide, wowing testers as a master of all trades, from long runs to race day. The new iteration performs as well, if not better, with no price uplift. The midsole and outsole stay the same, meaning you get a big old chunk of EVA underfoot. In fact, ‘the amount of cushion for the weight seems to almost defy the laws of physics’, says Mackie. ‘It means you can run long distances in comfort, but the Rincon really comes alive when you up the pace. The midsole delivers great bounce and energy return, and then there’s the rocker, which kicks in to aid midfoot-to-toe transition, smoothing foot strike and adding pop to take-off.’ The 3 is lighter than the 2, partly down to a new vented mesh upper– which also improves breathability – and partly down to removing some material from the outsole, which doesn’t compromise traction or feel. An absolute winner.

Shop - women's

Shop - men's

Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 38

Won: Best update 2021

Weight: 310g (M), 257g (W)

Heel/Toe Drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Neutral

Like a fine wine, the Pegasus just gets better with age. While this new Peg may look a bit bulkier, it’s every bit as responsive as its redecessor. In the forefoot it features a Zoom Air unit, tailored specifically to both shoe size and gender. That pressurised air pocket is tuned to a lower PSI in the women’s version to provide a slightly softer and more forgiving ride. (That’s not to suggest female runners require cushier shoes of course; rather Nike has made the adjustments to better match women’s gait patterns and comfort preferences.) Like the 37, the entire midsole uses React foam, so the Pegasus’s ride still feels just as snappy and responsive. We’d use this shoe for everything from long runs to your first 5K. ‘Shoes don’t get to add 38 to their name unless they’re doing a lot right for a lot of runners,’ says RW deputy editor Joe Mackie. ‘But while models should, in theory, constantly improve through their iterations, it doesn’t always work like that. For the Peg 38, however, the theory of evolution does hold true. Having run in many Pegs over the past 15 years, I can honestly say these are definitely my favourite.’

Shop - women's

ASICS Gel Cumulus23

Weight: 280g (M), 240g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road/Neutral

When a shoe hits version 23, you know it ain’t broke – and Cumulus fans can rest assured Asics hasn’t fixed it. The 23 is another versatile, comfortable, everyday go-to. There is some evolution, notably in the midsole’s ‘3DSpace construction’ – pillars that compress to different extents, working with your (gender-specific) foot strike. You don’t notice the nuances of this on the run, but you do notice a smooth and unobtrusive ride.

Heel strikers will enjoy extra shock absorption from the heel’s gel unit, while the Flytefoam midsole material hits a sweet spot on the cushioning continuum: soft enough to excel on slower miles, but enough spring to accelerate through tempo sessions.

The plush ankle collar, heel and tongue add comfort, but at the price of the 23 weighing slightly more than the 22. The upper update uses a mesh of differing thicknesses, providing support where it’s most needed and breathability elsewhere, while the grip is excellent, even in those ferocious summer downpours.

In a world of carbon bells and rocker whistles, this is a dependable staple you can rely on.

Shop - women's

Shop - men's

NewBalance Fuelcell Elite v2

Weight: 268g (M), 221g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Performance

Designed to give you a ‘competitive edge on race day’, the V2 of theFuelCell RC Elite delivers a fast ride.You’ll look the part, too: our testers loved the styling and we’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best-looking shoes in the whole guide.

Aesthetics aside, you get the pace and pop you need for race days and speedwork sessions, with a healthy amount of FuelCell midsole and a full-length carbon fibre plate, which has the same rigidity as it did in the first version of this shoe, but with a steeper slope. This, paired with the higher toe spring, gives the Elite V2 more of a rocker effect, although not quite as pronounced as other ‘super shoes’ on the market. From speedwork to half marathons, this performed well while also feeling comfortable and stable underfoot at all times.

‘For me, it feels very similar to theFuelCell TC, but offers you more cushioning and more stability on the corners,’ says McGuire. ‘I’m a huge fan of the Elite V2 and love how, unlike some shoes, it’s not just built for logging speedy miles. It feels comfortable and stable during both warm-ups and cool-downs.'

Buy now - men's

Adidas Boston 10

Weight: 286g (M), 262g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Neutral

While the name suggests this is a 26.2-specific shoe, the Adizero Boston 10 makes a good case for itself as an all-distance shoe, with just the right amount of long-run cushioning and speed-day snap. This version has been totally revamped. The thin layer of Boost formerly underfoot has been replaced with a full-length midsole of Lightstrike, a lighter and firmer EVA-based foam. And, instead of the oft-used midsole plate, the Boston uses carbon fibre rods for a responsive, snappy ride that returns significantly more energy with each stride – especially when compared with previous versions of the shoe.

The engineered mesh upper has been updated and now uses 50% recycled textiles – without sacrificing a glove-like fit or good heat management.

‘This feels different to previous iterations of the stripped-down shoe with a cult following,’ says RW deputy digital editor Jane McGuire. ‘It’s heavier and the stack height is higher than the Boston 9, but it’s far from being marshmallowy – something fans will love. Like the Nike Pegasus 38, this great all-rounder can be worn for long runs and speedier sessions alike.’

Shop - men's

Shop - women's

Nike Pegasus Trail 3

Weight: 321.4g

Heel/toe drop: 9.5mm

Type: Trail

Anyone looking for a trail shoe that doesn't feel like a trail shoe should consider the Nike Pegasus Trail 3. The third iteration of the shoe is in line with the changes made to the Pegasus - there's a great amount of cushioning underfoot and a wide platform for stability. Nike says, 'the rubber sole features a shockwave-like pattern that mimics mountain-biking tyres' and we found the shoe had a great amount of grip on dry or sandy trails, but was a little on the slippy side when wet. This would make a brilliant shoe for anyone commuting or running on a mix of road and trail, but dedicated explorers might find the cushioning problematic.

Shop now - women's
Shop now - men's

Hoka One One Mach 4

Weight: 232g (M), 192g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 5mm

Type: Road/Performance

Hoka is on a bit of a hot streak lately and this shoe was also a contender for an award. We’ve marked it as a performance shoe; however, lighter and more experienced runners will probably find it’s also an excellent choice for everyday runs. The Mach has quickly become a popular model, thanks to its canny blend of low weight, responsiveness and the cushioning, which is soft without being soggy. Unlike the overall chunky look of most Hoka shoes, the Mach offers quite a slim fit; this, along with the low heel drop, adds to the overall sensation of controlled speed. For version 4 of the shoe, Hoka has changed the midsole – offering dual-density foam, with a softer layer sitting on a firmer one; the upper has been made more breathable; and the heel section has been redesigned to reduce the chances of any rubbing of the Achilles. Most people will find the sweet spot for this one is from 10K to half marathon, but on the right feet it can do much more than that.

Read full review

Buy now - men's

Buy now - women's

Salomon Sense Ride 4


Weight: 290g (M), 235g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Trail/Neutral

If you have not done much offroad running, but are considering plucking up the courage to do so, you would be wise to grab a pair of these. They’re a wonderful, beginner-friendly pair of trail shoes and sensibly priced for what they offer. The ‘Optivibe’ midsole cushioning offers a good mix of softness and give without being too spongy; traction is solid on a variety of surfaces – although it struggled in extremely muddy conditions – the upper is pleasingly durable (but not waterproof); and the overall feeling was one of reassurance, rather than elite performance. The pull-tight Quicklace system was handy, but Salomon needs to change the position of the tongue pouch into which the loose ends are tucked – it’s tough to access easily. Fans of the shoe will be pleased to note that the only real change from version 3 is the heel counter, which has been made slightly more padded for extra protection. If you have skinny ankles, you’ll find the rear of the shoe a better fit because of this alteration.

Read full review

Buy now - men's

Buy now - women's

Nike Air Zoom Tempo Next%

Weight: 279g (M) 225g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 10mm

Type: Road/Neutral

There's so much going on with this shoe it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s begin with this: if you can afford it, the Zoom Tempo Next% will knock chunks off your PBs. It’s designed as an everyday – relatively speaking – version of the Alphafly Next%. This shoe features a carbon composite plate, which is softer than the plate in previous shoes; two types of midsole foam (the more durable React in the heel section and the bouncier ZoomX in the midfoot and forefoot); as well as air pods under the metatarsal heads to offer yet more bounce. Testers were concerned that with such a vast stack height (46mm in the heel, 36mm in the forefoot, as measured by RW), the shoe would be unstable laterally, but the reinforced knitted mesh locks the foot down well. Our only gripe is with the fit: too wide in the toebox and too narrow in the midfoot, though just right in the heel. Other than that,
it’s a shoe that’s as impressive as you might expect.

Buy now - men's

Buy now - women's

Read full review

Under Armour Hovr Machina 2

Weight: 290g (M), 231g (W)

Heel/toe drop: 8mm

Type: Road/Neutral

Under Armour entered the increasingly crowded field of ‘fast-yet-cushioned’ midsoles with the Hovr Machina. The second iteration stays close to the first: a generous slab of Hovr cushioning wrapped in Energy Web gets a boost from a two-pronged Pebax plate in the forefoot that is designed to up responsiveness at toe-off. Testers reported that the combo provided a nice balance between cushioned softness and lively energy return on their long runs. They loved the soft Hovr foam midsole, which offered ample heel cushioning when on longer runs. The new mesh upper improves breathability and the new carbon rubber pods on the outsole serve up additional grip with excellent wear resistance. ‘The standout qualities of this shoe are fit and comfort: the upper is roomy and breathable, the ankle collar has plenty of foam around it and the big wodge of Hovr midsole underfoot offers ample cushioning,’ says Dixon. ‘It doesn’t feel like a particularly poppy or responsive ride, but will be a good option for those looking for a capable everyday trainer to cruise through the miles.’

Buy now - men's

You Might Also Like