A RUN FOR YOUR MONEY
For those hoping to get a jump on that new fitness regimen planned for the New Year, a running routine starts with a good pair of shoes. Of course, the stunning footwear from the latest Nike commercials costs an arm and a leg. Cheap athletic shoes from big-box stores such as Walmart cost as little as $10, but they lack the necessary support and cushioning to be comfortable and avoid injury. Cheapism.com has identified top running shoes for men and women available in a sweet spot between $50 and $100. With the very latest lines previewed at summer’s end, some companies have already begun to hit stores with model updates, and many of the best running shoes of 2016 are selling at a discount this time of year.
SAUCONY KINVARA 6
The Saucony Kinvara 6 (starting at $55) is particularly flexible and lightweight: 6.5 to 7.7 ounces depending on size and gender. Runners who are already devoted to the Kinvara line will recognize the superior heel cushioning, shock absorption, and flexibility. New breathable mesh allows more air circulation, especially around the toes, and the light FlexFilm support frame keeps internal stitching (in other words, rubbing) to a minimum. Reviews describe this as a minimalist running shoe that performs well in a variety of conditions, from long-distance training runs and speed work to hard-packed trails and even mud or ice.
The Saucony Guide is a stability running shoe, which provides more arch support than a neutral shoe like the Kinvara. It's designed for overpronators, whose feet have a tendency to roll inward with each step. Despite the firm midsole, this shoe is praised for a flexible, airy feel and layers of cushioning. Along with loyal Saucony fans, converts from Asics and Nike report that no break-in period is necessary and mention ample room in the toe box. Stability shoes can be difficult to find for less than $100. If the latest Saucony Guide 10 remains out of budget, look for the Guide 9 in your size and preferred color (starting at $40). Although it may lack some of the fine-tuning of its successor, reviews on Amazon rave about its ample support and superior comfort, whether on long walks or even marathon runs. Or check out the nearly identical Guide 8, which might be found even cheaper.
For fans of the now-discontinued PureConnect 4, Brooks offers the Neuro (starting at $90), a similarly designed neutral sneaker that features flexibility, extra midsole cushioning, and a smooth, powerful toe-off. Adjustments in the "pod" formation on the sole allow the heel and fore to move independently, making the shoe even more responsive. Some may find the Neuro a lot more shoe than the PureConnect 4 -- both in terms of bulk and aesthetics. The soon-to-be-released Neuro 2 is expected to be a bit more minimalist. In the meantime, you can get this flashy shoe, normally priced at $130, for a bargain price.
ASICS GEL-EXCEL33 3
Consumer reviews attest to the comfort of the Asics Gel-Excel33 3 (starting at $61) and note the roomy toe box. As Asics' Gel cushioning absorbs shock, deep grooves in the outsole keep the shoe flexible, allowing it to respond to every step. More than one reviewer says this neutral shoe feels "springy" and ready to go out of the box. Stretchy, anti-odor sock liners and a "heel-clutching system" provide a snug feel. A seamless mesh upper helps make the shoe lightweight and breathable. The latest reviews for the Gel-Excel33 3 on Amazon and other retail sites praise the minimalist support, lack of bulk, and comfy cushioning.
NEW BALANCE RC 1400V4
Runner's World ranks the New Balance RC 1400v4 (starting at $61) as one of the top running shoes of 2016. This sleek shoe has appeal for marathon warriors and casual joggers alike. It boasts a few upgrades from the 1400v3, including a revamped mesh upper and a no-sew overlay that snugly encases the middle of the foot. These features combine with a soft collar (around the ankle) for a comfortable fit. Reviews mention the smooth ride and improved toe-box shape. Increased padding in the forefoot also earns approval on the blog Road Trail Run, which calls this the perfect shoe for any run.
NIKE ZOOM STREAK LT 3
Many selections from Nike's 2016 line cost $130 and up, but the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 can be had for $80. It's suitable for walking, normal training, and light trail runs, according to the review site RunRepeat. The shoe is made from breathable mesh, with an arch band to support and secure the heel, and many runners comment on how light it is. The outsole offers traction in slippery conditions with Nike's trademark blown-rubber waffle pattern. The forefoot upper was updated on this year's edition, providing more toe space and better spring. Runners with wide feet can expect increased comfort.
SKECHERS GORUN 4
The Skechers GoRun 4 offers a slew of features for precise fit and comfort. A removable insole lets runners adjust the cushioning and heel height depending on the workout, and a seamless lining provides the option to go sockless. The forefoot allows ample space for the toes while the heel is secured with a memory foam heel cup. The one-piece upper is made of lightweight mesh. Skechers also incorporates trademark technology to encourage a midfoot strike (thought by some to reduce injury from heel striking). Runner's World named these shoes an Editor's Choice for men and women, calling them "soft speedsters" with plenty of support and cushion. The list price is down to $50 from $105 at the time of testing.
MIZUNO WAVE HITOGAMI 3
Chosen as the "Best Buy" of 2016 for men and women by Runner's World, the Wave Hitogami 3 (starting at $90) boasts sleek, Japanese-inspired design, a flexible fit, and an airy mesh upper. A durable X10 carbon-rubber heel provides support and cushion on every strike, in contrast to lightweight competitors with blown-rubber outsoles. The outsole delivers superior traction and a sticky grip for runners training in slippery conditions. This year's edition sports airy mesh even in the tongue, for more breathability, as well as increased padding in the collar and tongue. Testers from RunRepeat admire the flexibility of the shoe and the durability of the outsole for very long runs.
PEARL IZUMI E:MOTION ROAD N0 V2
Minimalists admire the thin sole of the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Road N0 V2 (starting at $86), which provides exceptional pliability and a responsive ride. The feet strike closer to the ground and feel more of an impact, but Runner's World attests to the support and durability of this slight shoe. Neutral pronators are supported with a carbon-rubber heel and blown-rubber outsole. The unique construction of the upgraded, 3D-printed upper hugs the foot for a close fit. Reviewers rave about the "barely there" feeling of this shoe while lauding the surprising cushioning provided by the minimal outsole.
ASICS GEL-VENTURE 5
The Asics Gel-Venture 5 (starting at $46) is a neutral shoe designed for trail running. Deep grooves in the outsole help with grip and traction, and branded high-abrasion rubber promises to survive wear and tear. The Gel-Venture 5 provides ankle support on rocky trails and roads and rearfoot Gel cushioning absorbs shock. A waterproof upper protects the foot from the elements. In short, this shoe can take a beating while protecting the ankle and providing exceptional cushion on rough terrain. More than 2,500 runners have rated the Asics Gel-Venture 5 on RunRepeat, awarding it a score of 85 out of 100, compared with an average of 77 for trail shoes -- many of which cost twice as much or more.