Best Budget Running Shoes Reviewed for Performance

For runners, shoes are the single most necessary piece of equipment they have. They are often the most expensive as well.

Last Updated: August 11, 2018
By Carmen Landrum:

The latest updated includes the removal of products that no longer fit our standards therefore, reducing the list to ten products. Seven products on the list were updated to reflect newer models or high-quality products. The criteria received concise bulletpoints for readers who want bite-sized info.

Some running shoes can range in price anywhere from one hundred to four hundred dollars. Someone who is just starting out will probably find dropping over one hundred dollars on a pair of shoes to be an intimidating prospect. Even veterans runners don’t necessarily like shelling out all of that money for shoes when they have to pay for the little luxuries in life such as food or rent. Fortunately, there are shoes that won’t hurt your wallet or your feet.

Featured Recommendation

Adidas Neo Lite Racer
  • Adidas Neo Lite Racer
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • EVA Outsole
  • Plush Step-In Feel
  • Price: See Here
Nike Revolution 4
  • Nike Revolution 4
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Multi-Surface Traction
  • Lightweight and Responsive
  • Price: See Here
Under Armour Micro G Assert 7
  • Under Armour Micro G Assert 7
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lock-In Fit
  • High-Impact Zone Coverage
  • Price: See Here

We have searched far and wide for the best shoes for the runner on a budget. They may not be the fanciest or the prettiest shoes on the market, but they will get the job done. Many of these shoes boast the same qualities as the more expensive brands but are more than half the price. Whether you’re a beginner runner who is just starting out or if you’re a veteran who is training for their next marathon, you won’t want to pass up these bargains. All the shoes on this list are one hundred dollars or less.

 

10 Best Budget Running Shoes

 

1. Adidas Neo Lite Racer

This lightweight running shoe was designed with a focus on comfort. From the EVA midsole to the FitFoam insole to the light breathable mesh upper. This shoe will support and cushion your feet in all the right places while you run. The lightweight mesh upper of the shoe will keep your feet cool and dry all year long while the heel overlay will provide extra support and stability.
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Unique Outsole
The tough rubber outsole has a hexagonal tread pattern that was designed to ensure extra grip on concrete. Run surefooted with no fear of your feet slipping out from under you.

Heel Overlay
The lightweight mesh body of the shoe is reinforced in key structural positions for added strength without compromising the lightweight breath-ability of the design. In particular, the heel was reinforced for extra stability while you run.

Cost and Value
Perfect shoes for a runner looking for a lightweight shoe to begin training with, these shoes are inexpensive even compared with other shoes on this list.
Pros
  • Mesh Body
  • Reinforced Heel
  • Unique Outsole
  • EVA Midsole
  • FitFoam Insole
Cons
  • Run Small

2. Nike Revolution 4

Lighter in weight compared to previous versions, the Revolution 4 makes your run revolutionized. There is plushy foam throughout the midsole and the outsole has molded pods for better energy return. The rubber construction of the sole gives you grip and durability and the upper is a supportive structure for stability with mesh for breathability. Your ride will be comfy and cushy for miles upon miles.
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Soft Midsole
The midsole is constructed with a soft foam. This provides you with cushioning that is responsive and lightweight. It’ll help absorb any impact and shock while giving you support in return.

Rubber Outsole
The outsole is constructed with rubber. Having a rubber sole gives you greater bounce, shock absorption, and flexibility. It is also durable so it will last a long time mile after mile and provide traction to reduce any slippage or skidding.

Cost and Value
Mid-price range and a great priced shoe. Comes with what you need for your daily run and the focus on durability will make your running shoe last as long as your run. That means less money spent on replacements.
Pros

True to size

All day wear

Comfortable fit

Walking and running

Cons

Creates squeaky noise

3. Under Armor Micro G Assert 7

You are going to feel and look great in the Assert 7. They are constructed to provide a great fit without adding extra weight that’ll hold your run back. The upper is mesh and the outsole is rubber. Plus, there is an EVA sockliner, the midsole is Micro G foam and a midfoot locked-in fit. You’ll have awesome comfort and support in every step.
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Leather Overlays
Having overlays constructed with leather helps you in multiple ways. It helps to lock in your midfoot which increases stability. The material increases durability and decreases wear and tear. Lastly, leather gives a much more stylish and high-quality appeal.

Mesh Upper
Running generates a lot of heat in the body and your feet are no different, especially when wearing closed-in athletic shoes. Having a mesh upper gives you breathability by helping heat to be released and allow for better airflow. Also, it provides a much lighter weight in the shoes.

Cost and Value
Higher priced but still below $100. These running shoes provide stabilization and true fit and that will provide a run that is balanced and focus. You’ll have a run that is less painful and better defended against injuries.
Pros

Soft EVA sockliner

Durability and stability

High impact coverage

Lightweight and breathable

Cons

Thinner padding

4. Asics GT 1000 6

4. Asics GT 1000 6
The latest model in the GT-1000 serious is your new choice in running. The 6 has a mesh upper that is specially engineered for airflow, comfort, and fit. If you have overpronation from mild to moderate, there is a dual-density midsole for stabilization. There are overlays for extra structure and support and GEL technology for shock and transition.
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Dual-Density Midsole
The midsole is constructed with DuoMax Support System. It’s a system that uses special materials to increase support. If you are an individual that suffers from overpronation, this very same system will help to stabilize your feet into a neutral position to help prevent pronation related injuries.

GEL Technology
In the rearfoot, there is a technology called GEL. It’s a cushioning that helps to absorb any shock from impact. It also helps to evenly spread out the shock impact so every part of the foot can have relief and great energy return.

Cost and Value
On the higher end but worth it when you consider the special features of this shoe and there are a lot of specialized features. Your run will be greatly enhanced with a variety of support, stabilization, comfort, and fit technologies in the 6. This is truly advanced but affordable.
Pros

Air mesh panels

Moisture wicking

Enhanced rubber sole

Gait and stride technology

Multiple supportive overlays

Cons

Fit runs tight

5. Nike Free 5.0

5. Nike Free 5.0
A stylish asymmetrical shoe for people who are as conscious about being fashionable as they are about being comfortable. The special asymmetrical laces allow for a tighter fit without putting undue pressure on your feet. The textured inner sleeve molds to your feet, giving these shoes a unique fit. The special diagonal design helps strengthen the natural motion of your feet as you run.
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Diagonal Cut Arches
Your feet twist and roll naturally as you run. The outsoles were designed to help supplement and strengthen that natural motion. You'll have a more comfortable and natural stride while wearing these.

Asymmetrical Lacing System
Instead of the typical parallell lacing system that most shoes use, these shoes have a specially designed asymmetrical look. This design helps reduce pressure on the top of your foot while allowing you to get a tighter more secure fit.

Cost and Value
These shoes are on the upper edge of what we can consider to be budget shoes. They are high quality, but the price tag might scare off someone who is looking for a less expensive shoe.
Pros
  • Textured Mesh Inner Sleve
  • Diagonal cut Arches
  • Asymmetrical Lacing System
  • Underfoot Protection
Cons
  • Run Small
  • Expensive

6. Adidas Speed Trainer 2

6. Adidas Speed Trainer 2
A durable and flexible shoe that was designed to support your feet through short sprints. These shoes have traction control outsoles, allowing for a more surefooted stride over multiple surfaces as well as Flex Grooves which allow the shoes to flex with the natural motion of your feet as you run. The EVA midsole gives you a softer, more comfortable ride.
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Traction Control
The special outsole with hexagonal lugs was designed to increase your traction over any surface. From concrete to wet grass, you can be sure your feet won't slide out from under you while you run.

Flex Grooves
The deep grooves embedded into the tread allow the sole of your shoe to flex with your feet. You'll have a more comfortable natural footfall as you run.

Cost and Value
These shoes are one of the less expensive options on this list. This is an excellent option if you're looking for an inexpensive but dependable shoe to start your running career out with.
Pros
  • Lightweight Mesh Upper
  • EVA Midsole
  • Traction Control
  • Flex Grooves
  • Synthetic Overlays for Extra Protection
Cons
  • Run Narrow

7. Nike Flex RN 6

7. Nike Flex RN 6
Start early, finish in first place, and beat the competition. Constructed with a single layer mesh upper, you’ll have comfort that is enhanced plus ventilation that keeps body heat out and cool air in. Flywire cabling is built-in to provide a fit that is locked in place but not restricting. The heel has a rounded design which gives lift-offs that are lighter and smoother plus the outsole moves with your feet.
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Flywire
A specialized threading constructed with nylon or Vectran is placed in the shoe’s upper. Weight is reduced and stabilization and support are increased. What makes it even better is that it moves with your feet to give you accurate, suspension like support.

Rounded Heel
Having a heel that is rounded gives you a great fit that cups the heel of the foot correctly. This will keep everything in place with every lift-off. You’ll have a heel to toe transition that is smooth and even.

Cost and Value
Another high priced shoe but still affordable and below $100. The RN 6 is great for those looking for a fast and lightweight run and a shoe that will move with them, not against them.
Pros

Secured fit

Sock-like feel

Easy to clean

Color vibrancy

Increased natural motion

Cons

Very narrow fit

8. Asics Gel-Contend 4

8. Asics Gel-Contend 4
You’ll be confident and comfy while running in these shoes. The 4 are created to give you even better support compared to other models. There is a GEL system for cushioning to help take in greater impact and provide a smoother transition. A removable sockliner constructed with Comfordry gives a feel that is barely there and seamless. Also, there are reflective decorative details for visibility.
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Moisture Wicking
Your feet will get sweaty during a run but the sweat should not be locked in. There is built-in technology to help wick away any moisture developed in addition to mesh for breathability. Your feet will remain dry and cool.

Visible Safety
If you’re a night runner or you enjoy doing so during a cloudy day, you need to be easily seen for safety. Detailing that is reflective is placed throughout the shoe’s upper and will work in all kinds of low-lighting conditions.

Cost and Value
Spans from low priced range to mid price range depending on selection. The 4 is simple and basic but it doesn’t lack in what a running shoe needs. This is a great selection for a no-frills type of runner.
Pros

Easy to fit

Multiple surfaces

Consumer popular

Great for treadmills

Walking and running

Support for high arches

Cons

No half sizes

9. Saucony Cohesion 10

9. Saucony Cohesion 10
This is the best choice for affordable training. A system called GRID is placed in the heel area to provide stability and soft cushioning and the midsole is constructed with EVA that gives even more cushioning. The mesh upper is engineered to stretch so you can have a fit that is dynamic and moves with you while being lightweight. Also, the outsole traction has flex grooves to give you a motion range that is natural like.
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Plush n’ Comfort
There is no rigidness or firmness in the 10. The midsole and heel area is optimized for the best cushioning comfort without being bulky or thick. In addition, the tongue and collar are padded with plush to provide you with extra comfort and stability to help reduce any rubbing or minimize a loose fit.

Groovy Flex
Traction comes in a variety of designs for various gripping purposes. On the outsole, there is an unique traction called flex grooves. The grooves are in the forefoot of the sole to help increase forefoot flexibility and that will help to decrease any unnecessary rigidness

Cost and Value
Mid-range priced and best for runners who need a great practice shoe. You’ll have lightweight support but optimum comfort during your training and prepping without any extra technologies or features that could get in the way.
Pros

True to size

Deep heel cup

Roomy toe box

Padded ankle area

Just right cushioning

Cons

Low performance only

10. Asics Gel-Venture 6

10. Asics Gel-Venture 6
Newly updated but still delivers the same great original quality. Great for trail running, there is a new design in the upper and midsole for you to have better comfort and durability. The mesh upper is tightly woven to protect your feet from a variety of conditions and the outsole is trail-specific with reversed lugs for better traction. Like other models of the same brand, a GEL cushioning system is in the rearfoot for shock impact reduction. There is a toe bumper that is stitched down for better toe protection.
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Trail Outsole
Different kinds of running calls for different kinds of soles. The outsole is constructed for trails and there are reversed lugs included. Having the lugs reversed gives you traction for both uphill and downhill. Also, you’ll grip better on uneven terrain.

Toe Protection
There is no worse feeling than stubbing or mashing your toes. The toe bumper gives extra protection and reduces toe injury. The stitched-down construction means the bumper will stay attached to the shoe for a long time.

Cost and Value
Mid price range and greatly affordable compared to other trail runners. The Venture 6 has really great traction and traction can either make your run enjoyable or miserable. If a trail focused shoe is important to you, this one is the best choice.
Pros

Very bouncy

Trail focused

Cushioned heel

Usable for orthotics

Removable sockliner

Multi-directional reversed lugs

Cons

Sizing runs wide

Not for road running

Despite what some companies might tell you, a quality running shoe doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. There’s no need for basic equipment like shoes to be an expensive barrier to entry for the beginning runner. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with investing a little extra money in your shoes, not everyone is able to afford to do so. Hundreds of dollars for a pair of shoes is a lot of money to drop on a hobby that a beginner might not even be certain they’ll like.

An inexpensive shoe can be just as cushioned and supportive as their higher-end counterparts. For a runner who is just starting out or a veteran who just needs an inexpensive shoe to wear on the treadmill, there are many options that won’t cost an arm and a leg. It might take a little extra shopping around, but you can find the perfect shoe that will work with your budget if you look.

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Budget Running Shoes

Fit

Running shoes are a very specific type of shoe, and will never be a one size fits all. To just buy the first pair you see especially based on something like looks will leave you uncomfortable, in pain and potentially injured. When looking for a new pair of running shoes aside from all other important factors, fit should be number one.

It is essential to evaluate the shape and size of your foot as well as your specific running style. Once you have an idea of the type of shoe you need, it is easier to find your perfect fit and focus on other fun things like design and colors. Arch is the main way to determine which style of shoe will work best for you, and there are three types of arches; high, neutral and low/flat. All three arch types affect your running style differently and therefore affect the type of shoe you need.

  • Supination

Having high arches means when your foot strikes the ground, the impact is absorbed by your heel and toes rather than your foot as a whole. This causes your foot to roll outwards and can put a lot of stress on your ankles, causing potential injuries like sprains.

  • Neutral

Your arch is not too high, or low and properly absorbs shock while running. This type of arch causes the least amount of issues and doesn’t require your shoes to have any added arch support or cushioning.

  • Pronation

Low arches cause your feet to rolls inwards while running, this can also cause ankle and lower leg issues over time and requires you to have a running shoe that can give you proper support.

Due to the fact that everyone has a different type of foot and need, shoe companies do not just come out with single designs that do not accommodate everyone, and therefore it can be quite simple to find the perfect fitting shoe. Once you have accessed your foot type, and know the type of cushioning and support you need, the only thing you need to worry about is what feels good and fits right.

Although running is a rather inexpensive way to stay fit and healthy, it can become an expensive lifestyle very quickly when you begin splurging on things that really are not necessary. Just because a pair of shoes cost more, does not mean they will work better for you or are worth the money. Most of the time a pair of shoes has that price tag attached to it due to the brand name, take away the brands and you will be left with two pair of shoes that are probably close to identical quality wise. That’s not to say you can’t look stylish in your running gear, that should just not a top priority when it comes to deciding on the perfect pair of runners.

Remember to generally always order a half size up, unless you have worn that exact shoe before and now your size. Feet tend to get hot and swell during physical activities and you want your running shoe to be able to accommodate that swelling without your feet feeling constrained or uncomfortable.

Laces are the best option when it comes to different possible types of closures on running shoes. Not only are they the most secure and durable, they are easily adjustable ensuring the perfect fit. Velcro, or even slip on shoes for that matter will not provide you with the proper support and can lead to injuries. Although laces are the best option and should be tied securely, they should not be tied to tight as that may damage the top of your foot where there are many fragile tendons.

  • Running shoes are a very specific type of shoe, and will never be a one size fits all. To just buy the first pair you see especially based on something like looks will leave you uncomfortable, in pain and potentially injured. When looking for a new pair of running shoes aside from all other important factors, fit should be number one.
  • Fit should be your number one focus when choosing a running shoe. Determine the size and shape of your feet and what kind of running style you might have. Take note of your arch as well because your arch affects your running style.
  • There is no one size, one design fits all in running shoes. Once you have determined the type of feet and run you have and what support or other features you may need, it can be easy to choose the correct shoe you need.
  • Higher costs do not mean better shoes nor does it mean you need such shoes. Also, the different technology and specialized features that are included in athletic shoes are not always needed especially if you are a casual or beginning runner.
  • It’s best to order a size as your feet will swell up but if there is a particular fit that fits you best, stick with that instead. In addition, choose shoes with laces instead of straps as you’ll have greater control in fit and will be provided much better security, support, and stability.

Durability & Breathability

The durability you need in a pair of running shoes depends on how you will be wearing them and where. Most shoes should last between 300 and 400 miles, but it is possible for them to wear sooner if you are not wearing them as they are designed for.

The easiest part of a running shoe to notice wear in is the outsole, take a look at the bottom of your shoes and look for cracks, or worn down areas. Although they may still feel okay when you run, do not prolong the life of a pair of running shoes, it will only lead to uncomfortable and possibly painful runs. The midsole which cushions your impact will begin to break down over time and begin to offer you less and less cushioning. Most midsoles are made with EVA foam which is very durable and resilient and may hold up long after your shoes need to be replaced.

If you run more casually, say on the treadmill at the gym, rather than outdoors in different conditions, on different terrains, your shoes will most likely last longer, and in that case, will not show wear in the same way and should be switched out around every 6 months. If you start to notice your feet hurting during a run, or being sore by the time you finish, it is time for a new pair.

Keep in mind that there are different running shoes for different terrains, and ones made for soft surfaces like trails will wear out much quicker if they are being used on concrete. If you wish to switch up the environment in which you run, you will need different shoes that are specific to that terrain.

The material is very important as well when choosing running shoes, you want something that is breathable and allows for proper air flow. Any sort of synthetic material will not be very breathable and will make your feet feel stuffy and sweaty. Although it is a more affordable option, it is a cheap material and you want to avoid that in the upper part of your shoe.

The upper should generally always be made with mesh which is great year round, but especially in the summer when your body and feet are already hot. A mesh upper is flexible and will keep your feet cool and dry all day. Leather is also common in running shoes and although it is very durable and looks sleek, it is simply not as breathable and tends to show wear much quicker. When you run, your foot bends, and this will cause the leather to form creases, whereas mesh does not. Leather will protect against odor, so a mesh leather combo is a perfect choice.

  • Durability is determined by what kind of running and how often. In the wrong type of durability, a lot of running will wear them out quickly.
  • Do not continue to wear running shoes that already show signs of wear and tear, especially on the outsole. You’ll just have discomfort and pain and possible injuries. Take note of how the midsole is holding up by its cushioning as it will break down over time but EVA midsole can last a very long time.
  • Casual or low-performance running will result in shoes that last longer but will not show wear and tear as early. You can tell if those need to be replaced by how your feet feel during and after the run.
  • Since running builds up the heat in the body, your feet will get hot and sweat. It’s important to make sure there is breathability in the shoes regardless of what kind of running you’ll be doing. Synthetic materials are usually not breathable and you do not want it in the upper; mesh is usually the best.
  • Leather is a popular choice too and while it’s very durable, it’s not as breathable and will show wear quicker due to it be less flexible. However, leather will reduce odor so a leather/mesh combo is a great option if possible.

Comfort

Feet are extremely fragile and although we are on them all day and you’d expect them to be tough, they have many delicate bones that need to be protected, especially during high impact activities like running. Running may seem like a simple, basic activity that you can throw any old pair of shoes on and do, but that is simply not the case and without the proper footwear that will correctly cushion your feet you could wind up with serious issues.

There are many parts of a running shoe that are cushioned, and each of these is very important when it comes to protecting your feet. Everyone’s level of cushioning will vary, and depending on your arch you may need more support than others, but a basic running shoe should be sufficient in properly cushioning your feet.

Insoles should be soft and flexible yet still offer good support and stability. If you tend to need orthotics, look for running shoes that have a removable insole as these will best accommodate them. The midsole gives the most stability and is where the shock is mostly absorbed so if it is not durable and built with proper materials your feet and the rest of your lower body will feet the brunt of your run. Not everyone needs a thickly cushioned midsole, and some runners actually prefer a barely-there shoe that gives them an almost barefoot-like feel. It is completely up to you what feels right, and optimizes your performance.

Touches like a padded tongue and collar or seamless construction go a long way and can really make a difference in cushioning your feet, especially if your feet get easily irritated. Running shoes do not need to be broken-in if you feel immediate discomfort the size is either wrong or the style of shoe in general. Certain materials like leather or mesh will stretch slightly, but that is more so to just accommodate your feet while your run, and move with them, not actually change the size of your shoe.

Unlike sneakers that often times are stiffer and do need to be broken in, running shoes are built to feel great and be used right away. Because of the stress and impact being put on your lower body during a run if your shoes were not able to immediately accommodate your feet out of the box, injuries could occur.

  • In every shoe, comfort is paramount. An uncomfortable shoe means an uncomfortable run. Your feet are delicate and fragile and need all the protective comfort they can receive. That protective comfort can come in the way of cushioning.
  • Cushioning requirements vary from person to person and different parts of the running shoe are cushioned. Your arch will also determine how much cushioning you need. The insole needs to be flexible and soft but stable and supportive and a removable insole is best for people choosing to wear orthotics. The midsole is where the most stability, shock absorption, and cushioning happens so it needs to be well built and durable or your body will feel it. Special touches in cushioning such as the collar or tongue can make a difference as well.
  • Most running shoes do not require a break-in and should have stretchable materials such as mesh so the shoe will move with your feet. If the shoe feels oddly fitted or uncomfortable when you first wear them, it’s probably the wrong size, construction, or shoe for you.
  • Running shoes are built to be worn right away so you can receive immediate protection for your run.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Is name brand important?
A: Name brands will affect the price of the shoe, but don’t always mean you are getting a higher quality pair. Rather than looking at what’s trendy, and brands that have cool styles, look at name brands that are known for producing high quality, durable shoes. If you are in need of specific features as well, like removable insoles, some brands will offer that in more styles than others.

Q: What material is best?
A: Most good running shoes have a mesh or knit upper and either is made of leather or are knit. Both are great options and offer you different things. Knit and mesh are much more lightweight and are very breathable which is great in summer months when you want the most airflow as possible. Leather is a more durable fabric, however, it can at times make a shoe look bulky and isn’t as breathable as a fabric.

Q: How often should I buy new running shoes?
A: Depending on the amount of use they get. If you run frequently, and keep track of your miles etc, they should be replaced between 300 – 400 miles. Running shoes that you mostly wear to the gym, or day to day will last longer and the general rule of thumb is to replace them after 6 months. Take into account how the feel and fit after that time though, do not just throw away a good pair of shoes because 6 months is up, check them for wear and tear first.

Q: How many pairs should I own at a time?
A: One pair is sufficient if you are using them on the same terrain every time. If you wish you switch up where you run, for instance, a trail or track one day and concrete the next, you should invest in two pairs of running shoes, one for trails and one for the road. Trail shoes are constructed differently and will wear down much faster being used on the harder ground.

Q: Can I wear running shoes for things other than running?
A: Yes, running shoes are very versatile and brands are constantly putting out more and more stylish designs than many people are wearing as fashion pieces rather than to work out in. Shoes that are not made for running, however, should not be used as such. This can lead to injuries and chronic foot, leg or knee problems.

Q: Are running shoes meant to be tight?
A: They are meant to be snug, but not tight. There is a big difference, and one can leave you very uncomfortable and in pain after your workout. When your shoe is on and the laces are tied properly, your foot should feel enclosed in the shoe but should be able to move around comfortably. No part of the shoe should be squeezing or pinching anywhere on your foot, this is a clear sign the shoes are too tight, and that is a pain that will not go away, and will only get worse with time.

Sources

  1. Katie Rosenbrock, 10 Most Affordable Running Shoes, Webpage, Nov 02, 2015
  2. Kevin, 10 Best Inexpensive Running Shoes, Webpage,
  3. Mackenzie Lobby, How to Select the Best Pair of Running Shoes, Website, Sep 09, 2014


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