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Cheap Running Shoes Buying Guide

Considering that experts at About.com recommend replacing running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, if you run an average of three miles five days a week, you should be buying new shoes nearly every five months. Finding the best cheap running shoe for your foot can take some of the sting out of this exercise.

We identified several cheap running shoes, all available in men's and women's versions, that satisfy the important price, features, and performance criteria.

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Our choices for best cheap running shoe are the neutral Saucony Kinvara 3 (starting at $65) due to its superior heel cushioning and light weight and the stability Saucony Guide 6 (starting at $100) for its airy feel and layers of cushioning. Our picks for good cheap running shoes are the Asics Gel-Blur33 2.0 (starting at $68) and the Brooks PureConnect 2 (starting at $90), both neutral shoes that combine very light weight with high quality cushioning and shock absorption. The Nike Zoom Structure+ 16 (starting at $98) didn't make it past our finish line. This is a stability running shoe that ran with the pack in previous versions but includes too many stability-support changes in this latest rendition. We don't include motion-control running shoes on our list because they're priced above the Cheapism niche, but we do like the Brooks Addiction 10 (starting at $110). If this is the type of shoe that fits, it's worth stretching the budget a bit.

Experts at The Running Advisor say consumers often make two fatal mistakes when buying running shoes. They either chase after the newest fad, which typically means very expensive (i.e., $150 and up), or they bargain shop and expect to get the perfect running experience. Both approaches can kill a running career, whether you're aiming for marathons or just a few miles a week.

If you're a frugal shopper, unfortunately the options are rather limited. We found slim pickings for good cheap running shoes costing less than $100 and none costing less than $50 that qualify as true running shoes. Big-box stores sell athletic shoes in the $20 to $30 range, but you probably don't want to make a habit of running in them for any distance or with any frequency -- they just don't have the support and cushioning that are critical protective features. Indeed, specifications for these super-cheap running shoes don't indicate what type of foot they're designed for, and user reviews we read for these models are lackluster.

Far more important than price when searching for good cheap running shoes is matching shoe type to your foot type. There are three distinct types of running shoes, each intended for a certain kind of arch. As Dick's Sporting Goods explains, human feet have normal arches and normal pronation, normal arches and mild overpronation, flat arches and overpronation, or high arches and underpronation. Pronation refers to the way your arch moves as your foot rolls forward from heel to toes; as the arch moves inward it absorbs some of the shock of foot hitting ground. In normal pronation the arch collapses a bit; when you overpronate, the arch collapses too far; with underpronation, the arch collapses barely at all.

For people with normal arches and normal pronation experts recommend neutral running shoes, and those with normal arches and slight overpronation should opt for a stability shoe. The best choice for runners with high arches and underpronation is a neutral shoe, while people with flat arches and overpronation need motion-control running shoes (stability running shoes with lots of midsole support are OK if the overpronation is comparatively mild). Thrifty runners with normal or high arches can find good cheap neutral and stability running shoes. But thrifty runners with flat feet and pronounced overpronation may need to open their wallets wider; the more involved construction required for motion-control running shoes pushes the cost beyond the Cheapism niche.

Review continues below

A new type of running footwear is the minimalist running shoe, which mimics running barefoot and, due to the minimalist construction, generally falls into the cheap segment. These shoes cater to only a small portion of the market, though, and as Competitor points out, caution is required when transitioning to this style of cheap running shoe in order to avoid injury.

Hallmarks of a good cheap running shoe include heel and forefoot cushioning and a lightweight build and feel. As your foot hits the ground, it absorbs a shock that's equivalent to about 2.5 times your body weight, and generous cushioning helps blunt the impact. Running shoe manufacturers use a slew of shock and cushioning technologies, and all vie to offer the best design and construction. Running shoe experts, however, don't prescribe a best design and simply state that running shoes need more shock absorbing capabilities and cushioning than do walking or athletic shoes.

Light weight is another preferred quality in cheap running shoes, but not so light that you sacrifice the support and stability your foot needs. Good cheap neutral running shoes (for normal and high arches) generally weigh the least, while good cheap stability running shoes (for normal and minimally overpronated arches) are heavier, and motion control running shoes (for flat arches) are heavier still because of the additional arch support. Regardless which type of running shoe you need, today's technology means any running shoe worth buying should be relatively lightweight.

Sales of running shoes total nearly $20 billion a year. Adidas claims to have created the first shoe made for running way back in the late 1960s, reports Sports Shoes, and it's still a top brand today. Since that time, producers like Nike, Asics, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, Reebok, Mizuno, and Puma have joined the ranks of well-known names in the running shoes market.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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