The Budget Runner's Guide to Buying New Shoes

Learn how to afford the shoes you need for your daily runs.


By Erin Vaughan


For a sport with virtually no equipment, uniforms, or rental fees, running costs some serious green, at least if you’re serious about it. Your typical running shoe only lasts about 300 to 500 miles before it loses its cushioning, so if you’re averaging three to five miles a day, that number comes up before you know it.

Los Angeles-based personal trainer Danny Lee recommends that high-volume runners change shoes as often as every three months. But the vast majority of runners keep pounding the pavement in shoes that are well past their glory days. However, an experienced trainer will tell you that beat-up shoes cause injuries (that idea is controversial, though, believe it or not— according to the New York Times, studies have yet to conclusively prove a link between shoe age and runner performance).

Still, whether they contribute to injury or not, most runners can feel the difference when they hit the trails in failing shoes. Once the cushioning on the soles compresses, shoes lose their bounce, meaning you feel every rebound in your muscles and joints. Shoes past their prime feel flat—they’re “dead,” as some runners call it.

It’s no wonder that we stay in broken-down shoes, though. At $200 a pair or more for high-end brands, shoes can present a hefty investment, particularly if you’re running to save money on gym fees. However, the price tag doesn’t have to be a make-or-break moment. In fact, there are several ways to trim the fat off your shoe budget, although you have to be careful where you shop. Here are a few lessons from the world of affordable shoe-buying.

Shoe Sale Price Is No Indication of Quality

In most things in life, you get what you pay for, but it turns out that’s not necessarily true when it comes to running shoes. While there’s not a ton of official research on the matter, consumer review site overwhelmingly found that less expensive running shoes rated more highly than their higher-priced cousins.

The ten priciest shoes in their survey—which averaged at around $181 a pair— scored an overall 8.1 percent lower for satisfaction than the least expensive shoes. Lee thinks so, as well: “When it comes to selecting footwear, I recommend trying out different brands, not necessarily equating price with quality. Weight, width and accommodating for over and under-pronation should be taken into consideration when selecting the right running shoes for you.” So you’re not necessarily selling yourself short if you go for a $60 pair that feels right.

Department Store Shoes Are Totally Overpriced

While department stores offer a selection of quality brands, like Asics, New Balance, and Adidas, according to another running gear review site,, major department stores often feature some of the highest markup for shoes. Meanwhile, if you’re newish to running, the salespeople there will be entirely unable to offer pointers on pronation, accommodating high or low arches, or the level of cushioning that’s right for your feet.

Buying Online Can Save You Money—But Only If You Know Exactly What You Want

Every runner knows it’s a bad idea to buy shoes without trying them on. A shoe can have the most engaging description on the block, but it’s nothing compared to actually lacing them up and testing them out.

However, once you find a pair you like, it’s possible to score deep discounts by scoping out online retailers. Often these sites offer the previous year’s line for reduced prices, so it’s certainly worth checking out if you know what you want. No time to scan through hundreds of Amazon results?

The website lets you search through dozens of online stores to locate the best prices on your favorite brand, which can certainly simplify the process. Of course, if you need help picking out a new pair, your best bet is to go to a local running store. Their associates are familiar with all the ups and downs of training, so they can help you whether you’re starting back after an injury or looking to complete for your first marathon. Plus, you’ll get to try on your shoes—and often, take them for a quick jog—before you buy.

Shoes Can Last Longer With a Little TLC

Think of your shoes like cars for your feet. You wouldn’t go without taking it for an oil change every once and awhile, right? Shoes need occasional maintenance, too, particularly if you want to extend their lifespan and get the most for your money. For one thing, always wipe shoes down after a particularly muddy run. If you have the wallet for it, you might also consider purchasing two pairs and alternating them, which will help lengthen the life of the cushioning.

Lee agrees: “I would recommend having different types of shoes for those runners who train on surfaces like tracks and road running in addition to trail running, which requires shoes with better traction.” In fact, more off-road running isn’t a bad idea, if you can get it. In addition to being hard on your joints, asphalt and concrete surfaces can wear shoes out quickly.

It is possible to buy a satisfying, protective gear at a reasonable price. Your running goals shouldn’t be out of reach just because you need new shoes—even if you’re on a shoestring budget.

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes about health and wellness for FitnessTrainer.

Main Photo Credit: Halfpoint/; Second Photo Credit: kikovic/; Third Photo Credit: Worranan Junhom/