4 Best Cheap Workout Shoes

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo on
4 Best Cheap Workout Shoes
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Whether you enjoy lifting weights, doing aerobic exercises, or clocking up miles on the treadmill, having the right pair of shoes is key to keeping your feet comfortable. And if you’re on a budget, no worries, you’ll find below our top picks of cheap workout shoes priced at £70 and below.

These affordable workout kicks may not be loaded up with the latest technologies. But one thing you can be sure of, you’re getting a quality product from trusted brands such as Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. They’re stylish and offer cushioning to keep you comfortable in the gym.

To get you started, we’ve tested cheap workout shoes available on the market. We revealed all the pros and cons of each shoe by carrying out a strict process of investigation in and out of the lab. We’ve also identified the top performers in different categories for faster reference.

How we test training shoes

To select our favourites in the budget-friendly category, we’ve put in the legwork to meticulously test all models on this list. As fitness enthusiasts ourselves, we wear each model during our daily workout routines, highlighting how well the shoes felt during Zumba classes, or across multiple workout regimens.

Here’s exactly how we do it:

  • We buy affordable workout shoes from different brands. We use our own savings for this to maintain our freedom and avoid any brand influence.
  • We use the shoes during our workouts in the gym. We test the shoes in a variety of training exercises and cardio activities. During each session, we write down our impressions of the shoes’ fit, cushioning, arch support, stability, and many more. We make sure that all our reviews are based on our real-life experiences.
  • We tear the shoes apart and we scrutinise all of their components. We perform various tests that tell us about their capability in terms of support, breathability, robustness, and more.

Best cheap workout shoes overall

What makes it the best?

When it comes to cheap workout shoes, the Nike Air Max Alpha 5 is our top overall pick. After thoroughly testing it both in the lab and the gym, it showed it provides rock-solid stability for recreational lifting, superb cushioning, and terrific step-in comfort. And it is priced at just £100, which is significantly lower than the £110 average price of training shoes. 

Considering its low price point, the Air Max Alpha 5 is made for more casual lifting with light to moderate weights, and it performs that task very well. It has a wide platform which gives us a good amount of stability for lifting. We measured its midfoot width at the forefoot and heel to be 0.3 mm and 1.5 mm wider than average, respectively.

Meanwhile, its magnificent cushioning kept our feet fresh and well-protected while walking on the treadmill, as well as high-impact exercises like jumps. We measured the shoe’s stack height to be 5.6 mm taller in the forefoot and a whopping 11.1 mm taller in the heel than the average training shoe.

The shoe’s overall price-to-comfort ratio is also off-the-charts great. The midsole foam is 8.1% softer than average, while the Max Air unit delivers a delightfully squishy sensation underfoot. And the upper is well-padded in the heel collar and the tongue while causing no rubbing or pinching.

However, the Air Max Alpha Trainer 5 is a significantly heavy shoe at 13.83 oz (392g), which is 2.3 oz (66g) heavier than the average training shoe.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money
  • Stable for easy weightlifting
  • Smooth heel-to-toes
  • True to size
  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Durable outsole
  • Very good looks

Cons

  • Not breathable
  • Toebox lacks durability
  • Not for advanced workouts
Full review of Nike Air Max Alpha Trainer 5

Best cheap workout shoes for beginners

What makes it the best?

After working out in it for several hours, we declare the Nike Legend Essential 3 as the best cheap workout shoe for beginners because of three reasons. First, it was superbly lightweight. Not once did we feel weighed down, even after hours of intense workout. Second, it had a really stable platform. Finally, it had a really nice grip on the gym floors. It’s also worth noting that at £70 a pair, this trainer is indeed one of the cheapest picks out there; the average price is £100.

We knew in our test workouts that this shoe was pretty lightweight, but we were still surprised to learn that it’s actually 21% lighter than average. Our weighing scale in the lab measured its weight to be 8.8 oz or 250g, which is significantly lower than the 11.2 oz or 317g average.

The platform provided ample space for splays and lateral displacements during motion. Our calliper revealed that the platform is 112.2 mm wide at the forefoot and 90.7 mm wide at the heel. The average widths at the same points are 109.6 mm and 87.0 mm.

The outsole of the Legend Essential 3 also did so well in terms of providing traction. Every time we did lateral movements, we surely could really rely on it to provide much needed grip to stabilise our feet. Our HC durometer showed that the outsole is slightly softer (80.5) than average (84.4). We learned that this additional softness helped the rubber to stick more securely.

No matter how good the Nike Legend Essential 3 is, we still cannot recommend this shoe to those who want to lift heavy. The shoe’s midsole might be too soft for such an exercise. It only registered a 26.3 (the average is 27.0) on our HA durometer.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Super lightweight
  • Breathable upper
  • Enough cushioning for jumps
  • Wide platform
  • Flexible
  • Good grip

Cons

  • Lacks durability
  • Not for heavy lifting
Full review of Nike Legend Essential 3

Best cheap minimalist workout shoes

What makes it the best?

At only £70 per pair (the average is £110), it’s quite hard to find another trainer that can topple the Nike Flex Control 4 price-wise. Another benefit that cannot be overlooked straight out of the box is this shoe’s amazing lightness. We were also stunned by this trainer’s low-to-the-ground profile, which made us quicker and more in control. Add its amazing flexibility to the mix and we got for ourselves the best minimalist and cost-effective workout shoe.

In the lab, we confirmed the lightness that we felt while working out. The scales reported the Flex Control 4 to weigh only 9.8 oz or 277g. This is way lighter than the 11.2 oz or 317g average. No wonder accelerating and jumping higher were never difficult for us!

Our calliper showed that the heel and forefoot are only 19.0 mm and 15.6 mm thick, respectively. These figures make the Flex Control 4’s cushion 5.6 mm and 2.7 mm thinner than average. And we loved how this shoe brought our feet closer to the surface.

It’s also quite amusing that this shoe lives up to the ‘Flex’ in its name. Flexing the foot at even the most unusual angles was never a problem because the shoe just moved with the foot quite naturally. In the lab, we learned through our manual twists and squeezes that the shoe’s base and heel counter do not put up much resistance. Both features got scores of 2 out of 5 for rigidity.

However, we think that gym rats who love to lift their heaviest most of the time should steer clear from this shoe. In the gym, we noticed that this shoe forced our feet forward as we lifted heavier. This motion not only affected our stability but also made our toes feel a bit uncomfortable.

Pros

  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Lighter than average
  • Very flexible
  • Foot feels planted
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good grip
  • Simple aesthetics
  • True to size

Cons

  • Durability issues
  • Not for serious workouts
Full review of Nike Flex Control 4

Cheap workout shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

When it came to stability, no cheap workout shoe came close to the New Balance DynaSoft TRNR v2. This trainer came with an impressively wide platform that left no room for any accidental falling off from the footbed. This cheap workout trainer also delivered a good deal of breathability, twist protection, and affordability. It is sold for only £90 when the average trainer was at £110. 

The platform of this New Balance trainer was 117.3 mm wide at the forefoot and 91.6 mm at the heel. The averages were 109.5 mm and 86.6 mm, respectively. Oh, how our confidence to run, skip, and jump rose when we realised that there was practically no chance that our feet would just slide off the footbed!

As is the case with many cheap workout shoes, the NB DynaSoft TRNR v2 was pretty well-ventilated. It got a pretty impressive 4 out of 5 when we performed our usual smoke test on it in our lab.

We also did not worry about twists when we were wearing this shoe because its base had an amazing resistance to bending. We assessed it in the lab, and it also got a 4 out of 5 for torsional rigidity.

However, this shoe didn’t have any sturdiness whatsoever. Both the toebox and the heel padding didn’t do well during our Dremel assessments. Both got a dismal 1 out of 5 for durability.

Pros

  • Highly breathable
  • Lighter than average
  • Wide and steady platform
  • Hard-wearing outsole
  • Solid grip on gym floors
  • Comfortable in-shoe feel
  • Can be worn casually

Cons

  • Upper fabric tears easily
  • Cheap and frail laces
Full review of New Balance DynaSoft TRNR v2

A guide on buying cheap workout shoes

Choosing the right shoe for your foot is about a whole lot more than looking good in your kicks. Getting it right will make your workout more functionally efficient, it’ll improve your comfort in the gym and it will reduce your risk of suffering a nasty ankle injury.

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The first step in finding your ideal cheap workout shoe is to answer the following question:

What type of training will you be doing?

Choose workout shoes based on your activity

Is the majority of your gym time going to be spent in the power rack and squat area, the functional training zone, in the machine weight training area, or will you be dipping into each of these areas?

A workout shoe is designed to be used by people doing an all-around gym workout. As a result, it has the challenging task of being all things to everyone. Whereas a weightlifting shoe will go all out to provide stability and lockdown, a workout shoe needs to balance that requirement for heavy lifting with the ability to move laterally, be flexible, and provide an element of cushioning for functional training and plyometric training.

If your workout programme calls for you to do different types of workouts on different days, you should consider buying two pairs of shoes and changing them out between workouts. For example, if you are doing strength training on Monday and Thursday and functional workouts on Tuesday and Friday, buy a pair of weightlifting shoes for your strength workouts and a pair of cross trainers for your functional sessions.

Adidas Powerlift 5 Heel tab

Here’s an overview of the key footwear needs of each type of workout. A general workout shoe will, obviously, have to do its best to satisfy each of these requirements.

The ideal shoe for HIIT workouts will have:
  • strong lateral support to aid with foot stabilisation
  • decent amount of cushioning to absorb shock
  • light weight to increase agility
  • flexible forefoot to allow your feet to naturally flex and your toes to splay out
The ideal shoe for strength training will have:
  • raised, high-density heels that promote deeper squats and an upright posture for maximum power
  • hard, solid soles, which maximise your capacity to exert force into the ground
  • incompressible platform
  • exceptionally supportive uppers
  • wide toe box to allow for toe splaying as you push upward
The ideal shoe for running on a treadmill will have:
  • heel and forefoot cushioning to absorb impact
  • extra support on the inside of the midsole if you are an overpronator

The level of cushioning in a workout shoe is ultimately a matter of personal preference. All workout shoes will try to hit that sweet spot between the minimum cushioning of a weightlifting shoe and the maximum support of a runner, but you’re the one who has to wear it.

Depending on your personal preference, you may want to go for a more minimal trainer or a shoe with extra cushioning and energy return.

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Example of a minimal cheap workout shoe

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Example of a well-cushioned cheap workout shoe

What’s the trade-off with cheap workout shoes?

If you’re buying a workout shoe that’s half the price of the one your training partner’s wearing, it’s only natural to expect that there’s some kind of quality compromise. And, of course, there is.

Quality/Durability

In order to put out a workout shoe for less than seventy bucks, a manufacturer will have to use less costly construction materials.

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£100 shoe vs. £150 shoe

Whereas top-of-the-line workout shoes generally feature TPU and leather, the budget models are more likely to be made from such less expensive materials as EVA and synthetic leather.

Cheaper workout shoes will generally have less durable stitching and will be put together with cheaper glues.

Be sure to check our in-depth reviews to see how each workout shoe performed in our Dremel tests.

Aesthetics/Design

Another compromise in cheap workout shoes is the aesthetics. More expensive shoes will feature cooler colours and incorporate special features to enhance the look of the shoe.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that function should always trump form. In other words, what the shoe does is more important than how it looks. Of course, you don’t want to be hitting the gym in a pair of shoes that are ugly, but, so long as they look decent and are designed to enhance your general-purpose workout, you’ll be good to go. 

Nike Legend Essential 3 Review

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo
Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.