I know I’m going to hurt a lot of feelings when I say this, but the truth is that you don’t need performance running shoes for lounging in the gym. If you really ran, then you wouldn’t be looking for Flyknits, but scanning for deals on Mizuno, New Balance, or Brooks. But hey, it’s a free country – wear what you want. The helpful me wants to highlight some affordable runners that fit the gym, as well as hitting the streets. I’m not talking about perennial expensive sneakers that end up on the sales’ racks either. I’m talking about sneakers that start cheap.
GREATS The Rosen – This is something straight out of an ’80s flick. I can totally see Tom Hanks rocking these as he jumps out of a yellow checker cab and runs into a hot dog vendor. The look is classic with the nylon and suede uppers resting on a dual-density EVA midsole. Tread is provided courtesy of Vibram (the same dudes that supply Redwings, Danner, and a world of high-end shoes), and provides a nice contrast to the clean midsole. The look is simple and understated and with branding kept at a minimum these work just as well in the weight-room as it would with a pair of straight-leg selvedge jeans for a pub crawl with the homies.
Saucony Jazz Original – When it comes to nylon and suede running shoes there are a ton to choose from. I happen to like Saucony because of their rich history with running. These guys are dedicated to the enthusiasts with constant innovations that address pronation and feet anatomy. The Jazz Original is over thirty years old, but it’s a look that works. The cushioning is provided by EVA and the look is as timeless as the Nike Cortez; a simple three dot contrasting “S” on the quarter panel is all you need to distinguish these from the rest. Another great characteristic of the Jazz Original is that there are a world of colors to choose from.
New Balance 574 – New Balance is one of those companies that is constantly looking to improve on their products. You may not feel this way because of their popular line of retro runners, but these guys are leading the charge when it comes to creating the performance runner. This sort of pedigree runs real deep, and the 574 is where most of it all started. This suede and nylon runner may seem like it fits in with the rest, but the truth is that New Balance employed some high-tech stuff to this average-looking runner back in the day. For starters it has ENCAP midsole for added supported, and ABZORM runs along the entire footbed to provide stability and cushioning. The 574 is also a bit wider than the Saucony and The Rosen thanks to these added features. A few millimeters here and there change the overall silhouette and the 574 is a good look for those with big feet.
Source: New Balance
adidas SL Loop – I still think the SL Loop is adidas’ response to the popularity of the Nike Roshe Run. The silhouettes are a bit different, but both sneakers keep the number of eyelets to a minimum, along with offering a ton of colors to choose from. What I like the most about the SL Loop is that the uppers have a vintage aesthetic, but the midsole and outsole take a sleek and aggressive approach. The sharp toe box may not be the best for those who prefer wide-legged pants, but on a sunny day these go hard with a pair of shorts.
Nike Internationalist – I hesitate to put two pairs of Nike on this list (these guys seriously don’t need any more shine), but the Internationalist really is one of those low-key classics that looks good on everyone. This is another one of those suede and mesh upper variants that benefit from the lightweight EVA midsole. The real difference between this and the other selections is that these have a slimmer silhouette, and features the big swoosh across the quarter panel.
Puma Carson – The Carson is on this list as a cautionary tale for any would be sneaker manufacturers that want to steal the shine from the Nike Roshe Run. Don’t. Puma’s version of an affordable textile runner is a near carbon copy of the popular Roshe Run. Instead of the Nike Swoosh we get the Puma logo, and that certainly won’t be enough for sneakerheads to jump ship. The silhouette is a similar with a lower profile at the toe box, but it’s evident that the Carson is a response to the overwhelming popularity of the Roshe Run. One redeeming factor is that the Carson will probably be available at the Puma Outlet, Zappos, or 6PM for $20 by the beginning of summer.
Nike Roshe Run – The Roshe Run is what inspired this list. Nike really did a kick ass job when designer Dylan Raasch embraced a Zen minimalist approach to the design. Using a few textile pieces to construct the upper, the runner has a mid-cut look that is punctuated with the thick EVA midsole. With just a couple of pieces, the Roshe Run can look good in tonal colors. While other runners need to switch colors between the textiles for contrasting, the Roshe Run benefits from the clean tonal approach. Whether you’re out with friends or grabbing the duffle for the gym, you’ll notice that the Roshe Run is everywhere; Nike set the standard for the affordable runner.
Reebok Furylite – While I continue to praise the Roshe Run, it’s the Furylite that has me most excited. The original Reebok Fury was one of the first runners to embrace neoprene, plastic, and to feature the Instapump. Even when measured against today’s standards, the Pump Fury is a wild running shoe. The Furylite takes much of what made the Pump Fury so beloved and condenses it to an affordable runner. Instead of the Pump bladder and chamber across the forefoot, there are laces. It must have been a tough decision to remove the most important element of the Fury, but it surprisingly works. I love the original lime, red, and black iteration, but looking forward to see what else comes our way.