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Best Shoes Under $100 Reviewed for Overall Value

last updated May 08, 2019

Shoe shopping, or being on the hunt for the next best trend, can be intimidating when you see so many brand names and are not sure which ones are, truly, worth the money. It can, also, be very frustrating when a lot of money is being spent on a single item and it doesn’t perform the way you were hoping for or expecting. Whether you are heading out for a long walk, are headed to the beach, or going to work, this list will help you find the best options for shoes under $100.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 6 hrs of research

icon
Clarks Breeze Sea
94.4/100 our score
Style
96
Durability
94
Materials
97
Features
94
Use
91
Clarks Breeze Sea
Why is it better?

Many Color Choices

Soft Textile Lining

3-cm Heel Height

TPR Outsole

EVA Midsole/Footbed

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Clarks Breeze Sea
Test Winner: Clarks Breeze Sea
Amazon Link
Researched Sources
6
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1342
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
6
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
10
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
Milica Radovanovic
By Milica Radovanovic:

In our latest update, we replaced four items on the list with those that better fit the topic, and which are current in terms of availability, style, and features. Additionally, we also added a Bottom Line section, where we neatly summarized what's important to know at the end of this guide. Enjoy!

Sorting Options
Style Durability Materials Features Use By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.4
Style
96%
Durability
94%
Materials
97%
Features
94%
Use
91%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$35.92
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.8
Style
93%
Durability
90%
Materials
94%
Features
86%
Use
96%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$99.95
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.4
Style
90%
Durability
93%
Materials
91%
Features
89%
Use
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$41.99
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Style
88%
Durability
92%
Materials
91%
Features
89%
Use
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$24.94
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Style
90%
Durability
87%
Materials
93%
Features
86%
Use
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$43.00
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.8
Style
89%
Durability
87%
Materials
88%
Features
87%
Use
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$35.28
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Style
80%
Durability
90%
Materials
88%
Features
92%
Use
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$44.99
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.2
Style
86%
Durability
86%
Materials
87%
Features
82%
Use
85%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$74.01
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Style
88%
Durability
86%
Materials
84%
Features
81%
Use
80%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$32.95
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82
Style
83%
Durability
84%
Materials
81%
Features
80%
Use
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (26.05.19)
Amazon Link
$32.00
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Clarks Breeze Sea Clarks Breeze Sea
  • Sam Edelman Petty Sam Edelman Petty
  • Easy Spirit Romy Easy Spirit Romy
  • Sloggers Rain and Garden Sloggers Rain and Garden
  • Clarks Linvale Vena Clarks Linvale Vena
  • Sanuk Yoga Sling 2 Sanuk Yoga Sling 2
  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA Birkenstock Gizeh EVA
  • Vans Old Skool Vans Old Skool
  • Plaka Palm Leaf Plaka Palm Leaf
  • Native Jefferson Native Jefferson
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Our Favorites

1. Clarks Breeze Sea

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94.4
Clarks Breeze Sea
Amazon Link
Style
96
Durability
94
Materials
97
Features
94
Use
91
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$35.92
Pros:

Many Color Choices

Soft Textile Lining

3-cm Heel Height

TPR Outsole

EVA Midsole/Footbed

Cons:

Runs Small

Just for Casual Wear

The Clarks Breeze Sea combines style with functionality, giving you a relaxed summer sandal you are going to fall in love with. Made with an EVA foam midsole and footbed, a TPR outsole, a synthetic upper, and textile lining, these bring comfort to a completely new level, giving you an adjustable, lightweight casual option. Add to that the fact that they’re available in a vast array of colors, giving you the opportunity to match these to any outfit, you are likely to find yourself reaching for the Breeze Sea for everyday wear, including for walking and beachwear.

Read more

Made with cushioning EVA foam, the footbed and midsole of the Breeze Sea have an all-day comfort design, especially when considering leisure casual walking. You will find that the Breeze Sea will support your feet, including the arch area, and will provide a good amount of energy return, contributing to a lower level of fatigue, even after hours on your feet. The strap closure adds both visual appeal and functionality, as it allows you to create a better fit. The hook and loop closure will accommodate all types of feet, both narrow and wide, which makes this sandal that much better. Plus, it is a stylish feature that’ll make these stand out.

The cost associated with this pair is mid-range when compared to other items on this list. This makes them a great buy; and not only for their cost-efficiency but, also, for their sheer ability to keep you comfortable.

2. Sam Edelman Petty

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.8
Sam Edelman Petty
Amazon Link
Style
93
Durability
90
Materials
94
Features
86
Use
96
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$99.95
Pros:

Genuine Suede Upper

Low Comfy Heel

Spacious Round Toe

Side Zipper

Cute and Versatile

Cons:

Not for Wet Conditions

Difficult to Break In

The Sam Edelman Petty is a design which was dubbed a ‘cult favorite’ among fashionistas all over the world. The reason for this is that the Petty is cute, comfortable, stylish and amazingly versatile. This lovely autumn bootie is perfect for casual days out with your friends, for a more serious outfit for the workplace, and even for a fun date night out with your significant other! There is nothing that the Petty can’t do, and for such a low price, you won’t be able to resist adding it to your closet.

Read more

The Petty is made from genuine suede, for that plush, luxurious finish. It comes in several different colors, out of which we have selected this versatile ‘putty’ shade in our picture. The heel is 1.75 inches high and stacked, making it wonderfully comfortable for all-day wear. The round toe front of the bootie gives plenty of space for your toes, and there is a zipper in the side that allows you to easily slip in and out of the design.

The Sam Edelman Petty is a go-to choice for when you need to look put-together and chic, but when you want to be comfortable at the same time. Unfortunately, the bootie shouldn’t be worn in inclement weather, but it is perfect for early fall days!

3. Easy Spirit Romy

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.4
Easy Spirit Romy
Amazon Link
Style
90
Durability
93
Materials
91
Features
89
Use
89
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$41.99
Pros:

Genuine Leather Upper

Cushioned Midsole

Padded Collar

Breathable Lining

Adjustable Lace-Up Closure

Cons:

Runs Large

Lack of Arch Support

A good pair of leather walking trainers could set you back quite a large amount of money, but that’s not the case with the Easy Spirit Romy. This is one of the most popular options among those who spend hours on their feet - be it for walking, standing, work or travel. Made with a genuine leather upper, plenty of cushioning and support, these will work even for light running activity. Even though they’re only available in a limited number of colors, they’re one of the best pairs of sneakers you can get for under $100.

Read more

In order to provide the highest level of comfort, the Romy features plenty of padding, most notably in the collar - this prevents the shoe from rubbing your ankle, thus helping you avoid chafing, blisters, or even Achilles pain. Getting the right fit with any pair of footwear can be quite a task, especially if your feet are more narrow or wide than the average person’s. The Easy Spirit Romy is available in four widths - narrow, medium, wide and extra wide, so you can get the version that will suit you best. This will also minimize the break-in time, as you won’t have to wait for the upper to mold to your foot.

With a cost that’s average compared to other items on this list, the Easy Spirit Romy is one of the best options for those in need of a good quality athletic design. With plenty of cushioning, a genuine leather upper, and a good outsole that’ll hold up well, these hold their own against models with price tags twice as high.

4. Sloggers Rain and Garden

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.6
Sloggers Rain and Garden
Amazon Link
Style
88
Durability
92
Materials
91
Features
89
Use
88
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$24.94
Pros:

All-Day-Comfort Insole

Deep Lug Outsole

Hose-Off Cleaning

15.5-inch Opening

10.5-inch Shaft Height

Cons:

Runs Small

May Be Unsuitable for Work

Sure, a pair of expensive rain boots to wear twice a year in public (because they were too expensive to wear during practical times) would be nice. However, we all have those rain boots we are embarrassed about because they are less than stylish, but still, they keep our feet dry in the rain or snow. These Sloggers Rain and Garden, thankfully, give good water protection without sacrificing style - they are sure to catch everyone’s eye with their fun upper, and are bound to get you a number of compliments from friends, family or even coworkers.

Read more

If you are not familiar with Sloggers, their boots are of high-quality design and made in the U.S.A. And these are no exception. Walk in all climates with ease, due to the signature 'deep lug’ outsole tread. The boots also have a slightly wider opening, so, you can easily tuck your pants into them. To prevent chaffing, they have a soft trim around the top.

Sloggers have solid colors, but also farm animal prints that are not only perfect for farmers but for anyone who loves animals. Wear them in your garden, to the pumpkin patch, tree farm, or simply on a leisurely stroll in the rain. The design keeps your feet dry and warm, regardless of wet weather. They are very easy to clean; you shouldn't be afraid to get them muddy and wear them often.

For the quality of construction, this boot is of great value. If you will be wearing these for practical or stylistic reasons, you will find them to be of great value, in terms of both cost efficiency and practicality.

5. Clarks Linvale Vena

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.2
Clarks Linvale Vena
Amazon Link
Style
90
Durability
87
Materials
93
Features
86
Use
85
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$43.00
Pros:

Genuine Leather Upper

Comfy Kitten Heel

Shock-Absorbing Ortholite Footbed

Traction Rubber Outsole

Elegant and Sophisticated

Cons:

Tight Toe Box

Heel Slips Out

If you were worried that you’d only find sporty, casual options in this guide - fear not! The Clarks Linvale Lena is here to deliver that elegant, sophisticated aesthetic that you need to look your best at the office, at a fancy dinner date or anywhere in between! These kitten heels have a pointed toe silhouette for added poise and go well with a range of outfits, from a white t-shirt and boyfriend jeans to a smart pantsuit in which you’re going to conquer the business world.

Read more

The upper of the Linvale Lena is made from genuine leather for breathability, comfort, and a healthy foot climate. It has a 2.2-inch heel for all-day comfort, and it comes with an Ortholite footbed! This footbed has amazing cushioning, shock-absorbing and moisture-wicking properties, meaning that you will be as comfortable in these as though you are wearing your favorite sneakers.

The rubber outsole on the Linvale Lena makes sure that you don’t slip or skid wherever you go. This is a design that is worth every penny, not least because of its effortlessly graceful appearance. It will quickly become a staple in your wardrobe, and you will love incorporating it into your everyday style!

6. Sanuk Yoga Sling 2

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.8
Sanuk Yoga Sling 2
Amazon Link
Style
89
Durability
87
Materials
88
Features
87
Use
88
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$35.28
Pros:

2-Way Stretch Knit Upper

Happy U Rubber Sponge Outsole

Yogamat Footbed

Easy and Lightweight

Wide Color Variety

Cons:

Not Water Friendly

Runs Narrow

If you’ve ever stood on a yoga mat, you know how squishy and comfy they are. If only footwear could be that comfortable as well! Luckily, with the Yoga Sling 2 by Sanuk, you can get the same comfort level from a casual pair of sandals made for everyday use. You can wear these before and after a workout, or choose to wear them for casual outings - they will keep your feet cushioned and protected thanks to their numerous functionality-oriented features.

Read more

The Yoga Sling 2 upper helps to secure your foot across the top and at the rear of the ankle. Add to this the wrapped toe post, and not only do you gain added comfort but you also gain a better fit. When comfort is a desirable attribute, you can't get much better than the feel of a yoga mat underfoot. Implementing the same materials in the creation of their footwear, Sanuk sandals give you a high level of cushioning, with an unparalleled feel against your skin.

These are a perfect choice for a casual day living in the righteous notion of leisure activity. Furthermore, with all of the colors available, you can match a pair to almost any outfit of your choosing.

7. Birkenstock Gizeh EVA

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
86.4
Birkenstock Gizeh EVA
Amazon Link
Style
80
Durability
90
Materials
88
Features
92
Use
82
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$44.99
Pros:

One-Piece EVA Construction

Waterproof

Odor-Controlling and Highly Flexible

Ultra Lightweight

Easy to Wash

Cons:

Causes Blisters

Makes Noises

After over two centuries of producing footwear of a certain type of construction and materials, Birkenstock introduced the Gizeh EVA, a design modeled on the famous cork sandal, but made entirely from EVA foam. It instantly became a bestseller, and thus it graces our list today. You will not be able to get enough of the Gizeh EVA’s light weight, flexibility or shock-absorbing qualities. It’s everything you expect out of a Birkenstock - for a fraction of a price!

Read more

The Gizeh EVA is made from one-piece EVA material which is famous for being ultra light and incredibly flexible. Not only that, but this particular EVA is high in quality and odor controlling, and it has been tested for harmful substances. The beauty of the Gizeh EVA is that you can take this sandal into the water or wear it in wet conditions without worrying that you’ll somehow damage it. It is skin-friendly, easy to wash, and it will make your summer vacation so much easier!

While the Gizeh EVA doesn’t come with the classic Birkenstock footbed that molds to the shape of your foot, or the Birko-Flor straps, it is still a solid representation of the brand. It is comfortable, easy to wear, and it comes in so many bright and vibrant colors that you are bound to find an option you love!

8. Vans Old Skool

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.2
Vans Old Skool
Amazon Link
Style
86
Durability
86
Materials
87
Features
82
Use
85
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$74.01
Pros:

Canvas and Suede Upper

Padded Tongue and Lining

Waffle Outsole for Traction

Iconic Vans Side Stripe

Cool and Laid-Back Vibe

Cons:

Can Cause Blisters

Runs Wide

Vans designs have become a synonym for laid-back street looks, for cool skaters and youths that are a little outside the norm, perhaps even a little rebellious. While it first started out as a skater shoe, you absolutely do not have to be proficient - or even a beginner - at skateboarding to enjoy all the comfort and the fashion appeal of the Old Skool icon.

Read more

The Old Skool has an upper made from a combination of canvas for breathability and suede for comfort and support. It is a low-top design with a classic Vans side stripe that we’ve come to associate with the brand. The tongue and lining of the sneaker are padded for extra comfort. On the bottom. there is the signature Vans waffle outsole which serves to provide a better board feel for skaters. For those of us who don’t skate, it simply means that this sneaker comes with an insane level of traction on any type of surface.

If you’re looking to freshen up your wardrobe, to introduce something youthful and cool at the same time, there is hardly a better choice than the Vans Old Skool. These sneakers are reliable, urban chic, and they are comfortable enough to wear all day, every day. What an awesome design!

9. Plaka Palm Leaf

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.8
Plaka Palm Leaf
Amazon Link
Style
88
Durability
86
Materials
84
Features
81
Use
80
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$32.95
Pros:

Hand-Made

Rubber Outsole

Stretch-to-Fit Rope

Wide Color Variety

Cons:

Not Water Friendly

Lacks Support

The Plaka Palm Leaf is gorgeous, adding just the right amount of casual to an elegant, aesthetically appealing design. With a stretch rope upper, it gives both a comfortable, as well as a secure fit. It’s a water-resistant pair of footwear, made with a rubber outsole, and available in many color variations. No matter which of the intricate upper designs you go with, you’ll find that these sandals are a dream to put on and to match well with almost any outfit.

Read more

The stretch-to-fit rope on the Palm Leaf is hand-woven; thereby giving you a unique pair of sandals that had been manufactured with love and care. With being hand-made also comes a higher level of quality control, meaning that any manufacturing flaws are minimized. With over 20 color options available, you will find a pair of these sandals that will perfectly suit your style. And given their comfort, you might even be tempted to purchase a couple of pairs. You can wear these with absolutely anything, from casual jeans to something a little more elegant - you’re sure to look good no matter what!

The Plaka Palm Leaf is a great choice for summer that is both budget-friendly and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Furthermore, they are comfortable, provide a decent fit, have handmade quality, and are water-resistant. As such, these are a great purchase for adding to your footwear collection.

10. Native Jefferson

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
82
Native Jefferson
Amazon Link
Style
83
Durability
84
Materials
81
Features
80
Use
82
best offer for today
Amazon Link
$32.00
Pros:

Waterproof

Rubber Rand & Toe

Rubber Outsole

Odor-Resistant

Peta-Approved Vegan

Cons:

Runs Big

Low-Volume Fit

If you are in need of a pair of sneakers that you can wear in the summer months, then the Native Jefferson is an excellent choice. In addition, it is waterproof and has perforations throughout the upper; thereby, allowing a breathable environment and promoting healthier feet. These urban sneaker-like water shoes are adorable and come with a wide variety of color options.

Read more

The Jeffersons are ready for the poolside, beachside, or a day out in a gentle, warm rain. With perforated uppers, they promote breathability; which, in turn, helps to prevent sweat. Furthermore, you don't have to worry about sloshing after they get wet, as they are made to handle it. The rubber on the Native Jefferson helps you get a firm grip of the surface underfoot, ensuring your security. You can breathe a sigh of relief when you take these to the pool, or on a rainy summer day, as you’ll be certain that you are safe and sure-footed.

The Native Jefferson is midrange in cost association when compared to other items on this list. They do promote better overall foot health and are waterproof. As such, they are a good buy and worth the purchase price.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Style

When you think of an investment piece, right away, your mind goes to the top brands and those outrageous prices which can sometimes be associated with them. Although it is never a crime to want to invest in a nice item every now and then, on a day-to-day budget, splurges are not realistic, and in most cases, a quality shoe does not always need to be a budget-breaking splurge. So, why do we automatically associate brand-name with money? It might be because of the ad campaigns and flashy commercials, or even a brand our friends and loved ones may swear by. At the end of the day, however, the quality isn’t always that different between generic and brand names.

On that note: the quality of materials used in construction can, also, raise the price drastically; especially, in athletic and dress wear. Is the material made of genuine leather or faux leather, and so on?

Deciding on which brand you want to buy from simply comes down to a preference of not only their styles but the brand, itself, and what that brand may stand for. A lot of times, it might be a purchase out of loyalty you may have towards a certain brand. Knowing their products, and the fact you have previously purchased from them, means you know what you’re in store for and what to expect from your purchase. That can take a lot of pressure off of the purchase and the worry of spending too much on something you may not like. That does not, however, mean you shouldn’t branch out and try something new, because companies are always coming out with newer and better models.

While shopping for a running or walking shoe, you will automatically start looking at specific brands that excel in the athletic department, starting with, probably, Nike or Adidas. A lot of their popular, classic styles are fairly priced and easily attainable to most. Taking the time, however, to look into the products, will show you how much their price-ranges vary and will make shopping at high-end brands less intimidating.

The most popular styles from specific brands are the most popular for a reason; they are attainable. When, thoroughly, looking into which brand of shoes to buy from, take a look at their most popular styles in whichever style it is you’re in search of. More often than not, you will come to find that even luxury brands have affordable options. Purchasing the brand’s most popular item not only saves your wallet but it, also, ensures you’re getting a quality product, tried and tested by countless consumers, and proven to be a good buy.

Durability

Depending on the quality of materials, craftsmanship, and how well you take care of them an affordable pair of shoes can last an extended period. Your shoes should last just as long as any other nice item in your closet; especially, if the time to properly look after them is taken. Shoes can be a harder item to look after because they come in direct contact with the ground anywhere you go and with every step you take. It is a lot harder to shield them from bad weather and, so, materials that are less water-resistant than others, begin to show wear-and-tear at quicker rates after exposure to wet conditions.

Waterproofing a shoe that is of a suede or canvas material is essential to keeping it durable. You don’t want to have to constantly opt for a leather shoe, or rain boot, every time you want to step outside in the rain because for fear of ruining them. Having to repurchase shoes every few months because of unavoidable damage is, also, an expensive problem. There are many easy ways to waterproof your shoes, starting with sprays.

A spray is the most popular option for materials like suede because it is one of the few methods that do not damage the suede in any way when done correctly. It is easy to do, dries quickly, and is almost instantly effective. It is, also, a very affordable option; so, rather than splurge on expensive already-waterproofed shoes, adding in a spray to your purchase can be a cost-efficient alternative.
For shoes like canvas, the best, most-effective method of waterproofing is beeswax. Although a little bit more time-consuming, covering the entire surface of the shoe in beeswax, and then using a source of heat, like a blow dryer (to, essentially, melt away the wax until it is clear and there is no trace of it left) leaves the shoe completely water-resistant.
It is important to note: not all shoes are created equal; some are made for daily use and others are not made to withstand too much walking or physical activity. If you are using a walking shoe as a runner, the materials and the insides of the shoe are very different, and it will quickly wear it out. Buying the correct shoe for the correct use is one of the most important things. It will not only make it last longer and be easier to take care of, but it will, also, fit and feel better. You wouldn’t run a marathon in a pair of high heels; so, keep in mind what this shoe’s specific use will be, and consider if you will get the proper amount of wear out of them.

Materials

There is no getting around the fact that quality shoes are not always the most affordable, and in our minds, quality always has to have a high price tag. The fact is a lot of the time, that is not the case, and there are few things worse than an expensive, yet, low-quality shoe. So, how do you know if your purchase is going to last or fall apart? Here are a few things to look at.

Outsole:
The outsole should be well glued on or sewn and not in any way come away from the shoe. The outsole is the part of the shoe that is always receiving the most impact; so, it must be sturdy. Regardless of the material (generally, rubber), it should be well-constructed and properly applied to the bottom of the shoe.

Midsole:
Your feet take on a lot of stress throughout the day, especially during any sort of physical activity. Without a quality midsole conforming to your feet and keeping them well cushioned, there is little-to-no shock absorption, and that can not only lead to sore feet but ankle and knee injury, as well. The most popular type of midsole is EVA, due to its flexible nature while still remaining tough and having waterproof properties.
Where and how you’ll be wearing them can take a toll on the quality, as well; regardless of how well-made the shoe is, being in bad weather will, quickly, deteriorate your shoe. Waterproof them frequently and try to make sure no water gets inside the shoe, itself. If your sole is getting worn down and stepping in a puddle will soak your foot and the midsole of your shoe, get that repaired immediately or do not wear them in wet weather. It is a lot harder and more expensive to replace the entire inside of a shoe than it is to patch a rubber outsole.

Exposed stitching can, also, be a sign of well-made shoes, and it can mean one of two things: It can, simply, be for decorative purposes and add nothing, or in a lot of cases, especially with nice oxfords and hiking boots, it is to keep the rain out and reinforce the shoe, as much as possible. An easy way to check if the stitching will add value and purpose to your shoe is to lightly scrape the surface of it. Does the stitching stay in place and look perfect, or does it start to come undone and peel? If it stays in place, it is there for a reason and is a great tell for quality shoes.

Features

A shoe is made by many parts; and as such, it good to know how a shoe is built, in order to better understand the value you are receiving when purchasing a pair of shoes. A sandal will have fewer parts than a running shoe will, but the concepts remain the same among all shoes.

Heel – Most noticeable in women’s and dance shoes, heel height can determine the length of the heel. In higher heights, it is easier to see a heel, per se; that is, a pair of stilettos is easily identifiable. In smaller heights, however, the heel height may not be as easy to notice. A heel height of 0.15 inches is not easy to see with the naked eye; let alone, from a picture on a website. Because of certain medical conditions related to foot health, however, it is important to understand when a heel height is present; not to mention, heel height directly impacts the functionality and performance of a shoe.

Heel Collar – Sometimes called a ‘collar,’ the heel collar provides cushioning and adds support. This cushioning and support, as it were, is for the ankle area. It is, generally, constructed with padding and cushioning, and is located between the lining and upper. The heel collar helps to provide a better fit, adding stability. This, in turn, gives your feet a bit more security.

Heel Counter – The heel counter is located between the lining and upper, at the heel. It helps the shoe to keep its shape while, also, providing either flexibility or stiffness. This, also, is the area where a lot of blisters are formed and, usually, the stiffer the heel counter has been constructed, the more likely blisters can form.

Insole – This is the part of the shoe most noticeable by consumers, as they are familiar with replacing their insoles with other insoles, such as ‘gel inserts.’ The insole can have a direct impact on arch support, or the lack thereof.

Last – The last is used as the construction method for the shoe. It determines the shape, function, and everything in between. Without getting too deep into the characteristics of a last (that’s for another article), the list comprises of a feather edge, fore-part, vamp point, instep, waist, cone, seat, back-part, hinge, heel curve, counterpoint, top line point, socket (or thimble), and vent. There are, also, eight measurements taken in relation to the last. In other words, a lot of work goes into a shoe, and the last is not different.

Responsible for the shape and functionality of a shoe (e.g., a shoe may be designed to play basketball (functionality) in and geared towards a female gender (‘shape’ of the foot, or contour)).

Midsole – The midsole is located between the outsole and the upper (i.e., midsole). This is where a lot of the shock-absorption technologies are placed. A great running shoe will have a minimal load-rate while, simultaneously, giving you maximum energy return. Certain midsoles are better for certain activities and foot structuring (e.g., a dual-density midsole is great for those with heavier weight, etc.).

Midsoles can be non-existent, made of gel, EVA, PU, and so on. Each type of material utilized in making a midsole serves its own unique purpose. Also, each product has its own associated cost with making it (e.g., is the midsole injection-molded, or made of gel, etc.). As such, the cost of a shoe can quickly rise, as a result. Some of the higher-rated shock-absorbent midsoles can be found in basketball shoes.

Outsole – Located at the bottom of the shoe, the outsole receives the most overall damage, as it is in direct contact with surfaces for every step made. Usually, made of rubber but not always, the outsole gives you the ability to gain traction and protection. An outsole made of a thin rubber won’t suffice for construction work, as it is easily penetrable by outside debris such as nails, etc. Likewise, an outsole which is thick may not suffice as a running shoe; since, a running shoe needs to be, typically, lightweight. The outsole’s material and traction pattern can directly impact the ability of a shoe to withstand slippery surfaces; that is, not all shoes are slip-resistant, as most of us have had to learn the hard way.

Lugs are commonplace for shoes in need of deep, aggressive traction. Also, multi-directional lugs allow for easier transition such as juking and so forth. Mudding shoes and hiking shoes make use of lugs quite often.

Spikes can be added to certain shoes to help in a situation such as icy terrain.
Cleats are commonly utilized in sports such as soccer, football, track, and field, etc.

Shaft – Shaft height is, usually, measured from the center of the arch but not always. Shaft height determines the length of the shoe from the arch to the top. For example, a snow boot may have a shaft height of 15.5 inches; whereas, a sandal would look rather funny with that same length of a shaft height. Additionally, shaft height can help to determine volume inside of the shoe; especially when discussing low tops. But this is a bird’s eye view of volume when the measurement is not given directly; and is furthermore, by no means a conclusive measurement.

Shank – The shank serves to give you stability. Without a shank, you could, literally, bend your shoes in half. Shoes which, actually, need a lot of flexibility, will utilize a half-shank feature which gives the needed support required to maintain a healthy foot while, simultaneously, allowing for the flexibility desired.

Toe Box – The toe box allows your toes to have ample room within the shoe. For those suffering from medical conditions such as bunions and hammertoes, a roomy toe box becomes necessary. Those with narrow, healthy feet, on the other hand, may not desire a wide and spacious toe box, as they would risk injury from the excess room.

Toe Cap – Located at the toe area, the toe cap is best known in relation to work boots, such as steel toe and composite toe boots. The toe cap provides safety features to the shoe; thus, ensuring your toes remains intact from falling debris, as it were. This does add stiffness and weight to the shoe; so, while a toe cap is an ideal choice for some work environments, it is a terrible choice for a morning jog.

Toe Counter – The toe counter, like the heel counter, is located between both the lining and upper; but this time, however, it is at the front of the shoe. Like the heel counter, it helps the shoe to retain shape. A thick toe counter will prevent your toes from adequately bending in certain situations. This (among other things) is why it can be a bad idea to jump into a 5K marathon with work boots on; ouch.

Tongue – The tongue is the part of the shoe responsible for helping to keep debris out (mainly, found in work, running, walking, and athletic shoes and boots); as well as, adding stability, security, and comfort to the top of your foot.

The tongue is, usually, made of three parts. The top part is, generally, made of the upper material. The inner is, generally, made of the same lining used for the inner part of the shoe. And last but not least, the inside is made of a sponge, pad, and/or foam- based material.

Upper – The upper is the part of the shoe above the midsole and is the part which, usually, catches your eye first; especially in running and walking shoes. It is the outside of the shoes and can be made from varying materials.

The upper is, usually, made of materials consisting of leather, faux leather, fabric (e.g., jean, lace, mesh, nylon, satin, and etc.), synthetic (a combination of materials), plastic, suede leather, and/or rubber. Dependent on the shoe, other decorative and/or functional attributes can apply (e.g., Latin dance shoes may have sequin attached to the upper, or a running shoe may have stability stripes).

Use

Now, you have a concept of how a shoe is constructed. In this, you will better understand what you are looking at when examining the best shoes under $100, among the rest of your purchases from here on out. When thinking about comfort, flexibility and material makeup of the shoe overall are heavy influencers of it. When contemplating stability, lower heels grant this over those ranging upwards above 3 inches. Breathability is determined by many factors with the upper being one. A mesh upper breathes great but may allow water inside, as well. Determining the right shoe for you, first, begins with knowing what you need. Here are some sample questions you can ask yourself:

  • Is the weather cool, mild, warm, or hot? For cool weather, you may need an insulated shoe. For hot weather, you may need a shoe made with a mesh upper; even a sandal is great in hot weather.
  • Is it dry or wet? Waterproofing and water-resistance come into play when answering this question.
  • Are my feet wide or narrow? A pointed shoe might be great for those with narrow feet, but those with really wide feet might struggle to find comfortable toe boxes in such shoes. That’s not to say they don’t exist but that the options are better for those having narrow feet.
  • Is the environment dangerous? A steel or composite toe might be the answer here.
  • Will I be walking on smooth, dirt, or rocky terrain? Walking on a sidewalk is great for many shoes. Walking on rocks, not so much. Hiking shoes may be the answer if you are hitting the trails or going camping.
  • Am I headed to a formal event? Here, pumps and dress shoes might be the answer.
  • At the end of the day, the best choice you can make is based upon how well you question yourself (in what you need out of the shoe), in order to perform your best. After doing this, you will have bought the best shoes under $100.

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    expert tips icon
    Budget Tips

    Staying on a tight budget can be tough, but there are loads of tricks to help save money these days, no matter what you're needs are!
    Using budget apps for personal spending can help you visualize where your money goes, while life hacks for fixing broken apparel, shoes, electronics, and decor are also available online.
    No matter what, tracking your budget starts with the small effort to check each day what you spent, and start writing it down somewhere you can see it for the full month. Then you'll be able to gauge how you can adjust your spending.

    Thrift Store Finds

    Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean your sense of style falters. Thrift shops nowadays, such as Plato's Closet, or online thrift shops, like Poshmark and ThredUp, usually have deals on designer clothing and fashionable styles.

    Other Factors to Consider

    Bottom Line

    When deciding on the perfect pair for you, keep in mind just how many options there, truly, are. When making a purchase, you want to think about how this shoe will incorporate itself into your wardrobe. Will you reach for it on a day-to-day basis, will it add something to your outfits and make them stand out, and will these last?

    You don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on any item only for it to fall apart within weeks; let alone, a pair you might need in order to earn the money in the first place. Footwear is made to be walked on and should be durable enough to take the impact of the ground without falling apart; meaning, durability should be one of the key factors you look for when shopping. That’s not to say style and appearance are not important, but once you have narrowed down the styles you like, take a deeper look at the quality and durability of the design.

    There are countless brands creating new styles every day, and keeping up with it all can be exhausting. But try to remember, brand names do not mean the shoes are worth the price. There are alternatives for almost any high-end brand you can think of, made with the exact same quality and care; and best of all, they will be budget-friendly. This list takes a good hard look at the footwear under $100 and shows you what it is you should be looking for, in order to make a smart and well-rounded purchase.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    q: How long should a pair of shoes last?

    a:

    That is completely dependent on the quality of the shoe and how you treat them. You can have a basic pair of sneakers that cost under $50 and last years with proper care and treatment. Cleaning the inside of the shoe is just as (if not more) important than cleaning the outside. Taking the time to, thoroughly, keep the inside looking and smelling good, will make a large overall difference. You never want to be the person who removes their shoes at a party and everyone is suddenly hit with a strong odor. Using a detergent, baking soda mix, or a deodorizing spray will keep them smelling fresh.

    q: What style is the most versatile?

    a:

    All styles can be versatile and worn in different ways, depending on your personal style. Having the confidence to wear a shoe in a way it wouldn’t typically be worn can be very stylish. For example, a sporty tracksuit with a pair of black pumps, or a nice dress with some worn-in converse can look rather good. At the end of the day, however, whichever pair of shoes you can visualize yourself wearing the most, will be the most versatile pair.

    q: How do I style white sneakers?

    a:

    It’s simple; style them with everything and anything. There are little-to-no outfits that a fresh pair of crisp, white sneakers cannot look good with. From jeans and t-shirt to dresses, business attire, and everything in between, they look effortless while still being chic. Unlike a pump or something you would only be wearing for certain occasions, the white sneaker can be dressed up and down; so, it is versatile for all occasions. Having a shoe you know you can always reach for, takes any stress away from getting ready in the morning and makes it a staple item you will want to have multiples of.

    q: Does high-price equal high-quality?

    a:

    Yes and no; a lot of the time, people associate the two, but in reality, most mid-range brands should have a variety of price points to look at. Considering they are all made by the same brand, as well, means that the quality will not vary much between a $40 pair of shoes and a $150 pair. There are things to keep in mind, like features that may be added to high-priced items, and small details. Overall, the brand’s name printed can be a big part of the reasoning for its higher price tag and not the time and quality that went into the making of it.

    With that being stated, as a rule of thumb, it cost quite a bit more to make a shoe with a dual-density midsole versus a single density. Genuine leather cost more as a material than faux leather. Does the shoe come equipped with a removable sockliner? Is the shoe built for multi-function activities such as wet and dry land? Is the shoe a specialty shoe such as a hiking boot, soccer shoe, and etc.? Or maybe, there are real diamonds found in the strap versus sequin.

    As you can see, materials will dictate the cost to make a shoe; and as such, can directly relate to a higher price. You must then ask yourself, “Do I need diamonds in that strap,” or “I weigh 110 pounds, do I need a dual-density midsole?” Once you answer those types of questions, you can better determine cost efficiency, as it applies to you.

    So, yes, higher pricing can equal higher quality; and no, higher pricing does not guarantee higher quality.

    q: Is there any type of shoe worth splurging on?

    a:

    Again, depending on your use of the shoe and how often you feel you will get to wear it, sometimes, yes, a splurge is kind of nice. After all, we all like to do it, and in moderation, this can be psychologically healthy. The one item that is always pushed to spend the extra money on is, generally, a nice pair of pumps and, typically, in a solid black color. They go with everything, look classy, and if properly cared for can last a lifetime. Running shoes can, also, be worth the extra money if you are an avid runner or are prone to injuries because you will want a shoe that really helps support and stabilize your foot. You may, also, want to add medical orthotics into those shoes, and all of that can add up very quickly.

    Sources

    1. Peter Dizikes, How We Decide Which Products to Buy, Article
    2. Graham Staplehurst, How Consumers Buy Brands, Article
    3. Sarah Madelin , Caring for White Shoes, Webpage
    4. Saleem, L., Insoles, Midsoles, Outsoles? Footwear Construction Terminology Explained, Blog
    5. Mayo Clinic Staff, Walking shoes: Features and fit that keep you moving, Article
    6. sneakerfactory.net, About Shoe Lasts, Blog; Article