Running is supposed to be simple—all you really need is YOU. The only sport with less equipment is swimming, unless you’re a barefoot runner—then you win. And yet, running has developed an expensive niche market that can be a barrier to newbie thrifty runners like me, especially when we’re not doing “longer” distances (I think my runs are pretty long) that might require technically advanced gear. Of course, advanced gear doesn’t necessarily mean it has to have an expensive price tag.
I totally admit to purchasing a new pair of running socks for $12 (see Your Other Left). This seems like a lot for socks, but I did it. I have shelled out over $100 for running shoes. This seems like a lot, but I shelled it out too. I have two shoes in my rotation, one “broken-in” pair and one “getting there” pair. More serious runners seem to have a shoe fetish, even the men, owning a massive quantity that I can’t fathom needing. But based on my running experience, buying good socks and shoes makes perfect sense to me. What’s more important than your feet when running?
I’m just not sure why the rest of your running ensemble has to be so expensive and complicated. I’m a cheapskate. I love to shop at Goodwill. I look at sale racks exclusively! I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for clothing (even the $12 socks and $100 shoes were on sale). The selection of women’s running clothes from retailers like Nike, Lululemon, Lucy, Adidas, and many others is enough to make my head spin—endless varieties of shorts, skorts, tights, capris, pants, tees, tech tees, tanks, vests, ½ zip long sleeves, pullovers, jackets, with pockets, without pockets, wicking, anti-chafing, and, and, and.
Don’t get me wrong, if I could I would be decked out in Lululemon or Lucy from head to toe. They have some seriously great clothes, and I have a few treasures of these brands I’ve found at Goodwill. The truth is, I don’t think there is anything wrong with sporting repurposed active wear. If there is still life left in the gear, it can be on my team.
This might not be the case for running shoes that breakdown and can impact performance or lead to injury. Those usually need to be purchased new. But don’t give up on finding a deal! Often you can find someone who bought the wrong thing and is giving you an amazing price on something only slightly used. Check out gear swaps and Craiglist and even garage sales. My runner friend sold a pair of only-worn-once Nike Free running shoes that “just didn’t feel right” for $10 at a garage sale. It’s also not uncommon for the last season or previous model shoe to be half price on Amazon or REI Outlet.
Apparel companies know how to sell clothing and accessories to a niche market, even in a relatively simple sport like running. They are marketing to hopefully make your particular passion more enjoyable and of course, more fashionable. Right now, I’m pretty happy with basic, comfortable, fuss-less items that get me through my run. More passionate runners would probably make a good case for using top-notch technical gear, and that’s fine. Bloody nipples? I’m sure there’s a shirt for that. Peeing your pants? There needs to be something for that! I applaud their dedication to a sport that I’m trying to love and become passionate about myself.
In the meantime, I’ll just try to at least be color-coordinated. I’m looking forward to nicer weather and the hunt for picky-runner giveaways and serious spring sales to transition from capris and tights to a running skirt or skort.
Check out Tracy's profile and other posts on our Contributors page.
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