Gearing up for Running Without Breaking the Bank

Whether you are a new runner or experienced athlete, I think we’ve all seen that gearing up can put a real dent in your wallet. Working in running stores, I’ve seen people enter the shop for the first time and panic when they see the price tags. Some costs are unavoidable, but there are ways to balance things out and save money. 

Before reading through this list, it is important to note that everyone is different. I once worked with someone who used a great analogy when fitting a customer for shoes. There are some people that could simply throw the shoebox on their feet and go run a marathon, and there are some people who need every bell and whistle to stay healthy. Most people will fall in the middle.

1. Spend now to save later

There are some things that I never encourage people to cut corners on, and one of those items is running shoes. I always tell friends that are getting in to running to commit to spending at least $120 on their first pair of shoes. I know it’s a lot, but shoes are important! Even before I worked in run specialty retail, I was a strong proponent of getting fitted for shoes by someone who knows what they are doing. Finding the perfect fit for your running shoes can help prevent injuries and other expensive problems down the line. They will also last you 300-500 miles on average, so think of it as an investment. Getting fit for shoes by a professional also gives you an opportunity to ask questions. 

2. Follow your local running stores on social media

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are great resources to stay up to date on any sales coming up at your favorite store. Whether it’s for a holiday, an upcoming race the store is sponsoring, or a store anniversary, retailers will often advertise these sales on their social media platforms. Deals such as 3-for-1 socks or 25% off apparel can save you a ton of money! They may even do the occasional contest that could score you free gear. 

Watch for sales to find great deals or end of season bargains

3. Shop the end of season sales

Similar to other clothing stores, run specialty stores will typically have sales between the seasons. Since brands will create new styles and colors every year, warm clothes will typically go on sale at the end of the winter season, and items such as shorts and tank tops will hit the sale racks at the end of summer. Plan out your purchases so you can stock up when these items go on sale!

The same is true for shoes! Running shoes update every season! Sometimes it is a color change, and sometimes a brand will make design changes based on sales and feedback. When you are getting fitted for shoes, you can ask if they have any older models on sale in your size. You’re more likely to luck out here if you have a less common shoes size in a normal width. 

4. Join a rewards program

A lot of stores, such as Fleet Feet, have reward programs for their customers. When you hit a particular benchmark in dollars spent, you can get a discount on a future purchase. This can save you money if you plan out your purchases, and usually these discounts have a good shelf life. Keep track of how much you’re spending and pay attention to when you have a discount coming up. Just make sure you know what the expiration dates are!  

Keep an eye on warehouse sites for great deals on apparel

5. Know where to shop

I love to shop local, but sometimes I like to shop my favorite warehouse sites to balance out the cost. Websites such as and are a great place to find apparel on the cheap! I don’t typically get my running shoes here because I prefer to try them on in the store, but the clothing can be a steal. I’m talking $12 for a pair of shorts from a previous season! As always, whenever buying online, make sure you check out their return policies and shipping costs!  

6. Quality over quantity

Running apparel is expensive, but the truth is that you don’t necessarily need a ton of it. I always told customers, especially those new to the sport, that you can get away with one or two key outfits. For the winter, you need pants/tights, underwear/socks, a base layer, a shell, and a hat/gloves. A quality, weatherproof shell will go a long way in keeping you warm in the winter months, and the base layer will wick away moisture while keep you warm, as opposed to cotton, which will trap moisture, leaving you cold. Even if you’re running every day, you don’t need seven different outfits. Many top brands use materials that are anti-microbial, dry quickly, and reduce odor. Simply leave the clothes out to dry and throw them on for the next run. Then when you do wash them, let them dry overnight and you are good to go. 

Extend the miles by taking care of your gear

7. Take care of your gear, and it will take care of you

This is one I struggle with. Take care of your gear, and it will last longer! Most of this is simple, but it takes a little time. Untie your running shoes instead of scraping them off with the opposite foot. Can you tell that one comes from experience? I can hear my dad yelling at me as I write it. Also, your running shoes should be for running. As I said before, you can typically get 300-500 miles out of a pair of shoes, but if you are also using them for everything else in your life, those miles are going to add up quickly. When possible, hang dry your apparel. These materials are designed to dry quickly, and they will last longer this way. And again, they don’t need to be washed every day.

Accessories such as massage tools, reflective gear, and belts/bags are also an investment. Many of these items you may need to only purchase once if you take care of them.

My main piece of advice is to focus on shoes and go from there. Taking care of your feet is crucial, even if you are decked out in all cotton. Use what you already have to get started, and then you can decide what you need. 

Finally, remember that investing in yourself is a healthy strategy! 

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Brigid Heenan
Rochester, NY

Former college runner Current road racer Running gear nerd Recreational blogger


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