This post is a part of my blog flash series, Tips for New Runners. It is based entirely on my own experiences as a new runner and may be missing a lot of information. This series is intended to help my readers find what works for them by sharing what worked or didn’t work for me.
Getting into running, like any other sport or hobby, can end up being expensive. Other runners may tell you that all you really need is a good pair of running shoes and that is true up to a point. But if you find yourself really getting into running, whether you choose to run more often or run farther, chances are good that find that you will want or need other things besides those shoes.
First off, I will tell you not to skimp on the shoes. If you’re on a budget, like I am, sometimes those shoe prices are heartburn-inducing. But good shoes are the first step to a happy running experience. Bad or broken down shoes can actually cause you all kinds of problems that you really want to avoid. So please see the nice people at your local running store and get good shoes. One way to reduce the heartburn of buying new shoes is to hit the sale days. Get in there early in the day before the selection is too picked over, and if you find a really awesome shoe, maybe get two pair if you can pull that off. You can also order a second pair online, once you’ve run in them long enough to be certain you really want another pair. Just make sure that the shoe company hasn’t changed the model enough to cause you trouble. This can happen from one year to the next.
Once you have the shoes, don’t worry too much about the other gear at first. Go run, see how you like it. If you think it’s something that you’re going to stick with, start thinking about other ways to make your running experience more comfortable and enjoyable and start buying what you can, when you can. Some things you might want are:
A good running bra: This is another area where hitting the sales is your best bet, and I’ll be writing up another post about how to choose a bra, so please keep an eye out for that post soon.
A water belt: If you’re interested in distance running, you may want a belt that holds water and other goodies to help you on your run. I’ll be posting more about belts as well, but what I will say now is don’t just buy the cheapest belt. I did that and I sort of wish I hadn’t. I bought a belt with two bottles in static positions and a smallish pouch, and while it is a great belt for a medium length run, it’s not sufficient for me on a longer run. I ended up buying a second belt that I was able to add more bottles and pouches to. I would have spent less money overall if I’d just bought the more flexible belt to begin with.
Socks: Socks will get their own post as well, but I do recommend that you at least chat with the people at your running store before choosing socks, even if you buy them elsewhere for less money.
Athletic clothing: Here is where you actually do have some options for saving money. If you get to a point in your running where you’re running longer distances or in weather that is either very cold or very hot, you’ll want the appropriate clothing. A lot of athletic gear can be really expensive. Step one for saving money is to hit the sales, but be careful. If you are working on losing weight, you might not want to buy something out of season because of change in fit, like buying shorts during the fall & winter sales. They might not fit anymore by the time spring rolls around. Shirts are a bit less of an issue there, though, so I would say hitting the sales on out of season shirts could work out a lot better for you, especially buying winter running shirts in the spring. Another option is secondhand shops. I made a few of my early purchases at the local secondhand shops. I was able to get some decent running tops, a couple of jackets and a pair of running pants fairly cheaply when I was starting out. You may have to hit multiple shops and you may have to go back regularly to get the best gear you can lay your hands on, but you can really save a LOT of money that way. A $50 pair of running pants can be as little as $5 or $10 at a second hand shop here, and shirts can run as low as $3 if you happen to go in on a day when the right tag color is on sale.
If you enter a race that has an Expo, you may also find some fantastic deals there. Before the 2012 Missoula Marathon, I hit the expo and found some really great deals on a bunch of gear there. And keep in mind that you’ll get t-shirts for many of the races you’ll run, so don’t feel like you have to have that many running tops. If you run many races, your t-shirt drawer will be overflowing before you know it.
Reflection: reflective gear will be discussed in the post on safety, but keep in mind that you can often get reflective tape really cheaply. You can put that tape on your shirt, belt, shoes, water bottles, etc. to help make you more visible when it’s dark or dim out.
If any of my readers have any other suggestions for saving money on running gear, I would sure love to hear them. Please leave your suggestions in the comments.