How to Save Money on Running Gear Without Buying Cheap

Anyone whose read a handful of these blog posts, or who knows me in real life, knows that I hate spending money.  It’s a thing for me.  And even though I love running and CrossFitting so much, I still don’t want to spend money on things like a Garmin watch or lifting shoes.  I also don’t want to waste money buying cheap running gear that won’t last.  Over the years, though, I’ve found a handful of ways to save money on my CrossFit and running gear.  Today, I want to share a couple of those tips and tricks I’ve found to keep me from breaking the bank on fitness accessories and athleisure.

Avoiding Cheap Running Gear – How to Save Money

Save Money On Workout Clothes

The absolute #1 thing that I hate spending money on is clothes.  I feel like it’s such a crap investment.  I don’t particularly care how I look when I’m 15 miles into a run, just trying to make sure I don’t get hit by a car or go into cardiac arrest on the side of the road.  And since I’m not trying to impress random drivers on my morning runs, why in the world would I spend a small fortune on expensive clothes that are going to need to be replaced in the next couple of months?

Well, the answer is that high-quality athletic clothing is (generally speaking) completely different from fast fashion athleisure wear.  Take a girlfriend into Old Navy, have her try on a pair of leggings, and watch her do one squat.  You’ll see what I mean very quickly.  Fast fashion is not meant to stand up to serious workouts.  It’s meant to look cute while you walk a Yorkipoo.

And I’m not throwing at shade at girls who wear yoga leggings to everything but yoga.  I’m right there with you, comparing new goldfish flavors in the Target aisles in comfort.  But these leggings will not survive one CrossFit WOD, or any kind of run.  Clothes that do withstand hard workouts generally comes at a premium price. 

I’m willing to pay more money for something if I know it will last me longer, and honestly I have some Nike cropped leggings that have been through multiple marathon seasons with me.  But I’m still not willing to drop $100+ on running clothes.  It’s not happening.

Related Post: How to Save on Destination Races

So I buy all of my running and workout clothes fairly strategically, to make it more affordable.  I tend to save my big “shops” for after Christmas sales, and most of these happen through outlet stores.  I’ve found that I get the best deals on bigger ticket items, like waterproof jackets, wool base layers, and sports bras.  Smaller items like tanks and shorts don’t seem to be discounted quite as heavily at outlets.

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North Face vest & UnderArmour leggings found at an outlet store

Am I buying “this seasons” options?  Nope.  Do I care?  Also, nope.  What I care about is the quality to price ratio.  And I’ve scored some great staples that have lasted me years for a quarter of the price.  I’m usually able to stash away a “$50 off $200” coupon and reserve it for one of these trips, which makes things even better. 

Similar to shopping sales at outlet malls, for the less pricey items I’ve had good experiences with buying things off second hand online stores like Thredup and Poshmark.  I personally don’t buy any active wear that doesn’t have tags, because, well body odor.  Sticking to this rule means I’ve bought things like brand new North Face running tanks for $7.

It takes a bit of planning and some restraint when I have to run into Dicks for the odd pair of socks. But being strategic about buying workout clothes has allowed me to purchase high quality stuff that lasts me years, instead of clothes that don’t function as well as I’d like and end up falling apart in months.

Save Money on Running Gear & Tech

All you need to run is a pair of running shoes, right? Hahaha.  Runners everywhere get the best core workout laughing at people who say things like that.  Sure, that’s all you *need* to physically run.  But in order to train and race endurance events, there’s some tech gear that can make a pretty substantial difference in your level of enjoyment.

Things like Garmin watches, Aftershokz headphones, and a Hypervolt aren’t required to run or CrossFit, but man do they make things a whole lot better.  Comfort comes at a price, though.  Usually.

Now honestly, I have a rule that I will not buy something on sale if I wouldn’t pay full-price.  I’ve found that buying cheap running gear usually ends up costing me more money in the long run when I end up replacing it for the more expensive gear later.

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My favorite running gear

I actually bought my Aftershokz headphones right before a marathon, and gladly paid full-price.  I’ve used them for almost a year now, and have zero regrets.  Now they’re not exactly what I would consider affordable running gear, but I feel like they are worth the cost.

If, however, you plan things out just a little better, you might be able to save yourself some cash.  Most gear is updated and new versions are released somewhat frequently.  If you’ve been tossing around the idea of purchasing a new GPS watch, do some research to see if a new version is about to be released.  Recently, Garmin released a new version of the watch I currently own (the Forerunner 235), and my version is now on sale for about $70 less than what I paid for it.

If you live near an REI, they offer a first Saturday sale that can be pretty amazing when it comes to running and camping gear.  REI generally sells pretty high quality items, so I certainly don’t mind saving money on great gear that I’ve been eyeing for a while.

I’ve also come across some really great deals on athletic technology on places like the FB market.  It is not uncommon for someone to impulse buy something like a really expensive weighted vest, not utilize it for months, and then decide to list it for sale.  If you do some research and vetting, and keep your eye open for these deals, you can save a ton of money.

Related Post: How to Reduce the Cost of Race Registrations

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t save some of these high-end items for birthday and Christmas gift requests.  My Garmin watch, for example, was a birthday present from my mom two years ago.  It wasn’t on sale at the time, but my mom was going to spend the money on something.  So it might as well go to a good gift that I’m going to enjoy for years.

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My beloved Garmin

Additionally, I’ve had some luck finding things like activity trackers at a discounted price through a program that my employer offers where employees can shop for discounted items through a third party vendor.  I’ve also shared that my employer offers an incentive program where you can earn points for healthy activities, and some of these points can be redeemed for items like filtering water bottles and camping gear.  Do some research and see if your employer offers something similar.

Save Money on Athletic Shoes

So, while running shoes aren’t the only items required for running, they are a necessity.  I haven’t jumped on the barefoot bandwagon, and don’t plan to any time soon.  So for the foreseeable future, I will be purchasing shoes on a fairly regular basis.

What’s frustrating for me is that I don’t need one pair of shoes; I need several.  I currently own a pair of road running shoes, trail running shoes, CrossFit shoes, and weight lifting shoes.  That’s a lot of shoes.  And shoes aren’t cheap.  Like I said, it’s frustrating.

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Lifters that I found for 60% off full price

Again, I’ve had some luck being strategic and buying shoes during big sales, and this has been helpful.  I’ve also found a few pairs of lifters and road running shoes on resale sites (with tags still on).  In fact, I purchased one pair of road running shoes a few years back on Poshmark that were the ugliest pink color I’d seen shoes come in. 

I’m not a fan of pink in general, and these were particularly hideous.  But they were the model of shoe I liked, and they were on sale, so I bought the ugly shoes.  And they worked just fine!  Teal laces and all.

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The ugliest colored shoes I’ve bought

I’ve also had some good luck buying shoes in a favored model when the brand comes out with a new model.  I shared that I’ve purchased multiple pairs of shoes on Amazon when my favorite model was replaced by a newer one.  Not only did I get to keep wearing the shoe I adored for a lot longer, I also got them heavily discounted.

Related Post: Running Nightmares

Save Money on Running & Workout Accessories

Finally, there are smaller items that I like to call accessory stuff.  Things that, once again, aren’t required, but are nice to have.  A good yoga mat, resistance bands, and a set of dumbbells for example.  I’m no yogi, but I do like to stretch regularly, and yoga mats come in handy.

For these types of things, I tend to go with a “whatever is cheapest” mentality.  Now, if I absolutely loved yoga, and spent several hours a week on my yoga mat, I would probably want to find a way to get a really great quality mat at a discount. 

But because I don’t love yoga, and I don’t spend hours a week on a mat, I’m ok buying something that is lower quality.  I’m not going to wear it out in 3 months, because quite frankly I just don’t spend a ton of time on it.  These items are great to grab on Amazon, TJ Maxx, or at Target.  Do a little research to see what the mid-range price runs, and try to find an option that is slightly less but doesn’t seem like piece of crap.

That’s my sage advice.  If you spend $11 on an ice wrap that you only use 2 times a month, and it falls apart after 4 months, are you going to be upset?  No.  Because you didn’t really care about it all that much.  And my hope for all of my readers is that we can all enjoy the financial position where an $11 loss isn’t the lowest part of our weeks.

Other Ways to Save

I’ve saved a great amount of money on running fuel and electrolytes by becoming a brand ambassador for a couple of companies.  I genuinely like the products, I have no issue telling other people that I’ve enjoyed them, and I would purchase them regularly regardless.  So why not become an ambassador and get a discount?

Companies like Nuun, ProCompression, Honey Stinger, Squirrels Nut Butter, and Tifosi offer some great ambassador programs for customers who have liked their products and are willing to share that with their friends and family.  If you’re using a product regularly, I’d encourage to check out their website to see if they offer an ambassador program you might be interested in.

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Save so much money through ambassador programs

If you’re making an online purchase through a brand website for the first time, most brands will offer a 10-20% discount for signing up for their email list.  Definitely less than what I generally get excited about, but not bad if there’s something you really want and can’t find it for less than full price.

While I’m willing to part with some cash here and there to fund my hobbies, I definitely look for ways to reduce the amount of money leaving my bank account.  Are there any great ways you’ve found to save yourself some cash when buying exercise and running gear?

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