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Save Or Splurge?: A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Running Gear

My first pair of running shoes were, well, cheap. I was in college. I was on a budget. And running was not at the top of my priority list. At the time I thought they were great shoes. Silver and orange, I think and what else mattered? They tied up just fine, and I could run around my school’s indoor track for 30 minutes or so without any more discomfort than than running 30 minutes in my out-of-shape body at the time.

Ditto with the sports bra. It was nothing special to say the least. Cotton. Light blue. And cheap.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I started running for real that I realized that it’s worth it to shell out a couple of extra bucks (or a couple dozen) for a good pair of shoes. And that cotton anything is a no-no in running circles.

However, if you do that with every piece of running gear, running the sport that requires nothing but a desire to move can quickly be out of your price range. So, what’s worth the extra cash? And where can you shave off a couple of bucks?

Let me tell you:

  • Save Or Splurge? 1 of 8
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    Outfitting yourself for the road doesn't have to break the bank.

  • Shoes 2 of 8
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    As much as I loved the silver and orange shoes of my college days, when my husband and I started training for our first marathon and made our first trip to a real running store, we were shocked at the difference in cushioning, weight, and fit that a good pair of shoes has. No more "hot spots." Fewer blisters. And less achy-ness.

    If you are serious about running if you want to make it part of your life go to a running store and ask for a fitting. Any store worth its salt will be able to help you find a good fit.

    Solid shoes generally run $90-$140 at your local running store.

  • Socks 3 of 8
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    Socks are an essential item that are worth buying special for running but some socks cost more than I like to spend on a pair of jeans. Bad socks can ride down off your heel and leave you vulnerable to blisters. If they're too thick, they can make your shoes too tight and your feet too hot. But, while there are a ton of different kinds of socks for all types of runners made of all kinds of materials with various kinds of padding, they don't get so much better as the price increases. Save some money by getting a couple of decent, well-fitting pairs that are not made of cotton.

    Get a 3-pack of Powersox for $12 at Dick's Sporting Goods.

    (image from Dick's Sporting Goods)

  • Sports Bra 4 of 8
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    This one may depend largely on . . . how large you are. A good sports bra can be hard to find. It should be strong and supportive enough to keep things contained, but without restricting movement or breathing. Be aware of seams and straps that can rub and chafe, and as with all running clothes avoid cotton, which is heavy when wet and more likely to chafe.

    But because the bra is right next to your skin, and it plays a big role in your comfort level while exercising, don't be shy about spending what it takes to keep you comfortable.

    Prices can range from low $30-$80. But the Glory Bra from Athleta is a strong candidate for a wide range of sizes and mid-priced at $56.

    (image from Athleta)

  • Shirts 5 of 8
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    When you're just getting started with running, the main thing to remember is to once again avoid cotton. Your old college t-shirts are good around the house, but on the track they'll get wet and heavy. But you can get a solid shirt made of technical fabric for less than $20, and unless you're a fast-fashionista, there's no need to spend more.

    Plus, more and more these days, the "free" shirt that comes with your race entry are technical shirts that are good for training. So once you start racing, you may never need to buy a running shirt again.

    This simple shirt from Champion will cost you less than $10 at Target.

    (image from Target.com)

  • Shorts/Pants 6 of 8
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    Comfort is, again, the most important feature to look for in a pair of shorts or pants. Avoid heavy fabrics or seams that could rub and chafe. But aside from that, personal tastes rule. There are lots of cute shorts/pants/skirts out there, and undoubtedly a pair you love at your price point.

    These solid mid-priced shorts from UnderArmor will only set you back $25.

    (image from UnderArmor)

  • Compression Gear 7 of 8
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    Compression socks, compression pants, compression sleeves. They're getting a lot of playing time on the running circuit these days with claims to aid recovery, keep you going faster longer, and help you get more miles in with less risk of injury. They're also . . . not cheap. Do you really need compression gear? The short answer is no. Not unless you're a pretty serious runner, going long distances. But if you are that kind of runner, or you want to be, or you just want to give compression gear a go, you can get a good pair of calf sleeves for $35 at CEP Compression.

     

    (image from CEP Compression)

  • Sunglasses 8 of 8
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    Squinting into the sun can, believe it or not, be a drag on energy during a run. But do you really need to spend more than $100 bucks on a pair? Not necessarily. You want to look for sunglasses that are light enough and fit well enough that they don't fall off your face or fog up when things get sweaty. And it's possible to find quality shades for less than a pair of shoes.

    These $49 sunglasses from Optic Nerve may just fit the bill.

    (image from Optic Nerve)

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