How to Save on Running Shoes, Gear, and Events

As the season warms up I look forward to lacing up the old running shoes again. I know there are hard-core runners who run through winter but that’s just not something for me (yet).

When I start the season off I try to take it easy and keep my run leisurely.  And yet I’ll still try to do too much and forget that it takes some time to build up my conditioning.  The next couple of days after that inaugural run are always fun [ouch]!

I got to thinking about how simple it is to run.

Here is this wonderful exercise that just about anyone can do.  People pay hundreds in gym memberships and buy expensive machines for home to workout when a simple run may be all they need.

What’s it take to run?  Go out and move faster than a walk!  I think maybe your feet have to leave the ground at some point.

But then I thought about it and I realized running can be expensive as well.

Here’s How You Can Save on Running Shoes, Gear, and Events

Let’s take a look at whether running is expensive as well as some tips on what I’ve done to keep costs down.

Gear you need to run:

Gear that’s not expensive – Sneakers, t-shirt, shorts.  That’s pretty much the basics.  I’m pretty sure most of us have that in the house and could go out and run today!

Gear that is expensive – Specialty running shoes, performance shirts, sport shorts, running socks, hydrating pack, energy gels, Body Glide, training watch…I could go on.  It’s real easy to take a few simple items you need and then upgrade the hell out of them to where you could easily end up spending hundreds of dollars for your running gear.

What I’ve done to keep gear costs down – When I started to seriously run I researched running shoes (sites such as Runner’s World) to see what was rated well.  I wanted a good pair for fear of doing damage to my feet with improper shoes.  Unfortunately we don’t all have uniform feet and running styles.  Ideally you want to match your foot and style to the right kind of show.  There are stores that have equipment to help you determine what’s right for you (it’s basically a treadmill with a few other bells and whistles combined with a knowledgeable staff).

Shoes don’t have to be expensive but you can easily cost over $100 for some types.  I bought my first good shoes at DSW, a discount shoe store, for about $60.  I’ve also picked up a greta pair of faster shoes for $25 (originally about $100).

Keep an eye out for last year’s model of shoe.  You can usually get a great discount on last year’s shoe and often there’s isn’t much different from the current model.

For shorts and shirts I tried to buy piece by piece when I could find items on sale.  I’ve shopped Target (they have pretty good workout clothes by Champion) as well as specialty shops and everything in between.  I always bought on sale!  When I committed to run a marathon I decided to buy running socks and good shorts.  If I was going to be on my feet for 26.2 miles I needed all of the help I could get!

Also, you don’t have to spend a lot on gear like GPS watches.  Smartphones these days have great apps that can track your runs for you.  I’ve been using the Nike+ Running app on my iPhone and it does a really great job of mapping out my runs for me.  If you do think you need more advanced gear then look for discounts at places like Costco.


Training materials/How to:

Not expensive – Just go out and run!  Watch other runners and if you can ask their advice.  Watch TV for sports programs that deal with running.  There are a number of websites out there, like, that are full of professional advice.  You also can go to the library to take out books on running form.  Also check out local running groups and stores in your area.  Many offer free groups runs where you can train with others that have similar goals as you.

Expensive – Personal trainers, how-to books, DVD’s, gym memberships…  A person can really go all out if they want to learn to run well.  Personal trainers are a quick way of making the exercise expensive.  I’m not saying it’s not useful, just expensive.  It’s also easy to get caught up in all of the instructional books and videos that are out there, many with different training methods.  Though I don’t think you need a gym membership to run, some people supplement their running with alternate workouts or use the gym’s treadmills and other equipment for bad-weather situations.

What I’ve done – I bought a few magazines to get some tips like when they have advice on a first 5K run.  The only book I bought was ChiRunning.  It was recommended to me and I liked the running philosophy.  I scoured online articles for running advice and took in whatever I thought was useful.

There are also great programs out there like the Couch to 5k plan for beginning runners.

Where to run/Races:

Not expensive – Did I already say “Just go out and run?”  Tie on your sneaks and head out.  Check out your local park to see if they have a trail.  Run around the block.

One of the beauties of running is that you can basically do it anywhere (though I imagine a hilly city like San Francisco could be tough).  Check out this great page from USA Track & Field.  You can zoom into your area code and look for trails or just mark off a route that you plan on running to see the distance.  In Central Park, in NYC, you can run routes that are used for actual races (including the finish for the NYC marathon).

Expensive – Joining running clubs (such as Road Runners Club of America or New York Road Runners).  Traveling to races.  Running official races.

Do you plan on running an official race?  You may have to join some sort of running organization or risk paying a premium for the race.  Paying the premium is not too bad if you’re only running one race but if you plan on doing more it can add up quickly (even with membership).

Why run a race at all if it’s going to cost you?  Good question (man, you’re smart!).

One benefit of races is the motivation to finish and the excitement of running with the other runners in a timed event.    Putting the money down and having a set date to run a distance makes your training real.  You know you have to get out there and train.  There will also usually be support there in the form of water/hydration stations and first aid.

Premium races, like a marathon, can easily cost $100 if not more.  And you may have to pay extra for transportation to and from the event.  Some runners will travel to other cities for races (travel, room and board, food, etc…) so those are more costs to add on.

What I’ve done – I was a member of the NYRR association.  I had a goal of running the NYC marathon.  One of the ways to get in was to run nine qualified/scored races the year before.  For that I needed to become a member.  Costs added up between the races and the marathon but for me it was well worth it!  Running the NYC Marathon is truly an awesome experience (well, once you get over the pain after a few days you can recollect how awesome it was).

Most times I’m not running a race though.  I usually take advantage of local park trails or I’ll use the USATF map to track a route to run.  I’ve discovered beautiful areas in NYC that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise and got to explore the city up close (Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing Meadow Park, Kissena Park, Arthur Ashe stadium, Shea stadium, Citi Field – just to name a few sites).

Something I’ve been seeing more of is running events on discounts on sites like Groupon and Living Social.  Keep an eye out and you might find an interesting run for less.

Does Running Have to Be Expensive?  Can You Save?

It really depends on what your goals are.

You don’t have to go crazy buying all of the latest gear and doodads if you want to run a few miles a week to keep fit.  If you plan to get more serious then you can upgrade equipment as you see fit.  Keep an eye out for sales and only buy what you need.  It’s easy to get caught up in all the latest gadgets but you don’t need most of them.

Oh, and give yourself some time running before you decide to upgrade.  Realize why you need to upgrade your gear before you go out and buy something just because the experts say it’s good.

Remember, you really don’t need that much to get out there and run!

(Make sure you have clearance from your doctor before starting a new workout). – I’m not sure if I have to say that but it’s pretty good advice and I don’t want you getting hurt, you know?

Do you run? How have you saved?

photo by mikebaird

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Published or updated June 5, 2013.


  1. This is awesome advice. When I started running, I bought some great workout clothes from Old Navy — they were inexpensive, offered a discount, and fit perfectly even though I ordered them online. I also found some shoes at a Nike outlet for only $30 — last season’s style like you mentioned. Better yet, I didn’t have to shell out money for a gym membership on top of everything else.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Glad you like it Kayla. Yeah we have a Nike Outlet near us. You can definitely find some good stuff on sale there.

  2. Yea running shoes can get a bit expensive if you are thinking they are cheap. I try to find them online maybe some that are a little older but at discount. That tends to help with cost. As for jogging/running there are a lot of trails, neighborhoods and parks that I go to. One place I enjoy is on the beach, no shoes needed.

  3. One of my goals for this year is to do a 5K. Have I started doing any training yet? NO! Thanks for the reminder to get on it!

  4. Don’t go for branded gears and clothes. They’ll last the same as the inexpensive ones. And I always like the idea of jogging at the park. They’re free and air is fresher.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I love a great park trail!

      As for the clothes, I think it depends. Some of the less expensive brands can have rougher materials which can cause chaffing but I’ve found this only matters when you do longer runs. Still, you’re probably better off starting with the less expensive stuff and upgrading only as needed.

  5. My dad is a gadget guy, for sure. He got all sorts of high tech clothes when he was running marathons. I used to tease him that only he could turn running into an activity with a bunch of gear!

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