Running can be a paradoxically expensive hobby. In theory, you just need a pair of shoes and the open road. In reality, there are all kinds of pricey running-specific products (sweat-wicking shirts, Bodyglide, running socks) that really are better than running in whatever sweats you found at the back of your closet. So how can you outfit yourself as a runner without breaking the bank? This Reddit thread reveals some of the best-kept secrets.
Bodyglide is a wonderful product: It comes in a stick, like deodorant, and you swipe it on any skin that tends to chafe. That could include your inner thighs if they rub when you wear short shorts, your waistband if it tends to chafe there, even your feet to prevent blisters.
But it’s on the pricey side ($11 for 1.5 ounces), so one wise Redditor reminds us that Gold Bond makes a Friction Defense Stick for a fraction of the price; it’s currently going for $4.39 for 1.75 ounces.
If you want to get even more basic, go with what runners have used since long before Bodyglide was a thing: Vaseline or Aquaphor. (By the way, if you’re ever running a marathon and a volunteer offers you a popsicle stick with a glob of goo on the end–that’s Vaseline for emergency chafe relief. Don’t confuse it for the gels you’re meant to eat.)
Shop at non-running stores for cheap running clothes
Running clothes are pretty good at their job. They’re usually snug-fitting (to avoid chafing you or flopping around) and are often made of a technical material that wicks away sweat. Sometimes they have extra features like thumb loops on long sleeves, or extra pockets in shorts.
But plenty of non-running clothes fit that description, as well. Redditors suggest looking for hiking clothes (try stores like REI) or picking up gear meant for other sports, like soccer. Soccer players have to run a lot, after all!
This prompted a lively discussion between people who love their soccer and hiking clothes, and people who find them unacceptable for running. And here is where you have to make your own decisions: What features are non-negotiable for you in running clothes? If you can only find what you need at a running store—say you have a favorite style of shorts—then buy those. But for any garments where you’re not picky, go for the cheaper version.
For some ideas of where to shop:
- Sporting goods stores like Dick’s will carry a variety of athletic gear meant for various sports or just for general working out.
- General clothing stores like Target and Kohl’s also carry workout gear, often including inexpensive store brands. I’ve logged hundreds of miles in basic leggings and sports bras from Target.
- Discount stores like TJ Maxx often carry name-brand running gear and athletic gear. One Redditor vouches: “TJ Maxx in the spring is a dry-fit goldmine.” (Dri-Fit being one brand of wicking athletic fabric.)
- Thrift stores like Goodwill and Plato’s Closet may have athletic gear as well; one Redditor says she can sometimes find sports bras with the tags still on.
- And, of course, there are the outlet stores and periodic sales from big name brands. If you have a favorite brand, keep an eye on their offerings.
Cold-weather gear doesn’t have to be running-specific
For chilly days like the ones many of us are experiencing now, cold-weather gear like gloves, hats, and jackets are a must. But do you need to get those from a running store? Probably not.
Many Redditors (and myself!) use cheap knit gloves instead of specialty running gloves. I’ll pick up a few pairs at the supermarket or wherever I see them, or you can order six pairs for $6.87 from Amazon.
The same goes for hats: Any old beanie will do the trick, in my opinion, just as any old baseball cap will shield your eyes from the sun in sunny weather. The running-specific versions of these are probably nice to have, but I’ve never felt like my non-running versions were missing anything.
When it comes to layering, several of the Reddit runners (plus myself, for the record) swear by using a snug-fitting, technical-fabric “base layer,” which might be a running-specific buy, with any old thing on top of it.
The layer that touches your skin is the most important for wicking sweat and preventing chafing; the rest of your layers can be anything you like. So find a base layer that works for you (whether that’s an inexpensive long underwear top, or you treat yourself to some Smartwool) and then throw on a flannel or a hoodie.
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