Still, if I attempted to buy everything I saw related to the sport (That cute running skirt! Those moisture-wicking socks! Those pink ear buds!), I'd soon be running on empty—an empty wallet, that is. So if you're a runner who wants to keep the cost of running low, here's how to do it:
1. Skip the myths
When I began running, I heard it was commonplace to retire shoes after 400 miles. I was so excited to reach this milestone after months of pedometer pacing that I promptly discarded (into an environmentally-responsible store recycling bin for used shoes) my beloved pair that got me there, without much of a second thought. Truth be told, they weren't in too bad of shape. Now, I've learned the 400 mile "rule" is a myth—so long as you can feel a firm cushion in the foot bed, there's no reason to toss them. Keep running until you feel absolute wear, which may be at 400 miles…or long after.
2. Shop the expo
Large marathon/half-marathon events usually feature a packet pick-up and vendor expo the evening before the race. This gives participants a chance to mingle, get tracking material for the race, and shop for running gear. Be on the lookout for discounted gear as big-name companies try to woo new customers. For example, a fall Rock 'N Roll marathon/half-marathon event in San Antonio featured the Brooks company giving huge 20 percent discounts, as well as giveaways—free online shipping, free promotional gear, free t-shirts—and suddenly the $110 Ravenna shoes I'd been lusting after became much more affordable at $88. Bought online today, they come with free shipping and free socks! Discounts and samples also come via the actual race packets—expect a few energy gels, food/drink manufacturers coupons, and sometimes even bigger items, like headbands or socks. Whether you're looking to run your first race or just looking to save money on future entries, this article can help.
3. Never pay full price
Maybe it's just my ingrained KCL mentality, but I never pay full price for anything, including running gear. If I need a new pair of shorts, I try to find them at a closeout store (and I usually can). If I need a new shirt or running accessory, New Balance, with their wealth of discount options, is my go-to company. I also have no problem shopping off season—I buy long-sleeve shirts in spring and tank tops in fall. Shopping off season generally saves me 50 percent or more on items I can store away and use six months later.
A low-cost magazine subscription to a popular publication like Runner's World (which KCL has offered for as low as $5.99 per year!) can net more than just information on the sport. Runner's World routinely offers manufacturer online discount codes, merchandise specials, sweepstakes and special offers. Other publications like Trail Runner offer unique freebies. One year, I scored a pair of running socks valued at $22 with my paid subscription!
5. Correct your foot strike
Hands down, the cost of shoes is the largest expense related to running. So to get even more mileage out of your kicks, be aware of how you are running in your shoes to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. For instance, many sales associates will tell you to size up by half your normal size in shoes to allow for foot swelling during long runs and to allow more movement for your toes. This extra space can also prevent premature canvas tears at the top and outer front edges of the shoes from too much forward pressure. Additionally, runners should try finding a balanced approach to a foot strike (not too much heel, not too much ball of the foot) to minimize wear and tear on shoes as well as to minimize pressure on ankles, calves and knees.
6. Go naked
No, I'm not talking about your wardrobe, I'm talking about your sole! If you want to forgo the expense of shoes altogether, some literature suggests that barefoot running on select surfaces can be an effective form of exercise. Consider your personal ability, and consult a doctor when deciding if this is a route to pursue.
If the idea of running for health benefits, personal enjoyment, or both is appealing to you, you can move forward knowing that there are practical ways to spend less on the gear you'll need.