Finding Good Deals on Workout Clothes
Madison, Wisconsin – So you've decided to add running to your workout routine. The first thing you'll need to do is buy some gear, and if you limit your shopping to, say, an online athletic store, you may conclude this fitness initiative will require a second mortgage on your home.
Of a particular brand's 30 best-selling running shoes, the first 12 returned results are for adults, and the cheapest is $100. Running socks are about $16 to $18 a pair, unless you want compression socks, which can go for as much as $50. Shirts made of the company's "sweat-wicking," Dri-FIT material start at $45 and can be as expensive as $90.
Expect to pay at least $30 for running shorts, though top-of-the-line shorts can break the $70 barrier. And if you plan to run in cooler weather, you'll likely be adding running pants ($70-$125) or tights ($60-$150), base layers (around $30 or $40) and a jacket (at least $60 but probably $100).
That's $400 before you break your first sweat, even if you go with the more conservative of options. But UW Health exercise specialist Karla Bock insists, "There are ways to get good, quality workout clothing without breaking the bank."
Buy What Works and Makes You Feel Good
Bock, a four-time Ironman competitor who works with casual exercisers and elite athletes alike, says the best way to get the most bang for your purchasing buck is buying workout clothes that are designed for your activity and make you feel good when you're exercising.
"What I wear when I work out depends on what I'm doing," she says. "Whether it's running or yoga or weight training, you don't want clothes that are binding or cinching up or compromising in any way. You want something that fits you and is comfortable."
That 1994 Wisconsin Badgers Rose Bowl t-shirt that's been at the bottom of your drawer for 10 years might be perfectly fine for a trip to the weight room. But loose-fitting cotton can be a nuisance when you're finding your downward dog during yoga class, and they won't keep sweat away from your skin and dry as quickly as sweat-wicking shirts designed specifically for more energetic activities.
UW Health exercise specialist Karla Bock offers these tips when shopping for workout clothes:
Get a buying buddy: Take advantage of buy-one, get-one-free/at-a-reduced-price by shopping with a friend or spouse.
Don't skimp on the shiny: If you're running or biking early in the morning or at night, make sure you get bright, reflective gear that alerts cars and fellow bikers and runners that you're near.
If it ain't broke…: When you find a brand of running shoes you like and work well for you, stick with them.
Don't shop for shoes in the morning: Feet swell when you exercise, and they swell over the course of the day, too, so later in the day is the best time to find the right fit.
"Choose workout gear that fits well and moves well," Bock recommends, and says preparing for cold weather is another consideration. "During the winter you need layers, with the sweat-wicking material closest to your skin and another layer to keep the warmth in. You'll also want a wind jacket to repel the wind and keep you warm."
Be a Bargain Shopper
Once you've determined your workout gear needs and preferences, be a prudent shopper. Bocks says that department stores like Target and Kohl's often have a wide variety of workout clothes at reasonable prices. End-of-the-season sales can be fertile ground for bargain hunters, as well, so if you're thinking about buying an outdoor running jacket, the best time to do so is in March, not October.
"I also like shopping for deals at the outlet stores," Bock says, and some companies offer online outlet options that let you save money without ever leaving your couch.
The Nike website, for example, features a wide variety of exercise clothes with 20 to 40 percent discounts from the original purchase prices. Thirty to 50 percent savings on running shoes are not uncommon at the REI online outlet, though Bock prefers the in-person experience for running shoes.
"You want to try different types of shoes," she says. "If I'm looking at two different shoes, I'll put one on one foot and one on the other and walk around the store. You need to know what shoes feel like, and moving around makes a difference."
In the end, Bock says, money can be considered well-spent if it buys gear that is valued as a piece of your workout inventory. Yes, $130 may be a lot for a pair of shoes, but they are worth the purchase price if they contribute to a comfortable, healthy running experience. And $40 padded biking shorts may seem like an indulgence, but a quality pair will protect your sits bones while you ride.
"Every so often it's good to splurge on some good, quality pieces," Bock says.
More About Fitness Accessories
- Tracking Your Health: There's an App for That
- Is a Fitness Tracker Right for You?
- Running Success Hinges on Training Habit, Form, More Than Shoe Brand
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Date Published: 02/22/2016