I was recently at the store with my friend helping her pick out some new running clothes. She’s been running for about two years on and off, but she’s never run through the winter.
I take my knowledge of outdoor apparel and running gear for granted. If it hadn’t been for my retail stint post-college, I’m sure I wouldn’t know half as much as I do about outdoor apparel, fabrics, layering, and all the accessories. Which begs the question “why, oh why, are there so many different fabrics, fits, and styles of running apparel?”
Truth: a layperson would disagree with that statement. After all, all running apparel looks the same. Black tights? Check. Long sleeve wicking shirt? Check. Colorful socks with a weird band around the arch? Check.
Truth: to us runners, we can be inundated with so many different styles, sizes, and even fabrics that it makes it hard to choose what we need! I’ve found myself fall victim to the apparel confusion more than once, but particularly when it comes to shopping online. Even when I’m shopping in person and able to touch, feel, and try on, I often end up buying the wrong piece for my running wardrobe.
I’ve been consistently running since 2010. I know what I like. But what about newer runners? How are they supposed to know how to choose important fabrics and when to scrimp and save? Easy — I broke it down into 8 easy tips!
8 Tips to Buying Awesome Running Apparel… Without Breaking the Bank
Tip #1: Buy on sale.
First and foremost, always buy on sale. Always. Unless you’re made of money (which most of us are not), it’s not worth the price tag to have the newest color, the latest capris, or the matchy-match shoes. I’ve got news: when you’re out on the road or on the trail, no one cares what you’re wearing. Literally no one. The only time you should splurge (guilty) is if it will keep you warm, dry, or more comfortable. Pro tip: check for last season’s colors and styles for less expensive options.
Tip #2: Name brand likely doesn’t matter. Unless it does. Choose wisely.
There are two types of spenders in this world. The first type of spender buys things very inexpensively because they don’t see any added value in spending money on name brands. They often use said products very quickly, however, and need to replace them again and again. The second type of spender doesn’t buy a lot, but chooses to buy expensive items when they do buy. They don’t have to replace their items very often. These two different spenders, over time, generally end up spending roughly the same amount of money.
Why does this matter when it comes to running apparel? Because there are a lot of different brands and qualities of items out there. Sifting through them is hard work. My biggest piece of advice is to choose what’s important to you. Shirts? Bottoms? Where will you see the most wear and tear of your items? If you’re rough on pants, for example, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to splurge and buy the expensive tights to carry you through several seasons. If you opt for the cheap version, you’ll end up having to replace them every year. Same goes with socks, shirts, shoes, etc.
When I started running, I purchased expensive running shorts (2 pairs — on sale), but went to the discount store and got a bunch of cheap running tanks. That was in 2010. Which items do you think I still wear to run in? If you guessed that I still own and run in the expensive running shorts, you win. They’re among my favorite pieces of running apparel. The tanks? I don’t even know where they are. Maybe I donated them, or maybe they’re in the bottom of my drawer somewhere. Pro tip: once you start racing, you may wear your race shirts more often than the first couple running shirts you buy.
Tip #3: Just because your friend wears Nike doesn’t mean you should.
Nike is among the most popular and well-known sports apparel brands on the market. And for good reason. They make good stuff! But just because they’re well known and your best friend wears Nike doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. When you head to the store, try on lots and lots of different brands. You may be surprised at what you find! Pro tip: Nike makes good stuff. But so does Orange Mud, Legend Compression Wear, Mizuno, Adidas, Under Armour, Brooks, Newton Running, INKnBURN… the list goes on!
Tip #4: Style does matter.
I don’t mean style as in fashion. I mean style as in cut and fit. If you’re short like me, a crop running pant will not fit you like a capris running bottom. Not only will they look like they don’t fit, they’ll feel like they don’t fit. Just because you see a pair of crop running pants on sale (tip #1) does not mean you should buy them — unless they fit! The cut of the item does matter so make sure you know your body type before buying (especially online). Pro tip: Don’t buy running apparel online until you’re comfortable with brands, styles, and fits. And when you do, ensure there’s free shipping on returns — just in case.
Tip #5: You don’t have to remain brand loyal.
So you found the brand you love. It fits you perfectly. You buy everything (on sale, of course!) from that brand. Fast forward 4 years and you can’t find a replacement of the awesome running jacket you so fell in love with. What to do? Find a new brand! You don’t have to remain brand loyal. Yes, absolutely stick with what fits and makes you feel awesome. But not if it doesn’t fit and make you feel awesome anymore. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Get out of the rut and be expressive and a savvy athletic apparel shopper. See what’s out there. Get into the fitting room. And then choose what to buy based on price, fit, and what you need. Pro tip: Try running in place in the fitting room. How does it feel?
Tip #6: When you don’t even know where to start…
When you don’t even know where to start, go to the biggest sporting goods store near your house. You can either ask someone to direct you to the running apparel OR you can just start picking stuff off the rack to try on. Get as many different styles, brands, and colors as you can and just start trying on. You’ll quickly find what you like and don’t like. Pro tip: A lot of brands categorize their apparel by sport, but more often than not, the differences are very subtle — a pocket here, thumb holes there, etc.
I normally encourage people to support their local stores first and foremost, but in this case, a big box is better. There is far more selection and far more to try on. The smaller, local stores generally only carry two or three brands and not many items. The size run is also usually limited.
Tip #7: Buy multiple pieces.
When you find something you like, buy multiple pieces of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed myself for not doing this. Because if you follow Tip #1 and buy on sale, the likelihood of finding your favorite item later on down the road is very, very small. If you like it, buy more than one. Pro tip: you can almost always return an item. If you think you might like it, buy two. And if you don’t like it after a field test, return the one you haven’t worn.
Tip #8: When you buy expensive apparel, take care of it.
When you decide what’s important to you, and you end up buying something a little more expensive (even on sale), take care of your investment. Read the product label and follow the care instructions. This will extend the life of the fabric and allow you more time with your new favorite piece of running apparel. Pro tip: make sure you zip all zippers, close all velcro fasteners, and button all buttons before washing.
I hope this helped. These tips should help you and calm your new runner fears. But if they haven’t helped or even made things worse, I’m here to help! Got questions? Fire away!
TALK TO ME!
For veteran runners: what’s a tip you have to add to the list?
For new runners: what’s one question you have that I can answer?
Linking up with Amanda today!