When it comes to running gear I own it all. The $12 socks, the form-correcting shoes, the non-chaffing DriTech shorts, and the watch that tells me where I went and how fast. I have spent thousands of dollars in running gear and tech and even more in race entry fees. What does this say about me? It says I was more excited about being a “runner” than spending wisely when it came to my new hobby.
I have been an avid runner for 6 years now, and I have learned from my past mistakes. I have learned foam rolling is necessary, eating carbs is a must and that owning things does not make you a runner, running makes you a runner. After a few years, I got smarter about my running purchases and found that you don’t have to buy running products to be a better runner.
Using raw honey to fuel your training
Finding the nutrition that works best for you on your long runs takes weeks of practice and wads of cash. Some nutrition can cost up to $5 per serving. You know what is natural, local and a great energy source? Raw honey. A study at the University of Memphis found that honey is one of the most effective forms of carbohydrates to eat before and during exercise. September is National Honey Month, so there will be plenty of local honey to go around. Or check out Honey Stinger, which produces organic, honey-based nutritional products for athletes. Honey can benefit more than your run. Check out this post on 7 unorthodox uses for honey that will save you money.
You can also head to the fruit snack aisle in the grocery store and get kids natural fruit snacks that can fuel you run just as well as any Gu or Gel. The only things these might lack are caffeine and an excess of sodium.
Keep your shoes feeling and smelling fresh
Running shoes need to be replaced every 300-500 miles depending on the brand, type and use. I replace my shoes every 500 miles or 2-3 months, which can add up to $600 a year on running shoes. The two reasons most runners replace shoes are because (1) they are worn out and (2) they reek to high heaven. These are excellent reasons to replace shoes, but there are ways to delay this from happening – thus, saving you money during the year.
- Wear your running shoes only when you plan to run. Running shoes should be worn only while you are running – not at the gym or walking around town. Your running and walking gait are completely different and can cause unneeded wear on your shoes.
- If you plan to do a recovery run on a trail, wear an old pair of shoes. Running on the trail at a slower pace is easier on your body and requires your shoes to take less of a hit when your foot hits the ground. This means you can keep your shoes from getting dirty and save some mileage.
- After each long run, put a tea bag in each shoe. Tea bags can absorb moisture and the smell in confined areas, like a running shoe. I recommend Tetley's British Blend.
Buy running clothes in the off-season or at expos
Running shoes, clothes and gadgets are heavily discounted at expos. I spent $250 at the Expo for the Austin Marathon, but got $600 worth of gear. You are probably thinking, did I really need all of that gear? Probably not. However, it was mostly things I had wanted, like CW-X Endurance Compression tights and Pearl iZumi convertible jacket. In the end, if it is something you are going to buy anyway, you might as well get it 70% off. Another option is to buy shorts during the winter and tights during the summer. Most running stores just want to get rid of inventory and are willing to sell it for practically nothing.
Sign up for a training program
You are probably thinking a training program can only cost you a pretty penny. To the contrary, training programs can save you money in three ways. Which can make them more worth the investment than you think. First, when you join a training program you get local discounts to running, food, and clothing stores. Second, you get discounts to races through your club/training program. Lastly, and most importantly, you decrease the risk of injury. The last one might not seem like a cost-saving tactic, but it is preventative. Most running programs have highly trained and seasoned coaches who know how to keep you healthy and moving. Check out USAFit, which has hundreds of training programs all over the country, and costs little-to-nothing to get you on your way to your running goal.
Buy your shoes online
Finding the right running shoes is a process that can take years (and sometimes hundreds of dollars), but once you find your shoe it is like hitting the jackpot. I personally run in Adidas Energy Boost and they are the best running shoes I have ever competed in – and I can find them online for $20 less than in stores. Amazon and Zappos offer shoes at discount prices, usually with free shipping. However, I would always check with your local running store because there are dozens of sales during the year. Plus, you can use your training program discount.
Use Amazon Subscribe & Save
I have no idea how I lived without Amazon Subscribe & Save, but I know I will never be able to go back to grocery store prices. This Amazon service allows you subscribe to an eligible item and have it delivered to your door at a variety of frequencies. Not only does it come straight to your door, but you save 5% on each item. And if you subscribe to 5 items, you save 15%! So what does this have to do with running? Excellent question. First and foremost, there are dozens of running-centric items in Amazon Subscribe & Save. Here are just a few: Gu, Kind Bars, Nuun, ThinkThin, Honey Stinger, and CytoMax.
Second, you can save money on everyday items you already buy, then put those savings towards your emergency fund or your running fund. I save over $25 a month on average when I buy paper towels, trash bags, dog food, pistachios, seaweed and my favorite soup through Amazon.
In the long run
The most important take away is this – things do not make you a runner, running makes you a runner. So ask yourself, in the long run (pun intended) what do you need to be a runner? Do you need the latest and greatest tech, a cute outfit or just a watch? My favorite item is my Garmin watch, which shows me where I have gone. What are some of your favorite running items and how do you save money on them?