Is budget running kit a waste of money?

The perils of bargain basement running gear

When you tally up how how much you can spend on your sports kit, from hi-tech shoes to specialist sports-specific wicking clothing, it can easily run into hundreds of pounds. Because of this, you might be thinking of trying to cut costs by snapping up some of the budget kit items that are available, but is this really a worthwhile move? Here weighs up the pros and cons of buying low-cost running kit:

Budget or bargain running kit?

There is a big difference between budget and bargain running kit:

  • Budget kit is generally made from cheaper materials and is less likely to be sport specific.
  • Bargain kit is sports-specific kit at a marked-down price.

Bargain clothing items are likely to be much better value than budget versions because they will be of better quality, and will be likely to last longer. So if you spot bargain items, snap them up, provided they fit your personal sporting requirements. Bargain kit items invariably represent good value.

One area that you should be cautions regarding bargain items is footwear.  Cushioning in the midsole can deteriorate over time – even if the shoe is unused – so old training shoes will not have the same cushioning properties as new pairs. The best advice is to avoid buying old training shoes in the hope of saving money, because the injury protection offered by newer trainers will be of more value to you in the long term than any saving in the short-term.

Although bargain kit will be of better quality than budget kit, there may be times when it might be prudent to buy budget items instead, especially if you are just starting out.

Basic budget running clothing

If you're just starting in running, then splashing out on a completely new running wardrobe doesn't make good sense because you don't necessarily know that you are going to keep it up. It's therefore best to buy some basic items on the cheap. The sort of clothing you need when you are starting out in running would include: running shorts, running T-shirts, sports socks, running shirts, a lightweight waterproof jacket.

The big advantage of these items is that they are cheap and readily available, and can often be found in the supermarket, so you can pick them up as you do the weekly shop.

Budget running kit – what to look out for

With bog standard kit, you're unlikely to find the materials are breathable, have wicking properties, or are ergonomically designed garments. You may also find that the quality is variable – so to avoid problems, follow the checklist below before you buy:

  • Seams - Cheaper kit may have seams in awkward areas which can cause chafing and discomfort. Check the insides of garments closely to avoid  making a painful mistake.
  • Fit -  Low-budget clothing is unlikely to have been designed specifically with regard for sporting use.  Short may prove tighter than expected when trying to exercise in them, while a vest may prove a little too revealing for a run! When trying kit on, replicate the movements that you expect to make during your activity and see if the clothing is up to the job.
  • Durability - If you've bought cheap, then don't expect it to last for ever - but it should of course be fit for purpose for more than just a couple of sessions. Look at the stitching to see if it's likely to fall apart and assess whether the material is going to lose all its shape and shrink after one wash.

Should I bother with budget running footwear?

Supermarkets and cut-price stores frequently offer training shoes at a fraction of the price of the better-known sports brands. However, with footwear it is not advisable to skimp on quality. Saving a few pounds on training shoes can easily result in discomfort and injury due to lack of durability and function. Correctly-fitting sports-specific training shoes are the best investment that you can make in your chosen sport and it is a false economy to root around in the budget shops for your footwear.

The price of running quality …

Budget items are suitable for limited use only and even then should be checked closely to make sure that they are genuinely fit for purpose. Bargain items are much better value because you are more likely to be buying quality products which just happen to be from last year's range. With footwear, you should avoid purchasing budget items and instead either buy good value pairs or consider buying brand new items.

Comments (1)

  • Ann:) 'While I would never buy cheap running shoes (although regardless of price comfort and fit has to be a big factor in purchase) I LOVE Aldi running gear by Crane. Great prices, good fit and some amazing styles. It lasts as long as you want it too. They recently did a reflective spotty running legging which sold out in minutes; they are brilliant for being seen at night. I say don't knock it until you've REALLY tried it.'

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