Running on the Cheap

RunningWhenever big changes happen, I turn to running and am always grateful that a lack of money can’t take it away from me. I am reminded of this yet again as my husband and I pull our purse strings tighter in anticipation of life changes – some expected, some not.  Don’t get me wrong, when times are good, I love to indulge in extras like high compression socks, a new Nathan endurance water backpack, and running-specific gloves as much as the next gear geek. However, I also know how to buckle down and find running zen with just the bare essentials. Let’s take a closer look at those essentials, shall we?

This is, by far, the largest essential for running. Technically, you could even skip this expense altogether by trying out the recent barefoot running craze, but that’s certainly not for everyone. I’m not quite that extreme, so I opt to save up and get the shoes I’ve found to best support me and last the most miles. I love me some Brooks adrenalin GTS! For each runner, the specific shoe and style will vary, but the price will hover around $100, give or take $30.

There are a few ways to approach the expense of running shoes. First, take advantage of sales, such as holiday weekend sales, opening or closing sales, and store anniversaries. Many stores will provide a steeper discount on the second pair of shoes if you buy two at once, so if you can save a little longer and afford two pair, the overall savings could be worth it.  Ordering last year’s model is another great way to get a better price, as stores are either trying to get rid of them, or the shoe may already only be available online directly from the maker.

Wicking Clothing
In a desperate attempt to save the additional $30, I did a long run in cotton shorts, a cheap cotton sports bra, and a cotton t-shirt once. Once. The massive chafing welts on my armpits, rib cage, and lower back reminded me every time I twisted or took a warm shower for the next several days just how stupid being an utter cheapskate can be.

Proper running clothes, made of materials that wick sweat and keep it off of your skin generally come with a bit of sticker shock, but one must already realize that these clothes are often put through hell and back, washed several times a week, and still last years. If the price were divided by every year of use you got out of the article of clothing, it would likely no longer seem so unreasonable. Still, if you just can’t get past that initial number, it’s not hard to find clearance sales at running stores. Like most clearance clothes, however, you must accept that the styles and colors will be the ones that didn’t sell for a reason; you might have to run around in fluorescent orange cheetah print tank top. But if you can live with looking like the Cheetos mascot, then you’ll likely get the same quality wicking material for a fraction of the price.

Just any socks will not do. Just like clothing, steer clear of cotton and toe seams. Running socks must not absorb moisture, and they must be the proper size so no scrunching or bunching occurs. Take good care of your feet, folks, because if they are out of commission, so is the overall runner.

Anti-chafing stick
There a few different anti-chafing sticks and creams on the market, but don’t waste your time. Just get a BodyGlide stick and use it. It’s less than $5 and looks like a deodorant stick. Rub it liberally wherever you normally chafe and then enjoy your run. You’ll never chafe again.

Handheld water bottle
Water is as essential to running as your feet, but how you obtain and carry your water can vary greatly. When money is an issue, the most affordable long-term solution is a hand-held water bottle. They are usually under $20 and will last years, so long as you don’t put them through the dishwasher and warp the seal so they begin leaking. A handheld water bottle, such as the Nathan Quickdraw, is small, light, and can easily be refilled.

Running has been around since the beginning, while all the gear came just in the last century. It’s nice; it’s cushy; it’s flashy; and it’s fun. But it’s also extra. Runners don’t have to sacrifice their bodies or their wallets in order to keep things on the cheap – they just have to be willing to bargain hunt and maybe not wear their favorite color.

By Audra Rundle