Hard as it may be to believe, I am still running! And more to the point, I still get regular questions about running gear. And since I'm a runner on even more of a budget than I used to be, I'm here to help with my suggestions for low-price running stuff.
|I also buy shoes during sales tax|
holiday weekend, which helps take
a few dollars off the cost. Aren't
they pretty? I love Mizuno!
Now, as to where to get them: I recommend finding a place that will do free gait analysis for you so they can make recommendations about what shoes to get--for example, I overpronate, so I buy motion-control shoes. When it comes to buying, I get my beloved Mizunos from Academy Sports (a chain store) in low-budget times and from a local running store in more comfortable times. If Academy doesn't work for you, I also recommend Sears or Target for budget shoes. I don't recommend Walmart because I've never been happy with their selection of running shoes. They have too wide a demographic to be much use in this area, I'm afraid. You can also find deals on Amazon pretty often, especially if you know your brand & size already.
Wicking clothes: It's totally possible to run in cotton t-shirts. I did it for years. But sooner or later, you'll get a wicking shirt from a friend or from an event you entered and you'll wear it and wonder why you put up with sweat-laden cotton for so long.
This is an area where you can basically spend as much or little as you'd like. I recommend finding something with a securable pocket (zipper, flap, something) for your keys and phone, whether that be in the shirt or the shorts (I have one of each). The lower budget items tend not to have pockets, FYI, so it may be worth it to find one piece that you like that costs a bit more but has a pocket and then fill in the rest with less-expensive stuff. My one item is my new Floravelo shirt, which is beautiful, comfortable, and has a nice double pocket at the side that holds my phone and keys without bouncing. I got it on sale at an event, which I recommend-- any running or cycling expo will have lots of high-end clothes that come with nice discounts. Great place to find your one helpful piece.
All the rest of my workout clothes (well, nearly all... read on) come from Sears. I think their generic brand is Everlast. I've been very happy with everything I've gotten from them. Again, I also recommend Academy or Target, and can't un-recommend Walmart strongly enough. Don't even bother. Their stuff is no good.
Almost forgot socks! I have nice wicking socks now, mostly picked up at running expos or as race swag through the years, but socks have never been a big deal for me. My feet tend not to get blisters (yes, I'm very lucky), so I can run in cotton socks if need be. Sports stores will have wicking socks, as do most department stores (but you need to know what you're looking for). Because of my circulation issues, I usually wear knee-high compression socks that I get online from Pro Compression when they're having a sale. But that's not necessary for everyone.
Sport bra: I have only ever been happy with bras I got from Academy. I could with reservations say go ahead and look at Target. I can't recommend Sears here--I've gotten a couple of their bras in the past, but they wear out too quickly to be a reasonable recommendation for someone on a budget, because you'll just be back buying another one in a few weeks' time. Under Armour is my preferred brand for sports bras, and yes, they're a bit pricier than some others, so you may prefer a different brand. Just make sure you get one that fits properly and is rated for high impact sports.
Body glide: I love this stuff and can't recommend it enough to prevent chafing in all sorts of spots. However, I know the price tag can seem daunting--I have sticker shock every time! The good news is that a canister will last you for a while. The bad news is that you basically have to go to a sports store to get this, because department stores don't carry it. The okay-ish news is that you can use regular Vaseline (or a Vaseline-like product), which in my experience doesn't work quite as well, but it does work.
Accessories: I have a couple of fuel belts--one I got at Sears for next to nothing, and the other Chadwick won in a contest. If you're running long and don't want to carry a water bottle in your hand, this is a good option. Be aware that every brand of bottle will leak eventually, and the cheaper ones may leak from the very first time you use them.
I've owned a couple of watches through my running years, but mostly just use my phone. I'm already paying for it, anyway. I'd love to have a Garmin so I don't have to map my runs out ahead of time, but it's not a life necessity, and those things are super-expensive.
Hats or visors are pretty much a necessity for sunny running, as is sunscreen. Protect your skin! I can't even remember where I got my visor, so I can't be much help here, but anything that gives your eyes a bit of shade will do. Just make sure it's a hat you don't mind sweating all over.
Mid-run fuel: I use fruit snacks from HEB. I also like fruit leather, if you have it nearby (try the health food section at your supermarket), and in times when I can find them on sale I use Clif Shot Bloks. Make sure anything you get tucks into your pocket or fuel belt. It's not much fun to carry them the whole time. You really only need this if you're running for more than an hour.
Oh, and I have an iPod. It's not a necessity and I can run without it, but I have a foolproof race day playlist that I love, and sometimes the right song can give you a boost midrun. I had a cheaper mp3 player for a while, so there's no reason it has to be an Apple product. This is another one where you could just use your phone, if you wanted, or go without. I have a harder time finding earbuds that stay put and don't completely block all sound (I run with one ear open to solve that problem), but Walmart has been a lifesaver here. Finally, something I can recommend Walmart for! You can get headphones cheaply there and they tend to last a while despite their low price tag. I am absolutely not willing to buy fancy sport earbuds that do the same thing but cost five times as much.
I think that's it! My running gear solutions/recommendations. Remember, running makes you a runner, not a bunch of stuff, so if you can't or don't want to get all the things I've mentioned, you don't have to. Just remember to listen to your body and pay attention to anything that feels weird or off--knowing what all the twinges and aches mean will go a lot longer toward you having an enjoyable running life than any amount of gear ever could.