Reader Question: Running Wardrobe

>> Thursday, July 26, 2012

Briana writes: "I started running in the spring, so I don't have many active clothes in my wardrobe. I appreciate that you guys are budget-conscious. What things, minimum, do I need for running year-round (I live in WI -- it gets cold in winter!). Also: Where do you find the best deals of your workout clothes?"

I've always heard that running is the least expensive sport. All you need is a pair of shorts, a shirt, and shoes. And if you're into barefooting, you don't even need those. But those of us who have been in the sport for years know that it isn't quite as simple as that.

Not only does the weather dictate what's best to wear and when . . . but the selection is continually increasing. You can really go crazy with apparel. You don't need too much, but if you're running 4 to 6 days a week, it's good to have a solid selection to choose from, especially in the tricky fall and spring months.

Here's what I would consider essential:

  • 2 good sports bras 
  • 1 to 2 tanks w/ shelf bra 
  • 1 to 2 sleeveless or short-sleeve, loose shirts 
  • 1 to 2 long sleeve shirts 
  • 1 to 2 breathable jackets or hoodies
  • 1 fleece vest
  • 1 to 2 pairs of cold weather tights 
  • 1 pair of 3/4 length tights 
  • 2 pairs of shorts 
  • 1 hat or fleece headband 
  • Socks (several of you mentioned in the comments). I'm weird, though, I don't often wear socks unless it's below 0!
It might seem like a lot, but -- really, it isn't. You don't want to do laundry every single day, and I think this list means you can go 3 days without doing a load. The key for the cooler months is layering. I use my sports bras a lot during the summer, but tend to wear tanks layered with a shirt and jacket or vest in the winter.

But the more I think about it, clothing choices are certainly personal based on your own preferences and climate. For example, you may not want a vest at all. I just happen to like them for layering over a jacket because it very cold here in the winter. I suspect, Briana, that it might be chilly in your area, too! However, you might also want gloves, whereas I don't like wearing them.

As for where I find the best deals:

  • I buy most of my tops and bottoms at discount stores like TJ Max and Burlington Coat Factory. You'd be surprised with the high quality items I've found! Usually at least 40% off what I find at retail stores like Dick's Sporting Goods.
  • Target's selection of sports bras (among other running gear and stretchy yoga threads) has increased in recent years and is especially good for the small-busted athlete. Plus, their latest line of colorful Lululemon-esque stuff is cute, but is only a fraction of the cost.
  • Ever since I started my jobs as Deals Editor at Wise Bread, I've found a whole new world of savings. I hunt around at stores like Running Warehouse (where our runners club membership earns us a 15% discount) and Road Runner Sports. For example, today on, there's up to 50% off Under Armour gear -- I never used to take time to seek out those kinds of savings.
  • I have bought a few items at thrift and consignment stores. I don't usually find much there -- slim pickings -- and the integrity of what's there isn't always the best for long-term wear. Still, I shop for a lot of my regular clothes there, so I usually take a look around.
  • I also deal with what I have and wait for gift cards or holidays to add to my collection. For example, Stephen bought me the top and shorts above for my birthday, which is Saturday -- he gave me the gift early -- this year! (He also used lot of coupons!)
Start small and add as necessary. I have had many runs made or broken by the weather, so suiting up the right way is important. Just shop smart, and -- over time -- you can amass what you need. The good part: I have had a large majority of my workout clothes for over 5 years . . . and 8 years in some cases. The stuff lasts if you treat it right. (Psst: Here are some tips we wrote up on Washing Your Workout Clothes.)

Is there anything you consider essential that I missed on my list? And what are your tips for saving money on workout clothes? It's worth the investment in tech fabrics for comfort and not all brands are created equally. Still, without attention, the $$$ can get out of hand . . . fast!

And today on Writing Chapter Three we have a video of Ada saying her first word. Maybe. You tell me!

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