Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gear Review (of sorts): Buying running gear on the cheap

So I've been running regularly for about eight years now. In that time I've worn a lot of shorts, capris, shirts, buffs and socks. And, since I decided to start running during the decline of the economy I found it prudent at times to buy running gear on the cheap. That means buying it from places like Walmart and Target. This post reviews what I've experienced so far by sampling Target, Walmart, Brooks, Running Room and Nike running clothes. First, the bottoms. In this category you get what you pay for. At Walmart I bought a pair of running shorts that after one run spent with me trying to make them not ride up, they have become gym shorts only. The same goes for a pair of compression shorts bought at the Running Room. Yes, they compress, a bit too much, my legs look like sausages in them so I worry about circulation...and yet they ride up and the waist has a draw string (a draw string?!). Next I tried capris from Walmart (no possibility of riding up) and still wear them from time to time today. On the thinner of the two capris the waist band is flimsy and can roll at times. A second, thicker pair, I bought there has a small tear starting in the thigh, so they're headed to the garbage, but the fabric waist band is superior to the elastic-type band on on the thinner pair. So for $15 on average a pair, they get the job done but offer no support or warmth at all. Not bad for 5ks but I would never wear them on a long run. At Target I found a pair of shorts ($15) that although they are thicker than I normally would prefer, have been my go-to short for this past summer. The capris I bought, less so. While the fabric print is cool and a nice change from the straight up black of my other shorts and capris, they don't stay up until I have run at least a mile and have added enough sweat to make them stay put (yucky, sorry). Not so fun. For an average of $20 a pair, I wouldn't bother with capris from them, but the shorts were a nice surprise. Now for my go-to brand. Nike. I have had a pair of Nike shorts that I thought I would wear until the end of time..until my dog chewed them up :-( They were supportive and were a great base layer in the winter tempretures. I still haven't been able to find a similar pair that has the same leg length (I'm a long-short runner). For the winter I have a fantastic pair of lined tights from Nike that my husband bought me. They have seen 7 years of wear and still are supportive and warm. In fact, they are in my pack right now, waiting for a spin this afternoon. All in all, while you might have some one-in-a-million luck at the department stores, you'll probably find a lot more comfort in paying out a few extra dollars to get a pair of durable and well fitting bottoms. Shirts, on the other hand have been very tricky for me. I'm short waisted so a lot of running shirts run long in both the arms and the length. I think I have tried every variation out there. And most I should have left on the hanger, to be frank. I bought a super soft, pretty little pink t-shirt at Running Room, only to fight with it for a 5 miler to stop it from riding abs aren't THAT nice and I don't want to give my neighbors a show. Often Walmart and Target t-shirts are not a lot better than what you get a races, baggy, ill-fitting through the shoulders and not durable after a few washes. I decided to take a chance and bought a Brooks t-shirt online (I know, I didn't even try it on!-gasp!) and I wore it until it hummed all the time..even after washing. It was a fabulous t-shirt. I then took a chance and got a long sleeved shirt for the winter at Target, and while I question the amount of venting it provides (I mean really, when you buy a long sleeved shirt you want to be warm, right?) it is a pretty little purple thing that does a decent job of staying put when I run while not being too clingy. In this category Target gets a hats off for decent long sleeved running shirts at a great price. Socks are the key to keeping your feet dry, comfy and free of blisters on the run. I've bought expensive ($25+) pairs of Nike, Running Room, toe socks and Brooks socks, and only the Nike socks have been durable and kept my feet free of blisters. On the other hand Walmart sells athletic socks for 10 for $10 that have honestly performed better than some $15 pairs I've owned. So in this category Nike and Walmart tie it up. In the end I would argue that for some running clothes you can certainly get away with going cheap. But for the essentials, like shorts and shirts I really recommend you try things on before you buy so you don't spend a run fighting with your clothes just to toss money out the window. Consider it an investment, lord knows my Nike tights have been worth their weight after 7 years. Not many other articles of clothing can boast they have lasted that long.

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