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The best way to spend money on running gear

Avoid the shoes, but Rocky's clothing is all you really need. Photograph: c.Columbia
Avoid the shoes, but Rocky’s clothing is all you really need.
Photograph: c.Columbia

Getting started in running is one of the cheaper ways to get yourself into shape. All you really need to get started is a pair of shoes,  but there is no shortage of items to add to your arsenal or gear. We’ve set out to try and help you figure out the best way to spend money on running gear.


Before anything else, you’re going to need a pair of running shoes. Those old Chuck Taylors in the front hall closet probably won’t cut it. This is one of the categories you probably don’t want to skimp on. The price tag when you first walk into a running store can sometimes be a bit of an eye-widening experience, but you will thank yourself for spending the time and money to find the right pair.

In a good specialty running store there won’t be any bad shoes, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. Each pair is built on a different last and with different qualities. Some will fit your foot great and some will feel strange. Often, the first instinct is a great indicator of which is the right shoe for you, but, when you buy, make sure there is some sort of return policy. Most stores will allow you to return the pair in reasonable time if they’ve only been worn inside, such as on a treadmill, and there are no blemishes from use. Take the shoes to a local indoor track or gym and try them out. Some stores will even have a treadmill there to use.

Above all, buy the right pair of shoes. It’s one of the few products that skimping on may haunt you until their wear is through.

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You won’t be wearing the same clothing out running as you wear to work, so you need some new (or old) threads.

First, in Canada you’re going to have to accept that if you plan to run year-round you will need a few different outfits.

Cotton can get hot even in the winter, but you probably have some old shirts and sweaters made from it kicking around the house. Old clothing that you don’t mind getting sweaty will work in most weather. Think Rocky running through Philadelphia. He rocked plenty of cotton, but he also got pretty sweaty.

If you want clothing that will wick away sweat when it’s hot out, a basic microfiber shirt these days will only run you about $15. It’s a huge jump in breathability and comfort from the old Kiss tour shirt hidden in the basement, and it means you won’t ruin your Kiss shirt.

In the winter, a decent running jacket is a nice investment. Something that breaks the wind is nearly essential at times and it’s lighter and more breathable than a thick sweater. The price tag on a quality jacket can be a put-off, but a good one will last a very long time. Still, less expensive versions will do the trick for a few seasons if taken care of and will save you some money.

When in the market for running clothes, noting the washing instructions is useful. Many of the microfibers — especially spandex — shouldn’t be put in the dryer.


You don’t need a watch to run, but it’s one of the first things to think about adding to your list of running gadgets after shoes and clothing. They also have probably the widest range of prices and features.

First, you can get by without one. Just look at the clock when you leave and again right when you get back. That will tell you how long you were out running for, but it doesn’t allow for a running time while you’re actually out on your feet. This is the most basic reason investing in a running watch is a useful purchase.

A trip to a local department store will give you a wide selection of low-price, digital watches that will tell you the time. Most will also have a basic chronograph to tell you running time. You might even already have one lying around your house somewhere, stuffed into an old drawer. The batteries on these last seemingly forever, although they are usually not waterproof and are cheaply made, but they do what you need.

If you want to spend a few more dollars, a basic sport watch with interval timers and split times is a useful investment for someone doing more advanced workouts. It will run you between $40 and $80, which is completely in the realm of reasonable for the upgrade in durability and usefulness. Also, being waterproof is a huge plus for running in the rain.

From here the tech takes off alongside the prices. A GPS watch is certainly useful, but is by no stretch needed. I will give you pace and distance covered. Some are paired with heart rate monitors, or tether with your phone or bluetooth earphones to play music. They count steps, automatically sync with an internet application for tracking longer term statistics and give workout advice. These can range up to $500 smart watches and the amount of features packed into the small wristwatch if astounding.

Other Stuff

Although you might not need very much, there are a few other great investments:

A coach or running clinic is a great way to get motivated and on the right track to spring fitness. The clinics are usually pretty cheap and provide you with a group to run with on a regular basis. A coach will cost a bit more but the training will be more personalized. A free option? Talk some friends into running with you a few days each week.

Races can be a great end-goal for a season, but entry fees have been steadily on a rise. Still, a small local race can be an awesome experience and gives you a motivator to keep training.

A gym membership can also be a useful investment for those winter days when it’s just too cold to go outside. Some at university campuses have indoor tracks available and any gym will have a few treadmills. It also gives you access to weight training resources which provides a nice change in training if you’re interested in that.