Running on a Budget

Investing in your health is one of the best investments you can make! However that doesn’t mean you need to spend more money than necessary. Overall, running is one of the cheaper athletic activities. But there are still plenty of clothing items and gadgets you should have if you are wanting to be a distance runner, and if you want to run a race. Here are some great ideas to save money on all your run gear and race registrations!

Buy shoes of the previous model on Amazon

Every year or two, shoe companies release a new model of the same shoe. So, there’s the Asics Gel-Kayano 22, then the next year they come out with the Gel Kayano 23. That previous model hasn’t sold out, but is now for sale at a discount price! You can even find models from even further back sometimes. Generally, the older the model, the cheaper the cost, just like cars. I think amazon is the best place to find these older models.

For those interested in getting a pair of shoes, here are some of my recommendations for the best stability running shoes, best neutral running shoes, and best running shoes for flat feet!

Thrift stores/Walmart/Target

Not all running clothes have to be name brand. I have bought great running clothes from stores such as Walmart and Target! These stores will be considerable cheaper than buying Nike, Lulu Lemon, New Balance, etc. You can also check out your local thrift stores. Thrift stopping can be hit or miss, but I have definitely come across name brand gear for an insanely low price! There’s also sites such as Poshmark where you can buy used, name brand items.

Injury prevention-YouTube

Getting injured can be costly, in many ways. Cross training, doing strength work and mobility and flexibility are all key in staying injury free. And guess what, you can find all of these kinds of workouts for free on YouTube! There are literally thousands of workout videos for runners! And there are sooo many videos that require no equipment whatsoever! Dedicate just 30 minutes a few times a week, and you will ward off frustrating and expensive injuries!

Buy food in bulk

When training for a marathon you are going to eat more food. You want to make sure you are eating nutrient dense food, not just eating lots of cheap, processed foods. Going to stores and buying your food staples in bulk is a great way to go as far as nonperishable foods, such as oatmeal, nut butters, hydrations, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

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Running gels vary in price, and unfortunately the better ones are the more expensive ones. Clif Gels are some of the cheapest and I have used them and liked them well enough. The more processed and sugary gels can cause runners to have stomach problems. So choosing the more expensive, but better quality running gel may pay off in the long run. If you really want to cut back, you could eat whole foods while running and save money by skipping the gels. Although you miss out on the convenience on the gels.

Gatorade or PowerAde

Electrolytes are a must when training for a marathon. Gatorade and PowerAde are the cheapest ones. You could buy the bottles in bulk, or the powder and add it to your water as needed. I’ve used the Gatorade Endurance Powder and used just one scoop for a liter of water rather than the three scoops they recommended, and it was totally fine! I will also fill a water bottle like a quarter of the way with Gatorade from the bottle, and fill the rest with water!

You could also make a homemade electrolyte drink which may be even cheaper! Though overall I prefer the powder because it’s easy to travel with and has a very long shelf life!

Register for a race at the earliest possible time, or sign up for a small town, cheaper race

The bigger the race, the bigger the price tag. You can either do the early bird registration in order to pay the lowest fee, or sign up for a small town race. For example, the LA marathon is close to $300, if you get early bird pricing it’s closer to $100. Whereas small town races early bird may be around $50 and later registration will be just around $100!

Most races have a host hotel which gives a discounted rate to the runners. Then of course there’s Airbnb’s which can be even more affordable than hotels. Although if you really want to cut back, running a local race is best that way you can stay home.

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Vaseline for anti-chafe

I love my tea tree oil anti-chafe cream, but it is definitely not the cheapest way to go. Vaseline is a fraction of the cost, and also works great. Although people with sensitive skin may need to go with other options to help prevent chafing from turning into rashes.

Buy just a basic watch, or buy the cheapest sports watch

You can run wearing a normal watch and it works fine. You just have to do more math when making sure you are on pace, and need to know landmark mile markers. When I lived in the bay area I wore just a cheap digital watch, but I did all my runs around a track so that was easy to know when I had ran a mile.

Getting a fitness watch (I use Garmin) was seriously a game changer for me. If you are interested in running long distance and want to run a race (especially if you want to get a specific goal time), I think a fitness watch is a necessity. You could either buy a model that is on the cheaper end, or buy a refurbished one for a discounted price. Keep in mind, the cheapest sports watch may still cost you around $100, but as I said it honestly is such a worthwhile investment! (Here’s my experience with running watches!)

Look for deals at the race expo-but don’t get caught up in a spending flurry!

Race expos are like a mini mall for runners. The bigger the race, the bigger the expo. Large ones have so many companies there giving out samples and discounted items. Keep a look out for bargains but be mindful to not get caught up in the excitement and overspend!

REI first Saturday sale

Every first Saturday REI sells discounted items! Slightly used items are sold as is, and final sale. Even though the gear is used, they’re still in great condition! This is for members only, so if you aren’t a member maybe you have a friend that is and you could tag along with them.

Cheap recovery options

Having something to massage you legs if incredibly helpful when running hight mileage. if you have a gym membership, they have foam rollers you can use. If not, I would go with the stick. It’s cheaper than a foam roller, but still works great! You could also roll your arches on it to help with tenderness in the feet.

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Ice is also key when it comes to recovery. Cryotherapy can be pricey, so you could just put ice from your freezer in baggies and place those on the inflamed parts of your body. There’s also everyones favorite-ice baths!

For heat, you can just take a hot bath and that will do the trick with increasing blood flow.

Free training plan

Getting a run coach is usually pretty pricey. So rather than hiring someone, find a free online training plan ( is what I use). Being your own coach you will need to do more research, and create your training calendar. The research can be as much or as little as you want. Google is always a good source of free information (as long as you find accurate sources), and there are plenty of books about running that you can borrow for free from you local library! It also helps to find someone to hold you accountable and to cheer you on (literally there cheering you on during races/training runs, as well cheering you on by giving you words on encouragement when you are struggling).

Hope these will tips help any runners trying to tighten up their run gear spending! Or any new runners not wanting to shell out too much cash in order to start running long distance! 🙂

What are some ways you save money when buying run gear? Do you prefer running major races, or small ones?


  • Laura @

    Laura, a fitness aficionado, authors influential health and fitness write ups that's a blend of wellness insights and celebrity fitness highlights. Armed with a sports science degree and certified personal training experience, she provides expertise in workouts, nutrition, and celebrity fitness routines. Her engaging content inspires readers to adopt healthier lifestyles while offering a glimpse into the fitness regimens of celebrities and athletes. Laura's dedication and knowledge make her a go-to source for fitness and entertainment enthusiasts.