I’ve seen many articles, both on and offline, about the best running kit, and I worry that it makes this whole running malarkey seem quite elitist and expensive. Someone said that your kit improves as you get more serious about your running, but I think that’s bollocks. I’m pretty serious about my running and some of my favourite kit is from Primark, and it works, year on year, run after run, I swear 🙋.
I mean we bang on about how you can just chuck on some trainers and head out and pound the pavement, but then all of a sudden you need the right shoes, the branded leggings with the hidden pocket, the running belt with compression straps, the must have no blister socks, the ultra no sweat thermal top, the special glow in the dark jacket. Pick up a running magazine off the shelf and you will realise that running kit is a big industry and can be quite expensive.
I’m here to help!
- Know what you really need and what is just vanity
- Find out what features are the most important to have and which are nice to have
- Spend your money in this one area, and save everywhere else
- Shopping at Primark and why it doesn’t make you any less of a runner
- Plus other great places to find deals that you may not have thought of
Do I really, really, really need it?
Don’t get bogged down, you just need to cover the important bits (to avoid indecent exposure 😳) in some stretchy sporty fabric (no baggy cotton t-shirts). Running shoes, socks, top, and bottoms – plus ladies need a sports bra.
When buying your first kit, buy for ideal conditions – don’t worry about a waterproof rain jacket if you are unlikely to run in the rain! And don’t worry about buying full length running tights if you are starting your running journey in the middle of the summer.
If you want to take your phone with you (which I recommend, see below) then you will need somewhere to put it that is not your hand (drop danger) nor sports bra (as I did for many runs – very uncomfortable). Your bottoms might have a pocket which will fit your phone, if not invest in a phone arm holder or belt, I’ve seen both for between £5-£10.
Why should you take your phone on your run?
- You can track your run (for free) on Strava or RunKeeper – great to see improvement and measure your statistics, check your route, and connect with like-minded runners
- Listen to some tunes on the go – when the going gets tough, the right song can make it all fly by in the blink of the eye! Note: fancy sports earbuds are not needed, I ran with the standard phone ones for years with no issues!
- Take some selfies or if you are less vain than me, capture some of the beautiful world around you while you are running – hello amazing sunrise
- Stay safe – even on short runs, you could twist an ankle or get lost – having a phone where you can google maps your way home or call for help is important.
So what’s really important – the features that matter and those that don’t
For winter/low light runners – High-Vis. It doesn’t have to be luminous-garish-builders-vest-yellow – These days, it’s much more-subtle and is usually a shiny grey colour used in accents on the design. As soon as a car’s headlights hits you, the little grey bits light you up like a little beacon. Check the tags for anything you buy to see if it has high-vis accents on it.
Pockets are useful – sometimes. I run with my phone and bank card and a few sweets, if it is a longer run. I find the pocket in the back of my Primark bottoms somewhat strange, as it makes my phone sit right on my bum – it’s a weird sensation! I have a pocket in the waistband of another pair of running tights, and it’s too small for my phone but perfect for my bank card. My husband has some running shorts and the pocket is on the side, and he really likes it. So pockets are good – but not always that useful.
Thumb holes are great. Even the most basic long sleeve running tops offer this handy feature and I think it’s a great one. Cold hands, pull them down – warming up, push them up, so unless it’s really cold, you don’t need to worry about gloves.
A drawstring is a good safeguard. I had a pair of running tights that perpetually fell down (and I can confirm it was an expensive brand – not a cheapie), and they didn’t have a draw string, but I sure wish they did. A drawstring is a great feature that will stop you tugging you bottoms up during your run. Top tip, tie a little knot at the end of each end of the drawstring to stop it getting lost in your waistband. That being said I have many bottoms with no drawstring that don’t fall down, so it is not always necessary.
Spend your money in this one area
You can’t skimp on your running shoes. I hate to say it, but if you get this bit wrong, you are opening yourself up to injury and that is just not worth it. Your feet are your foundation. So, head on down to your local running shoe shop and get your gait analysed. They can tell you how your feet hit the ground, if you need inserts or a support shoe. Then they will recommend shoes based on your feet’s needs.
If you are anything like me, you will feel compelled to now buy the expensive shoes the sales person brings out to show you that are a perfect fit for your imperfect feet! But here are some tips to help:
- Some stores price match (Sweatshop does 😄), so if they do – go online and check out a selection of shoes that are support shoes, normal shoes, trail shoes, and then compare them to the price you would pay in the shop you are going to. When the sales person comes back and says you need the fancy New Balance support shoes for close to £100 you will either be able to ask them to price match, or ask them to see a model you found online.
- Ask to see last year’s shoes – dark purple was so last season – ahhh I don’t care. Each year running shoe manufacturers put out new editions of their shoes, version 1, version 2, etc… and who cares if you have version 8 or version 6 of a very good shoe.
- Once you know your running shoe needs and type, you can go off-piste and buy your shoes from other discount retailers like TKMaxx, Amazon, and Sports Direct – saving some serious money. Note – it’s always worthwhile to get your gait re-checked again from time to time.
Primark for runners
Primark have an amazing active wear section – vests for £4 and tights from £6, compression socks, with lots of great details, like high vis, zips, thumb holes, and breathable fabrics.
I’m careful about what I buy, and always obey these 3 rules when buying kit from Primark (or any discount high street retailer)
- Stay away from fashion in your active wear which might make it less active: say no to sheer inserts, lacey bits, large screen printing
- Quality Check: Always check the seams to make sure that they lie flat and are well sewn
- Don’t go mad: Just because a running vest is £4 doesn’t mean you need 10 of them, buy what you need, one of each test it out, and if you like it, and need another one, go back and then buy a second
I’d say 80% of my running kit is from Primark and only a few pieces have ever let me down (which is probably a better success rate than I have had with other more expensive brands).
Best Places to Buy Running Kit:
Charity shops – great for running clothes, pop in on a regular basis. I picked up a great pair of Adidas tights and some Gap Body kit for less than a tenner recently.
TKMaxx – good for shoes (once you know your shoe needs) and sports bras!
H&M – Similar to Primark, good for clothes, but follow the 3 rules above
Sports Direct – good for shoes (once you know your shoe needs) and accessories, belts, socks, gloves
SweatShop – best for shoes as they can do the gait analysis for you, but they also price match to any physical or online shop
Decalthalon – best for kid’s sports clothes
Please share your cheap running kit tips and tricks below, I’d love to hear where you get your bargains and what works for you!