Running on a Budget

Ok, I’ve had quite a bit of HR talk, this week, so time to shift gears a bit. After all, there’s more to this blog than HR. But, I do get a lot of HR people who are just getting started on their running journey, reach out and ask me about my running, how I got started, and where to begin.

When I started running about 7 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I had done a little reading, but I had no clue on what shoes to buy, what type of shorts I should wear, or what kinds of socks I should have. So, I rolled to the local Dick’s Sporting Goods store, grabbed a pair of $40 Asics, got some Champion athletic shorts at Costco, put on that old t-shirt and hit the streets. While my gear has evolved a bit since then, I’m often asked by people looking to get started where to begin. And, I’m still pretty thrifty when it comes to my gear. The following are some things I’ve learned along the way, regardless of where you are in your running career, on how you can run and not break the bank.


If you have thought about running and looked into different types of running gear, I’m sure you’ve heard of the moisture wicking fabric. This also may be referred to as a “tech T” or “dri-fit.” This material basically pulls the sweat away from your body and takes it to the outside layers of the material to keep you cool, in theory. These shirts can be found almost anywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased one at a store and I always rely on the shirts I get for entering races. Yes, I realize it costs money to enter races, but that’s my thing. Most races offer a shirt at entry, and many 5Ks are about $25 to enter. The longer the race, the more the fee, typically, but that’s another post. You can pick up some great dri-fit shirts at Target or Walmart that will be just fine. I do prefer the Nike Dri-fit shirts and the Shamrock Shuffle gives them as part of the race packet. Looking forward to getting mine in a few weeks!


A similar concept on shirts goes for shorts, but for me, this is all about comfort and feel. Fellas, make sure you have some support, if you know what I mean. Many running shorts come with an inner lining, but you can get the same support from some regular athletic shorts and a pair of tighty-whitey’s. If you’re going that route, I’d suggest some “dri-fit” ones. I picked up a 3-pack of Adidas Climalite boxer briefs at Costco and they do the trick for my winter attire. I like the Nike shorts, too, and also have a good pair of Reebok’s. While these are more on the higher price range, (about $30-$40) I buy them in the fall when they are on sale and can usually get them for $20.


For those who know me well, they know I don’t mess around when it comes to shoes. I love shoes. I mean, all kinds of shoes. Yes, I have a problem. So when it comes to running, I don’t skimp. Of all the gear, the shoes are the most important. That being said, if you’re just starting out, you can get a pair of good shoes like Asics or Saucony, for under $40. Clip your coupons because places like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s are always having specials. Find a pair that works for you. Finding the right shoe is such a personal thing for each person. For sizing, I recommend going a half to full size bigger than you normally would. Your feet will swell and lengthen when you run so you need to adjust for that. Personally, I’m an Asics guy and I’ve been running with the GT 2000 series for several years and they just seem to fit me perfectly.

Winter Wear

I live in the Chicagoland area so a big part of my running is done in the cooler weather. I have learned a lot about the right types of gear in the winter. First, a good rule of thumb is to dress as it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. For example, if it’s 25 degrees out, dress as if it is 45. Trust me, you don’t want to over dress. I start with a base layer. You can easily find some quality dri-fit base layers for under $10 that will do the trick. I see them at Costco all of the time and my go-to is one from Walmart. I found a pair of Reebok outdoor running pants on Zappos for under $40, and, this winter, I went to a pair of Nike running tights. Don’t worry, I wear shorts over them. I also found a Nike winter running jacket a few years ago right after the winter season that is perfect. The Champion brand has a lot of great options for a very reasonable price. Just check out Target or Walmart or any sporting goods stores. I wear a knit hat I got from Abt Electronics customer appreciation day and were a pair of mitten/gloves I picked up at Ace Hardware for $5. I also recommend those brown cotton garden gloves from the hardware store. You can get a pack of 3 for about $5 and these will last you through the winter. Or, just throw on that hoodie and some sweat pants and get out there. Remember Rocky?

Gadgets and Coaches

The gadgets can easily add up to a lot of money. With fancy watches and fitness trackers to running belts and compression socks, you are easily looking to close to $500. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need all of that. I do recommend running with your phone for a couple of reasons. First, and foremost, is safety. You never know when you may need to call someone if you get injured or lost. Second, is the GPS and tracking of your workouts. There are a lot of great free running apps like MapMyRun, Strava, and RunKeeper. I’m a MMR guy and have been using it for my 7 years of running. It records my workouts, provides data and analytics, and has a social feature so you can keep up with your friends. There is a premium version that provides custom training plans and I’ve found them to be useful.

For a watch, I have ditched my GPS and gone back to my trusty Timex Ironman. I also left the music and headphones at home and have started run more on feel and not so much on the pace of my run. I’m more focused and in tune with my surroundings and I like being present in my runs. But, I get the whole music thing. It’s motivating and music got me through 11 half marathons. I’ve yet to run a race without music, so we’ll see how that goes.

As far as coaches and training plans, there are plenty of free online resources and training information out there to get you started. I’d recommend going to your local running store to join a group. Places like Fleet Feet offer half and full marathon training groups, if you want to spend a bit, but you can also find great ones online. I’m a huge fan of Coach Jenny Hadfield and her philosophy to running. She has many free plans to guide you through any type of race or distance, and these plans are made to fit the lifestyle of the everyday runner who has other things, like life, to juggle. She focuses on running on feel and what’s right for your body and not necessarily on a target pace or mileage goal.

You can spend money to hire a coach, too. There are many great ones out there, both in person and online. They will tailor a plan that may be right for you. But, you have to be ready for this. Coaches only put the plan in place. You have to be ready to do the work. They can provide all of the plans, encouragement, friendship and support in the world, but they can’t get you out of bed and on the road.

One final tip is to look to buy gear at the end of any season. You want some good winter gear? Hit up the stores and websites now. Great summer gear? September is the time. Find a brand you like and scour the internet for deals. I love a good bargain.

I have learned the most about running and gear by talking to other runners. We share stories, tips, and ideas about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve helped many people get started on their running journey just as many have helped me. While I love the solitude and therapy that running provides for me, I mostly love the support and camaraderie of the entire running community. If you don’t know what I mean, go run a race. Participants, volunteers, and fans alike are all there to see you succeed and keep going. Reach out to me at any time and I’d be happy to share my story.


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