How to Shop for Workout Clothes without Going Broke

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
5/14/2010 1:00 PM   :  105 comments   :  35,118 Views

Specialty workout clothes might not be a necessity to your exercise program, but the sweat-wicking fabrics and body-hugging designs sure can help! Clothes designed for exercise are made for bodies in motion; they're designed to fit right and stay put when you're on the go so that you stay comfortable. Both high-tech synthetic fabrics, and natural ones such as wool, can help pull sweat away from your body so you stay dry. That means you'll be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter—and that's more than a comfort issue. Regulating body temperature also keeps you safe. But beyond functionality, workout clothes are just plain motivating! Unfortunately, all that motivation comes at a price.

Last year, I confessed that I tend to spend more on workout clothes than I do everyday attire. $50 for one pair of pants. $15 for special wool hiking socks. $45 for a winter performance top. And I won't even get into the shoes, which need to be replaced every few hundred miles.

More than 60% of SparkPeople members agree that new workout clothes motivate them to exercise, but when asked what they tend to wear during their workouts, a whopping 75% wear "any old clothes" they have. The high cost of workout wear is a major deterrent for many.

Luckily, it doesn't have to be. Although I occasionally splurge on the high priced items, most of the time, I am a bargain shopper who wants high quality at a low price. Since I've been buying workout clothes for more than a decade, I have a few tried and true tricks that I use to refresh my own workout wardrobe on a budget. Here are some of my best tips on how to save money on workout clothes!
  • Shop end-of-season sales. Just as sweaters are cheapest as spring rolls around, summer and winter, workout clothing goes on major clearance as the weather changes. The same is true for online retailers. This is when I normally hit the sporting goods stores to look for the best deals.
     
  • Visit discount stores. Even when looking for sale prices, you still might pay premium at your big box sporting goods store. Discount chains like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Filene's Basement, Ross and more typically carry exercise clothes for a fraction of the cost. You're likely to find athletic socks and shoes at these stores, too. You'll find good quality clothing at Wal-Mart (try the Danskin brand) and Target (C9 by Champion) stores, too.
     
  • Compare prices online. In my experience, I tend to find the best deals on workout clothing in stores (usually during clearance time), but you can often find phenomenal deals online. Shoes are a great thing to price compare online. Try on in the store and find out what brand and model you like, then search for a deal online. eBay can be a great source for clothing and shoes, too. But beware of high shipping costs from online retailers; these can easily eat up the small savings you earn by shopping online.
     
  • Check sale/clearance racks first. This might seem obvious, but don't get sucked into the fresh displays at the front of the store. Make a beeline for the sale racks FIRST and see what you can find.
     
  • Hit the outlets. I'm fortunate enough to live within one hour of two major outlet malls that have Nike, Adidas, Under Armor and more sports stores. Outlets have a great selection and a variety of sizes—and they often hold sales and clearance events on top of their already low prices. But beware: "Factory stores" (often present at outlet malls) are NOT the same thing as a traditional "outlet" store and while they often feature lower prices than retail stores, the products and quality (fabrics, construction, etc) is lower and their prices tend to be higher than true outlets. Only outlet stores feature the same high quality products (usually overstocked or slightly damaged) as a regular retailer.
     
  • Buy items that multitask. A tank with a built-in sports bra may cost more than a simple top, but may save you money since you don't have to buy the two items separately. Same with a rain jacket that zips off into a vest or hiking pants that convert to shorts. In addition, any workout staple that you can fit into your regular wardrobe gives you more bang for your buck. I tend to stock up on "hybrid" workout tops that double as everyday wear; ACG by Nike, many yoga and Pilates separates, and tops like SparkPeople's bamboo tanks are some of my favorites.
     
  • Join email lists. Yes, getting too many emails can be annoying, but when you sign up for email lists from your favorite workout-clothing manufacturers, you will often receive special coupons, discounts and sale alerts. To me, the extra emails are worth the savings!
     
  • Look for a customer loyalty rewards program. I often shop at Dick's and belong to their free rewards program. By swiping my card with each purchase, I earn points that accumulate and turn into rewards gift cards that I can spend in the store. I also receive special coupons in the mail.
     
  • Only buy what you need. It's easy to get carried away with buying clothes in cool colors that make you look great, but you'll save a lot of dough by only buying what you need. I have just two pairs of tights and I just one pair of fleece workout pants and one fleece jacket for winter, and it's enough for me to run 3-4 times per week all winter long. Look at your workout schedule, the weather (if you exercise outdoors) and buy just the number of staples you need. If you do laundry throughout the week, you may find that you need even fewer items than you originally thought.
     
  • Choose generic brands. Large sporting goods stores and discount stores alike may carry "off" brand workout clothes that are just as good as the name brands. Check the materials and try them on for size! You may be surprised to find that these less expensive brands are just as good as their higher priced competitors.
     
  • Sometimes cotton is OK—and cheap. For the most part, workout clothes are made of synthetic blends and materials that are designed to wick away sweat, hold in or dissipate heat, and provide a bit of stretch for comfort. But if you're not working out in temperature extremes or don't mind getting a little sweaty, run of the mill cotton clothes and T-shirts are just fine. They're easy to come by (who doesn't have a drawer of old T-shirts already?) and cheap if you're buying them new.
     
  • Think outside the box. Do you really need to wear something labeled as "workout" clothes in order to exercise? Casual T-shirts, plain pajama pants, cotton leggings, and basic tank tops can be just as effective as workout wear. Provided it's not snowy or rainy outside, a basic pair of sweatpants might keep you just as warm and insulated as a pricey pair of fleece. If you're willing to look at your current wardrobe a little more creatively—and expand your search throughout a store—you can save a lot of money!
  • Go thrifting. Some consignment stores or thrift stores will carry like-new workout clothes, but it's usually hit or miss. You might have better luck searching for gently used workout clothes online. Try freecycle.org, craigslist.org, or an online auction site.
     
  • Take good care of them. You won't have to buy new workout clothes as often if you take proper care of them. Hot water and a hot dryer can make elastic in your clothing wear out more quickly (it makes elastic brittle and reduces effectiveness of the sweat-wicking technology in performance fabrics).
How do you save money on workout clothes?

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Comments

  • LULU4562
    105
    I recommend sierratradingpost.com for workout clothes and other clothing as well. They carry major brands, usually last year's style or something, at major discounts. They regularly have sales too. - 9/24/2014   6:05:48 PM
  • 104
    It's hard to shop off season when you are trying to lose weight or shape your body... The Ross/Marshalls tip is awesome though! I found cheap ski pants there recently. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a quality pair of running shoes for less than $100... - 1/7/2013   9:38:15 AM
  • 103
    Here is a tip you may want to try-Go to wal-mart.com or target and so on and look at all of your local stores flyer ads that way you should no a head of time for sales.Find out when the sale starts and ends and go through every page of the flyers because sometimes there are things you may not have been looking for that is now on sale.

    Also check there clearance isles as well as online clearance section.

    And also check your local classifieds for garage sales or moving sales or even check craigslist.org for clothing or garage sales.Sometimes really cheap.

    Good luck - 8/20/2011   3:21:54 PM
  • 102
    E-bay!! I just got a "lot" of workout clothes.. gently used and all but one item in my size. 24 bucks with shipping. It all feels new to me! woo hooo! - 3/21/2011   6:47:43 PM
  • 101
    I'll second a vote for Campmor & Sierra Trading Post. I love Target's C9 Champion tees--got a few wicking ones for $5 in colors I love, on clearance. Have found UnderArmor tees at thrift stores, New Balance & Nike wicking socks at Ross' cheap. I live near a Sporthill & REI Outlet so that helps.

    I wish workout clothes weren't so expensive. I'm heavy enough that I want the cooling/wicking benefits but my budget can't take retail prices. Thanks for a great article.

    And for Plus Size workout clothes & undies, try Junonia. Not bargain by any means but have about any size up to 5 & 6X.
    - 10/25/2010   6:35:47 PM
  • SUNONMAPLES
    100
    Great tips, both in the post and the other comments here! Thanks!! When I think about tees and other cotton stuff, I try to shop thrift stores (hadn't thought about yard sales though!!) because cotton production uses so much pesticide, that if I can decrease the crop needed for NEW shirts, I feel better about saving the environment while keeping myself comfortable! - 5/25/2010   9:10:20 AM
  • 99
    I went to Kmart and hit up the clearence rack. And lo and behold I was lucky enough to find Athletech Activewear with moisture wicking material. I bought 3 sports bras and 3 racerback tops with built in bra. ALL for $2-$3 Each!!! I bought all that was on the rack, LOL. I even bought the size M that is too tigt to wear right now, but hopefully I will be able to fit in that one soon. - 5/20/2010   8:43:42 AM
  • MUCH2GAIN
    98
    Two words: Old Navy. For those of you that are size 18 and under, you can get them in the stores. For those of you over size 18, you have to go online. The Yoga pants and capris are fabulous. I'm 6' tall with a long torso so I buy the shirts from the mens tall area online and they are perfect. - 5/20/2010   8:34:43 AM
  • 97
    Kohl's has some nice, inexpensive workout clothes also. - 5/20/2010   8:25:43 AM
  • 96
    I love buying workout clothes. I like lululemon (pricey), GapBody, Danksin, and C9 by Champion (my favorite, really cute Tees, good quality and great prices). - 5/19/2010   9:54:49 PM
  • GINGER432
    95
    These are definitely great tips. I buy all of my sports bras from Wal-Mart and the prices for those are far better than the higher end stores. I also recently used the idea of getting other types of clothing for working out. I bought some pajama pants and used them to work out in. They were only like $5 at Target! Great ways to save money on workout clothing. - 5/19/2010   12:57:29 PM
  • 94
    If you know exactly what shoes work for you, ebay is an awesome place to pick up good shoes (which are REALLY!!!!! important) for a whole lot less than retail!! - 5/19/2010   12:40:35 PM
  • 93
    I only buy workout clothing from walmart.I have recently bought a pair of danskin workout shorts and 2 danskin tank tops with built in bras.1 had a little pocket on the top by the shoulder for mp3 player.I bought each top for 7.00 and the shorts for 7.00 and I have a pair of white danskin walking shoes I bought for like 11.00 or 15.00 not shore.
    - 5/18/2010   12:34:44 PM
  • 92
    I was doing the double bra thing but decided enough was enough. I bought the Enell bra that was on Oprah and the Biggest Loser and it is great! I searched for sellers in my area, tried one on, and instantly noticed the difference. It has also helped with the back pain that results when you wear a DD. - 5/18/2010   9:18:40 AM
  • 91
    Academy Sports has good prices on Under Armor and honors Dick's coupons. I really like the compression shorts and the men's Heat Gear t-shirt. - 5/18/2010   5:59:02 AM
  • 90
    external exercise clothes are not a problem for me, I can actually get them almost anywhere. MY problem comes in finding, now there's no way to be truly delicate about this so forgive me but..., sports bras large enough for me and "the girls". I'm a 42DDD and most athletic wear makers make only S-M-L-XL and their idea of XL is 40C. My regular bras are too restrictive to workout in and I can't go without one, unless I want the girls to reach up and slap me in the face. Don't think I'm making this up! I was trying to show hubby the "Hop, Skip and a Jump" Quickfire challenge one day and DID get smacked in the face! Now, I have to find a specialty shop (and that isn't CHEAP) and probably have to get one made or special ordered. Why can't the sportswear makers go to proper bra sizes and make them widely available? - 5/18/2010   2:41:37 AM
  • 89
    thanks for all the great suggestions - 5/17/2010   9:56:28 PM
  • JACQUELINE102
    88
    I second someone else's comment that Marshalls and TJMaxx are great for cheap, but cute workout clothes. Other than my running shoes and sports bra, I could care less what I'm wearing :) - 5/17/2010   9:48:34 PM
  • 87
    I'm so happy to have read all the comments as well as the article because my workout clothes are over thirty years old, and the elastic ends are sticking out at all the seams! LOL - 5/17/2010   9:05:16 PM
  • 86
    These are great tips I also like yoga pants from old navy - 5/17/2010   8:31:00 PM
  • 85
    TJ Maxx and Marshall's are great places to find workout clothes. - 5/17/2010   2:31:46 PM
  • MARLENEKMP
    84
    I keep my eye out for workout clothes at thrift stores. I find great deals on clothes someone just didn't like the fit so it's practically new. - 5/17/2010   2:22:02 PM
  • 83
    check out SIERRA TRADING POST for lots of deals and big time markdowns. They have a website and catalogs. - 5/17/2010   12:26:09 PM
  • 82
    Well, I live in Canada and here it's harder to come by such great savings as there are in the US. I LOVE lululemon clothes and I don't care too much how much they cost me - they are the only ones I buy but I use them all the time. They are comfortable and they look great and they do motivate me (at least their price does haha). If there are things on sale in the store, of course I will get those instead of the regular priced items but it doesn't happen too often, unfortunately. - 5/17/2010   10:43:28 AM
  • 81
    I'm picky about my workout clothes - if they don't fit right - they don't get worn and I don't care how much of a "bargain" the item is - I paid too much if I won't wear it!
    It's easy to VERY excited about the price of something at a discount store, sale rack or consignment - just make sure you love it for more than the price tag! - 5/17/2010   8:48:11 AM
  • 80
    Great ideas, thanks for the suggestions. - 5/16/2010   9:40:46 PM
  • 79
    Great suggestions thanks. If you have a lot of weight to lose that means new exercise cloths more often. So these suggestions are very appropriate. - 5/16/2010   9:06:05 PM
  • 78
    Thanks for the suggestions! I am always concerned about this - 5/16/2010   8:49:41 PM
  • SUNSET09
    77
    These are great ideas as I enjoy the discount stores, end season and even Goodwil! I get a lot of free T-shirts which is what I work out in. New clothes seem to wotk, most of the time! - 5/16/2010   7:12:39 PM
  • LAURLGOLD
    76
    TJ maxx is awesome for workout wear, but don't over look using your CC points for gift certificates to places like amazon, for buying more expensive items. - 5/16/2010   6:10:58 PM
  • 75
    I buy them at Yard Sales. I look for the ads, then call people (use reverse address to look for their phone numbers) and I ask if they have any at the sale the next day. Often they haven't even thought about getting them out of the drawers, so I find great deals. Lots of people buy exercise clothes and then QUIT, so I find things that are hardly used at all. - 5/16/2010   5:14:17 PM
  • 74
    I've found that the moisture wicking fabrics don't work as well as I need, so I just rely on my extra big Tees and sport shorts or capris. I buy my shorts and capris from Land's End on sale. I love their fit and comfort and buy when they offer the sales prices. I buy shoes on sale or from outlets. I invested in a few good quality sports bras from an online sale and keep them laundered. - 5/16/2010   5:09:20 PM
  • 73
    Beware of cotton!!! if your shirt slides against your skin you can end up with some extremely painful chafing. - 5/16/2010   4:32:25 PM
  • 72
    I buy plain white cotton under-shirts and tanks from the men's department. They are cheap and fit nicely. I have more issues finding pants and shorts because my behind is rather larger than my waist. I find that drawstring pants and short not only fit me better, but they last longer as I continue to lose weight. I don't have to buy the next size down so soon. - 5/16/2010   4:03:31 PM
  • 71
    I do most of my shoppin at Ross, Marshalls and WalMart. - 5/16/2010   12:50:40 PM
  • 70
    I love to go to to flea markets/yard sales. I have found the cutest workout clothes, and spent as little a 25 cents on a name brand shirt w/that sweat-wicking fabric! So, I agree, you don't have to spend big bucks to look like a million bucks :-) - 5/16/2010   12:31:56 PM
  • 69
    If you know exactly what sports shoes you like, search for them online, or wait for a sale at a discount shoe center (DSW, Famous Footwear), or retailer (Dicks, Kohls). Runners often go through several pairs of shoes a year. I've been wearing New Balance 609 in 10D for years. Most stores carry them for $60; online, I've found them as low as $45, and $40/pair or so at a Famous Footwear Buy One Get One Half Off sale. - 5/16/2010   12:31:15 PM
  • 68
    Some great ideas here. I finally started looking for new workout shorts because my old ones are absolutely falling apart. It's really hard to find all-cotton bike shorts, which I find most comfortable. But I went to the local Beall's Outlet last week and found a cotton blend for $5.99 a pair. I like to shop outlet malls and end of season clearance for my shoes, too. By patiently going through all the clearance shoes, I found a pair of Asics in my size that I really liked, for half the price of the new styles. - 5/16/2010   11:52:26 AM
  • 67
    I pay more for good shoes and sports bra, but other than that I wear regular shorts, sweats, T-shirts and socks. I'm going to an all-women's gym and I've noticed that most of the members don't wear fashionable work-out clothes. Maybe it would be different in a co-ed gym; I don't know. For my martial arts I'm wearing a gi which is totally unflattering for my figure but it's what we wear so I don't care. - 5/16/2010   11:49:02 AM
  • 66
    This is a very interesting topic. I exercise early in the morning at home and wear whatever I slept in! Now I'm going to start looking for exercise wear.
    - 5/16/2010   10:25:08 AM
  • 65
    I asked the ladies at work if they had workout stuff that they didn't wear or use. We set up an exchange day that we brought in our stuff. Most of us got rid of things too big or small, and found a few things to add to our program. I got a sit up bench that someone else wasn't using. - 5/16/2010   9:47:59 AM
  • 64
    I pick and choose what to spend the money on. I 'have' to have certain expensive socks or I feel miserable, but I don't mind buying the C9 shirts from Target.

    I like buying higher quality running pants/shorts because my chunkier legs rub together and they'll burn through cheaper ones quickly. However, I'll go to Walmart for cheaper yoga/walking pants/shorts. - 5/16/2010   8:16:17 AM
  • 63
    The new Tide with Febreeze Sport works really well on workout clothes. I literally took a shirt out of the trash can that stunk to test it out, and it was usable again. I buy good workout clothes, but off of the clearance racks at Penneys, and keeping them from smelling prolongs their life. Cotton is fine for the gym if you're trying to save money, but for roadwork its not a good idea. In addition to making your body heat dissipate more quickly (bad even when its warm out), wet cotton chafes. - 5/15/2010   11:21:59 PM
  • 62
    I found by buying mens stuff the clothes were cheaper. I didn't mind wearing a mans large or medium when I was 204 pounds. Now at 164 and still losing I want things to fit better. When I buy new hiking shoes I go to REI sales at the end of the quarter, it also helps that my good friend works there. I go in pick something out and she buys it as a gift and gets 30% off and I pay her after she picks it up for me. I also have found that places such as TJ Max, Marshalls and Ross for Less have last seasons exercise wear pretty cheap - 5/15/2010   11:13:09 PM
  • 61
    I use all the hints here, except I do sometimes buy more than I really need. I'm a sucker for a bargain. But the best bargain is getting great workout clothes as gifts! It's so hard these days figuring out what to buy anyone, but my family knows that I want workout gear. I got a great Addias outfit, a gift certifcate for new running shoes and a Garmin for Christmas. My family appreciates the ease of buying for me and knowing I'll love it! And I appreciate getting good quality stuff... talk about win-wind! - 5/15/2010   11:08:07 PM
  • JAY75REY
    60
    I have found some excellent clearance bargains at campmor.com and also the campmor clearance catalog mailed to me. - 5/15/2010   10:27:04 PM
  • 59
    Thanks. I use what I have but thanks for the tips. - 5/15/2010   9:19:50 PM
  • SBATES63
    58
    I love thrift store shopping, and I have gotten a couple of nearly new Nike running bras. I have shopped ebay with great results, and also an outlet store for great running clothes. The best way I have of saving money is asking myself if I really need it. Then sometimes I save 100% by not being pulled in by the shiny new clothes. I sweat a lot when I run and work out, so I need the wicking fabrics and have found the good shirts so worth it over plain cotton. - 5/15/2010   8:43:32 PM
  • 57
    I have found great workout pants at Old Navy they're long enough (I'm 5'8") and have a bootcut leg, very comfortable. I think I paid about $10 for them. - 5/15/2010   7:54:44 PM
  • 56
    Does anyone have any ideas for getting good deals on clothing that stays where you put it for more "generously proportioned" goddesses in Canada? - 5/15/2010   2:39:34 PM

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