Running Gear That’s a Waste of Money

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Running seems like a pretty low-maintenance activity—just you, the shoes, the road and you're off, right? That doesn't mean there aren't a million-and-one gadgets and gizmos out there, though, each one promising to make your next run the best one of your life.
Particularly when you’re new to running, it’s easy get suckered into buying every tool and trapping that salesclerks and seasoned runners recommend. But keep in mind that people at running stores are trying to make a sale, and your running friends may have different preferences or priorities that compel them to buy certain items that aren't necessarily essential for you.
To find out what gear is likely to collect more dust than mileage, six real runners weighed in on the “essential” gear that is a waste of money. Before spending your hard-earned cash on high-priced equipment that will supposedly make you a fleet-footed running machine, check out this list.

9 Things Runners Don't Need

1. Running-Specific Clothes

From shorts to jackets to socks, apparel companies are notorious for pigeonholing clothing items for certain activities, but trainer Alex Haschen says not to buy into the hype. "By marketing a shirt or shorts as 'running' specific, brands can jack up the price significantly," he says. "My advice is to wear whatever is weather appropriate, light and nonrestrictive. Shorts and a cheap poly T-shirt usually do the job."
Before heading to the store, check your closet. You most likely already have some options that are perfectly suitable for running.
2. Ankle or Wrist Weights

While it's great to challenge yourself and aspire to get the most out of your running workout, ankle and wrist weights are generally an unnecessary accessory—and might even be a dangerous one. According to Coach Nicole, the risk of injury far exceeds any potential benefit of muscle strengthening or calorie burning. There are other, safer ways to add resistance to runs, such as incorporating hills into your route, playing around with speed work and gradually increasing distance. If building strength is your goal, adding a few simple strength-training moves to your routine can make a world of difference.
3. Water Belts

Sure, it's important to stay hydrated during exercise, but unless you're running a significant distance, Haschen says that carrying water on a belt isn't very efficient. "Hydration can be accomplished with pre- and post-run water consumption," he says. "I would consider taking water with you only if the temperature is over 85 degrees or you're running over six miles."
4. Running-Specific Nutrition

From gooey gels to energy bars to sports drinks, there's a whole slew of nutrition staples that promise to fuel runners the right way. Running coach Kyle Kranz says that most runners, especially those who are new to the sport, probably aren't going far enough or hard enough to require special nutrition before, during or after a run.
"Typically, it's suggested that for runs under an hour, you don't need any extra hydration or calories aside from what you may eat or drink on a regular basis," Kranz explains. "For an introductory 5K training schedule, for example, you probably aren't going long or hard enough to require anything supplementary."
5. Insoles

Many runners use special inserts to correct imbalances in their feet, provide extra cushioning or minimize impact—but is all that shoe stuffing necessary for everyone? According to Matt Fitzgerald, author of "The Endurance Diet," insoles are one of the products that runners most often regret buying.
"Over-the-counter shoe inserts work well for some runners, but their effects are individual and unpredictable," he warns. "So, when runners buy insoles on the recommendation of a friend who did get good results, the money often ends up being wasted."
6. High-End Watches

With so many fancy and downright futuristic pieces of technology available to runners, it's hard to resist splurging on a fitness-oriented watch. While these gadgets do provide some valuable insights into each run, they tend to be very pricey.
For first-time runners, Haschen recommends simply using a cell phone and downloading a free running app, most of which provide much of the same data as the GPS watches and smartwatches. "I would suggest waiting to see if you're going to stick with running long-term before forking over hundreds of dollars for a wearable tracker," he says.
7. Fancy Sunglasses

There's nothing worse than getting caught without your shades during a sunny run—but that doesn't mean you have to drop a three-digit amount on them. Your sunglasses don't have to be running-specific, either: As long as they're comfortable, provide enough field of view and stay in place, they'll fit the bill. "Cheap $5 sunglasses provide exactly what I need," says runner and fitness coach Erinn Whitehead.
8. Compression Garments

All the "serious" runners wear those brightly colored compression sleeves and socks to races, so they must be essential, right? Not always. Although compression garments can help to speed up recovery by improving circulation, they're not automatic must-haves for new runners. "Wait to see what your body does and how it responds to running before you go out and get stuff that is typically reserved for distance and marathon runners," recommends recreational runner Rebecca Sheerer.
9. Running Books

If you're just starting out, you likely have lots of questions about what to do, what not to do and what to expect. There are plenty of seasoned runners who are eager to pass along (i.e. sell) their wisdom, but don't feel like you have to spend money on a bunch of running books. You can find more than enough valuable information on free websites. Cruise on over to SparkPeople's Running Guide for dozens of helpful articles.
Which items did you purchase that you wish you hadn't? On the flip side, what running gear do you never leave home without?

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PATRICIAANN46 5/31/2020
Thank You................. Report
ROSENJ1965 3/8/2020
Some good advice for the shorter distances mentioned and newer runners.

But for the longer runners, a way to carry hydration is almost essential (hydration belt for me on those 15-22+ mile training runs where I can't rely on water fountains and also need some kind of electrolyte replacement), energy gels are critical for really long runs AND for high effort races (half marathon and longer), good quality wicking wear (that won't chafe - and I'm very sensitive to that) that's also SPF-protective becomes more essential the more time you're spending out there. Likewise, GOOD quality sunglasses for real UV protection and vision clarity (mine are prescription so I can also SEE while I'm out there), GOOD shoes that fit your particular body mechanics, GOOD socks that wick and prevent your feet from blistering (and hopefully avoid the dreaded post-marathon black toenails, one of which I now have along with still recovering blisters on 3 other toes because I misjudged my socks) are not useless things, and are worth some investment, though you can certainly economize on many of them (and use things cross activity).

Also, a good fitness watch to measure distance & pace is not a luxury if you want to improve your performance (which I do) - and mine ALSO serves to provide cellular phone service if I have an emergency while I'm out on a run (and lets me run without having to figure out how to carry along my phone!), plus I wear it all day for notifications (texts, emails, calendar appointments and reminders, etc.) so I can see if something is important at a glance without having to constantly have my phone out.

I know the article is targeting newer runners / shorter distances, but I just thought I'd give some perspective from an older runner :) doing longer distances. Report
ONLYME33 12/16/2019
Thrift stores not just "Goodwill", but hospital auxiliaries (appreciate funding) Often find good workout equipment/clothing 'name brand' and clean too-good idea to always wash anyway Report
Proper dri-fit running attire is necesary in my country due to the high humidity. I also invest in good sports bra and appropriate shoes. Apart from these, I adhere to everything the article says Report
TERMITEMOM 12/14/2019
This list can be used by walkers too. Report
LIDDY09 12/14/2019
Thanks Report
1CRAZYDOG 12/13/2019
I agree w/most of what the article says, but . . . definitely wouldn't do w/o my compression garments. DEFINITELY agree a good fitting sports bra is a total MUST! Report
KHALIA2 7/17/2019
Great article! Report
Great article Report
I have been running for 9 years now and it took a long time before I perchased a water belt and my polar watch. I use the same clothes for yoga, running, hiking and so on. In the winter I use the same clothes for running, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and so on. As a woman I made a point of buying a good bra very soon though. The support is essential. Good running shoes is a must as well. Very good article that reminds us that alot out there is destined to make us spend! Report
So far, the only items that I wasted money on we're $50 insoles and $15 "running" socks. I still wear the socks casually, but I don't care for traditional ankle socks. I wear Nike Dri-Fit crew socks. They work fine. As far as the insoles, I bought them for my Asic Nimbus 19s. But soon afterwards, I made the best investment so far...Hoka Clifton 4s. Got them on sale at Fleet Feet for $95. Subsequently bought a 2nd pair for when first pair wear out. As far as running clothes, check out outlet stores and yes...Wal-Mart. I have a couple of Brooks outfits that cost around $150 each (for pants and shirt). But I've bought Russell and Puma outfits for $25 - $30 that are just as well made. Report
I live in a sports bra Report
I use my water belt in summer even on my shortest runs. I partially fill and freeze, and fill rest with water, it works as a cool pack. Water stays cool longer and the ice feels good next to my back. Report
I definitely need my insoles and compression socks. But I agree with the author that you usually discover that you need these once you start running. And not everyone uses them. Report
THANKS.... Report
I think the article being directed at the novice runner is pretty objective, well done.
My pet gripe with runners/cyclists/ walkers alike is that they tend not to wear reflective/ clearly visible clothing. The more in someone’s face you are, the better you will be noticed
Cheers Report
"For first-time runners, Haschen recommends simply using a cell phone and downloading a free running app..."

Like smart phones are cheap to buy or provide service. Smart watches are cheaper than smart phones, last longer than Apple phones, and provide more accurate information that apps alone. Consider how much data service costs for a smart phone: between $500 and $1000 per year? One could purchase a very nice, activity tracker with a built-in GPS for less than that. Check out Polar, they have a range of devices with a range of prices.

I love gadgets (Apple phone and watch), but this article is honest and true! You don't need all of those things. I always thought weights were bad on the joints anyway! LOL Thanks for the good read. Report
good info Report
good info Report
good to know Report
Thank you. Report
Another comment: sports bras are indeed worth it, especially if you are larger. I had a lumpectomy a few years ago and had to buy bras to wear all the time for awhile. It took some doing but I did some research and found a sports bra that held those ladies tight. Best buy for that time. I still use them. I am a D size. Report
I ALWAYS run with a phone and water and head protection. I've had a couple of melanomas and numerous other skin cancers so cover up as much as possible. The phone is in case I need help, the water because at 76 I get dehydrated quickly, and good shoes too. I've stopped carrying any food though. I think I was undoing all the good by snacking when I didn't need to. The library is also a good place to get books on running etc. Report
Amen to all of this. When I started running, I didn't even have the running app. I often use gadgets as "rewards" for sticking to my program. My first smart phone and running app were a reward for completing my third half marathon! Report
YES YES AND YES!! Thank you for this - it's so nice to read an article that isn't telling me more useless crap to buy. My husband is a physio with an undergrad in exercise/nutrition. He often makes many of the same points (no need for during exercise food, water, insoles - don't get me or him started on orthotics!!) Really great article - thanks !!! Report
Good running clothes that wick moisture are essential. You can get them at a reasonable price if you shop around. I started out using my phone with running apps, but found it a pain. You can also get a good, simple running watch at a reasonable price. Running books are very helpful. I read all of Jeff Galloway's books. I got them at the library. Report
My must haves are of course quality running shoes, but also glide, toe socks and my $7 marine corp sillies. South Texas gets pretty hot and muggy. Report
I don't have a lot of the things mentioned, so good ideas thanks for sharing.. Report
Good ideas! Report
Thanks for the review! Report
There's one born every minute! Suckers! Report
Isn't advertising wonderful, filling us with the notion we need something we had never heard of before the advertising mentioned it. Report
Some good ideas. I've been running for about 40 years. I started wearing insoles about 20 years ago and haven't looked back. The insoles don't need to be super fancy or expensive, but the proper insole can be helpful for many people. I would definitely recommend getting some type of watch, over carrying your clunky phone. Unless you carry it for safety reasons, leave the phone home. Unplug from it, and definitely skip the tunes! You don't need a fancy watch, there are many that are inexpensive and can do the job nicely. Decent running shorts are not something I would skimp on either. They're designed to allow for leg movement and keep chafing to a minimum. Heck, buy them at an end-of-the-season sale. A good cotton-poly t-shirt is fine. Don't buy all poly, and don't go all cotton - a nice blend is breathable but won't stick to you when you get sweaty.
At age 70 with 30 years of running behind me I need 3 of the "useless" items on this list.
Moisture wicking shirts
Belt to carry my water. Better to have and not need than to need and not have
Compression tights and socks - a new addition for me. I love the support of both. Wish I tried them sooner.
It's only a waste of money if you don't use it. I have bone spurs, plantar's fasciitis, bunions, and morton's neuroma, and so I can't function without my insoles. I wear my "fitness-oriented watch" all day long, not just while exercising. It keeps track of my steps, tells me my heart rate, how far in miles or km I've walked, and alerts me to alarms, phone calls, and texts. Regular clothing doesn't work for me...I prefer the moisture-wicking capabilities of exercise clothing. Just because YOU don't need it doesn't make it worthless or "non-essential". Report
I do wear running-oriented clothes and use a belt of sorts. As a woman, a sport bra is absolutely essential! I also like wicking fabric for the shirts - but the lower body doesn't seem to need them so much. Then again, I usually only run about 3 - 4 miles at a time. I like to wear a running belt to keep keys and phone secured, and if I'm running outside I always take a small bottle of water with me. I get thirsty! But just water, no food or electrolytes. Like I said, I don't run that many miles at a time, so don't feel I need them. Report
I always run with good "running" shoes, not cross trainers, comfortable (bright/visible) workout clothes, body glide on my arms when I wear tanks tops, and a headband/sweaty band to reduce sweat in my face and/or keep ears warm, depending on the weather. I generally only take gels or water on long, marathon training runs (over 15 miles). I never run with music in my ears-- it is important to hear what is going on around you. Report
If you're buying cheap sunglasses, make sure they protect you against 99% UVA/UVB exposures, and get them tested. Some "cheap" sunglasses only provide 60% protection, particularly those sold in children's clothing shops. Read the label, just like you would for food. A hat with a brim also works well on the cheap. Report
I ALWAYS have water with me on walks/runs of every distance over a mile. I may only sip a bit along the way, but I won't run the risk of needing it and not having it. Report
very helpful Report
I like to have water with me even on shorter runs so I have a hand-held water bottle - not that expensive. I do like to wear dri-wik shirts for running, but they are not running specific. And the right kind of socks and a good pair of shoes from a running store if possible. Report
I always buy a good running shoe once or twice a year. Report
Good information but I am not a runner. Thanks. Report
Good tips. I do, however, take a bottle of water with me because I tend to have problems with dry throat which leads to coughing fits...not fun. Report
For longer runs (over 5 miles) I've found Glide is essential and toe socks (because I have foot issues). Report
thank you for the info on saving money that is important to most people. Beside, i don't use any of these at all when jogging. The only thing that i need is bottle of water, and my cellphone with a stopwatch. Report
I don't run but found it very interesting to read about those fitness watches. I don't have one and never considered getting one. Definitely interesting to learn that you can get the same information with an app if you have that type of phone (which from what I understand you would need for those fitness watches anyway) Report
YES! Everything in this blog is spot on! I've been running 5k 5x's a week for the past 5 months (that's a lot of fives hahaha) and I can attest to every single one of these. I wear $5 sunglasses, $12 sneakers (I love hard sole better with laces. Elastic laces suck and you can't tighten them in certain spots when you have slippage), a couple shirts that are not cotton, a pair of shorts or spandex material-like capris, and a regular bra. Sports bras are also a waste of money!! They don't support you very well if you're above a B cup unless you wear three of them at a time. I improvised and wear a regular bra and will sometimes throw a sports bra over the top for extra compression support. Being a D cup I need all the support I can get! Your best bet is to try it on, anything in this list (shoes, clothing, bras, etc) and RUN in them in the store if need be before making the purchase. Report