Is running getting too expensive?

When I first started running I thought it was going to be a cheap hobby, but I was wrong. It may have been true in the first instance when I started Couch to 5k wearing old shorts, a soccer top, a hoody, and some old Reeboks, but something changed.

Once I was a few weeks into that training and realised that this was something I could do, I started to do more reading and decided that I probably needed some actual running gear.

There are some things that I buy cheap and there are others that I believe are worth spending the money on. Ultimately we’re guided by our own budgets and lifestyle.

What I currently wear

Here’s what I wear on a general day-to-day run. The costs are approximately what I paid for them when looking around for the best deal.

  • Shoes – Brooks Adrenaline GTS ‘22 – £80
  • Top – £6
  • Compression Shorts– £10
  • Shorts – £20
  • Socks – £5
  • Bone Conducting headphones – Shokz OpenMove – £70
  • Garmin Forerunner 245 – £145

That totals £336 which actually came as quite a shock when I added it up. The GPS watch and the headphones aren’t essential to running though, and have a very long lifespan, so take those off and it comes to £121 of gear that’s going to need replacing at some point due to wear and tear.

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 Trainers

And what about the rest?

Okay, you got me. That’s not all I own as I have multiple items of clothing for when my sweaty clothes are in the wash, multiple shoes (trail, road, etc), clothing for colder weather, and I also have a hydration backpack for long races.

That’s easily going to add a fair chunk of money to my overall running expenses, but that lives in a cupboard most of the time, so keep it a secret.

Other expenses?

There are also some extra costs that it’s only fair to include to get a real insight into the cost of running.

  • Race Entry. These costs vary quite a lot depending on the scale and popularity of the race.
  • Running nutrition. If you’re running for longer than 2 hours then you’ll need to be taking on energy in the form of gels or similar. If you’re training for a marathon then you’ll need these for training runs as well as the actual race.
  • Injury prevention and treatment. If you have to book a physio or sports massage then it’s not cheap. I occasionally book a sports massage which costs £40 for a 45 minute session.
  • Gym. Runners are encouraged to engage in weight training and cross-training, and if this is you then the membership costs should be included in your running expenses.

How does this compare to other sports?

All I’ve written so far shows that running isn’t as cheap and we instinctively think it is but how does it compare to other popular sports?

Cycling – There is an immediate cost to cycling in that you need a bicycle and the appropriate gear such as a helmet, locks, lights, clothing, etc. That all doesn’t come cheap.

Swimming – There are minimal equipment costs to this but it’s the facilities where you are going to face the biggest costs. You will need a membership to a swimming pool and will also need to factor in the costs of not only travelling to the venue but also the time it takes.

Football – The issue with football is the organisation; you just can’t play on your own. You need a team, a pitch, kits, etc. That doesn’t need to be too expensive depending on how it’s organised but the biggest issue for me is the limited opportunities to play which may just be once per week.

What I love about running is that I can just go out and immediately start my run, going for however long or short I want, fitting around my schedule for the day.

How can you make running cheaper?

If you, like me, already have a fair amount of running clothing and equipment then the best way to make your running cheaper is to extend the life of the things you own.

Buy last season’s shoes

It used to be that you could buy last year’s models at a massive reduction but since covid, there’s been a slowdown in production. Coupling this with increased production costs and freight transport means older model shoes are retaining more value.

There’s still a discount to be had, and my Brooks trainers retail for around £130 for the newest model, to £80 for last year’s model. It’s still £80 but they are the ones that give me the best support and have a wide-fit too so they keep me happy and it’s still a 38% saving.

If you find a model you like and a good price, then there’s no harm in perhaps buying a couple of pairs. You can either put one box in the cupboard or even rotate them.

Look after your shoes

These are a runner’s primary expense, and you could be going through a couple of pairs a year. Most manufacturers recommend getting new shoes every 300-500 miles, but if you can look after them, then you can extend this.

  • Stick to the desired running surface for your shoes. If you’re in road shoes then avoid gravel paths and trails as the soles will wear away quicker.
  • Have a couple of pairs of shoes so you can rotate them, giving them time to dry out and also for the cushioning to recover.
  • Keep your shoes for running. If you’re wearing them out to the shops then you’re also reducing their lifespan.
  • Keep your shoes clean and dry. Remember to let them air dry though and never put them in a tumble dryer or on a radiator as this can cause the glues to degrade.

Wash your clothes

If your clothes get sweaty then wash them properly to avoid them getting a permanent stink. It’s happened to some of my favourite tops, so now I mix it up and keep them fresh.

It’s generally agreed that a cooler wash is fine and it’s best to avoid using fabric softeners or any chemicals such as bleach, especially if there is lycra or elastic in them.

Finally, if you notice a small tear or some stitching coming loose then fix it asap to avoid it becoming a worse problem. Not into sewing? You can also get some iron-on fabric to cover that tear.

Save money on races

Us runners generally love a race, but the fact is that you probably don’t need those medals or race t-shirts. It all costs money so why not consider taking part in free weekly parkruns and decide on a few races each year to take part in.

Also, see about taking part with other runners so you can save on travel costs etc and even accommodation if it’s far away.

Brighton Marathon bib

My top tip for drying your gear

I’ve found drying my running shoes a big pain and sometimes it can take days if I’ve had to give them a proper wash after a day on the trails so I had to mention my tip for drying your shoes and clothes quickly.

We bought a dehumidifier to dry our regular clothes during the winter and pop it in a small room to do its magic. It sucks up all the moisture in the air and does wonders for my running shoes and clothing meaning I can get shoes wet and they’re dry several hours later.

It works for me, so I thought I’d mention it. Okay, a humidifier is an extra cost, but it’s great for not having clothes getting dank or adding extra moisture to the house which can lead to dampness.

Drying running gear with a humidifier
This is my downstairs bathroom which is where I get to dry my running gear with a dehumidifier

Factor in the benefits

For many of us, running isn’t cheap, but it would be wrong to focus purely on the financial expenditure side of things as there are counterarguments on the flip side.

We should factor in the benefits, both physical and mental, and I believe those outweigh the costs. I’m aware of many for me such as keeping me active now I’m in my early 40s, to also increasing my social network.

Probably the most impactful benefit of running has been on my mental health and allowing me to have time to myself, to forget about worries, and enjoy the world a bit more.

Adem Djemil
I only started running at the age of 37, completing the Couch to 5k course, and since then I've been hooked, running 4 times a week and even completing several marathons and an ultra!