A blog by runners. For runners.

Expensive running stuff I can live without (and what I can’t)

expensive running things you don't really need

At its core, running is one of the simplest sports. Just put on your shoes, head out the door, and keep putting one foot in front of another. You really don’t need much in terms of gear to be a runner.

But hit up any race expo and you’ll see hundreds of items made for runners – most are made to make running easier or more enjoyable. GPS watches that cost hundreds of dollars. This season’s newest model of zero-drop shoes. Sparkly skirts, touchscreen running gloves, video cameras that mount to the top of your head so you can take pictures mid-race (yes, really).

I’ve been distance running for more than a decade, and while I’ve definitely fallen prey to some of the fads, I’ve successfully run for years without many other “must haves”. Here are some fancy running things I can live without:

  • Massages. I’ve been treated to a handful of sports massages over the years, and the massage therapists usually recommend massages regularly – every month or so. I would love to get massages that often – who wouldn’t? – but it just doesn’t fit into my budget. I just turn to my foam roller, a tennis ball, and practicing yoga to help my sore muscles, and so far it’s done the trick.
  • Hydration systems and fuel belts. Wearing a bulky belt around your hips or a backpack while you run? No thanks. I’ve never had an issue with stashing gels in my pockets and carrying my water bottle in my hand, so I’ve never seen the need for these products.
  • Moisture-wicking apparel. On hot, humid runs, I don’t find expensive moisture-wicking tops to be more effective than thin cotton tanks – I get drenched regardless of what I wear. BodyGlide always wards off chafing when I wear cotton tops and socks, too.
  • Compression socks. Compression socks are supposed to improve blood flow and speed up recovery. That may be true, but I can’t stand the tight socks because they make my legs itch. I’ll take a post-long run ice bath over wearing compression socks any day.
  • GPS watch. Truth be told, I have one of those pricey GPS watches with all of the bells and whistles. I used to wear it all of the time but the constant “searching for satellite” screen made me investigate other options. I ran with just a wristwatch for years, and still do that sometimes. I also use the WalkJogRun app whenever I take my phone – it comes with all of the same features as my GPS watch, without the aggravation.

Of course, this is just my personal list – I know many runners can’t live without these items. The reverse is also true — I know plenty of other runners who can easily live without the no-slip headbands I swear by. And there are certain items I would never skimp on. I buy good running shoes and replace them regularly, I’ve shelled out a bit of cash for quality, comfortable sunglasses, and I could not live without BodyGlide.

What running stuff can you live without? I’ll admit, I’m trying to break my GU habit. I’ve been meaning to try this homemade energy gel recipe for a while now.

Written by Jen Matz.