Last Updated on April 5, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Whoever said running is a simple, inexpensive sport is clearly not an actual runner. Tech clothing, GPS watches, race entries, and the most expensive and most important piece of equipment, running shoes, will drain your bank account faster than a sub 4 minute mile. Since the average runner needs to replace those $120+ shoes at least every 4-6 months, we’re always looking for ways to save money on running shoes.
As a long time runner, running shoe aficionado, and former running shoe sales girl (yes, I watch for overpronation on complete strangers everywhere I go), I can help. I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to get around the often jaw dropping experience of forking over a few days worth of salary on a pair of running shoes.
8 Ways to Save Money on Running Shoes
Invest in Quality Shoes
Let’s get this one out of the way up front: spend the money on high quality running shoes. I know what you’re thinking: “I’m looking for ways to SAVE money on running shoes, and she’s telling me to spend MORE?” .
But here’s the deal: not all running shoes are created equally. In fact, many of your favorite name brands make different quality shoes based on which market they are selling them to. This is why you can find $130 New Balance at the running specialty store, and $50 New Balance shoes at a department store. Those $130 dollar shoes are made with higher quality materials, and designed specifically to meet the needs of runners and walkers. Whereas the $50 shoes are made with lower quality materials, and are designed as more of a “casual” shoe.
(Not sure if you are in the right shoe? Check out: 5 Running Shoe Mistakes You Could Be Making Right Now.)
As you can guess, that $130 shoe is going to last much longer. Meaning: you are going to be replacing it far less frequently, therefore, saving you money. Not to mention saving you the cost of potential injury due to running in less than stellar sneakers.
Now that we’ve got the quality control issue out of the way, let’s talk about how to save money on good running shoes.
Shop Last Season’s Models
Running shoe brands tend to update their popular models at least once, if not twice, per year. But here’s an insider tip: often times the only thing that has changed in a shoe update is the color, or perhaps some upper fabric. The actual build and design of the shoe doesn’t always change. So, do not be afraid to shop the clearance section on last seasons models. These shoes are not outdated, and there is typically nothing wrong with them…other than their colors don’t match the current seasons trends.
Speaking of colors…
Don’t be Picky (about style)
Often times a colorway will absolutely flop when it hits the market. Don’t even begin to ask me why: every time a shoe rep would show me the next seasons color options for a particular shoe, I always ended up picking out the most obnoxious, bright one, only to have the rep say something along the lines of “yeah, that’s not really a safe color, that’s not the one we are recommending retailers bring in…” Good thing I wasn’t in charge of buying.
Anyway, keep your options open when it comes to color and design. Multiple times I’ve purchased my beloved Hoka Challenger ATR’s online, where the color I wanted was $120, and the exact same shoe/model in a less popular color was only $68. I really don’t care what color my shoes are, if I can buy two pairs for the price of one.
Buy Online…but Buyer Beware
It’s no secret that you can get STEEPLY discounted running sneakers online. However, shopping online comes with it’s own set of risks. If you aren’t sure of what shoe you need or want, buying online doesn’t afford you the opportunity to try the shoes on first, no consult with a (hopefully) educated sales person. Return options may also be limited and/or a hassle. Not to mention, there is definitely something to be said for supporting your local running store.
BUT…all of that said, we all need to save money from time to time. And no one can fault the consumer (that’s you!) for wanting to score a deal. My favorite picks for online shopping when I know what model I am looking for are Amazon.com (free shipping for prime members) and RunningWarehouse.com (free 2 day shipping for everyone)
Buy in Bulk
Do you already know what model shoe you love? Keep an eye out for sales, and buy in bulk. Many brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online retailers, will offer deeply discounted sales throughout the year…typically around the “big” holidays. Keep your eyes open for Black Friday, New Years, and back-to-school sales. These are three times of the year when shoes are often majorly discounted. Take advantage of the sale when it pops up! Stock up on more than one pair of your favorite shoes, if you can.
Check Online “For Sale” Boards
Many of the larger online running communities have “classified” boards or threads for the resale of running gear. I cannot tell you how many times I see someone post a practically brand new pair of shoes, saying they only used them once, and for whatever reason, did not like them. Often times people missed the purchase return window, or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of sending the shoes back. So they look to recover some of their costs by selling the shoes to a runner who can use them.
If you aren’t creeped out by the idea of a stranger having already run a few miles in the shoes, their loss can be your gain. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…and save some money while you are at it.
Use your Running Shoes for Running Only
The average running shoe has a lifespan of around 300-500 miles, give or take, depending on a number of factors such as body weight, how heavy your foot strike is, gait and landing pattern (will you wear down the shoe unevenly). But what many people tend to forget is those miles add up when you are using your shoes for other things as well. Every Zumba class, every trip to the grocery store, those steps all count towards mileage on your shoes.
I recommend that my runners use their running shoes solely for training runs and races. When the cushion is no longer desirable for the high impact of running, “retire” the shoes to gym and grocery shopping status. From there, they get demoted once again to dog walking, lawn mowing, or any other task where beat up shoes fit the bill.
Make extra money to pay for running shoes with your phone
I’ve turned my smartphone into a money making machine. Alright, that sounds extreme, but I’ve found simple ways to make a few extra dollars doing things I already do. This next part is going to sound cheesy and salesy, I know. But I simply want to share these two apps that I use everyday with you guys:
Achievement is a free app that you connect with your Garmin Connect, Fitbit, and any social media accounts of your choosing. You earn points for your workouts with the health and fitness apps you already use, as well as points for posting fitness related posts on your social media, and more. It takes a little while to get to the cashout (10,000 points earns you $10). But if you are like me you are already doing these things anyway: running and posting about running everyday. Might as well earn passive cash for doing it! Click my Achievement referral link HERE, and you’ll earn bonus points for signing on.
Ibotta is another free app that gives you cash back on purchases, both in store and online. For in-store purchases, it is mostly cashback on groceries, but what runner doesn’t like to eat? The online shopping is where you score some extra cash. You can earn anywhere from 2-12% cashback on purchases for things like ebay, Etsy, amazon, clothing websites, airline travel, pharmacy, and even restaurants and bars. I earned $85.71 in the first 3 months alone, which is essentially a pair of running shoes in and of itself. You can cash out, through paypal, every time you hit $20. A few stores require you to upload photos of your receipt. Others allow you to connect your store shopper card to the account, and it takes care of everything for you. Click my referral link HERE to get started, and earn a $10 welcome bonus.
Save Money, Run Happy.
It’s no secret that happy feet in the correct shoes are imperative to running success. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your feet happy. Have any other money saving tips to add? Comment below!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.
Organic Runner Mom
Shopping online and looking for older models of the same shoe is definitely a great tip and sometimes getting the less popular color can be fun because then you are different then everyone else! Great tips!
I’m confused about this: so many people tell us that shoes degrade when left in storage (so their life may be over by the time we start wearing them), yet even quality shoe stores will sell last year’s models without saying “ these shoes are past their use-by date”. So is it true that shoes degrade even in storage, or is it okay to buy last years models/buy in bulk and wear them 6-12-18-24 months later? I’m assuming that sitting in storage makes foam etc change but how fast does that happen and what is the real impact on the shoe’s performance?(As distinct from some manufacturer’s pseudo-technical but actually marketing bs measurement of “3.7% reduction in micro-cell blah blah over 6 months” which tells you precisely nothing.)
Hey Catherine! Great question. In all of my years of shoe reviews, meeting with shoe designers at various headquarters, and then as a shoe “sales girl” who frequently met with brand reps, I’ve never heard that shoes have a “sell by date”! I do know that they will break down in extreme heat, so you shouldn’t leave them in a hot car. But to be honest, I have never heard that you shouldn’t leave them in storage (as long as the storage is temperature controlled). I imagine after many, many years…perhaps they break down. But 6 months to even a year or two? It almost sounds like a ploy to get you to buy the “newest” model, but I’m going to do some research! I will get back to you ASAP!