The Real Cost of Running

I often tell people that running is a relatively cheap sport. There’s no monthly membership, you don’t need loads of equipment, and you can run when it suits you. Then I think about how much I’ve spent over the last 4 years. It’s quite a bit. What I consider to be a cheap sport has made quite a dent in my bank balance over recent years. 


Let’s break down the real cost of running…

Running Kit

When it comes to buying running kit, it can really add up. Running shoes are usually around £100. It’s money well spent though when you get somewhere between 350 and 500 miles out of any shoe. At most, that’s about 28p per mile. However, if you’re like me and run on different terrains, you’ll need more than one pair. I currently have 3 pairs on the go; it can become a bit of an obsession. 

The same can be said for running clothes. How much you need probably depends on how often you run. If you run all year round, you need a mix of winter and summer running kit, While some runners are happy in cotton tees and standard shorts, there’s many of us that prefer the latest sweat-wicking fabric. The main thing is comfort though. You have to wear what’s right for you. Some running stuff is pricey, I mean, £20 for one pair of compression socks? Seriously, I’m in the wrong job.

But it’s not just tops and bottoms though, is it? For us ladies, there’s a need to get a decent sports bra. Side note – if you’re being measured, you’re probably wearing the wrong size. There’s nothing like a going to a reputable lingerie retailer to get your sports bra sorted. You can find a comprehensive guide here. 

Some bigger events and races require additional kit. This is usually along the lines of a taped seam jacket, head wear, and a foil blanket. Then there’s the hydration system that comes with trail events. These are usually costly, depending on brand or size, but are an investment. I love mine and wish I’d bought one sooner.

Lady Running Coastpath Cornwall Sea

How To Keep The Cost of Running Kit Down

Out of all the kit, I always make sure I have the right shoes. It’s worth spending the money to ensure you’ve got the running shoes for your feet. I’d recommend going to a specialist retailer who’ll analyse your gait and advise accordingly. You’re going to potentially spend a long time in your runners so they need to be right.

If you want to keep the cost of running down, there’s plenty of online retailers who offer discounted and clearance running shoes. While I support my local running shop, I sometimes use Sportshoes as they have a good range of running shoes. You have to pay postage and returns though. Other reliable online retailers are Start Fitness and Sport Pursuit, who offer flash sales.

The other item I make sure I get right, and maybe spend more on, is a properly fitted sports bra. No one wants to run with their boobs bouncing all over the place; it’s uncomfortable. Plus, who wants their breasts to be level with their knees? I recommend Panache’s award winning sports bra. Online, try Belle Lingerie for good value for money.

With other running kit, the same advice applies. Buy during the end of season sales or head for the outlet. Adidas has one of my favourite outlet departments. They usually have a good range of tops and bottoms, and all items are sustainable too. You don’t need to have branded running kit either. Lots of high street stores have their own range of sportswear which can be reasonably priced.


Over the years there’s been an increase in the tech that’s available for runners. GPS watches are everywhere and if you want a state of the art Garmin, you’re talking about £400. 

The same goes for earphones. There are some reasonably priced headphones out there. Bone conduction headphones appear to be taking the running world by storm. If you want a wireless pair (yes please, I’ve had years of fiddling with wires), Aftershokz version are about £90. Must say, the sound quality is spot on.

Free Tech, Anyone?

But when it comes to technology, do we really need it? If you don’t want to be a slave to a GPS watch but want to catalogue your training, why not use a free running app, like Strava? There’s lots of different apps out there, but Strava’s my favourite. It offers the opportunity to connect with other runners and is motivating with it’s notifications on course records and personal bests, as well as the coveted Strava crown for different segments of any given route. Likewise, you don’t have to have expensive headphones either. Just check out what others are wearing and ask them if they’re happy with them.

Lady running road

Race fees

While you may take up running with no intention of entering anything, ever, the chances are, you might. Thankfully, Park Run remains free, making it accessible to everyone. However, when you start to expand your running wings, the race entries can add up. This of course, depends on which race and the distance. I find locally funded races to be reasonably priced, although all organisers have to cover costs such as a license to close the road, food and water stations, and medals or tees for all runners. 

Some of the bigger city races can be quite pricey. If you want to run Bath Half marathon in 2020, it’ll cost you £46 if you’re not a member of a running club, with the Great North Run coming in at £56. To put into context, the London Marathon, one of the world’s greatest marathons, costs £35 for affiliated running club members.

You may have big plans for running. Ultramarathons are becoming increasingly more popular. These can cost more again, most start around the £100 mark. They tend to come with considerable kit lists too, which are in place for your safety while running remotely. 

How To Make Racing A Little Cheaper

Despite the cost, can you really put a price on that finisher’s feeling? If you want to race, there’s no avoiding entry fees.

Some big trail events, like this one, offer early bird entry rates. These rates are usually over £100 given the nature of the event but if you know you’re definitely up for it, enter as soon as you can. If you race a lot, consider joining an affiliated running club. Race entry is usually a couple of pounds cheaper if you are. If like me, you struggle to get to your local running group, the Lonely Goat Running Club is a supportive and inspiring club with a solid virtual community. It’s free to join as well.

Another factor to keep in mind when it comes to racing, is to try and stay local. This way you’ll avoid travel and possible accommodation costs. You may even be able to car share with other runners.

Injury Costs

I guess the more you run, in theory the more likely you are to sustain an injury at some point. Here in the UK we’re lucky. We have free healthcare from the NHS. Well, we do for now. Even so, seeking out a physio or other physical therapist who has an interest in running is a good idea. Depending on who you see, the cost of frequent sessions can really add up. The flip side is, if you really trust your physio (I totally do), and you desperately want to run (yes!), it’s potentially money well spent. 

Just don’t waste money by not taking on the advice or slacking off the exercises. Rehab will just last longer.

Cost of Running Lady Crouching Steps

What do you think? Is running the inexpensive sport most of us believe it is?

Admittedly most of what I’ve bought over the years has lasted and I rarely buy anything full price. There are many gains from running that come for free – the social aspect and sense of belonging from the running community, physical benefits, improved mental health, and knowing you can go for a run whenever it suits you. Most of all, you’re spending your money on something that you (hopefully) love and makes you feel great. And that can’t be bad. 

Author: plbedford

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