Fitness Clothes: Where To Spend, Where To Save

by Charlotte on August 6, 2009 · 26 comments

Socks and jellybeans. My two favorite things. If my feet are wrapped in the pelts of Muppets and my belly is full of sour simple sugars then I am a happy girl. Unsurprisingly I have a wide assortment of both but today I’m just going to talk about the socks. I have furry socks, loud socks, knee-highs, thigh-highs (with little bows!), invisible socks, patterned socks, holey socks and lacy ankle socks. But do you know what I do not have? Real athletic socks. I know. The tragedy is unspeakable. Despite owning – I kid you not – 30+ workout tank tops, for some reason I never buy athletic socks. Probably because I can’t get them second hand like I do everything else.

At first I was dubious that “real” athletic socks were anything more than a marketing ploy. After all, feet just sweat whether they are clad in my $10/6 pack of Target cotton ankle socks or in these $50/pair Goretex babies, right? But then the Gym Buddies schooled me good – they got me real Nike athletic socks (with an “L” and an “R” to help me tell my feet apart, even!) for my birthday. Apparently there is an advantage to be had from actual athletic socks made with things like antibacterial silver and wicking fibers and support arches. These new fangled socks come with everything but a SETI program to multitask during your rests.

Runner’s World agrees with the Gym Buddies. According to them, the right socks can prevent blisters, help with plantar fascitis and even help you run faster. But Brian Sell sums it up nicely with his advice: Wear socks. They even offer a “sock guide” with an in-depth analysis of the top 10 best sports socks to help you find the style just right for you. I even got to try out a pair of fancy-schmany Karen Neuberger running socks. These were a nice compromise as they were super comfy, wicking and they only cost $5! They held up much better than my Target whatevers.

At an average $10-$16 a pair for most athletic socks though, I’m still going to take a lot of convincing. I – knock on wood – never get blisters. I don’t have arch or heel pain. And sweaty feet don’t bother me much. Now I don’t want you to think my feet aren’t important to me. I shell out a lot of money for decent athletic shoes. (Confession: I actually own three pairs at any given time – one for running, one for cross training and one for dance.) I’m very brand loyal and I’m easily sucked in with new marketing ploys like “gel support soles” and “shock balance” and “three different flavors swirled in one pint of ice cream.” (Yes I’m talking to you Ben & Jerry’s, you Dairy Siren.) Also, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a sucker for colors and crazy patterns. My running shoes right now are bright pink with both polka dots and paisley on them (I love you Aasics!) Although I do draw the line at buying two separate pairs of shoes to fit my differently sized feet, curse them.

All of the cash I drop on shoes is kind of ironic considering how little I spend on the rest of my workout apparel. My favorite source of clothing is the thrift store. I’m such a Sweaty Betty that this way I can pit out my tanks and then throw them away after a few months without feeling guilty since they only cost me a buck. Although considering how many I own, I probably ought to be weeding them out more often. (Note to Gym Buddies: please tell me when I stink!) Second to thrift stores, my next best source of clothing are hand-me-downs, mostly because my friends all have much better style than I do. My current favorite pants are a cute lil’ Nike pair with ribbons and ruching at the knees gifted to me by Turbo Jennie. Which, incidentally, you know it says a lot about a friendship when you can share clothing obviously not meant to be worn with underwear.

So I’m cheap on clothes, spendy on shoes and just confused about socks. Help me sort out my priorities! (Any cracks involving the words “Dr. Phil” and/or “intervention” will be ignored.) Is the price tag for expensive gym socks worth it? What kind do you use? What fitness essentials are you willing to spend on and which do you scrimp? Anyone else own way too many tank tops for their own good??

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

T August 6, 2009 at 2:47 am

once i found out the c9 sports bras at target work actually surprisingly well for me, i'll scrimp on those. shoes i splurge (i don't mess with my feet, yo). i've gotten more into spending on workout apparel over the years … but that's because some of the cheaper stuff i've gotten i've found to just not have worked for me.

as for socks … i have a whole bunch of pairs of nike running socks and have recently delved into the world of drymax (as pimped out by steve in a speedo) … and both blog buddy boyfriend brandon and i agree that they're worth the 11 freaking dollars.


Merry August 6, 2009 at 4:01 am

Anything that keeps the twins from acting like Flopsy and Mopsy, I'll willingly spend money on.

Socks… all I ask is that they be strong, soft, and absorbent. And not made from paper towels.


grrlpup August 6, 2009 at 4:07 am

I've worn Wright double-layer running socks for about six years now and I think I still have some of the original pairs. They get less cushy, but boy do they last.


Miz August 6, 2009 at 10:00 am

I spend freely (or did before the economy went in the poopoopotty. now its a source of pride how long its been since I have spend money on frivolous stuff) on NIKE AIR RIFTS.

colorful ones.

sparkley ones.

limited editions.

theyre my weakness.


Jo August 6, 2009 at 10:07 am

I have a shelf that several Shakespeare companies could perform upon at one time, so the "Because She Said So" bra from Title 9 is an absolute necessity.

The feets are also larger-than-normal for a short, squatty person, and flat, so shoes are another spendy item. I get 'em at DSW, so it's better than it could be, but still.

I don't buy fancy-shmancy socks. My feet sweat like crazy (am I not painting myself as the most attractive person ever? Huge gazongas, flat, sweaty feet, bad attitude), so I like socks I can wear until they get weird and then toss.


Watching and Weighting August 6, 2009 at 10:29 am

I buy expensive trainers (running shoes?!) because that just makes good sense, from a little independent shop where I trust the lady and her running assessment of me and my needs…..i do NOT buy trainers from sports shops – here a lot of young people wear sports stuff as fashion items *ahem* in the UK and as such the mark up on named brands like Nike and Adidas and whatnot is HORRENDOUS! I get most of my brand name workout stuff from TK Maxx so like a £20.00 workout top will be £7 or something. I do however spend crazy money on £10.00 cushioned running socks – I swear I cannot run without them (and have even been known to wear the same pair two days on the trot even though they stink and are still wet when i put them on from the previous day's sweat – eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!)

Sports bras i do NOT scrimp on, i go and get fitted in a big posh dept store where the shock absorber brand that i like is £40.00 and then hightail it to TK Maxx for the exact same thing but for £15!

Bizarre, but sadly true.


Tami August 6, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Oh man, I have a sock addiction myself. I get into waaaaaay too much trouble on

As to athletic socks, I don't think the super-de-duper expensive ones are worth it, but I do buy the ones with moisture wicking.

The sweatstink of my feet can be smelled two counties down if I don't wear the proper footwear. And use powder. And rotate my workout shoes.


Tami August 6, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Oh, also? Love "pelts of muppets". You made me snorfle coffee.


Dr. J August 6, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I dress "like" the Miz! My gym clothes come in any color, as long as it's black!


Tricia August 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I splurge (kinda) on shoes, in that I'll replace my one pair as necessary (okay, my favorite pair just died, but I'm not ready to move on yet), but I tend to try to look/wait for sales to do so.

Also, I love my fancy socks, but everything else, I get at Target.


AmyLou August 6, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I purchase super expensive sports bras due to the size of my chest. I wear them LONG past their "expiration," too.

I often walk/jog outside and a lot of people know me/the hubs, so I try to at least avoid pit stained/paint stained/bleach stained clothes. But I'm cheap on workout clothes.

As for socks–I'm fine. However, the hubs has sweaty feet and is prone to skin infections, so I purchase him antimicrobial socks whenever we have the extra money for them. They are SO worth it.


J August 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I also wear the wright double layer socks for running but that's because I get blisters on top of blisters. The bottoms of my feet are actually white from them. I also buy the really thin, moisture wicking reebok socks for my racquetball and they've helped keep my toe nails on cause I can get a tighter fit on my shoes so less bruising from sliding in the shoe.
Oh, and I buy the bras that are tight enough to make me look like a man with a strong tight chest! The shirts and shorts, all target, baby! All solid colors so I don't even have to look at them to pull them out.


VaMomof2 August 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Mostly Target, same for socks. Use them up and throw them away. Before Target came along I used to buy from Activa but had way less stuff because it was pricey. Last year I splurged on a pair of Luluman workout pants (1/2 price on Rue La La). They look great on but show sweat like crazy (I have now learned not to buy grey) and stay damp for hours. I also had a bit of a Nike fetish this winter – love those 1/2 zip tops. Thankfully, they do have great sales.


Marste August 6, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Hmmmm. Reading all these comments, I might have to start buying expensive socks for the gym.

On another sock-related note: Charlotte, are we related? Because I have a SERIOUS obsession with (what I call) silly socks. Bright colored socks with designs on them. My sister even brought me back shamrock socks from Ireland and a pair from the UK with – wait for it – THE BEATLES EMBROIDERED ON THE SIDE!!!! Best. Socks. Ever.

The really hilarious thing though? I don't actually wear shoes with socks. I live in flip-flops and open-toed heels. The only time I wear socks with shoes is when it's raining, and I bust out the cowboy boots. And then you can't see my socks, anyway. Ha!


Alice August 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I used to just use whatever ankle socks I found on sale, but then I found some (now of course, I can't remember the brand), but they're stretchier, and don't have and hard spots at the toes to hurt my feet when I'm running longer distances like my cheap socks did.

I want to say they're Under Armor.


dragonmamma/naomi August 6, 2009 at 5:24 pm

I'm having a major case of deja vu. Do I win a pair of socks for being the first person to recognize this as a repeat article?

I love socks. If I were rich, I'd wear a new pair of socks every day for the rest of my life.

I also love the prints, particularly Halloween socks. I've got socks with pumpkin faces, Frankenstein monsters, sparkly witches and moons, and various spider webs, pumpkins, candy corn and bats.


Charlotte August 6, 2009 at 6:21 pm

dragonmama – I wish I had a pair of socks to give away!!! And if you'll remember, EVERY thursday is a rerun post. Ahem, I mean a "greatest hits" GFE post;) Girl's gotta get a break somehow.


Jody - Fit at 51 August 6, 2009 at 6:46 pm

OMG, the pics!!! Too funny!

Well, in many years past, I had every leotard under the sun!!!! In recent years, money is an issue so I really don't buy every day or workout clothes very much. I replace my workout shorts (well, they look like those biking shorts without the pad in the butt) when they get so thin you can see my butt thru them! My workout bras less often.. with these little ones, I figure… what am I holding in there & with age, they droop even when they are small! I do try to replace my workout shoes regularly so that is where my money goes there. My workout clothes are very old & yes, I am still wearing some leotards.. I know, YIKES!

Socks are super important to me since my feet are so bad & I will get blisters with the right socks. I wear WrightSocks, double layer. My feet & bunions can't take the thinner socks anymore. AND, I don't get blisters with them!

Thx for the very informative & fun to read post!


wtw August 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Like most of the other commenters the two things that I really spend on are sports bras and running shoes. There is too much pain if I go cheap on these.

I do like shirts with wicking fabrics but I just pick those and running shorts up at the thrift store. Who cares if it's used? You're just going to sweat all over it anyway.

Socks? I actually have two expensive pairs from specialty stores. I hate them. My cheapies from Target definitely leave my feet feeling cooler and less sweaty.


azusmom August 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I tend to splurge on workout clothes because they're also my WORK clothes. Luckily, I get lots o' cool discounts because of that.
I do have 3 pairs of ultra-nice athletic socks. However, since i live in California and spend most of my time either barefoot or in flip-flops (and I'm not a runner), I don't spend a huge amount on socks.


Anonymous August 6, 2009 at 10:43 pm

I spend the money on the sweat-wicking socks but only wear them while running or working out at the gym. I find that for sports where I change direction a lot (ie. soccer, ultimate) the socks make my feet slide around inside my cleats too much.


She-Fit August 7, 2009 at 12:01 am

Ha! I am in the same boat as you… all sorts of fun socks but no athletic socks. Sorry, I can't help you.


dragonmamma/naomi August 7, 2009 at 12:22 am

No, I didn't know that Thursday posts were repeats; duh! I guess I'm not as mentally sharp as I thought I was!


Michelle August 7, 2009 at 3:33 am

I buy all of my clothes, sports bras, socks, etc. at TJ Maxx or Target and then I splurge on my Asics running shoes (I have w i d e feet). One of my friends swears by Lululemon – I have yet to drop that kind of cash on fitness clothes.


Laura August 15, 2009 at 7:23 am

Thanks for the tips! I am actually a newbie and have only just started this fitness lark so its good to know where its really worth spending the money.


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