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Buying Women’s Fitness & Workout Clothing – Splurge or Bargain?


The fitness industry would like you to think you need to spend oodles of money in order to get fit. Don’t believe it! You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to put yourself on the path to better health.

There are numerous ways to save money on fitness clothing. If you budget correctly and purchase bargain items whenever possible, you will have enough in your budget to splurge on high-quality items that may require a bit more of an investment.

Saving on Activewear for Women

Just because your budget for fitness clothing is small, you don’t have to resign yourself to hitting the gym in ratty old sweats or pit-stained t-shirts. There are many stores that offer budget-friendly workout gear for a fraction of the cost of name-brand items – and in some cases, you can actually buy the name brands themselves for low prices.

Buy these items on the cheap:

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  • Workout tops: tees, tanks, and long-sleeved shirts
  • Workout bottoms: shorts, skirts, tights, and pants
  • Head gear: headbands, hair ties, and hats
  • Sunglasses

As long as you buy breathable, wicking tops and bottoms, you really won’t see your performance diminished by passing on the name-brand apparel. Similarly, as long as your head gear works, and as long as your sunglasses offer SPF protection, the benefits of pricier options do not justify the expense.

Finding Fitness Clothing for Less

While it’s tempting to splurge on name-brand fitness clothing in the latest cuts and styles, it’s largely unnecessary. Off-brand clothing suppliers often offer the same technology and fit as name-brands, so just look for items that are breathable, moisture-wicking, and lightweight.

Big box stores like Target and Walmart even offer their own specialty lines of name-brand goods. Target’s C9 by Champion is an extremely popular option that costs considerably less than traditional Champion gear, but looks just as great. Walmart’s Danskin Now line has a similarly familiar name with an unusually inexpensive price attached. Even Kmart has gotten in on the action by offering Everlast clothing in-store and online.

As long as you’re not looking for a specific brand of fitness gear, there are a number of other ways to save. For instance, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Ross Dress for Less all offer activewear sections with a wide variety of options, including brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. Other discount department stores like Kohl’s and Nordstrom Rack have activewear selections, often including steeply discounted designer brands like Adidas by Stella McCartney, Marika, and VATA Brasil.

Furthermore, since the fitness field continues to grow, popular clothing stores have branched out into offering exercise apparel. While many of these brands don’t have discounted options, stores that are known for trendy, inexpensive clothes, like Old Navy and H&M, have some really great options.

Finally, don’t write off any brand that’s known for providing sport-specific apparel or has traditionally appealed to a specific demographic. For instance, Soffe may be known as the “dance and cheer” clothing line that appeals to teenage girls, but they recently released a full-fledged men’s and women’s athletic apparel line that is extremely affordable.

Finding Less Fitness ClothingSplurging on Workout Clothes for Women

While it’s possible to find good deals on every conceivable type of fitness clothing, there are certain areas where you don’t want to cut corners. By investing in these key pieces, you’ll remain comfortable during your exercise routine while also protecting yourself from potential injury.

Shop smart, but be prepared to splurge on the following items:

Sports Bras

Unsupportive sports bras can lead to back pain and general discomfort that may hinder performance or even keep you from wanting to hit the gym. No single brand has the market cornered when it comes to the best fit, so you’ll need to test-drive a bunch before settling on your perfect style.

Women with smaller breasts generally have an easier time finding a bra that offers support, but don’t forget that fit should also play a role in your purchase. While most sporting goods brands offer quality sports bras that will work, lululemon athletica is a great place to start your shopping.

Women with large breasts have it a little harder. Start by trying bras with wider straps, adjustable bands, and underwire. The bras you find at Walmart and Target likely won’t make the grade, so try shopping at specialty stores like Athleta and Title Nine. Once you try a bra on, don’t just stand there in it – jump, do pushups, jog in place – test it out to see if it will hold up to activity.


If you’re wearing the wrong shoes during a workout, you’re going to regret it. Shoes should fit well – they should be designed for the activity you are performing, and if you’re regularly exercising, they should be replaced every three to six months.

When it’s time to buy workout shoes, get yourself sized, and ask the store clerk if he or she can check your food’s pronation. Depending on whether you have a high, neutral, or low arch, you will have a tendency to pronate or supinate your foot during activity. If you don’t have shoes that adequately support the movement of your feet, you could open yourself up to discomfort or injury.

Like selecting a sports bra, finding the right pair of shoes is going to be a very personal process. There is no “right” brand or style – it’s all about finding the perfect fit. Give yourself an upper limit for a budget, then pull a number of shoes in your size that are designed for your foot’s level of pronation. After trying each pair on, take a lap around the store to gauge how they feel during activity. Once you’ve narrowed the shoes down to your top two pairs, allow price to factor into your decision.

When possible, shop for shoes at stores that offer a wide selection so you can try on shoes in numerous brands. Some brands simply fit some people better than others.


Wearing poorly fitting socks, socks with holes, or socks that don’t offer adequate support during exercise can lead to blisters and foot irritation. Go ahead and splurge on socks that are designed for exercise. Look for odor-resistant wicking material, and look for socks with an ankle band that won’t slip. Injinji and Darn Tough Vermont are both excellent options, though just about any sock that meets these parameters will do.


When exercising in cold, wet, or windy environments, your outerwear is extremely important. In order to prevent yourself from becoming cold and miserable, go ahead and splurge on a few outerwear pieces that are specifically designed for the weather conditions you’re facing. Look for water-resistant and wind-resistant lightweight jackets and pants. Brooks Running, Columbia, and Under Armour all offer great options, some of which are approved for cold weather conditions under 40 degrees.

Lightweight Outerwear PiecesFinal Word

How much money you spend on fitness clothing is really up to you. If you love exercising and can’t wait to gear up with the season’s hottest trends, or if wearing the latest and greatest apparel helps keep you motivated to hit the gym, then the investment may very well be worth the cost.

Remember: When it comes to fitness, what you do is more important than what you wear. Buy a few key pieces to get started. Then, if you want to splurge on more, use your purchase as a reward for meeting a fitness goal. It’s a great way to stay motivated while continuing to look your very best.

What other tips do you have for saving money on fitness gear? What items do you typically splurge on?

Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.