Running Clothes and Runners

Retro Style Wind Pants with Domino peeking out

At some point almost everything wears out, especially running clothes – and you thought I was gonna talk about me ;-).

If you get good quality running clothes, they will probably last the normal runner for a long time – especially if you kind of take care of them . You know the drill scrape the mud off, let them dry before running in them again and of course wash them periodically.

I have even read many times over the years that having “decent” running clothes, can make you a better runner and how you view yourself as a runner.

There are LOTS of opinions on that comment.

No I am not going to get into that argument either.

How Long?

So how long should running clothes last the normal runner (whatever a “normal” runner is)?  1-2 years, 3-5 years, 10 years how long? (I am not really counting t-shirts (especially for those who race), those get replaced at a higher rate than other parts of our running clothing inventory) since runners get them as part of the race registration fee for many races.

It depends upon the runner more than anything.

The Beast

This runner has fun on trails, dirt roads, roads, bushwhacks (after getting lost), does mud runs and then just throws their running clothes in the corner. Sometimes they forget to wash them and when they dry after a couple of days, they  just grab and wear them again, the next time they need something to run in. Their running clothes do get washed, but not as often as they probably need to.

The beast runner keeps wearing the same 3-4 things, until they have rips, stains and sometimes a bad stench that keep other runners at a distance, race volunteers and others you might see either passed out on the ground or gagging from the “green obnoxious cloud” around those runners.

Often a beast runner forgets to change out of their running clothes after a run and then works around the house, yard, car or other jobs that need old clothes they don’t care about when doing. They are not lazy, just that running clothes are only something they wear and not a big deal if it gets dirty.

They have that look on their face, when running that “I love what I am doing and not too worried about how I look/smell when doing it”. Beast runners go through running clothes at a rate that most of us wouldn’t believe possible, but have a great time while they are shredding their clothes.

Running clothes don’t have a lot of use left in them after a beast runner is done with them, but the beast runner’s running buddies will be happier with them as long as they keep a regular rotation of new running clothes.


A Fashionista is a runner who wants to be seen in the latest running fashions and look great while running. They tend to get brand name gear from either the running company they like or from a local higher-end store. Unfortunately, a season or two is all they will get out of their running clothes – after all they can’t be seen in last year’s or heaven forbid something that is a couple of years old.

It isn’t as though the clothes are really worn out after a year or two, they just are no longer the current style or the appearance the fashionista is attempting to project – that they are leading fashion monsters. This is not a bad thing and fashionista runners provide the Scrooge or frugal runners with opportunities to have gently worn running gear.

Running clothes given away by a fashionista runner usually have a lot of life left in them.


Practical runners try to cycle in some new running clothes every year, buy good quality, but not over-priced running clothes (they look for sales and bargains), but sometimes it might be a few years before they buy new shorts/pants or jackets. Most quality running clothes seem to last them 3-5 years before they start to notice any serious wear and tear or the running clothes start to look shabby, faded, stretched out from just being used too much.

They have old favorites that they hate to get rid of because they are so comfortable and still do what is needed – cover the body. However, at some point these running clothes shouldn’t go anywhere but the rag-bag.

The exceptions are probably the seasonal running jacket or pant/gloves/hat that only get used about 6 months use a year and will last pretty much until someone else gets rid of them for the practical runner.

When the practical runner getting rid of old running clothes, it could anywhere from pretty decent (they just didn’t like it), rag-bag or trash bag, it depends on the running clothes themselves and who the practical runner is. They are usually well taken care of, but well used too.


Fugal runners stretch new running clothes or the ones they find at manufacturer close-outs, sales, the TJ Max, Mardens of the world, Goodwill or yard sales. They will wear their running clothes until they are pretty threadbare, stretched out, rips (each one remembered with pride – i.e. I tore that on such and such a trail and can show you  the scar that corresponds to that rip 😉 ). Those running clothes look saggy baggy and not a lot of style is left in them.

When frugal runners start to gain weight (or lose weight), they put the clothes that don’t fit anymore into storage, for that day when they lose/gain the weight again. When that day comes (it will), it might be a few years down the road and they pull out perfectly good running clothes that are in great shape, even if they are a few years old and start to run in them again. Their running buddies are either jealous of the score or have some pretty good comments and fun at the frugal runner’s expense, about how “stylish” they are.

After frugal runners are done with their running clothes, about all they are good for is the rag-bag (maybe) or  more likely the trash bag.


Scrooge runners only buy new running clothes when there is no choice in the matter and it doesn’t matter where – as long as its cheap to buy. Their budget is tight and they hate to spend money on new running clothes, especially when they have “perfectly good – in their opinion” running stuff already at home. Scrooge runners wear their running clothes until they can’t be worn anymore or are starting to fall apart.

Running buddies recognize practical runners a half-mile away, by what they are still wearing (years later), even if they can’t see their face. They cringe a little cringe when they have to run beside the Scrooge runner – they have become the dreaded retro-runner who is not trying to look retro, these are the originals :-).

Scrooge runner’s running clothes are beyond saggy baggy, they often look as though they are a runner from the running’s dark ages. The shirts are pretty decent, (if they race at all), but many don’t race (they don’t want to spend the money on entry fees, when they can do fun runs and local runs) and might be seen running in a 1983 threadbare local turkey trot t-shirt. If it wasn’t for the shoes (which are usually pretty new), many people might think they are in a time warp when they see Scrooge runners running by.

Sometimes there has to be an intervention for Scrooge runners and their running clothes, someone besides the Scrooge runner needs to really go through their stuff and get rid of a lot of it.

An idea is to invite a couple of running buddies over and have the Scrooge runner put out all their running clothes out in a room, ask their running buddies to bag up and throw away anything that has seen better years. While doing that make the Scrooge runner go out back, have a beer or three (that their friends brought) and let them weep a little, thinking about all those memories made while in those running clothes that they will never be seen again ;-).

Whenever running clothes are finished for the Scrooge runner, they are only good for the garbage bag, there is not much left of them.


Yes I did a lot of stereotyping in the above paragraphs and while no one fits into one group exclusively, I thought it would be fun to think about or look a how some different stereotypical runners might look at their running clothes. Yes this is a parody and isn’t directed at any one person, but it might make you think about some people you know or even yourself.

Where do I fit?

Somewhere between Practical, Frugal and Scrooge. When I was young and single I would definitely been a beast runner and from time-to-time I have been known to still keep wearing my running clothes while doing stuff around the house.

I haven’t bought new running shorts or compression shorts since 2005 and they are starting to show the wear or I should say, my body is showing the wear when I use them. They still are fine on shorter runs, but the long runs they don’t work anymore – chafing is becoming a huge issue (they are stretched-out or have those nasty little pilled up bubbles of fabric that grind into the skin) and makes a runner miserable.

I did score on running shorts last weekend, I found four pair of good quality running shorts that I bought back in 2001, that I had put away into storage, because they had gotten too small for me and fit perfectly, now that I have lost some serious weight. I also do keep some old race shirts in a plastic bag, but I don’t run in them – they are more for the memories, but who knows, if I do run Marine Corps in 2013, I might just wear the 1983 shirt that day – if I can squeeze into a small 🙂 .

I badly need to go out and buy 3-4 pair of compression shorts over the course of the next couple of months, my shorts/compression shorts from 2002-2005 are toast and all but one pair finally made it to the garbage last weekend. I also need to invest in new socks, I have 3-4 pair that I can wear comfortably, but only one pair that I dare to use for my long runs.

Outer wear isn’t too bad, just not very stylish. My running jackets are in pretty good shape, everything is less than 7 years old, with a fairly new lightweight jacket in the inventory.

Running pants/tights – definitely need new stuff. Everything is from ’05 or before and my running pants are probably from the late 90’s. They are really starting to show the wear, when I looked at them yesterday. Those pants just looked tired, the seams are letting go and they are pretty “pilled”.

Hell I even have a pair of running reddish/pink ripstop wind pants from the 80’s that are still in great shape, but definitely retro looking and now way too big (picture at the start of the post).

You will notice that I have a lot of New Balance running clothes, that is because we have a couple of New Balance Factory Outlet stores in the area that give a great military discount, as well as a huge tent sale in August, where things are really cheap (compared to retail prices). That is the frugal/practical runner in me.

Runner’s stench

Then there is the runner’s clothing stench, which might not bother you, but it sure does bother others, so give those old clothes the sniff test every once in a while or better yet, let someone else give them the sniff test (whose sniffer actually works and isn’t decayed from wearing too many old rotten smelling running clothes) and have them be merciless about keeping or throwing out the clothes that have acquired a “certain” stench. This one is out of courtesy to other people and your running buddies or other race participants who will thank you.

It is one thing to stink after you have run for a while and another to have a noxious odor before you even start running.

The reality is that

It sucks having to go out and buy new running clothes, however, at some point you just don’t have any choice in the matter and have to bite the bullet and do what you gotta do. Especially when the clothes are next to certain parts of your body. Buying used outer-wear that is in great shape is one thing, buying running clothes that are a located a little more personal goes a bit beyond what I will do – I know that they are washed, but still…

Will I ever be a fashionable runner – probably not, I use my running clothes until the next stop is the garbage bag. However, who knows if I can scrounge up so new running clothes, I might actually look like a current runner, not some throwback to running’s dark ages ;-).

Where do you fit?


3 comments on “Running Clothes and Runners

    • 🙂 I know the wife thinks I am color blind, it doesn’t matter how much I wash them, after a while, my tech shirts just get an odor and have to be thrown away 🙂

  1. Pingback: April 2012 – Running in the Rear View Mirror « A Veteran Runnah

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