Off the Beaten Path: Alternatives to Shopping at Specialty Running Stores

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alternative to shopping at specialty retail stores Off the Beaten Path: Alternatives to Shopping at Specialty Running Stores

I started running during middle school, back in the late ‘70s and ran through high school and college. There was no high-tech, moisture-wicking, heat-transferring fabric. There were no blister-preventing socks. There were no hats and earbands with holes for a ponytail. There were no thumbholes in anything. There were cotton t-shirts, cotton or nylon shorts, and cotton sweatpants and sweatshirts, that when they got wet, added about 10 extra pounds. There were nylon jackets and pants but as far as I could tell, they didn’t do much of anything wind- or water-wise but when we all wore them, we looked like a team. Finally, my senior year of college, running tights made it to the mass market and the high-tech performance wear industry exploded.

If you have been a runner for some time, I’m sure you have shoes or running wear from Fleet Feet, Running Warehouse, Feet First, Athleta, Title 9, Lululemon, or Lucy, to name just a few. And there are probably a couple of locally owned running stores within driving distance that carry shoes and clothing by well-known running brands. These are all great sources for the latest in high-tech, fashion-forward performance wear and the selection at the national athletic wear retailers can be very extensive both in styles and sizing.

But, if you are like me and asking yourself, “Do I really need the most fashion-forward, high-tech performance wear which sometimes costs a small fortune?” It turns out that you can find gear with all the same bells and whistles and sometimes with a lower price tag at many national department stores and retailers online.


Chances are you probably shop here already for other things (many other things!) so why not check out Target’s own lines of fitness wear: C9 Champion and JoyLab. JoyLab is available only for women and in regular and plus sizes. The C9 line is available in girl’s, boy’s, men’s, maternity and women’s in regular and plus sizes. In addition to athletic apparel, C9 also has shoes, socks and gear such as hats, gloves and scarves. As a reference, running tights and yoga pants are regularly priced at $24.99 or $29.99. Be sure to check the sale racks too. I have purchased running tights there for as little as $4 and change.


Kohl’s stores are found in every state except Hawaii. In addition to their store brand Tek Gear, they carry Adidas, Champion, Fila, Gaiam, Nike, and Under Armour in girl’s, boy’s, men’s, maternity, and women’s in sizes ranging from regular to plus and petite. Kohl’s charge card holders are eligible for additional discounts (15-30%) at certain times of the year but brands like Nike and Under Armour are often excluded. Online price for running tights varies widely depending on the brand but again for reference, the lowest sale price was $21.99 and the highest regular price was $78.


GapFit is the workout wear line sold both online and in stores and is available in girl’s, boy’s, men’s, women’s and maternity. Online shoppers can search by activity—barre, yoga, run and sport-to-street. Running tights range from $49.95 to 79.95 but a number of markdowns can be found both online and in stores, particularly on old styles to make way for new stock. Sizes range from extra small to extra large. In addition to clothing, gear includes socks, hats, bags, yoga mats and towels.

Old Navy

Owned by the same parent company as Gap and Athleta, Old Navy Active offers extensive sizing for everyone. Women’s sizing includes regular, petite and tall styles, ranging from extra small to extra extra large and men’s styles include regular, big and tall. Regularly priced running tights range from $29.99 to $39.99 but many were marked down online and similar mark-downs can be found in store.

Off-Price Retail Chains

Off-price retail chains like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and Ross Dress for Less also can be good sources for workout wear, shoes and gear. Because their merchandise is continually changing, shopping there can be a bit hit or miss but if you are not looking for something too specific, like a certain color for instance, you may be able to score some name-brand bargains. Brands such as Under Armour, Reebok, Gort-tex, Puma and Gaiam were all found in stock on TJ Maxx’s web site but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the same styles will be found in the retail store. Sizes and selection are often limited but the cost savings can be great. For example, online, name-brand running tights were priced at $16.99 to $29.99 depending on the brand. In addition to clothing, you may often find athletic shoes and gear like yoga mats, bags, hats, and winter accessories.  I even purchased a padded bike seat cover there, so keep an eye out for those miscellaneous athletic goods.

Off-Price Online Retail Chains

The company that operates TJ Maxx and Marshall’s also operates online retailer Sierra Trading Post, which purchases closeouts, overstocks and seconds and passes the cost-savings to the consumer. The range of brands on Sierra Trading Post was extensive, with one name brand of running tights priced at $16.99 and $19.99. In the product details of each item, it specifies whether it is a closeout, overstock or second.

Other online flash sale sites like Rue La La, Haute Look, Zulily and Gilt also occasionally stock high-performance active wear but their sales are time-limited and the styles and sizing can be restricted. To get a good deal on these sites, you have to be prepared to act quickly.