Not-so-obvious signs your sports bra, sneakers, yoga mat, and other workout gear is past its expiration date—plus, simple tips to make them last longer
If your yoga mat smells and your sneakers have seen better days, it might be time to toss them in the trash. But it can be tricky to tell when somethings just hard to clean or way past its expiration date. Read on for expert tips on determining the lifespan of your favorite fitness gear so you'll know when it's time to move on. (Also learn How to Save Money on Exercise Equipment with these lower-cost dupes.)
Life span: 6 months to a year
The longevity of a sports bra varies based on the amount of wear, intensity of workouts and whether or not you rotate your bras, says Alma Androvic, designer of the new Nike Rebel Bra. "If you're wearing the same bra for three to four workouts a week, you should replace it every six months to ensure the best support."
When to replace: Buy a new sports bra if you experience bouncing, the cups have become lax and are too big, or the band rides up in the back indicating that the bra is loose. "Once the fabric has lost its stretch and recovery—meaning that when it stretches it doesn't bounce back—it is time to get a new bra," adds Cassandra Sze, innovation designer for Lululemon apparel.
How to make it last: "For bras that come with hooks, it is best to put the hooks on the loosest setting when you first wear it, as this will allow you to tighten it as the bra begins to stretch out," says Sze. She recommends choosing bras that are hot wash and dryer friendly. And "choose a detergent that does not contain fabric softener, as this will prevent the fabric from wicking away sweat properly," she suggests. Rotating your sports bras—rather than wearing the same one every sweat session—will also make them last longer.
Life span: About 8 months—or about 400 miles—for an average runner (10 miles a week)
Every runner is different, but a good pair of running shoes provides sufficient support for about 300 to 400 miles, says Johanna Bjorken, merchandise director of JackRabbit Sports stores in New York City. Just because the treads on the bottom of your running shoes don't look worn down, it doesn't mean they're still in good condition: The real wear happens in the midsole of the shoe, which is the spongy material that's usually made of air-injected foam inside the shoe under your foot.
When to replace: Pain—such as shin splints, knee soreness, or ankle aches—is usually the first sign that you need to replace your running shoes. But you can also find clues by examining the midsole, says Bjorken. When it starts to look wrinkled or like a dried-up sponge, your shoes have hit their limit.
How to make it last: Heat can break down sneaker's materials, so never put your shoes in the hot trunk of your car or through the dryer. (Replacing your kicks? See if one of these 14 Shoes to Make You Fitter, Faster, and Slimmer is right for you!)
Life span: 1 to 7 years
"By far, the biggest factor in how long a mat will last is how the mat is used. Practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga, for instance, are notorious for wearing through their mats, while people practicing gentler forms of yoga (Integral Yoga, Iyngar Yoga, Kripalu Yoga) may have their mats for years," says Dean Jerrehian, CEO and Founder of Jade Yoga. Also, your mat will last longer if you're on it only once a week compared to a yogi who uses it daily.
When to replace: It's time for an upgrade if your mat is no longer comfortable, isn't gripping (your hands and feet are slipping when holding a posture) or if it has thinned out so much that it no longer provides enough cushioning.
How to make it last: Some instructors believe that if you focus on using your core rather than pressing into the mat to hold poses, you'll extend the life of your yoga mat," says Jerrehian. He also suggests keeping your mat out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures and keeping it clean. Try wiping it down regularly with a damp cloth and a natural cleanser. (And read up on these tips to find out The Best Way to Clean Your Yoga Mat.)
Life span: 10+ years
"We've seen people whose water bottles have lasted more than a decade," says Tiffany Teaford, product manager at Nalgene Inc. The bottles that last the longest are impact-resistant, dishwasher-safe, and they don't retain taste or odors, she says.
When to replace: "When tiny fingerling cracks start to appear in plastic water bottles, it is a sign that the material is breaking down," says Teaford. "You should get a new one, because it will soon loose its ability to remain leak proof."
How to make it last: Regular cleaning is crucial for safeguarding yourself against germs, but Teaford recommends top-rack loading when washing your bottle in the dishwasher. This will keep it away from strong heat that can cause some types of plastic to breakdown. Also, dry thoroughly to prevent mold.
Life span: 1-2 years
The lifespan of your apparel depends on each garment's type of material and the manufacturer's specific instructions (which can be found on the inner tag, the information/price tag, or inside a pocket). Compression items tend to lose their elasticity faster, since they are constantly stretched when worn. Even if they are cared for meticulously, the elastic fibers of a compression pant will inevitably break down with wear after six months if worn frequently. (Recover faster—and look cute in the process—with this Guide to Compression Running Gear.)
When to replace: When they become an inconvenience or lose their performance-enhancing qualities, such as the ability to wick moisture. You can begin to notice this when the fabric becomes itchy or pilly. And if you have to constantly pull up your waistband or readjust the hem of your shorts or leggings, they're probably stretched out and ready to be replaced.
How to make it last: Cold water and line drying! Harsh detergents and hot water can diminish the breathability and wicking ability of performance fabrics, so mild soaps free of bleach, chlorine, fabric softeners, or other laundry additives should be avoided at all costs. If using a washing machine, choose a gentle setting. If handwashing, again use cool water when washing and rinsing. Do not overly agitate or stretch the pieces and never wring. Squeeze out excess water and roll the garment in a dry towel to remove as much water as possible," says Mary Marlowe Leverette, a Laundry Rooms Expert. And, as a rule of thumb, compression or elastic workout pants should always be hung on a line (horizontal so the weight of the water doesn’t stretch out the pant) or laid flat to dry.