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Save vs. Splurge: Workout Clothes and Gear

A penny saved is a penny earned. But sometimes “saving” means buying a high-quality item you won’t have to replace after a handful of workouts.

From yoga mats to fitness trackers, experts explain when to save and when to splurge when it comes to your workout gear. (And, who knows? Maybe one of the items on The Most Popular Fitness Gear of 2014 will be the perfect upgrade for your fitness wear!)

Yoga Mats
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“I’ve been teaching yoga for 12 years, and I always wanted to believe I could do what I wanted with a $10 mat,” says Jessica Matthews, Shape fitness contributor, exercise physiologist, and American Council on Exercise-certified trainer. But, Matthews says, a nice mat really does make a difference, especially if you practice hot or power yoga. “Nicer mats provide more grip, more support, and more stability, and don’t start falling apart if you practice on them regularly,” she says. If you’re a dedicated yogi, you’ll save in the long run by picking up a nice one, like These Top Yoga Mats Experts Are Raving About.
Verdict: Splurge

Running/Training Shoes Worth Buying
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Whatever your sport, a high-quality pair of shoes is “invaluable,” says Todd Bumgardner, a strength and conditioning coach and therapist. Injuries to your back, legs, and even your neck can stem from ill-fitting shoes. And matching your footwear to your running gait and support needs can keep you upright and feeling good, Matthews adds. “You can often find end-of-season deals on high-quality footwear, but finding the right shoe and fit should trump saving money,” she says. One of these Top Running Shoes for Winter Weather may be the perfect fit for your workout routine.
Verdict: Splurge

Jackets/Windbreakers
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“Even though these are a bigger-ticket item, this is something you can save on,” Matthews says. You’ll always have layers on underneath. So as long as you find a jacket that’s windproof, waterproof, and breathable, you’re in good shape. “You can find jackets like this at bargain prices at most major sporting good retailers,” Matthews adds.
Verdict: Save

Sports Bra
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A good general rule, Matthews says, is the tighter a garment rests against your skin, the more you should pony up cash for quality. Why? “A good, supportive sports bra can actually prevent sagging and damage to the structures in your breasts,” she explains. While cheap models tend to lose their elasticity and comfort quickly, high-quality sports bras hold up to lots of wear and washing. Not sure how to find the perfect fit? Check out these 5 Tips to Finding the Perfect Sports Bra.
Verdict: Splurge

Socks
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You’ll want to avoid any all-cotton socks—cotton retains moisture, which can lead to blisters and discomfort, Matthews says. Otherwise, socks are an item on which you don’t have to spend much to get quality. “Look for a pair that blends cotton with polyester or synthetic fibers, which help wick away moisture,” she suggests. This sort of blend will be comfortable, adequate for most activities, and won’t cost you much, she adds.
Verdict: Save

Tights/Leggings
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Again, Matthews mentions her rule about tighter fitting garments being worth the cost. “You don’t want to be adjusting your bottom every few seconds during yoga practice or your workout,” she says. Nicer leggings will hold onto their elasticity longer, and are more flattering, she says. They also wick away moisture and reduce chaffing, Matthews adds. Here are 7 Cute Workout Leggings We Love.
Verdict: Splurge

Tops
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“If it’s not providing support—like if you have on a sports bra underneath—then it’s really not important to spend a lot,” Matthews says. Whether it’s a T-shirt or tank top, she says she spends very little on these items unless she’s buying one with a built-in sports bra. “I’ve found great stuff at Target,” she adds.
Verdict: Save

Sunglasses
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You need to protect your eyes if you spend a lot of time exercising outdoors. And the right pair of sunglasses has to be comfortable and stay in place for hours, Matthews says. “High-quality sunglasses are engineered to fit perfectly and to be comfortable and functional even when you’re sweating and working out for long stretches,” she says. “Especially if you’re biking or running for a long time, you’ll want nice ones.”
Verdict: Splurge

Activity Trackers
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If you’re interested in monitoring your effort and recovery time, a good heart-rate monitor is worth the money, Bumgardner says. On the other hand, most people don’t use all the bells and whistles that come with pricey trackers, says Matthews. “I think there are a lot of great apps—some of them free—that will track your steps and calories,” she adds. “That’s all most people need.”
Verdict: Save