Running seems like a cheap sport (you just need shoes!) until you actually go shoe shopping. Basic models are usually well over $100 new, and their cushioning breaks down after a few hundred miles. It’s not unusual to go through a few pairs a year if you run a lot, and all of that adds up. So how can you save a few bucks on running shoes?
That question was the subject of a recent Reddit thread on r/RunningShoeGeeks, which highlighted a few deal-finding websites like RunRepeat. But more importantly, it included a critical tip about timing: new shoe models tend to be introduced in the spring, making right now an excellent time to snag discontinued models.
Save money by buying last year’s model
Just like cars, running shoes come in a make (Nike), model (Invincible) and, well, there is usually a number at the end of the name instead of a model year: Nike Invincible 3. Shoes are updated every year or two, depending on the model; the long-running Pegasus is up to version 39.
And just as with cars, you can often snag a deal at the end of the model year when sellers get rid of their old stock to make room for the newcomers. You can follow websites like Runner’s World or Sole Review to check out which models are being updated and when they are scheduled to launch. But an even simpler way to keep up on shoe seasons is just to check the “new arrivals” section on your local running store’s website, or sign up for their newsletter.
For example, if a Mizuno Wave Inspire 19 was just released, you can bet a Mizuno Wave Inspire 18 is available at a deep discount. At the time of this writing, there’s up to a $50 difference between the two models—that’s a 35% discount.
That’s a pretty typical bargain, but you can do even better if you shop around—and if you don’t mind choosing your shoes based on the cheapest price rather than the prettiest colors. I’m a habitual sale-shopper, so I’m always running in the ugliest shoes. My least favorite was a mint-green pair of Nikes that had a black paint splatter design that made it look as if I’d just run through mud and hadn’t cleaned my shoes off. Fine on the trail, embarrassing in the gym.
But beware shoes that are too old
If you’re going to shop discontinued models, there are a few pitfalls you should know about. One is that the foam in a pair of shoes will degrade while it sits on the shelf. This isn’t a problem if you’re buying a model that was just discontinued—most will be fine. But if you find shoes that are two or three model numbers back, they probably won’t last as long as new ones. (The price might still make them worthwhile, but consider yourself warned.)
The same concern applies if you’re buying last year’s model as a backup, and planning to stash it in your closet until your current shoes break down. Consider how long it will be until you actually use the shoes, and decide accordingly. While you’re at it, apply the same logic to any gently-used shoes you might find on eBay or Poshmark.