Running is widely considered as an affordable sport because it doesn’t require expensive memberships or high-end equipment. But does that perception hold up?
We will start by analyzing the differences in budget between genders and running experience categories.
- About a third (32%) of our respondents were women.
- We classified “beginners” runners with 3 or less years of running experience, “intermediate” runners with between 4 and 8 years of running experience and “veterans” runners who have been running for at least 8 years.
- We defined “yearly budget” as the amount spent on shoes, apparel, gps watches or fitness trackers, races and coaching last year.
Running Costs Over 12 Months
- The average cost of running is $997 per year.
- 76% of runners participated in an organised race.
- 90% of runners bought some item of running apparel.
- 1 in 2 runners bought a GPS watch or fitness tracker.
- 1 in 10 runners paid for coaching.
Men vs Women
Women’s average budget is 21% higher than men’s at $1,132 compared to $937 for men. On average, women spend more in every single category, with the two biggest differences being with apparel (+51%) and coaching (+224%).
When it comes to the beginners only, men actually spend more than women on shoes, watches and racing.
Beginners VS Intermediates VS Veterans: Main Takeaways
The most interesting finding is that all runners spend a similar amount of money whatever their experience level – they just spend it differently in each category (shoes, watches, apparel, racing and coaching). But the overall budget is almost exactly the same for every runner, with less than 6% difference across.
This is truly remarkable: no matter your experience, motivation or goals, you end up spending the same amount for running (around $1,000 per year).
- Shoe budget goes up steadily with experience, but not the number of shoes. This means that experienced runners spend more on a pair of shoes than beginners. We’ll look further into that later in the article as well’ break down the analysis for each spending category.
- The Watch/Fitness tracker budget is very stable disregard of the running experience. Women tend to spend slightly more in general, while men beginners spend most.
- Apparel budget is very stable disregard of the running experience with women consistently spending more than men (+40 to +60%).
- Regarding racing, the average budget remains stable across the different running experiences (12% difference max).
- With coaching, the main trend is that, unsurprisingly, the budget goes down with running experience. Women spend a lot more than men on coaching (up to 488% more).
We’ll dive deeper into the these categories during our analysis.
Running Shoe Budget
The average budget per pair of shoe is $103. There are only two categories that diverge significantly from that average: intermediate men spend significantly less ($83 per pair) while veteran women spend significantly more ($133 per pair). Women spend on average 24% more than men on shoes.
Overall, the shoe budget goes up steadily with experience but not the number of shoes. This makes perfect sense: in the beginning runners are just getting started and not ready spend a lot on shoes. Later in their careers, they buy shoes less often but spend more on each pair of shoes. More experienced runners prefer quality over quantity.
Among beginners and intermediates, men tend to buy more pair of shoes than women (+1). Veteran women on the other hand have an average number of pair of shoes slightly higher than men.
On average veterans spend 36% more on shoes, but this is almost completely due to women veterans. While women veteran spend an average of $477 every year on shoes, their median is actually only $320. This means that a lot of veteran women spend significantly more than that every year, tilting the balance.
One interesting finding, which is especially pronounced with men, is that intermediate runners have the lowest budget per pair but the highest number of shoes bought per year. There are a few different theories to help explain this:
- After a few years of running experience, runners start buying shoes for different purposes – for example trail running or track running. To keep within their budget, they buy mid-range shoes.
- Or it could be because these runners run more / more miles. Since they buy more pair of shoes but pay less per pair, their budget stays unchanged.
Running Watch Spend
1 in 2 runner bought a watch or fitness tracker last year, with men and women buying them in the same proportion. This is a quite a high number.
The average price of a watch/tracker was $270. Running experience seems to have very little impact, with less than a 10% difference depending on running years.
90% of runners bought running-specific apparel last year such as socks, trousers, shirts, jackets, etc.
Contrary to many other categories, running experience has no impact on the apparel budget.
The major finding we already mentioned is that women spend 50-60% more than men on apparel all across.
3 in 4 runners paid for a race in the past year.
Women and men have different race budget trajectories, so let’s look at them separately.
Men’s racing budget is surprisingly stable no matter their running experience. While they spend the most on racing when they are beginners, there is only a 12% difference with veterans. The median values indicate that a significant portion of runners spend more than the average ($267 for men) and a significant portion spends less.
The evolution of women’s racing budget is more logical: it peaks for intermediate runners. This makes sense: we tend to race more in our “prime” (in terms of age, experience, and injury history). For example, intermediate women spend 53% more on racing than beginners do. The medians do indicate that there are significant variations between runners.
Interestingly, men beginners spend more than women beginners and then the inverse is true for intermediates. We end up reaching a balance because both men and women spend the same when they have more than 8 years of experience.
Only 1 in 10 runners paid for coaching, 45% of them being women. Women spent almost double on coaches: their average coaching budget being $724, compared to 378$ for men.
Both are much higher than the average overall coaching budget ($57) because, as mentioned, only 11% of runners pay for coaching. So most runners don’t pay for coaching but, among those that do, they spent quite a lot.
Half of people who pay for coaching are veterans and the other half are intermediate runners. On average, runners who pay for coaching, have 2-4 years less experience than people who do not.
Despite these differences in coaching budget, men and women that pay for coaching have a very similar racing budget. Which suggests that they are equally serious about their running. They also use a similar number of shoes (women spending more on a single pair of shoe, which is a general trend) and a similar watch budget. Women who pay for coaches have almost double the apparel budget of men.
Runners that pay for coaches have double the annual budget compared to the average runner. $1728 on average for these men and $2373 for these women. They also buy one more pair of shoe per year (but don’t spend more per pair), spend 42% more on watches/fitness trackers, 84% more on apparel, and 63% more on races. 95% of runners who pay for coaching pay for races.
Unsurprisingly, the coaching budget goes down with the years of running experience. Women still spend double than men on coaching (from 80% to 400% more depending on the experience).
The interesting question is why among “serious”‘ runners – who invest in coaching, race registration and apparel – women have such a higher coaching budget. Why do dedicated runners with pretty similar running experience and very similar budget in other categories value coaching so differently?