For the last two weeks I've been limping around the office like Quasimodo in stilettos. I thought I was just dealing with some weekend warrior pains. But when my knee was still bothering me after a couple weeks, I called my doctor.
His diagnosis? Crappy running shoes.
Sure, I'd had my Nikes for a few years, but I thought they looked fine. It's not like the rubber was falling off or they were uncomfortable. It turns out I wasn't looking for the real signs of expired footwear: A worn-down sole and laces I had to pull seriously tight.
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Old shoes aren't the only fitness gear that can put a damper on your workout: Most exercise essentials have expiration dates. If you're like me and can't remember the last time you spent money on a new sports bra or pair of running socks, check out this guide. Here's how to know when it's time to replace your workout gear:
It's usually pretty obvious when you need to replace those old (holey) socks. Sure, nobody will see the holes, but your feet will suffer -- and you'll end up with painful and unsightly blisters.
When to toss them: Obviously if there are any holes or thinning in the material, it's time to splurge on some new socks. Another early warning sign: If you feel them moving separately from your foot when exercising; socks should grip your feet like a second skin.
What to replace them with: The right socks will not only last longer, but also keep your feet feeling good during and after your workout. So look for ones with cushioning on the sole and made from a micro-fiber fabric (as opposed to cotton, which retains the sweat from your feet and creates a wet environment for bacteria and fungus).
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PANTS AND SHORTS
No offense to all the gym teachers out there, but our experts say you're better off with fitted, moisture-wicking material than the classic gym class sweats and tees. But no matter what material you choose, your workout bottoms won't last forever.
When to toss them: When you see pilling, when fitted pants feel loose, when the moisture-wicking material just isn't working like it used to, and when the fabric thins too much (this typically happens in the butt or knee area, depending on your go-to workout).
Why you shouldn't hang on to them: Worn out pants can cause chafing, distract you from your workout (if you're constantly readjusting your clothes), and can be pretty embarrassing if they're so thin they become see-through when you sweat.
Anyone larger than an A cup can attest to the importance of a well-fitted sports bra, but it's not always easy to trash these often-expensive pieces.
When to toss them: After six months to a year, or whenever the straps feel loose. Also, if you gain or lose weight you'll want to rethink your size and buy a new bra.
Help them last longer: Don't put your sports bras in the dryer, since that can make the elastic wear out faster. It's also smart to rotate which ones you wear every day, so the same one or two don't get overused.
What'll happen if you hang on to them: If your sports bra isn't properly supporting your chest, you can get pain and discomfort, damage the elasticity of your breast tissue, and put strain on your back.
T-SHIRTS AND TANKS
Want to walk into the gym feeling confident and ready to kick butt? Our experts say a new workout top (preferably in a fun color) can get you in the perfect frame of mind. Consider it an excuse to go shopping.
When to toss them: Generally after two years, or when you notice pilling, seams unraveling, or fitted tops losing their shape.
How to help them last: A seamless top in a polyester/lycra blend draws sweat away from your body and limits chafing (a nice bonus while you're working out), and will also generally last longer than a cotton shirt.
For more exact expiration dates for fitness accessories, including yoga mats and exercise balls, click here.
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