Cheap vs expensive fitness clothes and trainers: How much should we spend?

According to The Telegraph, in 2016 people spent £5.1bn for fitness clothing in the UK. This trend of buying expensive workout gear has increased massively in the last couple of years, as we now see all kinds of brands offering running clothes and gym gear that’s meant to be practical but also on-trend (and perfect for a street style Instagram shot!).

I was first tempted to try this trend out when the first Ivy Park collection launched. As a big Beyonce fan myself, I decided to invest in one of her fitness pieces. Reluctant of the new trend, I couldn’t say no to Queen Bey so I convinced myself I needed a new pair of workout leggings for the gym and ended up spending £25.

After that, I remember seeing everyone launching new sportswear – different patterns, colours and designs – and more importantly, different prices! I have always avoided spending money on fitness gear, and as a result I usually run in my boyfriend’s old t-shirts paired with old muddy trainers. However, now I have the opportunity to buy nice looking gym gear for a fraction of the price, from almost all my favourite retail brands – but do these fitness clothes and shoes really work, or do they just look pretty?

As experts say that exercising is contagious, particularly among women, I decided to continue my fitness routine – but with some new fitness gear.

Picking different brands at different prices levels, I decided to finally answer the age old question: are expensive sport clothes superior to their cheaper companions?

My two fitness outfits:

1. Ivy Park leggings £25

2. Decathlon Sports Bra £3.50

3. New Balance Running Trainers £30

4. Nike Leggings £45

5. Adidas Sports Bra £45

6. Nike Running Shoes £57

I rated each product in comfort, durability and fit for purpose. Just after one month of trying each out, here’s what I found:

1. For Comfort, the more expensive Nike WINS

The Ivy Park leggings are quite thick so they’ll suck up all the unflattering belly area and make you look thinner and more toned. Trying, though, to stretch in these bad boys is a challenge. They are not flexible at all and it’s quite annoying as they constantly try to fall off you. I would recommend them for walks and running especially outside (as long as they fit well!).

The Nike leggings are just at another level. When I wear them I feel like I have nothing on. They are extremely stretchy and soft and because of this they weren’t the most flattering leggings I tried on, but they definitely were the most comfortable ones. They also have holes across the legs, which let your skin breathe. I find these leggings perfect for any kind of sports activity.

Final grade:

Ivy Park 6/10

Nike 9/10

2. For Durability, the more expensive Nike WINS

After just one wash the branding on my Ivy Park leggings started to break. It’s not the worst thing, but imagine how these leggings would look after 6 months or so? The good thing is that the leggings are still firm enough one month in and still keep my waist tight. My favourite pick for leggings when doing outdoor activities.

The Nike leggings look brand new after a couple of washes. However, I am a bit afraid they will get a bit loose much sooner than expected and that’s because they’re as thin as air!

Final grade:

Ivy Park 7/10

Nike 9/10

3. Fit for purpose, the more expensive Nike WINS

Based on what I said previously I believe the Nike leggings are definitely fit for purpose, while the Ivy Park ones are more for comfy outfits, walks around the park and less for the gym.

Final grade:

Ivy Park 3/10

Nike 10/10

1. For Comfort, the cheaper Decathlon Sports Bra WINS

The Decathlon sports bra is just perfect! It fits nicely, it’s not too thick but it holds everything in just right. I can run, jump and do everything in this bra.

The Adidas sports bra is comfortable once you manage to put it on – but just the act of putting it on is a workout on its own. The elastic at the bottom is too tight and it’s a struggle, especially if you have wide shoulders or a bigger chest – but once it’s on, the bra offers me perfect support.

Final grade:

Decathlon 10/10

Adidas 7/10

2. For Durability, it’s a TIE!

Both bras were great even after a couple of washes. Still looking good, still going strong.

Final grade:

Decathlon 10/10

Adidas 10/10

3. Fit for purpose, the cheaper Decathlon Sports Bra WINS

I found both bras very good while working out. However, the Adidas one is really difficult to put on and take off. I once got stuck in it and that was the last time I wore it. I wish it had a bigger zip in the back.

Final grade:

Decathlon 10/10

Adidas 6.5/10

1. For Comfort, the more expensive Nike WINS

I found the Nike trainers extremely comfortable, very flexible and perfect for any activity in the gym.

The New Balance trainers looked really good but seemed very stiff from the beginning. They are advertised as running shoes, however I couldn’t run or work out in them. I find them more appropriate for walks, rather than sports.

Final grade

Nike 10/10

New Balance 7/10

2. For Durability, the cheaper New Balance WINS

As much as I loved my Nikes, they did break quite quickly. After almost a month, a small hole appeared and was not happy. I felt too uncomfortable to go back in store and exchange them so I am stuck with them now.

The New Balance trainers are like any other pair of white trainers: high maintenance. But it’s hard to compare them with the Nikes as I didn’t end up wearing them too much at the gym.

Final grade:

Nike 5/10

New Balance 7/10

3. Fit for purpose, the more expensive Nike WINS

The Nike trainers are definitely fit for purpose as I felt a difference when wearing them. I do wish they didn’t break but they’re still my number one go to for my gym outfits.

The New Balance trainers are lovely, but just not right for running or any other heavy sporting activity. They’re like a pair of Converse – nice and comfy, but not for the gym.

Final grade:

Nike 9/10

New Balance 3/10


Overall, a high price does not mean better quality. My favourite item is still my £3.50 Decathlon sports bra, followed by my Nike trainers that actually broke after almost one month.

After this experiment I think it’s best to read online reviews before purchasing your gym gear and never invest too much money on your workout clothes. If it’s something you really want, maybe wait for a promotion or special offer to go live.

Many websites will offer 10% off if you sign up to their newsletter and also ASOS sells a lot of these brands and often will have a student discount on. Decathlon is always an affordable option, with years of experience in developing and selling active wear.

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