When to Update Your Gym Clothes and Gear

How to tell when it’s time to replace your sports bra or running shoes, plus tips for making them last longer.

It’s easy to get attached to a favorite pair of running shoes or yoga mat. Maybe you ran a personal best in those Nikes, or made it through your first hot yoga class on that Lululemon mat. But there comes a time when you need to let go and move on to better workout gear, before your old favorites start doing you more harm than good. We broke down when the most common exercise gear and clothes should be replaced, and rounded up some tips on how to make them last.

Photograph courtesy of Manduka.

Yoga Mat

When to replace: After one to five years. It depends on the quality and type of yoga you’re practicing. When it comes to yoga mats, instructor Peggy Mulqueen says, “You get what you pay for.” A cheap yoga mat may last you one year, whereas a sturdy, expensive mat like the Manduka black mat will hold up for at least four years with proper cleaning and care. Eco-friendly mats, on the other hand, not so much. Mulqueen’s fell apart after using it for just one year.

How to make it last: Buy a mat that can be machine-washed or cleaned easily, especially if you practice hot yoga. Wipe it down using a spray every time you use it (Mulqueen recommends using part grapeseed oil and part water), and never leave the mat in your car. After wiping down the mat, turn it over and roll it with the bottom side facing up. This will stop the ends of the mat from curling.

Photograph courtesy of Nike.

Running Shoes

When to replace: After approximately 300 miles. That includes both running and walking, but not mileage done on an elliptical or bike.

How to make them last: Use the shoes solely for running or working out, and invest in other shoes for walking. After a wet run, avoid machine-drying them–stuff them with newspaper instead, and they’ll be dry by the next day. Finally, store them in room-temperature spaces; leaving them in the hot trunk of a car is never a good idea. And remember, if your shoes’ soles are worn down to nothing, there’s no way to save them. You don’t want to risk getting injured on a run due to poor foot support.

Photograph courtesy of the Northface.

Sports Bra

When to replace: Typically after six months to a year, according to Her Room, a women’s lingerie company. These bras are all about support, so if you notice you’re bouncing a bit more during exercise, it’s probably time to get a new one. And if the fabric is pilling around the under arms, it’s time to replace it. 

How to make it last: Hand-wash and air-dry sports bras to keep the elastic intact.

Photograph courtesy of Altus Athletic.

Free Weights (kettlebells and dumbbells)

When to replace: Sturdy equipment rarely needs to be replaced, but if a kettlebell shows signs of cracking or the handle is loose, it’s time to go, says Mint Downtown fitness director Andrew Kubala. If dumbbells are bent or broken in anyway, they should be replaced.

How to make them last: Any gym manager will wince or even yell at you for throwing dumbbells on the floor after a set. They may be strong and durable, but you should treat them with the same care you would at a gym.

Photograph courtesy of Aeromat.

Fitness Ball

When to replace: After three to five years. If you’re using the equipment for high-intensity workouts involving slamming, jumping, or bouncing, expect its lifespan to be shorter.

How to make it last: Expect equipment made of rubber, plastic, or vinyl to need some type of monthly maintenance each month, says Mint Dupont fitness director Vanessa Hailes. For fitness balls, that means refilling with air or wiping it down. These pieces can also be affected by temperature and air pressure, “so in cold winter months or during a hot summer, it should be expected that they might need an additional boost,” she says.


Photograph courtesy of Leisure Fitness.

When to replace: After five to ten years. Again, this varies depending on use and quality of the treadmill. With proper maintenance, an average treadmill (about $2,000) will typically last five to ten years, says Chip Labbe, manager of Leisure Fitness in Tysons Corner.

How to make it last: The most important thing to do is to consult the owners manual for a recommended maintenance schedule. It’s also crucial keep the treadmill belt lubricated using a silicon spray or lubricant, says Labbe. If you start to notice a burning smell when you use the treadmill, it’s definitely time to check the belt. Finally, keep the treadmill free of dust.