Online stores allow easy access to a large variety of running gear choices — and are sometimes the only option for specialty products, products sold in other countries, or for last season’s shoe model. This is especially true for gear specific to trail running and ultrarunning, which you may only be able to access from the largest online stores. For people who live in smaller towns or areas without a local running store, they can be the only reasonable option.
We compiled this list of our — and your — preferred online stores for running shoes, apparel, and gear because we love sharing a good find. We recommend our favorite options for online shopping, as well as highlight what makes each store stand out.
To allow for a quantifiable comparison of each of the websites, we searched for 34 products — shoes, shorts, T-shirts, and watches — from some of our most popular gear guides. Essentially, we searched these websites for the top running products in which you’re running today. What resulted from that analysis is this list of six websites, with the first one carrying the most products and the sixth stocking the least number of items.
As far as pricing, there were some outliers, but for the most part pricing across websites was consistent.
Without further ado, here are the six top stores. Click on any of them to learn more about the running gear they carry and the services they provide. If you’d like to learn more about how we created this list, visit our methodology section below.
- REI Co-op
- Running Warehouse
- Fleet Feet Sports (formerly JackRabbit)
- Road Runner Sports
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online: Amazon
You can get nearly anything on Amazon, and running gear is no exception. If you have Amazon Prime, most items include free two-day shipping and easy returns. As a website, Amazon dwarfs the other stores on this list, but gear and clothing inventory can be a bit inconsistent, and the selection can be harder to navigate because you’re not always buying directly from the retailer or from Amazon.
Though Amazon is known for its reviews, in the case of athletic apparel, the reviews tend to be sparse and less informative than other running-specific sites.
Selection: Carries a lot of shoes and GPS watches, but less running apparel and other gear
Shipping and Returns: Free two-day shipping; easy returns for most Amazon Prime items
- Familiar site for online shopping
- Wide variety of gear, clothing, and more
- Site is not season-specific and may offer past season’s colorways, discontinued products, and other hard-to-find items
- Site selection and pricing is inconsistent and can vary drastically by size and color
- Searching may be a bit more difficult, as there may be multiple versions of the same product with slightly different names — which makes comparing items across small online stores selling under the Amazon umbrella a bit challenging
- Although returns are often easy, Amazon’s customer service is notoriously challenging to contact
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Runner-Up: REI Co-op
REI Co-op carries gear for most outdoor recreation — so, whether you’re running a road 10-kilometer race or looking to outfit for alpine expeditions, you can usually find something suitable for your needs at REI.
If you have an REI lifetime membership, you qualify for free standard shipping, 20% off shop services (at your local REI store), and 10% back annually on most of your purchases. REI also has a program for buying and trading in used gear. REI also carries the prior year’s models, so it can be a good site for finding discontinued items — though they do tend to sell out of these items quickly.
REI has an excellent one-year return policy on most items (90 days on outdoor electronics), and their customer service is easy to contact and work with on returns or any issues you might have with a product.
Selection: Carries a lot of running shoes and GPS watches, more limited on apparel and other gear
Shipping and Returns: Free standard shipping if you are a member
- Large store and site with a vast selection of gear and clothing
- Virtual outfitting services to assist with shoe fitting, ski fitting, apparel recommendation, and more
- In-person stores located throughout the country that will service relevant purchases for free or discounted rates
- Very good customer service
- 10% back on purchases for members ($30 for a lifetime membership)
- Consistent deals and discounts for members throughout the year
- Once an item sells out, it’s less likely to be restocked
- Free shipping can sometimes take up to a week or more
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Third Place: Backcountry
Like REI, Backcountry has a very thorough selection of gear for most outdoor sports and adventures.
The site is easy to navigate, and shipping is usually free and relatively fast. Backcountry often offers a 15-20% off coupon code for most items on its site any time of the year.
Backcountry has a great online chat feature for any questions that you have — which can be easier when you’re trying to find answers to a question you have about a product or reconcile an issue with an item, versus hanging out on your phone on hold. Most of all, gear and apparel reviews on Backcountry tend to feel genuine and informative.
If you live in West Valley or Park City, Utah, Boulder, Colorado, or Seattle, Washington, there are local Backcountry stores to help with in-person advice and services.
Selection: Like the first- and second-place websites Amazon and REI, Backcountry carries more shoes and GPS watches for runners than apparel and other gear
Shipping and Returns: Usually free
- Large site selection that is easy to navigate by type of gear, sport, or brand
- 15-20% discount codes for most purchases are usually available or easy to find
- Students are eligible for a 20% discount on full-price Backcountry brand gear and apparel
- Easily accessible customer service by phone and online chat
- Unused gear can be returned anytime to original payment, 30-day returns on used gear for store credit
- Reviews, when available, are usually thorough and more helpful than other sites
- The Backcountry site has a great library of informative how-tos on apparel, gear, and activities
- Returns are not free ($6.99 UPS label), and the cost will be deducted from your refund
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Fourth Place: Running Warehouse
Running Warehouse is the best running-specific online store, in that it offers the greatest variety of running apparel and gear. The company has fast and free shipping, and each shipment includes a pre-printed and free return label, which is great for those of us without a printer. If you do have to return or exchange an item, it’s very easy and requires little additional time and effort.
The site is very easy to navigate, and products are easy to find — whether you’re looking for a very specific item or just browsing products from a particular category or brand. The filtering options are extensive, covering function, fashion, brand, and style. While the site doesn’t have robust customer reviews on items, Running Warehouse conducts its own very in-depth shoe reviews on a large percentage of its selection.
Selection: Offers both men’s and women’s shoes and apparel, nutrition, and gear such as GPS watches, headlamps, and hydration packs
Shipping and Returns: Free two-day U.S. shipping, international shipping offered at cost, free returns with a pre-printed shipping label with each order
- Over 100 brands offered by large and small companies
- Site is easy to navigate
- Filter function is very thorough, and search results are well organized for navigation
- Comprehensive sizing guide for shoes
- Site-specific, in-depth reviews provided on some items
- Search function doesn’t accommodate misspellings
- Customers tend not to leave reviews on items
- The selection from each brand is not comprehensive and varies
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Fifth Place: Fleet Feet Sports
On December 16, 2021, JackRabbit merged with Fleet Feet Sports, the United States’ largest run-specialty retailer. Questions about the merger are available here. Fleet Feet has stores nationwide and is a run-specialty staple. The retailer offers free shipping for orders over $99 and free returns.
Selection: Offers both men’s and women’s shoes and apparel, nutrition, as well as gear like GPS watches, headlamps, and hydration packs
Shipping and Returns: Free U.S. shipping on orders over $99, free returns, no international shipping
- Free returns (online orders can be returned via mail or in person at a store)
- Free U.S. shipping when you spend over $99
- Large selection with comprehensive offerings
- Customer reviews and Fleet Feet-specific gear reviews on some products
- While Fleet Feet has a very extensive in-store fit process (you can even schedule an appointment) to help you find a shoe to best suit your body and needs, there isn’t great support online through any comparison calculators or descriptions
- Free shipping only applies to orders over $99
- Must be able to print a return label
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Sixth Place: Road Runner Sports
Road Runner Sports is an online store, but it also has 40 brick-and-mortar stores across the USA, mostly in coastal states. For some readers, Road Runner Sports may be your local running store. While the retailer has an extensive in-store shoe fitting system, they also offer a support module online that helps provide options based on your body and activity needs.
Road Runner Sports has a comprehensive run-specific selection, extensive customer reviews, and if you’re a member, there are lots of great perks (10% off everything, 90-day free returns, free and fast shipping). But the cost of membership, at $39.99 annually after the initial six-month initiation fee of $1.99, can be a bit steep if you’re not a frequent shopper.
Selection: Men’s and women’s shoes and apparel, nutrition, and gear without some brands that are more frequently found in trail running and ultrarunning, such as The North Face, Patagonia, and La Sportiva.
Shipping and Returns: Free five- to seven-day shipping for non-members, free three- to five-day shipping for members, international shipping offered, 60-day returns on new and used items — customer pays the return shipping
- 40 stores across the country, allowing for additional support for local customers
- Online shoe fit-finder
- Customer reviews and site-specific product reviews
- 10% off everything for members
- Search function is not very exact
- Member program is a bit pricey, especially if you don’t shop there frequently
Best Website to Buy Running Gear Online, Honorable Mentions
These six running-specific online stores are much smaller, but are so much more specific to certain niches or geographies within the global running community that they might be the best online running store for you:
- Wiggle — Cycle, run, swim, triathlon, fitness equipment, and more. One reviewer referred to Wiggle as the “Amazon of fitness stuff”
- SkyRun — Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, this site stands out for carrying more mountain-specific brands and for the comparison features that allow you to view several pieces of gear and compare them by price, availability, reviews, weight, and more
- Pete Bland Sports — This U.K.-based site carries over 50 brands of gear, apparel, and nutrition
- i-run.fr — Based in France, this site is the partner store of the UTMB race festival
- Gone Running — Based in China, this site carries gear, apparel, shoes, and nutrition, including Coros, Garmin, Hoka, New Balance, Salomon, and Gu
- Run Boys! Run Girls! — Based in Japan, this site carries about 50 brands, including Salomon, Arc’teryx, Black Diamond, and On
To determine store rankings, we searched for the products in the following four gear guides at all six online stores to see which store had the best selection:
- Best Trail Running Shoes guide
- Best Running Shorts for Men guide
- Best Running Shirts for Women guide
- Best GPS Running Watch guide
And here are the results:
- Amazon — Carries 22 of the 34 products searched, all shoes and all GPS watches available, and a few pieces of apparel
- REI Co-op — Carries 20 of the 34 products, primarily shoes and GPS watches
- Backcountry — Carries 20 of the 34 products, primarily shoes and GPS watches
- Running Warehouse — Carries 18 of the 34 products, primarily men’s and women’s shoes and apparel, nutrition, and gear such as GPS watches, headlamps, and hydration packs
- Fleet Feet Sports — Carries 14 of the 34 products, primarily shoes, and almost no apparel
- Road Runner Sports — Carries 13 of the 34 products, mostly shoes
The value of being able to shop for running shoes, apparel, and gear in person can be difficult to match. However, many online sites have adapted to provide great customer service and advice to align as closely as possible with an in-person experience.
The sites highlighted here can be great options for finding what you want if you don’t have a local option or if the product is from a past season or a bit harder to find.
Call for Comments
- When you need to buy running gear online, where do you shop?
- Besides the six smaller online running stores listed in this article, what are some other smaller websites you visit for your specialty running gear?