Quality costs money. The cheap version of any exercise equipment, shoes, or gear will never be as good as the good stuff. It will fall apart soon. And you should buy it anyway.
When you’re new to a sport, you don’t yet know what specialized features you will really care about. You probably don’t know whether you’ll stick with your new endeavor long enough to make an expensive purchase worth it. And when you’re a beginner, it’s not like beginner level equipment is going to hold you back.
Take rock climbing shoes, for instance: as a beginner, you’ll scrape the shit out of them because you haven’t learned how to properly place your feet. Better to wear through a cheap pair of climbing shoes while you’re learning, instead of ruining a fancy pair you don’t know how to use properly.
Or roller skates: high level roller derby players have usually sunk many hundreds of dollars into the specialized gear they wear on their feet. But when I was coaching new skaters, I steered them toward cheapish beginner skates. Not something from a toy store, but like $100-200 skates. By the time a new skater starts to get annoyed with the limitations of a basic pair of skates, they’re six months into their derby career and they’ll be able to properly choose something that fits their skating style.
How to Buy the Right Cheap Stuff
Before you make your purchase, ask people who have experience in your sport or hobby. Be aware that everybody has an opinion about what they think is the best, but that may be different than what’s best for you. Here’s what you’re trying to find out:
How cheap is too cheap?
Find out what is totally useless, and never worth your time. Garage sale ice skates with ankles that are so soft they flop over? Pass them up.
What do most people do when starting out?
If you’re getting into powerlifting and you don’t have a belt and shoes, you can still lift with no belt and no shoes, or with the old pair of Chucks that you may already have in your closet. Ask people about what they wore when they were starting out, and it’s often one of those options.
What preferences do people have?
It will take a while before you determine what you actually prefer, but it’s worth thinking about some of the big-picture options now. Do you want a mountain bike or a road bike? Figure skates or hockey skates?
What’s your exit plan?
How will you decide when you’re done with your beginner equipment? Some things will wear out: Running shoes will feel flat and deflated. Some things may still be usable, but you’ll discover their limitations. Ask experienced people what the fancier gear can do that yours can’t, and you’ll get a sense of when to upgrade. (You may also be able to sell still-good gear to another beginner to recoup some of your costs.)
Wearing out your beginner gear is like graduating. You know that you’ve stuck with the sport long enough that you aren’t truly a beginner anymore. You may have managed to save up some cash for the next step. And you can buy the nicer gear now, knowing exactly what you want and need.