Here’s How to Know When it’s Time to Replace Your Fitness Gear

When compared to most other clothing staples, workout clothing and fitness gear gets put through the wringer more than just about anything else you’ve got in your closet. And that’s especially true if you’re a fitness junkie who manages to squeeze in a workout every single day. And whether we want to admit it or not, our workout clothes need to be washed after every use – no matter how frequent that may be.

Take your sports bra, for example. According to New York dermatologist, Josh Zeichner, M.D., failing to wash your sports bra after you workout could mean bacteria overload as a result.

“The bacteria will have had time to multiply in the wet environment of your sweaty bra,” Zeichner said in an interview with Shape. “It’s like a petri dish and the more time that passes the worse it is.”

Needless to say, after enough cycles of working out and washing, it makes sense that the time would come when you’ll have to nix the wash and just replace your workout gear altogether. But every piece of fitness gear is going to have a different lifespan, so the question is: how often do you have to replace every separate piece of gear, whether it’s your sneakers, your sweatband, or your yoga mat? To simplify the process a bit, we’ve rounded up seven common gym accessories and figured out just how to know when to retire them.

Plastic water bottle

Refillable Water Bottles

Replace after about a year.

The rules on replacing reusable water bottles are a little blurry. Chances are, you’ll want to replace plastic bottles a bit more often than those made from other materials, such as stainless steel or glass. If you do buy plastic, opt for BPA-free brands, which will ensure that chemicals aren’t leaching into your water after continued use. Typically, glass water bottles are the best choice. 

Woman wearing running sneakers and standing in runner's stance.

Gym & Running Shoes

Replace after 300 to 500 miles.

According to Michael Aish, co-owner of the Boulder Running Company in Denver, dedicated runners should be replacing their shoes after about 300 miles. He explains, though, that this differs with each individual’s running style, particularly if they prefer to hit the treadmill or the trail.

“If you hit the ground with a clomp and run mostly on concrete, your shoes will have a much shorter shelf-life than if you barely hear your landing and you spend a bunch of time on the treadmill,” he said.

Woman running in hot pink sports bra.

Sports Bra

Replace every six months to a year.

Replacing sports bras really depends on workout intensity and how often they’re worn. Cassandra Sze, who designs apparel for Lululemon, explains that the main indication you’re in need of a new bra is when the support deteriorates.

“Once the fabric has lost its stretch and recovery – meaning that when it stretches it doesn’t bounce back – it is time to get a new bra,” she said.

Woman going up stairs in sneakers and workout leggings

Spandex Bottoms & Leggings

Replace every one to two years.

Knowing when to replace spandex and compression leggings really depends on the brand. For the most part, you can just toss bottoms when they lose their elasticity.

Woman wearing exercise sneakers with ankle socks.

Socks

Replace after about a year.

The key to knowing when it’s time to swap out your old socks for a new pair is to be mindful of when the elasticity and support cushion begin to breakdown.

“Fit is key with socks,” Aish explained. “If your heel isn’t fully covered because the fabric is stretched out, you’re asking for trouble. Get rid of them.”

Failing to do so will likely increase the chances of blisters and other foot injuries.

People in gym exercising with dumbbells and wearing sweatband on their wrists.

Sweatbands, Headbands, and Hats

Replace every two to three months.

You should toss your sweatbands when they lose their elasticity. Better yet, just use your judgment – if these are still gross, even after washing, then it’s time to go. The same goes for visors and ball caps. Wearing sweaty hats will increase the likelihood of breakouts along the forehead, so when you start to notice that being the case, you’re probably at a point where a quick wash won’t do the trick.

Woman rolling up purple yoga mat in the gym.

Yoga Mat

Replace every six months to a year.

While this timespan is mainly dependent on brand and your mat’s material, there are some clear signs that it’s time to ditch your current one. A main factor is support, more particularly if you notice that your joints (wrist, knees, etc.) tend to hurt during, or after, your practice.

About Kaylia Zancan

KAYLIA ZANCAN is a freelance writer and ACE-Certified Personal Trainer. Zancan trains clients based on a holistic approach to fitness and wellness.