People are mad at Tracksmith. Like, really really mad. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the Tracksmith controversy—but the boutique running brand is undergoing a crisis. And I am sure it’ll be turned into a marketing case study to be analyzed around the world for years to come.
The controversy is reminiscent of Mean Girls when everyone finally sees Queen Mean Girl Regina George for who she really is and turns their back on her.
If you’ve spent time with my here or on Instagram, then you likely noticed—I wear Tracksmith. For me, it had more to do with the style and function of the clothes without much thought to what the brand represented. I’ll share more about my experience below.
It’s become apparent that many runners are fed up with the elitism of the brand trying to moonlight as an apparel company for all runners who love running.
It’s a classic aspirational brand—with many runners saying it insinuates you must train at a certain level, run a certain pace, and weigh a certain amount to measure up.
But we live in a free market. We have the power to load our carts and take out wallets elsewhere if we feel as if a brand makes us feel “less than.”
So, in this article, I’m going to share alternative running apparel brands to Tracksmith if you have decided you’re done with the brand. (Big thanks to the mother runner nation on Instagram and my athletes for their recommendations!)
I will cover:
- What is Tracksmith?
- What is the Tracksmith Controversy?
- Why are people so mad at Tracksmith?
- Why are Tracksmith clothes so expensive?
- Does Tracksmith run small?
- My review of Tracksmith, and
- 15+ running apparel brands to check out if you don’t want to buy from Tracksmith any more
What is Tracksmith?
“’Tracksmith is’” a snooty high-end brand that only cares about elite runners that fit the stereotypical body shape of a runner. Their sizing shows this…’” That’s one review by blog, Permanent Style. Need I say more?
Okay, sure I will say more. This article by 2017 Outside Online entitled Tracksmith’s Unapologetic Elitism puts it well:
“Flipping through the catalog’s pages (and scrolling through Tracksmith.com), one becomes wistful that one never ran cross-country at an Ivy League institution.”
Based outside Boston, Tracksmith was founded by Matt Taylor, (a 4:10 miler and 2:40 marathoner) who wanted Tracksmith to resonate with people like him—serious runners who weren’t good enough (or didn’t have the desire) to go pro. Taylor ran at Yale in the late 1990s and the style and color palette of his brand reflects that of the New England Ivy League school.
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Tracksmith’s aesthetic is a throwback to the 1970s New England prep school vibes. Think heavy heather gray sweats, drawstring lined shorts, bold rugby stripes and a limited range of autumnal colors like gold, maroon, and evergreen.
The brand is geared for what they call “the running class”—serious runners but not pros. The assumption is that you don’t have to run elite times to wear their clothes, but you want to look like you do.
What is the Tracksmith Controversy?
Okay, so what happened? How did this exclusive running brand that became wildly popular suddenly have runners, “fast and slow” rage against it?
The Tracksmith controversy was triggered (or I should say, brought to the surface) by an Instagram post that has since been take down.
Following on the heels of the Boston Marathon only accepting entries for runners who ran on average 5:29 minutes below its qualifying time, Tracksmith rubbed salt in devastated runners wounds—announcing that to wear their Boston singlet, you didn’t have to just qualify for Boston…you had to be accepted into Boston. (I currently cannot find this singlet online, so not sure what they are deciding to do).
Making matters worse, they used a quote from Jock Semple, who physically assaulted Kathrine Switzer, the woman who famously jumped into the Boston Marathon when women weren’t allowed to compete. He grabbed her by the shoulder and told her to “get the hell out of his race.”
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The Tracksmith Instagram Post that Sparked a Fire
Tracksmith’s post started with the Semple quote, “This is not a jogging race.”
The firestorm this post sparked prompted the brand to take it down, but here are the contents:
“This is not a jogging race.”
When entries opened for the 1970 Boston Marathon, the co-race directors issued this stern edict. Perhaps unknowingly, they were writing the first chapter in a decades long story of amateur excellence. The BQ is not just a time. For many runners it represents the culmination of thousands of lonely miles; months of waking up in the darkness to get the workout done; and the defeat of the fear that they were chasing an impossible dream.
We launched the first BQ Singlet in 2015 and every year we’ve worked to improve the technical features. This year, we wanted to make sure it’s something special for qualifiers only. Hard to get, harder to earn, the 2024 BQ Singlet is reserved for runners who have both qualified and registered for the 2024 Boston Marathon.
Learn more and reserve your spot in line to buy a BQ24 Singlet today via the link in our bio.
Why are people mad at Tracksmith?
Along with being tone deaf to women’s rights and runners who worked for years to earn their BQ only to not get accepted into the race, it inadvertently shamed them for being “slow” while many runners say the sizes and fit of the clothes shamed them for being “fat.” As one follower said, the brand said, “out loud what it has insinuated all along: that the slower, bigger runners don’t work as hard as the faster, skinnier ones.”
Two days later, Tracksmith issued an apology Instagram post that only seemed to anger people more, proving the brand didn’t “get it”—responding that “it’s not about the singlet.”
It became clear that the running community, while we try to be supportive and inclusive, in reality, is divided—between “slow” and “fast.”
I posted my opinion on the controversy here.
Why is Tracksmith so expensive?
The prices for Tracksmith gear is much more expensive than other running gear with some long sleeve tops and pants exceeding $175 in price.
In my experience, the design and materials are what make Tracksmith better quality than a lot of other running apparel brands. However, I don’t believe the make is higher quality. I have had my Tracksmith gear become threadbare, unstitched, and pill-despite following washing instructions.
Does Tracksmith run small?
In my experience, Tracksmith tops run true to size while Tracksmith bottoms and sports bras run small. For reference, in most brands, I am an extra small.
In Tracksmith tights, I wear a small and often feel like I have a “pooch” hanging over the waistband. In their pair of short tights, I had to size up to a medium for my waist to comfortably fit.
Their sports bras seem to fit small around the ribcage. I am a 34 B (this feels very uncomfortable, by the way, sharing all these stats—but maybe it helps others). For most sports bras, I wear a small. For Tracksmith, I had to order a medium and wear them several times for the chest band to stretch out enough so I felt like I could breathe.
I ordered their pocket bra to wear for a marathon and decided last minute not to wear it because it felt restrictive!
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My Tracksmith Review
So, what do I think of Tracksmith? I own a lot of Tracksmith products. As a whole, I like the look and feel of their clothes. And sure, the lifestyle it pushes, of waking up with the sun, running hard with your friends, and then spending the rest of the day drinking coffee and journaling in your cabin in the woods, sounds very appealing.
But in reality, I am waking before the sun, running in the pitch black, so I can get home, back into mom mode…rushing to soccer games, making them breakfast, or getting them to school, etc.
However, I do not think the quality of some items like the tights fit with the price tag. Every pair of Tracksmith running tights I have owned have come unstitched in the crotch and by the ankles—even after just a couple months of wearing.
My Tracksmith long sleeve tops have been worn threadbare in the armpits and the Brighton base layer shirt has stretched out.
That said, my favorite top is the Brighton Base Layer because it is unmatched in its versatility and comfort. I will live with it being stretched out by tucking it in and buying a new one because I love it so much.
Many people on Instagram have complained about Tracksmith’s limited colors but I love their color palette. (I have fond memories of spending some years of my youth in Connecticut, exploring the woods in autumn).
Related: Best Running Rain Jackets
15+ Running Brands to Try Instead of Tracksmith
If you’re over Tracksmith and want to try other running apparel brands, below are running brands to try. This is in addition to every major running shoe brand from Adidas (which is a sponsor of mine), On Cloud, Nike, Asics, Hoka, etc. having their own lines!
It’s no secret I have fallen in love with Relay Active. Founded by Ann Mazur, an Olympic Trials Qualifier in the marathon and founder of Runners Love Yoga, the brand is reminiscent of Lululemon or Vuori. The quality and comfort is the same, but the prices are much better. And, the patterns and fit are a lot of more flattering. It is my new favorite brand for working out and wearing around. Hands down.
Related: Best Winter Running Gear
Vuori is the clothing line I wear the most—when running and not running. I love their styles, cuts, and comfort. You don’t get a ton of options when it comes to colors and you won’t find any patterns but their clothes are high-quality, flattering, and can’t get more comfortable. There’s a reason you likely see Vuori around town almost as much, if not more, than Lulu, on men and women alike.
Baleaf is an affordable, athleisure brand with simple designs and styles in affordable pricing. The company is on a mission to cut down on waste by creating clothes that are multifaceted. Wear them running or to parent night. You can buy their clothes on Amazon and find shorts for as cheap as 20 bucks.
If you love Tracksmith’s wool products, then Smartwool is a great alternative. Yes, you read that right. Smartwool isn’t just for cozy socks. Now, wool is a miracle fabric that traps in heat while wicking away moisture. It’s amazing! A lot of Smartwool’s colors are like Tracksmith if you liked their look. Their products aren’t inexpensive, but you can find last year’s styles online or at retailers like REI.
Related: How to Dress for Running in the Cold
If you want an athleisure brand similar to Lulu but a fraction of the cost, then check out CRZ. The styles and colors are simple, and the fabric is impossibly soft. No statement pieces, just simple and flattering.
Another athleisure brand, Vitality is a new for me and it looks beautiful. Vuori-type designs in Lulu-type colors with it’s own flaire, these styles look simple with a smaller pricetag. My Instagram followers say they are obsessed with the comfort and quality.
Geared for triathlons, Tres Pinas offers running tops, shorts, sports bras, and tights in bright tropical-inspired designs that won’t break the bank (and you won’t find anywhere else). These clothes will lift your spirits just by looking at them, and motivate you to head out the door—in designs that are functional and sweat-wicking, with lots of pockets, and high-quality at an affordable price.
With a Vuori feel, Athleta offers comfortable, high-quality clothes. Owned by Gap, you’ll find a wide selection of colors and styles. My daughter and I have several pieces from Athleta, and they’ve stood up to her flips and my miles. Not the cheapest attire, you can shop their pre-owned category to save.
If you love patterns, pockets, and function at the fraction of the cost of other active wear brands, Senita is your company. Senita offers unique patterns and colors and lots of support in their tops and bottoms. Indeed, their mom line which includes nursing sports bras has a cult following.
Janji is one of the highest quality running brands you can buy. My most technical clothes, including my running rain jacket, is from Janji. If you are looking for something that is well-made and will stand the test of time (in wild and bright designs, or muted), then shop Janji. Their price tags are steep, but you can shop old collections and join their collective to get a lifetime discount of 15%. Also, Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run, pointed out to me that Janji is company is devoted to diversity and generosity. “They hire designers from indigenous communities, then donate a portion of the profits to clean water projects in those communities. Fantastic company.”
Founded by Faith, who wanted to feel safe during her early morning exercise but came up empty handed, this brand new line features lots of pockets, reflective details, a compressive fit, and pretty colors.
Founded by women, for women, oiselle offers functional, affordable, and top-quality running clothes. Their designs meet the needs of female runners, offering superior reflective lines and numerous items with numerous pockets. Feel feminine and empowered in their clothes.
Grown from the NYC running community, Bandit Running clothes are built for performance offering compressive lines and a gym-feel. You’ll feel tough in these simple designs. This company is rooted in inclusivity, wanting runners of all paces to look and run their best.
Here’s a different rabbit to chase instead of the Tracksmith hare, Rabbit. This women-owned brand knows runners and offers lightweight, breathable, quick-dry designs in stylish patterns and designs that make it feel like you’re wearing nothing. They even have a Mother Runner line. As for its sizing, I do find the shorts to run smaller than other brands like Vuori. The sizing seems more in line with Lululemon.
Another active wear brand for women, by women, Navalora Fit was founded by naval veteran, Allison Hills in 2021. Their cuts are reminiscent of Lulu but in bold, unique colors. The mission of Navalora is to empower you on your journey through beautiful, comfortable active wear.
A collaborative with PUMA, the new line First Mile is made up recyclable materials and on a mission to reduce waste. The limited release features apparel in beautiful colors like deep sage and orange.
Whether you love Tracksmith or hate it, expanding your closet is never a bad idea!
If you want guidance with your running goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
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