Gym apparel and gear is a huge market. Nike is pumping out a lifting shoe for $200. Unless you're going to the Olympics for weightlifting, the 30 minutes of snatch work you do 2x a week doesn't rate a $200 shoe. Same could be said for the overpriced gym shorts, knee-high socks, and whatever else is fashionable at the moment.
Below is the list of what's in my gym bag. Nothing more, nothing less. Most of the items I've had for 8-15 years, although I'm as guilty as anyone to succumbing to the marketing efforts of the retailer. Save your money and pick up only what you need.
- Ace Wrist Wraps - $15 for a pair
I've had the same pair of CVS bought wrist wraps for eight years. They provide just enough support while still allowing for full range of motion of the wrist. It's the perfect combination for heavy Front Squats, Overhead Pressing, or Cleans... all of which put a significant amount of pressure on the wrist.
- Rehband Knee Sleeves - $70 for a pair
These are not to be used as a brace or even really for support. It provides a relatively light compression and keeps the joint nice and warm, allowing me to get rolling on working sets without discomfort. It's amazing the difference wearing these make and how the knees feel. Another product which has lasted me for years, although I'm due for a new pair.
- Adidas Power Lifting Shoes - $60 to $90
Perfect, relatively inexpensive lifting shoe. I've had the same pair for even longer than my wrist wraps or knee sleeves. The elevated heel provides a more anatomically correct ankle flexion during squatting movements, which in turn allows better knee and hip movement. If I were to recommend one piece of gear for the gym, it would be these. Search around and you can find these for as low as $60
- Foam Roller - $10
I'm including the foam roller because I do in fact have it in my gym bag, although the usefulness of it is up for debate. The research I've read on foam rollers and it's effectiveness for recovery is conflicting and like many other recovery tools, mired in private interests. I use the roller before workouts to loosen up a bit before hitting my warm up by hitting the major muscle groups.
- Lifting Belt
Unless you're doing serious powerlifting, any cowhide material with prongs and holes to secure it will do the trick. I use the same lifting belt that I had in high school. Lifting belts seemed to fall out of favor for a while, but I highly encourage using them when lifting at percentages of 85% of your 1-Rep Max or greater.
- Gym Shoes - $45 to $150
Anything but traditional running shoes, which are too chunky for anything except straight line running. Every major brand has a 'functional-fitness' shoe. Many are overpriced. Find a shoe that allows your toes to lay flat and your heels to feel the ground. Chuck Taylors, Vans Skate Shoes, Adidas Sambas will all work for gym based conditioning. So will the shoes all the Crossfit Games athlete's wear, but they are probably wildly overpriced because Rich Froning wore them once.