We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Cheerleading has the best gear of any sport! Maybe we are a little biased, but cheerleading uniforms are so  fun to pick out and wear, and cheer practice wear perfectly combines fashion and athleticism. Plus, we get to wear  bows! Cheer gear is unique, so if you are new to cheerleading or are a multi-sport athlete, here are five things you should know about cheer gear:

  1. Not all athletic gear is created equal. If you're a regular reader of the blog, this is old news for you, but it's worth repeating! Cheerleaders do a lot of things that other athletes don't. That's why we need clothing and shoes made just for us. Baggy basketball shorts are going to be really annoying to tumble in, for example. Running shoes are not going to have good grip for stunting and tumbling. For both safety and a good performance, you need products  specifically designed for cheerleading. You may be able to find some clothing and a limited selection of cheer shoes at a local sports store, but your best bet is to get your cheer clothing and shoes from a cheerleading retailer. These will mostly be online, so make sure you read reviews and verify the company's return policy before ordering.

  2. Cheer gear needs to be replaced. Getting cheer-specific gear is just part of the equation. You also need to make sure your older cheer gear is fit for use. Worn out shoes pose a danger by not letting your bases get a good grip on you and  by not providing proper stability or cushioning like they used to. Shirts or shorts with holes in them could catch teammates' fingers as you're stunting or tumbling. Cheerleading is already dangerous enough, so you should do everything in your power to minimize risk and keep yourself safe! There are steps you can take to better care for your shoes and practice wear, but  they won't  last forever. Make sure you assess and replace them when needed.

  3. This part of cheerleading doesn't have to be expensive. Everyone says cheerleading is so expensive, but cheer gear expenses are something you can control. Shop around, look for deals, and look for companies that sell quality gear for a reasonable price. Your best bet is to find a good cheer retailer that sells affordable, quality cheer gear, then sign up for their emails and follow them on social media. Companies often offer email-only deals and run sales they only advertise on social media.

  4. Sizes vary from brand to brand. This is true of all shoes and clothing across every sport and even outside of sports. But, since you are in a demanding sport, it's vital that your shoes and clothing fit properly. Some items, like uniforms, you can get a free fit kit for - do it! With items you can't order a fit kit for and want to order from an online cheer retailer, you have a few options to make sure you get a great fit. First, most companies display a size chart online. Refer to it when you order. Also, look for online reviews to see if anyone has left any helpful insight. You could also call the company's customer service department to talk to a real person about the items you are ordering. Lastly, make sure you order from a company that has free returns and exchanges! No company will exchange or refund an item that is worn and beat up, so if you plan on returning or exchanging, do it right away, not after you've worn it. This is especially true of shoes since cheer shoes need to be kept white and pristine.

  5. You can personalize more than just uniforms. Of course your uniforms will have your team name, logo, mascot, letters, etc. on them. Your warmups will too, but did you know you can get your team info on other gear as well? In addition to being fun, this  gives you more clothing options for team events. You might not want to wear your uniforms to a car wash fundraiser, for example, but you still want to look united and promote your school or team. This is where personalized practice wear comes in. Get your team name put on a t-shirt or tank top and your mascot on a pair of shorts, and you have a great team practice outfit that doubles as a uniform to wear for pep rallies, fundraisers, and other events when you'd rather save your actual uniforms for the big game.

What do you think people should know about cheer gear?