I came across this list of running gear from The Sweet Home and I wish it had existed or I had seen it when I started gearing up about a year ago. It is a good list and doesn’t fall into the trap of approaching running gear the same way you would reviews of consumer products. The Sweet Home reviews were also done by experienced runners and a college running coach. Looks pretty legit.
My running experience is limited. I have 4 races under my belt–from a 10k to a half marathon–and almost 12 months of regular 3-4x weekly running. I’m not a running veteran but I am still close to my experience of being new and figuring out which gear works for me. I thought it’d be helpful to share what I use and why.
When I first started running I knew without a doubt that I needed good shoes that were properly fitted by someone who knows running and running shoes. I went to a local running store that had good reviews. We’re fortunate here in Austin that we have several good running stores from which to choose.
I agree with the note in the The Sweet Home gear guide: giving recommendations for shoes is pointless unless I know your feet and gait.
Even if I did (and I most certainly do not!) know your feet and gait, I am not qualified to tell you which shoe you should try on first. I have no idea what works for me beyond the two pairs I have. That’s why I go to my running store. The last time I was there, to buy a replacement pair of shoes after EOL’ing my original running shoes (you were awesome, dear Asics), I tried on about ten different pairs of shoes. I jogged in each of them as the store associate watched my feet. You can’t do this if you shop online or at a general purpose sporting goods store.
Everything else gear-wise, while somewhat subjective, I can still give a recommendation on with at least a little hope that it’d be helpful to you. Take what you can, leave behind what you want. Here’s what works for me.
Since we’re skipping shoes, let’s start with socks. The baseline for socks is synthetic, not cotton. When I first started running I picked up several pairs of basic Asics socks at my local running store. I went through about 6 pairs of those before switching to Feetures socks. Those are the socks I use today. I run in a lightly padded version (“High Performance Light Cushion”) and use a thinner, tighter pair to wear for recovery after longer runs because they make my feet feel goooood.
Feetures main selling point is the seamless toe. This is supposed to make the socks more comfortable (I’d agree with that). I really like them for running and recovery and haven’t had a problem with hot spots like I did with the Asics socks from time to time. Feetures aren’t inexpensive (about $12-15 per pair) but they are worth it.
When I was gearing up to start my running I didn’t know where to start with shorts ( or shirts for that matter). I did a bit of research and then went to the store to look through different brands. What I found is that Nike fit me best and I liked the quality. It was the right hunch because I’ve never had a single problem with either pair of Challengers I own. I run in 7” Challengers.
I tried on cheaper technical shirts (these are the moisture wicking shirts runners wear) but they were all cut much wider and sloppier than the more expensive brands. I went with Nike’s Dri-Fit Contour shirt. The black Dri-Fit shirt I bought during my initial gear-up is still in perfect shape after hundreds of miles.
I wash all of my running clothes on a “hand wash” gentle cycle using mild detergent. Everything is hung up to air dry.
I added this shirt over the Summer because I needed something even cooler than the normal Nike Dri-Fit. I really, really like this shirt. It doesn’t chafe ( you know where) and keeps me cool. Mine is also bright neon yellow so it has the added benefit of helping me be seen (and be safer).
Brooks Collapsible Hat (as close as I could find to my model)
I’m not very smart so it took me a while to realize that shaving my head plus profusely sweating while running would equal burning eyes as the sweat just rolls down my face. I finally smartened up and bought a running hat.
The Brooks running hat is black with reflective areas. It soaks up sweat and keep my head cool even in the Summer. It also keeps my head warm in cooler weather (but I don’t wear it for freezing temperatures, see below).
This was one of those purchases where I just needed the hat and I grabbed what they had at the store. Brooks is an excellent brand so I knew it’d be fine.
This hat has been through hundreds of miles on the road sitting atop my fat head. It has been washed a lot (again, via the gentle cycle) and hung up to dry.
I detailed in previous entry why I purchased an Apple Watch and how I planned to use it. In short, I needed an easy way to glance at Runkeeper’s (or Strava’s) realtime stats on my run. One flip of the wrist to check my pace (just to confirm that, yes, once again I’ve started out too fast) and mileage (oh god, am I done yet?!).
As a single piece of gear, this was the most expensive thing I have purchased specifically for running. But very, very much worth all of those dollars.
Before I had my Apple Watch, I had to take my (giant) iPhone 6 Plus with me on runs so I could track my distance via Runkeeper.1
The big phone didn’t really work with arm bands (I have small arms so it’d be hard to keep it from bouncing around), so I needed a belt with a pouch.
The SPIBelt is slim, fits snugly, and, as an added bonus, is made right here in Austin, TX. I’ve used it on every run and race since I started running. It still looks like new (again, I wash it on a gentle cycle) and I could see it lasting years.
Running Water Bottle
(That’s quite the product name.)
My first running bottle was a basic Nike bottle I picked up for $6. I only needed it to transport water from home to the local YMCA where I was taking a running class. I didn’t actually run with the bottle.
As the Spring turned into hot Austin, TX Summer, and my running distances increased, I knew I needed to have water with me as I ran. My distance plus the heat would make a dangerous combination.
I did a bit of online research then visited my local running store and picked up the Amphipod. I chose the 12oz because I didn’t want to carry a giant water bottle with me. I knew I could refill it in the worst case scenario that I ran out of water (see tip below).
If the 12oz bottle proved too small I could always buy a larger bottle for super long runs (if I end up training for a marathon) and the 12oz would still be useful for shorter runs.
This water bottle has a pouch on the strap that makes it easy to store keys, ID, money, or gels.
(Tip: carry $5 with you when you run just in case you need to duck into a gas station or store to pick up an extra bottle of water or Gatorade.)
Staying Warm While Running
Let’s lump the cold weather stuff all in one section. Quick disclaimer: I live in Austin, TX and it does not get very cold here. The coldest weather I run in is right at freezing. My experience might not work if you are running in Minnesota or some other place that has a real Winter. I live in the world of fake Winter.
Nike Dri-Fit Element Half Zip (in black and volt yellow)
This versatile long sleeve, half zip (for temperature control) shirt is an important part of my gear. I bought the black one first and this past Fall added the volt yellow one so I had something bright and warm to wear on cold mornings. The shirt zips up all the way so you can keep your lower neck warm. It also has thumb holes for extra hand warmth.
When these wear out I’ll buy the same ones again.
I bought these the week before my first half marathon. The temperatures were going to be cold enough that my hands would get cold (standing in the corral waiting for the race to start). I already had a throw-away long sleeve shirt but needed gloves that could stay with me.
These are not heavy winter gloves. They’re thin enough that if worn while not running your hands will get cold! They have touchscreen-friendly finger tips, which come in handy for tapping on my watch or phone.
Even though my hands warm up quickly on a run, I now wear these on every cold run and every bike ride. For a quick last-minute purchase, I couldn’t be happier with the gloves.
Yet another pre-first half marathon purchase. Yes, I was a little worried about being comfortable in the colder temperatures while standing and waiting. These sleeves, like the gloves, are very lightweight and will not keep you warm without running. They’re just enough to protect your skin from the cold wind.
In my first half marathon in San Antonio I wore them for the first few miles and then removed them and tucked them into my SPIBelt.
I wear them under the half-zip shirt (along with a DRI-FIT shirt) for extra warmth on cold mornings.
I don’t wear these often. I can run in shorts if it’s in the 30s but sometimes, especially in the early morning, I’m tired and weak and just want to be warm. I’m not thrilled with these and wouldn’t buy them again. I had a hard time finding tights/pants that I liked and fit me well. I had to buy them quickly before a trip to Salt Lake City last February (related: running at higher elevations is not fun).
SmartWool The Lid Hat (in grey)
I bought this as a general purpose winter hat for my shaved head but it works perfectly has a winter running hat. I wear it on the coldest day and even if I’m wearing thin layers and shorts I still feel warm with this hat. I feel like it could last me decades. Excellent quality.
That’s my gear!
I still track today but not with the the same fervor I did when I started out. It was really important to me whether I ran 3 miles or 3.1 miles. That’s the difference between not running and running a 5k, you know. ↩