Essential Running Guide: Running Clothes, Shoes & Gear
Whether you're an avid runner or a total rookie, it's important to have the right gear. Quality running shoes, clothes and accessories can make a big difference in your motivation levels, running performance and recovery.
Ready to gear up? Below, we break down three categories of running essentials: running clothes, running shoes and running gear.
A well-made pair of running shoes is critical. The quality of your kicks affects everything from your comfort level and stride when running to how supported and protected your joints are from pounding.
To make sure you choose the right running shoes for your body and fitness goals, consider the following questions:
- How much running do you plan to do? If you're going to run every day—or if you want to cover long distances—you may need more support than someone who plans to run once a week or a couple of times a month.
- What surfaces will you be running on? Shoes built for road running have a shallower tread than shoes designed to grip into deeper surfaces like dirt and grass.
- How much cushion do you like? Shoes with less cushioning are lighter and more flexible, but they don't provide as much support. If you're new to running or if you struggle with joint pain, you may want shoes with more cushioning to start.
- What's your natural stride? Most running shoes are designed to accommodate your natural stride. You'll either run neutrally or have a tendency to pronate or supinate, which is when your feet roll inward and outward, respectively.
- What's your budget? Have a flexible budget so you can buy the brand and style of shoes that fit your feet and lifestyle best. We have a broad selection of running shoes for men and running shoes for women.
How Should Your Running Shoes Fit?
The perfect pair of running shoes will feel comfortable, breathable and secure. Keep in mind that your feet can swell when you exercise, so you may need to go up half a size.
With the right fit, you should have about half an inch of room between your toes and the front of your shoe, leaving you plenty of space to wiggle your toes in the toe box. Make sure your heels don't slide up and down when you move and that your feet feel relaxed and snug when your laces are tied.
The general rule of thumb is to replace your trainers every 300 to 500 miles of walking or running. Depending on how often you lace up—and how far you run—that could be anywhere from three months to a year. If you don't track your runs with an app or watch, write down the date you buy your shoes on the inside tongue, so you can gauge the distance you've gone.
Here are some telltale signs it's time to replace your shoes (no matter the mileage):
- The tread on the bottom of the shoes is worn down.
- The midsole (the part between the bottom tread and the upper material) is worn down or shrinking.
- Your shoes feel uncomfortable or different.
- You're experiencing new or additional joint pain.
- You're dealing with unexplainable injuries.
How to Take Care of Your Running Shoes
Running shoes are designed to work hard, but it's still important to treat them with care. The habits below can make your shoes last longer:
- Store them away from heat or direct sunlight.
- When they're wet, remove the insoles and stuff them with newspaper to dry faster.
- Don't put them in the washer or dryer. Instead, scrub them with a dish brush or wipe them clean with a wet towel.
- Untie and retie your laces instead of sliding your shoes on and off your feet—this keeps your shoe's heel cup intact.
The right running clothes can help you run longer and more efficiently, not to mention boost your confidence when you hit the pavement. Ill-fitting, itchy or restrictive clothes, on the other hand, might cause you to chafe or cut your workouts short. Here are some key items to consider:
Next to your running shoes, the most important item is a comfortable pair of running socks. Pay attention to thickness, material and shape. You want socks designed to wick away moisture, flex with your feet's natural movements and prevent blisters.
Whether you go for a short-sleeve, long-sleeve or tank-style running top depends on the climate you live in, but it's a good idea to have at least one style of each so you're prepared for the elements all year long.
Look for running tops made from flexible, lightweight performance fabric to wick away sweat and move with your body. Steer clear of bulky or heavy tops, itchy materials that can cause chafing and cotton fabrics that soak up moisture.
One of the most essential items of running gear for women is a quality sports bra. With a well-fitted bra, your chest should feel supported and secure. High-impact sports bras are great because they have a compressive fit made to withstand high-intensity movement and bouncing. Look for high-impact sports bras made from soft, breathable materials (like nylon) that keep your skin cool and chafe-free.
Running shorts are great for days when you want to let your legs breathe. The ideal pair should sit comfortably on your hips and not ride up when you run. Depending on how much support and function you like, you may want to look for shorts with pockets, mesh interiors or underwear lining. The most crucial factor, though, is choosing a pair made from a lightweight nylon or polypropylene fabric.
Among the most versatile items of running gear for men and women is a snug pair of running tights. Running tights cover more surface area than running shorts, which makes them great for colder weather and sunny days when you don't want to wear SPF.
Look for a pair of running leggings made from moisture-wicking compression fabric in a style you feel comfortable in, whether it's low-rise, high-rise, ankle-length or calf-length. Remember: the best leggings are the ones that fit you well, keep you warm and dry, and have a pocket for your phone.
Compression Leggings and Socks
Compression clothes have specific panels of fabric designed to fit more tightly to your body. These compression panels gently push against your muscles, helping to increase blood flow throughout your body. As a result, you may experience less muscle swelling and soreness during and after runs.
Compression socks hit just below your knees and squeeze your calves, while compression leggings target your calves, hamstrings, quads and glute muscles. If you're running long distances and want an extra edge, or if your muscles feel overly sore after runs, compression gear could help.
A lightweight running jacket comes in handy on chilly and rainy days. You can layer your jacket over a running top or wear it on its own, depending on the weather. Polyester running jackets are ideal, since they're durable, breathable and water-resistant.
How to Take Care of Your Running Clothes
To keep your running clothes in good shape, wash them on a cool or cold cycle with a gentle liquid detergent, then hang them to dry.
Extra running gear can go a long way toward keeping you safe and making you a happier, more efficient runner. Here's some of the best running gear to consider: