The Essential Running Kit Edit
It’s no secret that having the right kit not only makes running a better experience, but it's also better for you – the right shoes can reduce the chance of blisters and injury, water bottles keep you hydrated. And, of course, it’s nice to look the part, too – look good, feel good, remain motivated.
If you are just getting into running, there’s no need to buy everything immediately – like any new habit that you’re trying to build, piling on the pressure too quickly is a sure-fire route to failure. But, it is worth getting a few bits to make sure that you are comfortable while you establish your routine.
If running has already become ‘your thing’, now might be a good time to start thinking about adding to your kit bag. You’re probably running further distances and might need a few extra bits. What’s more there’s some really great running clothing around these days. To help you out, we’ve put together our guide to essential running kit.
ESSENTIALS, WHATEVER YOUR LEVEL:
- Good trainers
- For women – a good-quality sports bra
TAKE THE GEAR UP A GEAR:
- Specific performance running clothing
- Music device
- Protection from the elements – anything from sun cream, to extra layers to high-visibility kit.
FOR THE PROS:
- Hydration tablets – if you’re running long distances, these are a good, lightweight option to keeping you hydrated.
- Endurance equipment – if you’re into your ultra-sports, then you’ll probably be in the market for items such as specialist trainers, marathon backpack, card-knife, calf compression guards.
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Shoes and Socks
Running, however good for you, can be hard on the leg joints and feet, which is why good running trainers are essential. Generally the price tends to reflect the efficiency and support, but there are good deals to be had. Old, unsupportive shoes can lead to injury.
Daisy Wilson, physiotherapist at The Hampshire Clinic offers advice for finding the best pair of running shoes suited to your needs.
"Think Fit, Flex and Arches when buying a new pair of running shoes."
For FIT you should focus on your heel fitting snugly inside the shoe without feeling tight.
Why? Shoes that are too tight can cause bunions, cross over toes or hammer toes.
For FLEX, check the flex point of the shoe by holding the heel and pushing the tip of the shoe down into the ground. The shoe should crease along the same hinge line as your foot creases.
Why? An improperly aligned flex point could lead to arch pain or Plantar Fasciitis.
For ARCHES, you should choose your running shoes to match your foot’s natural contours and movements. Ideally, take the new running shoes for a walk and jog to feel this. Get a proper gait analysis from an orthotist or podiatrist to assess the optimum level of arch support needed to help you run.
Why? Poor choice of arch support could lead to Achilles tendonitis or knee pain.
Many running shops now offer a service where they assess your running position on a treadmill and recommend trainers that will specifically suit you; this is worth doing, as each shoe differs slightly and what suits your friend’s feet may not work so well for you.
If you’re regularly getting blisters on your runs, you probably need to change your socks. Running socks offer cushioning on the balls of your feet as well as across the toes, helping to protect your nails (which should be kept as short as possible) from damage. It’s also worth considering buying a trainer that is a little larger than your usual size, as this will allow your toes some wiggle room as your foot hits the ground.
1. Saucony’s Triumph ISO Series trainers have been well-regarded for some time and were the Runner’s World editor’s choice in 2015. With 3mm added cushioning to the heel and forefoot, they provide the necessary padding to absorb the impact of running on tarmac and other hard surfaces. It adapts to changes in foot shape during stride and is one of the most comfortable running shoes you can get, providing 20% more cushioning than other standard midsoles.
2. Asics Gel-Fortitude 7 2E trainers are a fantastically-priced alternative and have been designed for heavy over-pronators with above-average motion control – so ideal for those with flat and fallen arches or inflexible feet. They come in a fantastic neon blue colour with silver and orange accents, so also great for the style-conscious pavement-pounder.
3. For another competitor in the cushioning department – the brand new Brooks Glycerin 15 is a great option for a streak, streamlined run. Already known for their premium cushioning, Brooks have created these with a lighter feel in mind. What’s really different is the redesigned outer sole with modified, deeper grooves to add flexibility and a smoother heel to toe transition.
Clothing needs to be comfortable – no labels or zips digging in – and it’s worth carrying some non-bulky layers so that you can dress up or down depending on any changes in the weather and your body temperature.
Generally your clothing needs to provide you with comfort and support, as well as helping you to be more visible. Running requires effort and mental strength and you don’t need to expend any additional physical or mental energy having to worry about uncomfortable clothing, or your safety on the road if you’re running in low light.
Look for a good sweat wicking material, as this takes the sweat away from the body when you are running, and dries quickly, too; cotton can take a long time to dry. Choose a colour or design that can be visible at all times of the day as your clothing is the only thing you can really use to make sure that you are seen.
For women a good sports bra is essential, both for comfort and to prevent exercise-related damage to breasts, back and shoulders. In fact tight, supportive clothing is generally desirable – being streamlined can help correct your posture and stride, as well as reduce the chance of any chaffing.
The Proviz PixElite range is made with high-quality sweat wicking technology, with the added benefit of reflective visibility. There’s a running jacket for when you need a little more warmth, or a gilet for hotter days.
Underarmour sports bras are excellent, with a good range at affordable prices. In fact, all their sports gear is great – a good fit that doesn’t break the bank.
For something a little more luxurious, try Lululemon. They also do a range of running clothes, including sports bras.
Or, for something a bit different, or if you have very sensitive skin, BAM bamboo clothing is fantastic. Their clothing is really soft, supportive and has UV protection.
Carriers and Water Bottles
It seems awkward to have to carry something whilst running, so think about what you really need to take with you and how long you will be out for. Most of us choose to take our smartphone with us, whether it’s to use a running app, listen to music or just in case of an emergency.
If you have more to carry, primarily water you can obviously get runners’ water bottles that are easier to carry than a regular bottle, or you can get a small backpack with a hydration bladder. That way, you have water on demand and you can fit everything else you might need in the backpack, leaving your hands free.
If you need slightly more than an arm band, but slightly less than a backpack, then a runner’s belt is ideal.
The Y-Fumble armband should almost come under the essential kit, even for beginner runners. A running arm band can hold a phone, key and credit card and is very comfortable.
The Proviz REFLECT360 Running Backpack is a great, light-weight option that is hydration bladder compatible and available in black or hi-viz yellow.
Our favourite mid-range running belt, in terms of price and capacity, is the Trespass Cancan running belt.
If you are going for longer runs, it is hard to know what you’ll really need and you certainly don’t want to be carrying too much, but some things to consider are:
- Gel-like lubricant to prevent chaffing. However, this can normally be applied prior to your run and you shouldn’t need to take it with you unless you are tackling a marathon.
- Running watches and wearable tech are great for helping you track your pace and achieving targets.
- Most people will take their smartphone, so you will probably also want a good set of earphones that don’t get in the way of your arm movements and – most importantly – stay in your ears. On your phone you may well want to download some good apps to help with your pace, or training regime, and obviously some good tunes!
- Sun protection, such as a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen – even on a cloudy morning, it is worth packing these in case the weather improves and you are out for a long time.
Vaseline – it’s an oldie but a goodie and works wonders in keeping blisters and chafing at bay.
The only downside to Vaseline is its ability to stain clothes, like many other petroleum-jelly-based products. It can also be messy. Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm is a great alternative to reduce chafing when running and creates an invisible barrier over the skin which moisturises and lubricates. It’s also cruelty-free.
There are heaps of trackers and watches on the market now. The Apple Watch is pricey but a great all-rounder, allowing you to track all manner of activities and set a variety of goals, such as time, distance or calories burned.
The more serious runner might be more interested in the Garmin Forerunner 235 - a fantastic alternative. It tracks all the expected essentials like distance, pace, calories, cadence, time and heart rate via the wrist-based sensor but organises its data into colour-coordinated zones on the screen, making it easier to check your heart rate, heart rate zone and VO2 Max. You can download different watch faces, widgets and apps too, as well as running workouts, from the Garmin connect app.
Bose is the Rolls Royce of earphones, but they don’t come cheap. But, we use headphones so much these days, that the price is worth it for the quality of the sound. The SoundSport Pulse wireless headphones are so sophisticated that they come complete with a heart rate sensor and other tech designed to help you learn more about the way you train. They previously featured in our Provizmas Gift Guide.
If you don’t have money to burn, there are lots of other great options out there. In-ear buds will always provide the best noise cancellation, although be careful if running out on the road. You might want to drown out the world, but not so much that you aren’t aware of the traffic. So, if you’re a countryside runner and you want to zone out on your run, we recommend the Jaybird X3 Bluetooth Wireless In-Ear Headphones – they’re both sweat-proof, weather resistant and pack a mean punch when it comes to sound quality. And with a 8 hour battery life, you can run two (pacey) marathons before needing to recharge them.
You may already have a favourite sunglasses brand and a lot of them make specific running models. But, if yours don’t then check out the lesser-known Aspex, which makes glasses for a range of sporting activities.
Now that you're ready, time to go running and enjoy...