Read these 32 Running Gear & Apparel Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Running tips and hundreds of other topics.
Depending on the weather and on your level of modesty, you will be running in a long-sleeved shirt, short-sleeved shirt, tank top, or just a sports bra. If you like V-neck t-shirts, choose one. If you like mock turtlenecks, that's fine. There's no right or wrong when it comes to style, but it is the substance of the shirt that counts.
Moisture-wicking fabrics are essential, especially in a shirt, since a shirt will be in direct contact with your skin. If you haven't worn moisture-wicking shirts to work out, you are in for a treat, and if you have, use your marathon training as an excuse to buy another one. You should have at least two long-sleeved moisture-wicking shirts and two-short sleeved shirts on hand, so no matter what the season, you have a dry shirt and a spare. These shirts aren't cheap, but you can find good deals if you shop around or buy long- or short-sleeves at the end of the season, when stores are bringing in new merchandise and catalogs such as championcatalog.com and roadrunnersports.com have clearance items. If you take care of your running shirts, they will last for years because they don't wear out as quickly as shorts or tights, which are subject to more friction.
Washing running apparel in cold water on the delicate cycle (with a gentle detergent such as Woolite) will prolong its life. And hang running clothes to dry. Because they are made of moisture-wicking fabric, they will dry within a few hours and they'll be ready for your next run.
Wash your running socks in your choice of warm or cold water and dry them in the dryer, even moisture-wicking socks. Putting running socks in the dryer makes them softer and more comfortable, and in my experience machine-drying doesn't seem to wear out the fabric in socks the way it can in other sports apparel.
When it’s cold, running tights are a runner’s best friend, especially if you are out for two hours on a long training run. But if you don’t feel comfortable in body-hugging tights, don’t despair. Most manufacturers offer several styles of running pants, including boot-cut and wide-leg styles. But the same principle holds true for running pants as for shorts; excess fabric can bunch up and cause chafing. Try on running pants on with your running shoes to be sure that your boot legs or wide legs aren't dragging on the ground, where you might trip on them.
A basic stopwatch is a useful tool and helpful for all marathon runners. If you are not sure of a distance, or if you are traveling, you can use your watch and just run for half and hour, or an hour, depending on your training schedule. And you can get a general sense of how you're feeling by comparing how long it takes you to run the same route under different whether conditions, and when you've had different amounts of rest the night or nights before. You don't need a $100 watch to do that. You can buy a simple stop watch almost anywhere, from a department store to a catalog or a sporting goods store, and even an expensive model should last for several years.
Training for a marathon involves running for hours at a time, and if you have an ill-fitting sports bra, you will know it by the chafe marks you'll see (and feel) after the run. If you don't already have a favorite sports bra, try on a few styles and find one that feels comfortable in the store. If it's not comfortable when you put it on, it probably won't feel comfortable after 15 miles of running. But it should feel snug; you don't want to be bouncing. Read the labels and make sure that the bra advertises maximum support for the cup sizes. If your local store doesn't have a spectrum of sizes and styles that appeal to you, user-friendly online resources include championcatalog.com and roadrunnersports.com.
Ideally, don't wear a brand new bra on the day of a race or a long run. Test it out on short runs first, and if you're not happy with it, either exchange it, or if it is comfortable but not supportive enough for running, keep it to use for the gym or yoga or another low-impact activity.
If you're out on a long training run for 2-3 hours during the spring, summer, or fall, use a sweatproof sunblock to help prevent a painful sunburn the next day. Although you'll probably sweat some of it off on a hot, humid day, a sweatproof formula sunblock stands up to sweat much better than a standard formula. Many skin care manufacturers including offer sweat-resistant sunblocks at prices ranging from less than $10 a bottle to $30 or more. You don't have to spend a lot on sunblock, but make sure you use a lot. Don't forget the backs of your legs and the back of your neck.
Shorts or shirts with zip or mesh pockets are perfect for carrying gels on a long run or during a marathon. Some runners like belts or backpacks with slots for water bottles, energy bars and gels, and other odds and ends like tissues or Advil. But I recommend pockets because a belt is one more thing that will be rubbing against you for 26 miles, and there's the possibility of chafing and blistering, even if you wear it regularly, because the belt doesn't conform to the shape of your body over time. Plus, marathons will have water stops, so unless you are carrying your favorite energy drink, there's no need to tote your own water.
But beware of key pockets. I won't trust my keys to a pocket unless there is a zipper or Velcro. If you have to carry keys on a long run or marathon, take only the key or keys you need and use a safety pin to pin them inside the waistband of your shorts, or pin it inside the mesh pocket.
Fortunately for marathoners, sports apparel has come a long way from the cotton t-shirt. You can wear almost anything to run a few miles, but a marathon is different. You'll be running for hours, and moisture-wicking clothing can make a difference in your comfort and in your ability to race and focus on other things, like keeping your pace and enjoying the experience. Different apparel manufacturers have different names for their moisture-wicking fabric, including Dri-Fit from Nike, ClimaCool from Adidas, and almost any gear from Under Armour. If you want to spend a little less, Road Runner Sports, online at roadrunnersports.com, has its own line of apparel made from moisture-wicking fabric that is reasonably priced and high-quality; look for DryRoad or DryLine on the label.
You can get away with almost any sport sock if you’re running a few miles, but if you’re training for a marathon, your feet will thank you if you don’t skimp on socks. Good quality padded, moisture-wicking socks will last for a few years (believe it or not), depending on how much you wear them, and it is worth the money to get a few pairs. Some running socks have additional padding in the heel and forefoot, which makes them more comfortable for those 20-mile training runs. If you have orthotics and you need to remove the cushioned insole that comes in your shoes, padded socks can replace some of that lost cushioning. The moisture-wicking trait is especially important because sweaty or wet feet are more likely to blister. When you are trying on a new make or model of shoes, bring the socks that you usually train in with you, and see how they fit. For the marathon, thick socks are a good bet. Unless you are running at a 6-minute pace and wearing lightweight racing shoes, thicker socks will provide some additional cushioning over the long miles of the marathon.
You can wear almost any style of shorts for most runs of 5 miles or less, but if you are running longer distances and training for a marathon, chafing becomes an important factor. Choose the wrong shorts and you may be uncomfortable at best, and distracted by painful chafing at worst. Your running shorts should add to your comfort, not add to your discomfort. I find most shorts bunch up on me when I run, so I wear fitted, cycling-style shorts. Depending on how much leg you want to show, you can find fitted shorts (or baggy shorts) with inseams ranging from 2 or 3 inches to 9 inches. Many men's shorts styles have breathable liners for extra comfort.
Winter apparel for runners just keeps getting better. The options for tights, pants, and jackets with varying degrees of waterproofing, wind resistance, and breathability mean that there's something for everyone.
If you are in need of new gear this winter, check out the reviews of some of the latest products on runnersworld.com or roadrunnersports.com.
Remember, use the 20-degree rule. When you are out running, it will feel about 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. So, you might not really need the fleece-lined tights if you live where it rarely drops below freezing in winter.
But everyone had their own comfort level as far as winter running. You will see people out in shorts when it's 25 degrees, but I won't be one of them!
Some people prefer to run inside on a treadmill when the temperature drops. But if that's not an option or if you just like to run outside, here's a good rule of thumb:
Dress for 20 degrees warmer than the thermometer says. If it's in the 25 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, it will feel like 45 degrees (more or less, depending on the wind). If you feel a bit chilly for the first 1-2 miles, you'll probably be comfortable during most of your run.
The key to staying comfortable is lightweight layers, rather than one heavy layer. Start with a moisture-wicking shirt, add another shirt on top of that if it is really cold add a running jacket that is breathable, but also has some wind and water resistance. If you live in the north, choose a jacket with less breathability and more wind resistance to keep you warmer. In a moderate climate, choose a jacket with more breathability. I recommend owning one item of several types of outerwear: A lightweight vest, a breathable but water-resistant jacket, and a windbreaker that's less breathable but keeps out more wind and water.
Most of us devote many hours to the selection of a new running shoe, but buy our running socks as an afterthought. And that's a mistake, because your shoes and socks are a team. Here are a few tips on selecting the right running socks for you:
• Seams. Look for socks that don't have seams that will chafe your toes. Cheap socks almost always have a prominent seam that can cause real problems after only a few miles.
• Thickness. Be consistent with the thickness of the socks you buy. Ultra-thin or ultra-padded running socks can result in effectively changing your shoe size.
• Fabric. Choose socks made with a synthetic fiber that wicks moisture away from your feet. Your feet will be more comfortable.
• Fit. Running socks are designed to fit a range of shoe sizes. To avoid blisters, select a size that doesn't leave extra fabric clumped around your feet and toes.
Plan to dress in layers when the weather turns cold. Most experts recommend up to three layers. On the inside, wear form-fitting polyester or another lightweight fabric that wicks away moisture. Polyester – such as a fleece pullover - is also a popular choice for the middle, insulating layer. Finally, the outer layer is for protection from the elements: wind and precipitation. Nylon and polyester running jacket and pants – often treated to repel moisture - are commonly used.
Cool, dry weather may call for only two layers. One note of caution, though: Not all fleece is created equal. Most fleece products are not windproof, which is something you don't want to discover a few miles from home when the wind picks up.
It's nice to look good, but comfort should be your first consideration when buying a pair of running shorts. Use these tips to choose running shorts that meet your needs:
• Choose running shorts with a built-in mesh liner. They're cooler and more comfortable than wearing a separate undergarment with unlined shorts.
• For greater freedom of movement, choose a half-split running short over a v-notch short. (Look at the side seams of the shorts. The names are descriptive.) If modesty is a concern, you'll prefer the v-notch style.
• “Compression” shorts – those tight stretch fabric shorts - are a little warmer than traditional running shorts. You may prefer them for cooler weather.
• Shorts with a built-in belt are more constricting than those just with an elastic waistband. Go for comfort.
• Baggy shorts with long inseams are heavier and hotter than more traditional running shorts, and provide no advantages.
If you'll never run more than a just a few miles at a time, and if you won't be facing any severe weather, you probably don't need to buy any special running clothing. However, even if this does describe you, you'll still be more comfortable wearing clothes designed specifically for running.
Most running clothing is made from hi-tech fabrics and designed with the specific needs of runners in mind. Street clothes – even “gym clothes” – simply can't match the fit and function of clothing made especially for runners.
Many trail runners and marathoners now carry “hydration packs” during training runs. These are essentially running backpacks with some or all of the interior space taken up by a flexible reservoir that the runner accesses via a tube. Small fanny-pack models may hold as little as 28 oz. of water, while bigger running backpack styles can offer 100 oz. capacities or greater.
Besides allowing the runner to carry far more water than conventional bottles, many hydration packs have enough cargo space for snacks, a jacket, a hat and other gear.
Cotton may be a natural fiber, but it naturally holds moisture and takes quite a while to dry. This is an important consideration for running apparel.
For your socks, undergarments and shirts, choose a moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric like DuPont's CoolMax. Dry garments cling – and chafe - less then wet ones. Quick-drying fabrics also help you stay cooler.
For your shorts, nylon and microfiber are good choices. They're lightweight, dry quickly, and usually don't chafe. Cotton shorts – such as old-fashioned gym shorts – hold in moisture, bunch, and chafe.
A good runner's watch isn't essential, but it's one of the most useful pieces of gear you can own, and one that most runners wouldn't be without. Not only do they help you keep track of the time, but they can also serve as stopwatches, lap counters, and timers. Here are a few tips on choosing a good watch.
• Price. You don't have to pay a lot to get a decent running watch. For about $25 - $30 you can get a good watch that provides elapsed time, lap times, a countdown timer, an alarm, and more.
• Band. Nylon is your best bet for a watchband. It's light, breathable, dries quickly, and doesn't rot like leather when exposed to repeated drenchings in sweat.
• Analog vs. digital. A digital watch is definitely the way to go. They're simply easier to read.
• Face. Be sure the numbers are large enough to read easily while you're moving. And if you run after dark or before dawn, get a watch that lights up.
We'd never forget a warm running shirt on a cold day, but sometimes we neglect to protect two important areas: our hands and head.
On merely cool days, a pair of inexpensive cotton painter's gloves will do the trick to keep your fingers warm and comfortable. Gloves made from Thermolite brand fabric work well for cold – but not frigid – days, and they're fairly cheap, too. When it gets really cold, fleece lined with a windproof barrier or insulated gloves are a good choice.
Hats do double duty. They protect from the sun, and they protect from the cold. If sun is your concern, a cheap white painter's hat can serve. Or a cycling cap. For a few dollars more, you can spring for a nylon cap with mesh sides.
In the winter, watch caps are popular. A polyester knit is fine, except on seriously cold days. Then turn to a lined hat. If it's really cold, consider a balaclava helmet to protect your face.
In the old days of cotton sweat suits, a run in the rain was no fun at all. Now there are running suits – and mix-and-match running pants and jackets – that can make even the wettest day bearable.
GoreTex, ActiVent, DryRoad, and other specialty fabrics offer varying degrees of wind and water resistance… admittedly at sometimes fairly steep prices. Microfiber running jacket and pants are usually somewhat less expensive, but don't offer as much protection from the elements.
Most runners think to wear an extra layer on top when it's cool, but many neglect their legs. Keeping your legs warm in cooler weather can help prevent injury. If you run in cooler climes, consider purchasing running tights or pants. Both “insulated” and non-insulated models are available, and either is more comfortable than traditional sweat pants.
There are three main instances where heart rate monitors are particularly useful for runners:
1. If you're under a doctor's care for your heart, a monitor may literally be “just what the doctor ordered” to prevent overworking your ticker.
2. If you're looking to lose more than a few pounds, a heart rate monitor can help you train in your ideal 60% - 70% intensity range for maximum weight loss.
3. Using a heart rate monitor can assist serious competitors train in the 70% – 80% intensity range that produces optimum fitness gains.
Everyone has their own comfort zone when it comes to cold weather running. But there is almost always a point at which even the toughest cold-weather runners want something to protect the head and/or neck. Fortunately, running gear and apparel has evolved to choices that let you protect your head, neck, or both.
-Head and neck : For extremely cold weather running, consider a full hood that covers your ears, head, and neck with one item.
Pros: You only have one thing to put on. Cons: If it isn't that cold, you might find the full hood too hot on a long run, but there's no good compromise for ventilation; if you push back the hood, your ears and the top of your head will be exposed, which might be too much.
-Head only: There are many microfiber running hats available,even some with holes for ponytails. Earbands are another option, especially for ponytailed runners.
-Neck only: If you are comfortable with a bare head and ears but want to feel cozier on a winter run, try a neck gaiter. It helps fill in any gaps around the neck of your jacket without adding much bullk.
When you get out your winter running gear, don't put all your running shorts and short-sleeved tops too far out of sight. They work well as middle layers for cold winter days.
It's important not to overdress for winter running. Even if the temperature is in the teens, you will be surprised at how much you warm up after the first mile or two.
Everyone has a different tolerance for cold, and what is comfortable for your running buddy might be too warm or too cold for you. I have seen runners out in shorts in 20-degree weather, and that doesn't work for me. But when it is below 20, I will add a pair of shorts over my fleece tights to help keep the important parts more comfortable without adding more bulk. Similarly, try adding a short-sleeved shirt over a long-sleeved shirt to wear as a light extra layer under your winter running jacket.
If your hands tend to get cold, consider investing in some running mittens that have flip-back tops for ventilation. On very cold days, I'll wear my fleece gloves and then ball my hands into fists and pull them inside my jacket sleeves until I warm up (which usually takes about 2 miles if the temperature is below 20 degrees).
Finding the right layer combination takes some trial and error, but pay attention to what feels comfortable in different temperature ranges. You can even make a note in your running log, if you keep one, and you won't have to think as hard about what to wear.
My recent blog includes my opinion of the new Thor-lo Experia running socks. I like them for walking and casual wear, but I think I prefer more cushioning in running socks.
That said, when you are shopping for running socks, consider what type of running you do. If you are training for a marathon, you might want to try a sock with plenty of cushioning, especially if you wear orthotics. But if you are doing 5k or 10k runs in light racing shoes, cushioning in your sock is less important, and you might prefer the light feel of a thinner sock.
The Thor-lo Experia attempts to combine the best of both worlds, but only you know what is best for your feet. You might find that a sock with strategic cushioning in the heel and toe, such as the Experia sock, is just right for your racing shoes, or you might appreciate the padding for your long runs. There's no right answer, so try some different styles to determine what works best for you.
Winter is a great time to take stock of your socks. If some of your socks that saw you through training for a fall marathon or other race are worn or have holes, turn them into rags and take advantage of those holiday sales and gift cards to running stores. A new pair of socks will help keep your feet at their warmest and driest during winter running, and they will still be in good shape for early spring races.
For those dim winter mornings, a small headlamp can be a lifesaver in more ways than one. Even if you think you can see well, a small headlamp helps any traffic to see you better.
I recommend the Petzl Zipka headlamp for several reasons:
-Lightweight: After my first run, I really forgot I had it on.
-Good fit: The retractable cord is very secure. I have a small head, so I was concerned about somthing sliding around, but this stays in place.
-Multipurpose: I can see this being useful for household tasks in dark corners (or maybe for cleaning out a closet).
It's easy to think that you can put away your sports sunblock after Labor Day, along with white shoes and polka dot bikinis.
But not so fast. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that a year-round sun protection regimen for everyone to reduce the risk of skin cancer. That includes runners, who still spend several hours outside on long runs, especially on cool, but still sunny, fall mornings.
Clothing is effective protection against skin cancer, so by virtue of wearing long sleeves and tights you will be protected. But as long as you are wearing shorts and short sleeves into the fall, keep putting sunblock on your arms, legs, and neck.
And don't forget your face, especially as you switch from a hat with a brim to winter caps or earbands.
Expectant and new moms won't be training at their peak marathon pace, but most evidence supports that pregnant and new moms can enjoy moderate running, as long as they keep the pace comfortable, feel good, and aren't experiencing any pregnancy complications.
Expectant moms who choose to continue running will need to shop around for larger sports bras. Many pregnant women go up a cup size in the first few weeks, even if they aren't noticeably pregnant otherwise.
The Moving Comfort Fiona bra is a great choice for pregnant runners. It is comfortable, provides plenty of support, and has adjustable velco straps, so it could even serve as a nursing bra.
If you are running a marathon or half marathon this spring, prepare several race day clothing options. Spring weather can be notoriously variable, and you might make a game day decision on whether to go with the shorts, tights, or capri pants, and whether to bring some old gloves.
Even if your race is local, bring some options in your bag to check at the start. You might decide to wear the short sleeved shirt for racing, but that long-sleeved one may feel great when the cool breeze hits your sweaty self in the finish area and you are shivering by the time you make it to the baggage collection. And don't forget to include a trash bag for an emergency windbreaker. They don't take up any space in the bag, and you might be glad you have it.
If you ever run in the dark (which most of us do at least occasionally due to daylight savings) a running headlamp is a good investment. Even if you can see well enough to put one foot in front of the other, wearing a headlamp in the dawn or dusk hours helps cars, bikes, and even dog walkers see you better.
My recommendation: Petzl makes headlamps that work well for runners; they are lightwight and easy to wear over a mesh running cap in warm weather or a winter hat or earband when it's chilly. Check some out at www.petzl.com