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Running Gear for Beginners: The Essential, Helpful and Fun

If you’re new to running, you may be a bit overwhelmed by all the gear and lingo that gets thrown around by the more experienced runners. You may wonder if you really need everything that they talk about, or if it’s OK to start out with a few basics. This article will help you understand what you truly need when you’re just getting started and what you can (or cannot) add as you tackle more miles.

Essential Items

First, let’s talk about the necessary items. All you really need is a pair of good running sneakers—something comfortable to wear while you run—and, for women, a good sports bra. Seriously, that’s it. Everything else is gravy.

I personally like Asics and Brooks running sneakers, but feel free to check out some of the other brands as well. One of the best ways to get the right sneaker for you is to visit a local running store and have them watch you run on a treadmill. They should be able to help you pick the right shoe for you. Running in the old sneakers you have in your closet is probably not the best idea, and could lead to injury, so take the time to get some advice from the experts.

More: Running Shoe Guide for Dummies

Once you have your sneakers picked out, look for some basic running apparel. You’ll need a shirt or two, preferably made of good wicking material, as that will help pull the sweat away from your body and will dry faster than cotton. But, if you’re just starting, feel free to wear what you have in your closet. You’ll also need running shorts, pants, tights or even a skirt, if you like. Feel free to shop for new ones or just wear what you have at home.

A good sports bra is a must for women and I recommend getting a good one. Don’t skimp on your sports bra! If you’re not comfortable while running there is no way you will stick to it. I love Champion brand bras, as they provide good support and minimal chafing.

More: 3 Gear Essentials for Newbie Runners

If you are planning to go long—say 10 miles or more—then you may need Body Glide to help reduce chafing. (You can also use Vaseline as well. The only real difference is that Body Glide has a good applicator.)

You’ll also need a water bottle if you’re going to run more than 4 or 5 miles. In the summer that distance will probably drop to around 3 miles, but that will depend on each person’s biology. Just remember that it’s always better to have too much water with you than not enough. To start, feel free to carry a bottle of water you can get at any grocery store. As you run more and farther, you can invest in a better bottle at that time.

More: Which Hydrates Best: Water or a Sports Drink?

Helpful Gear

There is so much gear that can be helpful to runners, and it can be absolutely overwhelming. Here is a breakdown of some things that are helpful, but not absolutely necessary—especially for the beginning runner.

How to Pack Your Trail-Running Gear

Always Secure Your Keys

Don’t be that runner who loses his or her keys along the trail. Most packs, running vests, waistbelts and handheld bottles have a specific spot for stowing your keys. Look inside a zippered pocket for a clip or stretchy loop that you can attach your keys to. At the very least, toss them in a zippered pocket.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to take all your keys with you. Extra keys add unnecessary weight and they will jingle all the way down the trail. Your house key and/or car key are probably all you need.

Protect Your Phone

It’s important to shield your phone from moisture. This means not only keeping it away from rain, but also sweat. Stashing your phone in a next-to-skin pocket can expose it to enough moisture and humidity to damage the phone and potentially void a warranty. To avoid this, use a waterproof container, whether that’s a zip-top bag or a durable plastic case specific to your phone. If you like to have your phone handy for snapping pictures, look for a backpack or a running vest that includes a water-resistant pocket on the shoulder strap for a smartphone to keep it easily accessible and protected from the elements.

Keep Food and Water Within Reach

Most trail runners prefer to eat while running. So, unless you plan to stop for a lunch break, it’s important to keep your food and water accessible.

Food: Store energy bars and gels in your shorts pockets or in a pack pocket that’s easily accessible, such as on the hipbelt or the side of the pack. If you prefer to eat “real” food, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pre-make the meal into portions that you’ll eat at one time. For example, cut that sandwich in half or into quarters so you won’t have to put it back in the pack after a couple bites.

A smart option for carrying energy gels is to use a gel flask and fill it from a bulk container of gel. The pros: You carry one container rather than several individually packaged gels and you won’t have trash to keep track of while you run. Con: You have to clean the flask out when you get home.

Learn more about food in our article, Nutrition Basics for Trail Running.

Water: If you’re wearing a running pack or vest, keep your water bottles in front or side pockets that you can reach easily or use a hydration reservoir.

It might seem improbable, but plastic squeeze bottles can actually cause discomfort during a long run. They can dig into ribs or rub on your side or back. A few manufacturers make extremely soft bottles that conform to your body to eliminate discomfort. They also reduce sloshing and weigh next to nothing when they are empty.

Learn more about carrying and drinking water in our article, Hydration Basics for Trail Running.

Carry Extra Clothing

For short runs in pleasant weather you may not need more than what you’re wearing, but when you head out for longer, more-challenging runs, extra layers are essential.

If you’re running with only a handheld water bottle you won’t have a spot to store an extra layer so you’ll have to resort to tying a long-sleeve shirt around your waist. To do so without creating a cape that will flap behind you, grab the shirt by the sleeves and roll the body of the shirt up around the axis formed by the outstretched sleeves. Then tie the shirt around your waist in a tidy bundle.

If you’re carrying a backpack or running vest, stash your extra clothing inside the pack or lashed to the outside with a bungee cord. Keeping a windbreaker or long-sleeve shirt within easy reach allows for quick transitions on the trail.

For cool-weather runs, keep a lightweight winter hat and gloves in a spot that you can quickly get to, such as a side pocket on a pack. Ideally you can pull a hat and gloves on and off without stopping running. A neck gaiter is a very versatile item to have along. It can be used as a hat, headband, wristband or a towel for wiping sweat off your brow.

Learn more about dressing for running in our article, Running Clothing: How to Choose.

Stay Organized

Always keep your headlamp, pocket knife, food, phone and other essentials in the same place in your pack so you’ll know right where to reach without stopping running. Packing the same way every time will also help you leave home without forgetting a critical item. Having a dedicated pocket in your pack for trash will keep you from accidentally littering when you reach into a pocket for another energy bar.

Take a look at our Trail-Running Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Training

Essential Kit

The Virgin Money London Marathon takes place at the perfect time of year – not too hot, not too cold with little likelihood of snow…believe that and you’ll believe anything! Although April does appear to be the perfect time of year to undertake an endurance race of this nature, the British weather is as unpredictable as England’s football team so you need to be prepared for all eventualities, and that includes your kit.

The required training time for such an event will most definitely mean that you’re running in some of the coldest months of the year (if you live in the UK at least). The number of months you’ll be preparing for the marathon will of course vary dependent on your current running base. This is quite an undertaking and you must be mindful not to try and ‘Polyfiller’ together a fitness base as the inevitable result will be injury. In short, around six months is not an unrealistic period to allow most beginners to get to a level of conditioning that will get them round.

As you can imagine this will mean that with an April marathon like London a brand new runner will be getting ready by late summer or autumn of the previous year. These seasonal changes should almost certainly be reflected in your running kit.

What and when?

If you’re training most days then a certain number of garments are needed to get you through the week before a weekend wash. Even if you’re happy to wear your kit a couple of times before washing, you’ll need at least a couple of pairs of each article to get you through a week. September, October and November is usually when you’ll utilise the shorts and t-shirts (vests if preferred) and these will again get more use around March and April. The intervening months of December, January and February is when tights, long sleeve t-shirts and jackets, or even fleeces, become vital. So too are gloves and a beanie hat to maintain body temperature and ensure you’re relaxed enough to run effectively.

What to look for in your kit

The best thing that your kit should provide for long distance events such as the marathon is the ability to wick away sweat, to avoid any discomfort caused by wet kit. But there are also specific things you should look for in all aspects of your training gear:

  • Socks
    Basic sports socks will absorb sweat and will move about in the shoe which will only facilitate blisters. For a run such as a marathon you should definitely invest in some fitted running-specific socks. Anatomically (left and right specific) fitted socks with Climacool fabric will reduce the incidence of blistering.
  • Shorts and T-shirts
    Non-technical garments tend to be heavy to start with but can get much heavier with rain or sweat. This means that you’re not only wearing extra weight while you run, but because they’re not quick drying you’ll also remain wet throughout your run. Look for wicking fabrics such as adidas Climacool fabrics which not only effectively wick away sweat but also feature extra ventilation at the key body zones (which differ from the men’s product to the women’s product). adidas products also include a Formotion cut (which means they are cut on a 3D model as opposed to flat, like other brands), ensuring the garments sit well on the body during any motion so you don’t even notice it’s on.
  • Tights
    Again adidas Formotion cut and lycra content ensures ease of motion, as well as additional support on the muscle groups which can be vulnerable during cold snaps or when fatigued. Furthermore, being peppered with Scotchlite ensures you are visible to traffic. Many women (and some men) will prefer a ¾ tight or short tight to a conventional short in warmer weather. Many men will use a short tight, not just for the supportive lycra benefits around the major muscle groups but to prevent the chaffing that they may get when wearing a short.
  • Jackets
    Formotion cuts again apply, plus there is the added benefit of buffering the rain. Fitted, wickable, quick drying, lightweight fibres are the key things to look for in jackets to ensure they’re fit for your running needs. As you will be training a lot in the darker months, reflective materials should also be a must. We have several jackets in our range and pockets, removable sleeves and mp3 pockets are all things that make them versatile pieces of kit.

On the day

It is always important to wear what you’re comfortable in, and make sure that you’ve already worn and washed the clothes that you’re planning on wearing on the day. As well as your own personal needs the weather will play a key factor in your apparel of choice. Those of you planning to be on your feet for some time will have to pay attention to the fact that you will be exposed for a prolonged period over which time your body temperature could fluctuate. Here’s some things to consider:

  • In mild weather you should look at including some lightweight cover-up pieces like a long sleeve t-shirt and a ¾ or short tight.
  • If it’s due to be very hot and sunny, consider wearing a t-shirt instead of a vest as well as a cap to avoid the risk of sunburn (especially if you are expecting to be taking 5 or 6 hours as opposed to 2 or 3). Quicker runners (sub 4 hours) will prefer lighter, minimal kit as you will be running more intensely for a shorter period.
  • Unseasonably cold weather should make faster runners consider slightly warmer layers whilst the slower participants should consider tights and lightweight jackets that can be zipped and unzipped en route – plus, the pocket detail has a practical benefit for carrying nutritional snacks.
  • A pair of lightweight Climacool gloves in mild or cold weather are invaluable for all runners as cold hands can be a very uncomfortable distraction and can have a knock-on effect to overall body temperature. If the conditions warm up they can easily be discarded, or if you’re reluctant to get rid of them they can always be stuffed in a waistband with minimal interference.

It’s never been easier to stock up on official Virgin Money London Marathon running kit. Start shopping now!

The Best Running Shirts for Summer 2019

Running is an inherently uncomfortable activity — labored breathing, tired muscles and, when the weather heats up like it’s starting to now, you’re stuck dealing with sweat-ridden clothes and probably a ton of smelly workout laundry. However, if you’re like most runners, you probably spend more time reading up on running shoes than running shirts. Makes sense; besides color, shirts all look pretty similar online. Even my own research on features began to blend together. Everything is lightweight, keeps you cool and wicks moisture — the typical marketing jargon for technical clothing. However, I found that seemingly identical-looking shirts varied quite a bit when I put each through the trial of miles, even if their online descriptions read alike.

How We Tested Running Shirts

Sifting through the multitude of options, I browsed countless online reviews to narrow down what the “Internet” claimed were the best running shirts. My search resulted in more than 30 short-sleeve and sleeveless shirts, which I tested over a two-month period. My testing ground was the sunny beach paths and mountainous trails of Santa Barbara, California. As a full-time running coach, I spent every day in one of the shirts. My goal was to wear them as much as possible — not only running but in the gym, hiking and rock climbing — to narrow the field down to the top 12. Here’s what stood out to me, followed by some handy tips for shopping, combating chafing and keeping your shirts in as good of shape as you are.

Black Diamond Rhythm Tee

I can’t get enough of this shirt. At nearly a full ounce lighter than any other running shirt tested, the Rhythm Tee felt weightless and outperformed others in wicking and drying ability. Featuring NuYarn Merino Wool, an innovative knitting process that wraps merino wool around a nylon core, this shirt results in a high output technical tee that’s stretchier, faster drying and stronger than 100 percent wool shirts.

Material: 57% Nylon, 43% NuYarn Merino Wool
UPF Sun Protection: Yes (not rated)
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 2.4oz

The North Face Better Than Naked Short Sleeve

Making our list for the second year in a row, this one’s our go-to shirt on hot and humid days when it’s a coin toss whether to go shirtless or not. Lightweight and airy, the Better Than Naked boasts a body-mapped jacquard mesh design to move moisture off your body and into the shirt. An extra stretchy vertical mesh down the back adds extra ventilation when wearing a hydration pack, making this top ideal for ultra running. Also available in sleeveless.

Material: 100% Polyester
UPF Sun Protection: Less than 15
Odor Protection: No
Weight: 3.2oz

Old Navy Ultra-Soft Breathe ON Go-Dry Built-In Flex Tee

Despite a marginal difference in wicking ability compared to its more expensive counterparts, this Old Navy performance tee earned its place as a top technical tee due to its affordable price-point. The soft jersey-knit fabric with built-in stretch allows body heat to escape while absorbing moisture. Thin and slightly transparent material is good for breathability but, as expected for a budget shirt, sacrifices durability.

Material: 95% polyester, 5% spandex
UPF Sun Protection: Unknown
Odor Protection: No
Weight: 4.7oz

Saucony Freedom Short Sleeve

This soft, jersey-knit tee felt like cotton against the skin but performed like a technical running top. Superb wicking powers and a somewhat relaxed, stretchy fit through the body felt very mobile and freeing during the run. That said, as expected for a jersey knit, the Freedom Shirt was one of the thicker and heavier tees tested.

Material: 83% Polyester, 11% Tencel, 5% Spandex
UPF Sun Protection: Less than 40
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 4.9oz

Janji Orbital Singlet

Better be prepared to run fast in Janji’s eye-catching Orbital Singlet. This race-ready tank is paper-thin with an aggressive cut through the shoulders and back, allowing unrestricted arm swing. Fun, colorful patterns stand out among the sea of solid-colored running shirts. Unisex sizing with an ultra-slim, athletic fit made a size small feel custom-tailored to my trim 5’8″, 140-pound frame. If you prefer a looser fitting tank, I suggest sizing up.

Material: 88% recycled polyester, 12% elastane
UPF Sun Protection: 15 Rating
Odor Protection: No
Weight: 2oz

Arc’teryx Motus Crew Neck Shirt Short Sleeve

Designed specifically for trail running, beautifully constructed and durable as hell, this lightweight crew managed moisture seamlessly, wicking sweat away from the skin and drying quickly. In typical Arc’teryx fashion, no design detail has been taken lightly. It’s anatomically cut, noticeable by the contrast stitching, and gusseted arms plus a slim fit throughout offer uninhibited movement. As a bonus, the Motus Crew makes a fantastic baselayer for winter running.

Material: 100% Polyester
UPF Sun Protection: 25 Rating
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 3.7oz

Patagonia Men’s Capilene Cool Trail Shirt

Soft enough to sleep in, this jersey-knit tee was one of the softest and most comfortable running tops tested. With the texture and feel of cotton, this Fair Trade Certified shirt blends the lines between a performance tee and everyday tee. Classic style and Polygiene permanent odor treatment make it a great option for runs that end in a social gathering. If you dislike the feel of synthetic fabric, the Capilene Cool Trail Shirt should be at the top of your list.

Material: 100% Polyester
UPF Sun Protection: Yes (not rated)
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 4.6oz

Baleaf Men’s Quick Dry Short Sleeve

If price is your number one priority, superseding durability and top-level performance, look no further than this Amazon top seller. Smooth-faced with more stretch than most, this polyester/spandex blend tee felt silk-like, gliding over the body with every move. And as it’s offered in 14 colors, odds are you’ll easily be able to match your favorite shorts.

Material: 92% Polyester / 8% Spandex
UPF Sun Protection: Unknown
Odor Protection: No
Weight: 4.9oz

Adidas Terrex Agravic Parley Tee

When it comes to price versus performance, the adidas Terrex Agravic Parley is hard to top. At a relatively modest $35 price point, this environmentally friendly shirt is made with yarn from recycled waste reclaimed on coastal beaches before it ends up in the ocean. Paper thin and weighing in as one of the lightest shirts tested, this shirt felt refreshingly airy on the run. Heads up on sizing — despite being advertised as a regular fit, I found it to fit more on the slim side compared to others.

Material: 80% Recycled Polyester / 20% Polyester
UPF Sun Protection: No
Odor Protection: No
Weight: 3.2oz

Under Armour Rush Run Short Sleeve

Launched just last month, Under Armour’s Rush line pushes the boundaries of high-tech athletic wear. Like other items in the line, this shirt’s made with mineral-infused fabric designed to absorb and recycle your body’s energy, promoting better circulation and increased tissue oxidation levels for faster recovery. Did it work? May simply be a placebo effect, but I will say the material did feel better against my skin than any other shirt. Body-mapped mesh panels provide extra ventilation in high-heat areas, too.

Brooks Stealth Short Sleeve

Lightweight and breathable, the Brooks Stealth remained comfortable, even during the longest outings. Its silky smooth-faced front and back with clean seams allowed unrestricted movement. Vented mesh panels extend along the sides, helped dump underarm heat. A generous 90-day return policy, even on used gear, helps make this purchase a no-risk no-brainer. Also available in sleeveless.

Material: Body: 100% Polyester
UPF Sun Protection: Yes (not rated)
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 3.5oz

Rhone Swift Tank

From one of our favorite boutique brands, Rhone, this sleek tank not only kept me cool mid-run, it doubles as a great gym tank. Visible horizontal mesh lines maximize airflow through the fabric, providing a cooling effect.

Material: 88% Polyester/12% Elastane
UPF Sun Protection: Yes (not rated)
Odor Protection: Yes
Weight: 3.2oz

What to Know Before You Buy

Fabric technology has come a long way, helping combat sweat, chafing, odor and in some cases possibly helping you recover faster. Here’s what you should look for when buying a running shirt.

1. Wicking Ability, Drying Time and Fit

Perhaps the two most important qualities of a good running shirt are wicking ability and drying time. Wicking is the process of transferring moisture or sweat away from your body through tiny spaces within the weave of the fabric and then dispersing it to the outer layer to evaporate. Evaporation rate, or drying time, will vary depending on the dew point, but generally, a quality moisture-wicking shirt should dry within a couple of minutes after you stop running.

Brands categorize fit based on body type, using terms such as fitted, slim/trim, athletic or regular. The actual fit will vary quite a bit from brand to brand, and based on your body type, but in most cases fitted shirts are close to skintight and regular shirts are fairly loose, with slim and athletic falling somewhere in the middle. A proper fitting running shirt is somewhat dependent on personal preference. One thing to keep in mind: Shirts that are too tight will be more likely to cause rubbing, whereas ones that are too loose will be less likely to wick sweat and more likely to chafe.

2. Look for Polyester or Wool Blends

The two most common moisture-wicking fabrics are polyester, a synthetic fabric, and wool, a natural fabric. On paper, polyester holds a slight advantage over wool for running, mainly because it is less expensive and offers better durability. Wool, which has somewhat of a cult following in the hiking world for its exceptional odor control, is my go-to while traveling or when washing between each use isn’t possible. A third material, cotton, is one of the worst moisture-wicking fabrics. Instead of dispersing moisture over a large area to evaporate, cotton absorbs and retains moisture, leaving the shirt feeling heavy and damp. Think back to field day in school; when your cotton tee got soaked during the water balloon toss, you likely weren’t dry for the remainder of the day.

3. Bonus: Sun Protection and Odor Control

Additional features such as UPF sun protection and odor control are common in running-specific shirts. UPF is a rating system used in clothing to measure how much harmful UVA and UVB light passes through the fabric. The higher the rating, the better the protection the shirt offers. This becomes an important consideration for summer running, especially during long runs and high-altitude runs when sun exposure is high.

Over time, bacteria can form within the fabric, causing a lasting odor that laundry detergent can’t remove. Odor-protected fabric works to prevent the buildup of these smelly bacteria. To achieve odor protection, companies will treat the fabric with an anti-odor finish such as Polygiene. Wool, on the other hand, is naturally resistant to the buildup of odor-causing bacteria.

Beware of Chafing

Chafing is the bane of many runners during the dog days of summer. The repetitive friction between your skin and the fabric causes the condition, and sweat- or rain-dampened skin is more prone to it. The best remedy is to try a shirt with a different fabric make-up and fit. If you’re running in a 100 percent polyester, regular-fit shirt, try switching it up to a wool blend with a more athletic cut.

Wash with Care

Moisture-wicking shirts require a little more care than your cotton-based clothes if you want to keep them in your rotation year after year. Excess detergent and fabric softeners can trap the odor-causing bacteria, making it increasingly difficult to remove the stench over time. What you’ll want to do is turn your clothes inside-out and reduce the amount of detergent used, or try sports-specific cleaning products such as Win Sports Detergent. Avoid high heat settings and any form of fabric softener, too.

Best New Running Shoes Out This Month

The London, Boston and Big Sur marathons all take place during April, which makes it the perfect time to stock up on a new pair of shoes. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.
Cory Smith

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Our Favorite Running Gear for Marathons and Ultramarathons

The Socks

Having the best running socks is a non-negotiable part of your training and race day kits.

Compression helps improve blood flow so you feel fresher for longer. That’s why we like the CEP Compression Sock 3.0.

The medical-grade compression in the 3.0 can help reduce swelling and muscle strain, which can help you recover faster. High-tech fibers mitigate moisture to keep you dry during your longest runs.

For runners who don’t want compression, the Feetures Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab will keep your feet happy. The socks are cut specifically for your left and right foot to eliminate bagginess that can cause hot spots and blisters. Plus, the nylon, polyester and spandex blend delivers a snug fit and excellent moisture management.

The Accessories

You’ll need to hydrate and get some extra calories when you’re spending a few hours on your feet. But carrying water and nutrition with you can be cumbersome.

Nathan packs make carrying your calories a breeze.

The Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 4L and Nathan VaporHowe 12L were designed in collaboration with elite ultrarunners Rob Krar and Stephanie Howe. The packs each hold two soft flasks on the front and work with extra bladders so you can haul all the H2O you need, and they have enough storage space to stash energy gels, chews or whatever else you like to eat on the go.

When you’re preparing your pack, think about grabbing Maurten energy gels. Maurten uses a unique hydrogel to help transport carbs and sodium through your stomach and into your intestines, where it can be absorbed easily.

Fleet Feet runners have been using mixing Maurten into their nutrition plans and found that it lives up to the hype.

Best marathon running gear

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