Runners love their gear – and they love talking about it just as much. In this month’s Just Run round-up, six running bloggers share their must-have running gear.
Personally, I am a moderate when it comes to gear. I don’t purchase every piece of gear that Runner’s World features, but I do rely on a few key pieces of gear to aid on my runs.
Comfortable Running Shoes
Running shoes seems like an obvious choice, but several runners wear running shoes that are either uncomfortable or put them at risk for injury – so you don’t just want a pair of shoes, you want a pair of shoes that is optimal for you. Every runner is built differently and trains differently, which is why such a plethora of running shoes is available on the market.
How do you choose the best running shoe for you? Former Running Times editor Jonathan Beverly outlines four guidelines in his book Your Best Stride:
- The least shoe possible for you and for the specific type of run: You want strong, functional feet and to maximize efficiency, so only use as much support and cushion as you need to stay comfortable and injury-free. More cushion is not always better.
- What feels comfortable: The shoe should feel comfortable and smooth on a run.
- The shoe fits well: The optimal shoe for you fits well, without limiting the flex of your foot and splay of your toes.
- A shoe should work for your current abilities: Don’t keep wearing a shoe just because you’ve always been wearing it. Focus on the above criteria, not on sticking with the same shoe because it is what you know. Rotate shoes, try new shoes if needed, and be aware of how your feet change.
Currently, I run in Saucony Kinvaras and Freedoms ISOs, which are lightweight, neutral shoes. Rotating shoes reduces the risk of injury and provides me with a more cushioned shoe for long runs/easy runs and a lighter, more responsive shoe for workouts and races.
In winter, I want to keep the constant drizzle (or “micro-rain” as my husband not-so-fondly refers to it) off my face; in summer, I want to protect my skin and eyes from the sun. A breathable visored cap accomplishes both of these tasks, with the added bonus of keeping strands of hair off my face better than any headband. My tried-and-true running hat is the Trailhead Race Day Cap.
In my college and grad school years, I constantly dealt with blisters on my feet. I was buying cheaper socks, which work great for some runners, but not for me. Merino wool socks changed running for me: the fabric wicked sweat, regulated the temperature of my feet, and kept me blister-free. Smartwool and Darn Tough Vermont are my go-to brands of socks.
You can make merino socks last longer by air drying them on a drying rack or clothesline. If the price is an issue, you can often find them on sale. Backcountry frequently discounts them and you can purchase 3 pairs of socks with a 10% discount at REI.
A High-Quality Foam Roller
Yes, some foam rollers are quite pricey – but sports massages and physical therapy are even more expensive. You do not need a closet full of rollers; pick one good one that you can use on multiple muscle groups. I’m weary of rollers that can only be used on one or two muscle groups – honestly, to me, they seem like a waste of money.
My favorite foam roller is the Trigger Pin Vector roller. The contours allow you to use it on every muscle, including your back (since it leaves space for your spine) and your feet. It serves double-duty as a foam roller and lax ball.
Ruffwear Slackline Leash
At least half of my runs involve this piece of gear because I run with my dogs on almost all of my easy runs. The Ruffwear Slackline leash clips around the waist, is adjustable in length, and is strong and secure. Ollie can exert a large amount of force when he spies a rabbit and this leash withstands the force. If you run with your dog, a waist-leash keeps your dog safe and does not hinder your running form (and, if your dog is anything like mine, eliminates the risk of a dislocated shoulder).
Honorable Mentions: A Garmin GPS watch (most are stylish and sleek to serve as daily timepieces as well), a high-quality sports bra, and some Goody ouchless think black elastic hair ties.
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What pieces of running gear are essentials for you?