Essential Gear You Need to Start Running

You don’t want your gear to be a distraction when you’re running.

If your socks are rubbing your heel raw and your sweat-soaked cotton T-shirt is plastered to your chest, you’re probably not going to enjoy your run. But slip into lightweight, moisture-wicking wool socks and a technical running shirt, and you can focus on what really matters: running.

Like a sharp chef’s knife and quality skillet will make your cooking better, the right gear will make your running better.

Before you hit the road, check out the essential apparel and running gear for beginners.

[This article is part of our How to Start Running guide that lays out everything you need to know to get going.]

​1. How to Find Properly Fitting Running Shoes

A Fleet Feet outfitter holds several boxes of running shoes.

Your running shoes are your most important gear. But choosing a good pair of running shoes can be tricky.

With countless brands and styles to choose from, there’s no single best running shoe for all people. The Brooks running shoes that fit your friend might not work for your sister who is more comfortable in HOKA running shoes. So, finding the right ones comes down to doing a little research and getting a little bit of help.

The first step to finding a great pair of running shoes is to head into your local Fleet Feet and getting an expert, one-on-one outfitting. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height.

The best running shoes you can buy should feel comfortable right out of the box. Don't buy shoes that are too tight and run in pain until they break in—if they break in at all.

To find running shoes that fit correctly, check to make sure the length is right: Your running shoes should have about a thumb’s width of space between the end of your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.

Next, get a feel for the shoe’s width. Running shoes should be snug in the heel and midfoot, but they should have enough space in the forefoot to wiggle your toes.

Most people wear a larger size in running shoes than in street or dress shoes. The extra space gives your foot more room to expand and lengthen each time you put your weight on it during a run.

Start with a shoe that’s a half size larger than your street shoes, and figure out the fit from there.

Finally, take the shoes for a quick jog around your house, or up and down your driveway to get a sense for how they’ll work on a real run. If your foot or heel is slipping around in the shoe or it’s uncomfortable in any way on a short lap, think about how it will feel after a couple miles.

Also, heel slippage isn't the end of the world. Some runners just have narrow heels, and therefore have to employ an alternate lacing system. If that's the only drawback to your kicks, here are some hacks to help you customize the fit even further.

Even the best running shoes will wear out eventually, though, so learn when to replace your running shoes to keep you injury free.

2. How to Dress to Start Running

A runner smiles over her shoulder.

Comfortable running clothes are essential to having a good run. Sometimes even a small seam or little bit of fabric in the wrong place can cause painful chafing that will tank your workout.

So avoid the rub with the best running clothes.

Clothes that are good for running are typically made from synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon. Unlike cotton, synthetic fibers wick moisture away from your skin and help speed up evaporation, so you stay cool and dry.

You should also look for running apparel that stretches. Clothes that stretch will move with you instead of restricting your range of motion, and they’ll make you more comfortable over the long run.

Then you should think about reflectivity and visibility. If you usually run early in the morning or at night, you need running clothes with reflective elements built in. Those elements are designed to reflect street lights and headlights so drivers, cyclists and other runners can see you when it’s dark outside.

For women, there’s one piece of running gear that’s as indispensable as good running shoes: a sports bra. And choosing a sports bra that fits properly can make a big difference in how comfortable you are during your run.

Here are our quick tips for picking out and caring for sports bras for running:

  • Measure yourself. Use a tape measure to find your band size and bust size, then subtract bust from band to get your cup size.
  • Find the right support level. High-impact sports bras provide more support than low-impact ones, and they’re best for activities like running, mountain biking and other intense cardio workouts.
  • Rotate (at least) three bras. Runners should rotate at least three sports bras—one to use, one to wash and one that’s ready to go. Rotating bras will make them all last longer.
  • Learn to wash your sports bras. If you know how to wash your sports bras, you can make them last longer. A big tip? Keep them out of the dryer.
  • Know when to replace a sports bra. If your sports bra is worn out, you’ll feel it in your chest. So you should know the signs of when to replace a sports bra.

3. Get Good Running Socks

A woman sits on her car, sliding on a pair of Feetures socks.

A bad pair of socks will make themselves known on your run. But good running socks are hardly noticed at all. They fit snugly, stay put and wick sweat from your feet to keep you comfortable.

Here’s what to look for in the best socks for running:

  • Stick with full synthetic or wool. Cotton socks aren’t good for running; they’re slow to dry and can lead to nasty blisters. Wool is naturally breathable, soft and stink-free, while synthetic fibers are designed to be that way.
  • Find your fit. Running socks match up with a range of shoe sizes, so you can get socks that fit well. If they’re too big, they’ll feel sloppy inside your shoe, and if they’re too small, they’ll be uncomfortable over long distances.
  • High needle count. Running socks with higher needle counts are better at wicking moisture away from your skin, saving you from irritation and dreaded blisters.
  • Try run-specific socks. Running sock companies, like Balega and Feetures, make socks specifically for the sport. Thoughtful features, like high heel tabs and targeted compression, are added with one goal in mind: to make your run better.
  • Consider compression. CEP running socks use medical-grade compression to increase circulation and reduce inflammation and fatigue, helping you bounce back from tough workouts.

4. How to Track Your Miles

Runners prepare their Garmin watches before a run.

Keeping a log of your running is a good way to track your progress and chase down your goals, and there are many ways to keep up with your workouts.

Using a GPS device, like a Garmin running watch, is an easy, digital way to record each of your runs. Basic GPS running watches track your distance, time and pace, but more advanced models deliver a slew of other data, like VO2 max, heart rate, cadence and more.

When you finish a run, you can set the watch to automatically upload your route and data to an accompanying app. The log lets you look back at your previous training to set future goals.

If downloading apps, pairing phones and uploading data aren’t your thing, you can also keep track of your runs the old-fashioned way: pen and paper. You can start simple by writing down what day you ran, your distance and your time, or you can take more advanced notes that include what you ate before your run, how you warmed up and how you felt.

5. What to Carry on a Run

A runner holds a handheld water bottle.

You don’t need to carry a lot of gear during your run, but some items will improve the quality of your workout and help keep you safe.

If you leave most of your stuff behind in your car or home, all you need to carry is a key to get back in. Most running clothes have a pocket that can fit a key, or you can wear a running belt if you need a little more space for a phone or some running nutrition.

You should also carry some form of identification, like a driver’s license, so you can be identified if something should happen.

If you’re going out for longer runs, you should also carry water. A handheld running water bottle or hydration pack for running is a portable way to bring some H20 when water fountains aren't easily available.

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