The Gear You Need To Train for a 5K

A young woman races down a street and drinks from a waterbottle

By Kate Schwartz

Are you ready to train? Running a race is exciting, and a few important pieces of gear will make your training smooth and get you ready for race day.

While the runs, cross training and strength work in your 5K training plan will get you ready for your 3.1-mile race, don’t forget about another key component to successful training and racing: the right gear.

Use your training time to test different types of nutrition products, recovery strategies and pieces of gear so that you can discover what you like best, dial in your plan, and pick your race day kit. Because, as the old adage goes, you shouldn’t try anything new on race day.

Here’s the most important gear you need, whether you’re training for your first 5K or you’re an advanced runner.

1. A Comfortable Pair of Running Shoes

What’s the best pair of running shoes? The answer depends on you.

The shape of your feet and the way you run determine which shoes will feel the most comfortable. Your best friend may swear by her favorite shoes, but that doesn’t mean they will be right for you.

So, take out the guesswork and get fit by an expert. The Fleet Feet fit id process is free and includes the use of a 3D scanner. And while we may be a little biased, we truly believe that our fit id process will help you find the best fit for your needs. You can try on (and run in) as many pairs as you need to decide which shoes feel the most comfortable.

While you can certainly train and race with one pair of shoes, you may find that you want a lighter pair of shoes for speed workouts and racing. Race shoes don’t just weigh less, they’re designed to go faster. They often have a different shape designed for a quicker turnover and include materials like a carbon plate for more energy return.

2. Moisture-wicking Running Socks

A runner slips on his balega socks and new balance shoes before a workout

Many people underestimate the importance of technical running socks. The truth is, the standard cotton sock does not work well for running and walking because it soaks up your sweat, grows heavy and can cause uncomfortable rubbing and blisters. A sock made from synthetic fibers like polyester, or natural fibers like wool, pull the moisture away from your foot and keep you more comfortable on the run. The best running socks are the ones you forget are there. The worst ones make your run memorable in a way you’d rather forget.

3. Chafe-free shirt, shorts and bra

a man and woman run in their synthetic chafe-free running clothes

Choose running clothes that fit you well and are appropriate for the weather. The best running clothes for warm weather give you lightweight coverage in smooth fabrics that breathe well and dry quickly. Just like with socks, cotton is a no-no here.

The best running clothes for cold weather are breathable and quick-drying, but designed to help you stay warm without overheating or getting drenched in sweat, which can make you cold. In cold weather, dress in layers to be strategic about the temperature.

Whether it’s hot or cold out, your body heats up when you run. It’s a good idea to dress as though it’s about 10 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.


4. A GPS running watch

Two runners smile as they start their Garmin GPS watches

Yes, you can measure your distance with your phone. But a running watch is easy to use and more comfortable to wear. A good GPS running watch is a game changer for new runners.

We recommend Garmin GPS running watches to measure your time, pace, distance and much more. Garmin data provides crucial information so that it’s easy to track all of your training from your miles, rest days and speedwork. You can even track other aspects of your lifestyle like daily steps, how long and deeply you sleep at night or how many miles you put on a pair of shoes (it’s recommended to replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles).


Recovery gear

A woman uses the Power Plate massage tool to massage her hip

As you increase your mileage and add strength and speed workouts, your muscles will probably get sore. A great way to manage aches and pains is with tools for self-massage.

Massage tools help reduce muscle soreness, accelerate your warm up and work out knots in your muscles. They also encourage blood flow, which helps you recover after your runs.

A great place to start with your recovery is with simple tools like a foam roller or massage stick. There are also many vibrating options on the market, which give you extra bang for your buck.


A woman smiles as she takes a GU gel

What should you eat before running? Well, it depends on how far and how hard you’re going. After all, when you train for a 5K (or a race of any distance), your training schedule should include a good bit of variety when it comes to your workouts.

When you start training for a race, it’s a good idea to start testing different nutritional products and strategies to see what feels best in your body. A 5K is short enough that you don’t need anything more than fluids during the race itself, but it’s important to take in quality fuel that won’t upset your stomach before the race begins and throughout your training cycle.

You may discover that some pre-race fuel, like gels, are easy on your stomach while you just don’t like the taste of others. Training is a perfect time to try out different electrolyte drinks, recovery drinks and gels or chews that you can use to support your training.

Like many runners, you may find that you feel better after speed workouts or long runs when you take a recovery drink within 30 minutes of completing a long or hard effort. Eating with a focus on recovery is key to feeling your best.

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