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The Essential Gear Guide for Running

What you need to get off on the right foot

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

One of the best things about choosing running as your exercise of choice is that it is affordable (or can be) compared to other options. You can run anywhere, so you don’t need a gym membership, and most of the gear you really need is affordable (other than shoes).


I am not a fancy runner. I have been running for over 20 years and I still have shorts and shirts that I ran in 10 years ago. I am probably going to be that embarrassing mom who runs down to pick up my kids from school (it is a mile from our house) in running clothes that are from the 90s and not cool. Just goes to show you that if you invest in a few quality running pieces they last!

Here are my top picks for setting yourself up for success as a runner.


Good Running Shoes

I am going to get this one out of the way first as it is a no brainer. Just like a football player wouldn’t go out on the field without a helmet on, you shouldn’t go out on a run without properly protecting your feet! I know there have been trends over the years with barefoot running, but I highly recommend that you DO wear shoes and that you find ones that are the right fit for you.


I am a big supporter of local running stores – and recommend that you go to yours to find the best fit for you. I have worn a few different shoes over the years including these New Balance shoes and the Nike Free running shoes. Right now I have been running in my Allbirds Wool Runners and have LOVED them.


That being said I have a very narrow foot and since I was trained to run at a young age I have a very neutral gait with no pronation or supination (basically I run in a straight line and don’t rotate my feet in or out). For my friends that need more support I have a lot of running friends who swear by Brooks. If you are running and doing a high impact strength program like Cross Fit then I would recommend Reebok (running shoes and box jumps are not a good mix).


No matter what, if you do nothing else, invest in good running shoes. It will make the difference on both your ability, likelihood for injury, and maybe even if you decide to keep running.


Non-cotton Socks

I LOVE my Smart Wool running socks. I have put tons of miles on them and they have never cut my feet and have helped with avoiding blisters. I also really like these New Balance socks – and find them a little cooler so I tend to wear these in the hot summer months.


Non-cotton shirts

Why am I so against cotton? Because it is a sure way to get chaffing and cuts on your skin. Trust me, I learned this from experience – you need to run in a sweat wicking material so you aren’t soaked by the end of your run (remember cotton is absorbing) AND so you don’t cut your skin. I tend to run in my race shirts – and my favorite one is the Nike DriFit brand.


In the summer I will switch to a singlet – again just make sure it isn’t cotton.

In the winter – there is nothing better than a shirt with holes in the thumbs to help keep your hands warm. I love my Underarmour one.


For lady runners – you will need to get a good sports bra. I really love this one as it has a pocket in it to store lightweight items.



Again – NO cotton. I also like the shorts with a build in liner. I have two pair like the ones here and love that they are light weight and sweat-wicking.



It has to be pretty cold for me to switch to pants when I am running, but when I do my trusty Champion leggings have been my favorite – and I have literally had them for 10 years.


Short story – my first marathon was the City of Oaks in Raleigh, North Carolina in November 2008. The weather here that time of year can swing drastically with one day being in the 80s and the next day we have 35 degree temps. Of course, the night before the race they were calling for a major cold front – so I went to Target and bought the only leggings I could find which were the Champion ones – and they have been amazing. I really like that they have a small pocket I can fit my car key in for long runs (I often drive to get to a good starting spot for runs over 10 miles) and they tie at the top, so despite my weight being all over the place the last four years being pregnant then nursing then pregnant I have been able to wear these.


Hat & Ear Covering

I don’t love to wear hats when I run, but when it is raining I will to keep the water out of my face. I really like my Nike hat as it is lightweight and doesn’t hold the heat in.


Same for winter running, I get way too hot in a full hat (I have a lot of hair), so I wear ear covering like this one.



I will wear gloves, shorts and a t-shirt through most weather (I run hot – all the time – pun intended). I highly recommend running with the gloves that have a tech finger so you can change your music or check your mileage easily while on the run.


Side note: I always run with my phone. As a woman running solo, and often with children in tow, this is for safety. I actually do not listen to music while I run (again for safety – I want to be completely aware of my surroundings), so my phone is there to make sure I have it in an emergency. My only exception for this is during a race.



Other than shoes, this is the other item that I would recommend for distance runners. Currently, I am using the Apple Watch Series 3 (and I am little obsessed with it). That being said – this is a nice to have and definitely not necessary. There are free apps out there such as MapMyRun that can help you track your run, and you can always go old school and map out our mileage ahead of time (you can actually do this on the MayMyRun website for free).



If you are just getting started, what I outlined above is really all you need (non-cotton clothes and socks, good shoes, and something to keep the heat in when it’s cold). But there are a few other things to invest in if you are doing more than an hour of running at a time.


Body Glide

This stuff is magic at helping to avoid chaffing and blisters. It is also useful if you are doing a lot of walking on vacation. I usually put it under my arms, on my feet and my thighs if I am wearing shorts.


Handheld Water Bottle

If you are running for more than an hour I would bring some water with you. I prefer the handheld water bottles over belts. In my experience the belts have slowed me down during a race, and they have caused some pain in my lower back.


Lacrosse Ball

I use a lacrosse ball to get out any knots in my feet, back and legs post run.


There is a ton of gear available to runners, but just start with what you need for the distances you are going. If you are running for more than an hour or in the elements, you will need a bit more gear, but really starting with the basics will get you up and running!

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