One of the things I love about running is the simplicity of it. To start running, you truly just need to put one foot in front of the other and start moving.
Over the course of my run streak, I think I have broken nearly all of the “rules” regarding what to wear while running. I’ve run in jeans, a regular bra, cotton sweatpants, old shoes, and I almost ran in flip flops on several occasions. For the most part, what you wear and bring on your run matters very little. The most important part is just to get up off the couch and go for a run.
However, paying attention to what you’re wearing can be crucial to helping your runs be more enjoyable and keeping you injury free, especially when you start increasing your mileage. I get asked lots of questions from people trying to find the best running clothes and gear. I don’t actually know what’s best, I just know what I use and what works for me. When it comes to my running (and most other areas of life), I tend to be really cheap, so I don’t usually go for the latest, top recommended product because it just doesn’t fit in my budget. I typically shop at Target, Meijer, or Amazon for most of my running clothes.
Since I get asked about running clothes, gear, products, and supplements so often, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of all of the items I have tried and use on a regular basis. Today, I’m sharing the everyday running clothes essentials that I try to wear or use for every single run, no matter how short. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it covers all of the essentials I have used over the past 460+ days of daily running, at least in the warm weather months. In future posts I will include suggestions for winter running, gear for longer runs (like fuel belts and water bottles), supplements, and fuel.
The rule of thumb I use for knowing how to dress for the weather is to always add about 20 degrees. This means if it’s 60 degrees outside when you’re getting ready for your morning run, you should dress like you are going to hang out on an 80 degree day. Sixty degrees might sound cool and comfortable, but once you get running your body will get warm.
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Good shoes are by far the most important, and the only truly essential gear you need to start a new running routine.
I always recommend starting with a good local running store. There they will (or should) watch you walk and run to see how your feet move and what kind of support you need. They can then recommend shoes that will work best for your particular running style (neutral, overpronator, underpronator, high arch, low arch, etc).
Once you know the style of shoe your feet love, you don’t need to keep going to the local running store and spending lots of money. I’ve found that buying new running shoes online or at a discount shoe store is much more favorable for my budget.
These are the shoes I’ve worn and loved in the past year or so:
New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 – These are my current and latest shoe.
New Balance WT410V4 – These are trail running shoes. Super comfortable and very affordable.
New Balance Vazee Pace – If I were going for speed, I would have these right now, but since I’m training for a marathon, I’m currently going for cushion and comfort in my shoe. But these shoes feel so lightweight!
If you are a woman and you want to run, you need a sports bra. Most sports bras have an impact rating, low impact, medium impact, and high impact. Even though I don’t have a lot of volume to support these days, I still always, always select a medium or high impact sports bra. Running is high impact, do yourself a favor and get a bra that matches that.
I have no recommendations for sports bras as I literally just grab a cute one that looks comfortable and supportive when I need to buy a new bra. Sports bra preferences can be very unique for each person, some people are very picky about their bras, and others (like myself) just grab any old bra and make do.
You can just grab a cotton t-shirt out of your closet and head out the door, but on the hot and humid days of summer, you’ll probably regret that decision about halfway around the block. Cotton sticks and clings and gets really heavy and uncomfortable when you start sweating. If you start to get serious about running, you’ll likely want to invest in some “technical” running clothes made out of synthetic fabrics that will help wick away your sweat to keep you cool and dry.
One of my favorite perks about running races is the shirts! I always, always make sure to sign up by the shirt deadline if the race offers a tech shirt, and I pay extra to get the shirt for races that don’t include them in the regular price. All of my running t-shirts are shirts from my past races.
I also have a good stack of running tanks or singlets. I’m not really picky about my running tanks. When it’s warm enough to wear a tank, I just want the least amount of fabric possible to keep me appropriately covered but also allow enough air-flow to keep me cool. (I have been known to run shirtless, in just a sports bra, on the really hot days. It always makes me a little self-conscious, but it feels one trillion times cooler when the air is really hot and heavy.)
Shorts and Capris
I’m fairly picky about the type of shorts I can wear on a run. The traditional running shorts (like these) that are somewhat loose in the legs and often have a built in underwear liner are terrible for me to run in. I do not have a thigh gap and never will. The loose fitting and short shorts tend to ride up and often causing chafing between my legs. No thank you.
I prefer snug fitting shorts with some length. You’ll often see a certain number of inches in the description of your shorts. That is the inseam. I’ve seen them as short as 2”. Measure the inside of your leg from your girly parts to 2” down the inside of your thigh and that’s all the coverage that you’ll get from 2” shorts. Yowsa’s!
I stick with shorts that have at least a 7” inseam. This might be too long for some people, but if you have trouble with your thighs rubbing together, I promise, you will thank me. Put your legs together and measure your inseam down to where there is a gap. I have several 9” shorts that are my favorites. I’d rather be slightly warm on my run from wearing long shorts than having to deal with the discomfort of chafed skin for days.
If you struggle with your shorts riding up or chafing on your legs no matter what, then I’d suggest sticking with capris. Capris are my favorite to run in unless the weather is really warm. I never have to worry about any skin touching and capris never ride up.
Here are some shorts and capris I’d recommend:
You likely don’t need anything fancy in regards to socks. Don’t wear fancy dress socks and you’re probably good. I have a couple packs of these C9 Champion socks from Target and they work just fine.
I do wear compression socks and sleeves on occasion. I used to wear them on every long run, now I tend to wear them in the recovery periods after long runs. If you struggle with shin splints or tight/sore calves when you run, then you need to find some compression socks or sleeves. They are pricey, but they are well worth it.
I must have a good headband to keep my hair in place. My favorite headbands are from Hippie Runner. They have pretty ones and hilarious ones. I also have some from Fit Chic Headbands that I really like as well.
The only other thing I always make sure to wear/have on a run is a way to track it. If you don’t have digital evidence of your run, did it really happen?
I track all of my workouts using the MapMyFitness app on my phone. This does mean that I take my phone on all of my runs. I’ve heard some people complain about this as they want to fully disconnect from the digital world while on their runs. I actually want my phone with me on my runs for safety reasons, so I always bring it. Once I start the app, I rarely look at my phone while running, so I still feel plenty disconnected from the digital world.
I also have a very old Garmin Forerunner that I wear on occasion. I’ve found my Garmin to be really helpful to be able to watch my pace more easily on runs where I really want to make sure I hit a specific pace goal or when I’m running intervals.
All day, everyday I wear a FitBit Flex. I don’t officially track my runs through the FitBit app, but it does of course pick up all my steps. At some point I do plan to upgrade all of these into one single tracking device, but I haven’t yet decided which device to go with. (If you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments.)
So there you have it. These are all of the essential items I wear or use for every single run. When my runs go beyond 2-3 miles, I start to add in additional gear. Stay tuned for a follow up post in a couple weeks with more details on belts, bottles, headphones, and more.
Today’s Action Step:
Lace up your shoes and go for a run, walk, bike ride, or other workout. Move your body for at least 10 minutes today. Let me know in the comments what your favorite workout activity is during the summer months. Also, do you have any workout clothing or gear that you can’t live with out? Share it with me in the comments.
I don’t recommend making it your goal to lose weight. Want to know what I suggest instead? See this post on Why Weight Loss Should Never Be Your Goal.