The Fit Life Guide to Running Clothes and Accessories
To be honest, you really don’t need any new gear to take up running, but the correct running clothes and accessories can make the process more enjoyable. These are some of the things that could come in handy out on the open road. Let’s take it from the top.
Waterproof sunblock, a hat and sunglasses are a top priority if you intend to spend any time working up a sweat under the burning rays of the sun. Even an early morning session can result in sun damage, so don’t take any chances, looking after your skin is just as much a part of leading a fit life.
Likewise, protecting your eyes from sun-induced glare should be a priority. The main criteria when choosing sunglasses for running are:
- Weight – you want the lightest pair you can get while still giving good coverage
- Photochromatic lenses that adjust according to the amount of sunlight
- Slim, non-slip temples
- Prescription lenses if needed
When trying sunglasses on, jog on the spot, shake your head and bend forwards. You want a pair that stays put no matter what. The best running sunglasses are the ones you can forget about seconds after you place them on your head.
Shirts for Running
The best running clothes for beginners are anything that allows you to move freely and easily. Once the fitness bug has bitten, you can expand your wardrobe to include some outfits specifically designed for your chosen sport.
One of the main considerations when choosing a running shirt is comfort and this depends on 3 factors:
- Seams that are flat against the fabric to reduce rubbing (taped seams are best)
- Fabric that is lightweight (dry fit is great) and dries quickly such as polyester
- Mesh panelling for breathability
Other factors which are nice to have include UV resistant fabrics and odour control. Reflectivity is also important if you are going to be on the road in the dark and avoid darker colored tops which attract the sun.
Running Belts and Backpacks
A well-fitting belt, or even a backpack for long-distance and trail runners, keeping a few on-the-road essentials to hand should be near the top of your running equipment list. The options are endless and mainly dependent on your need.
A running belt should hang between the widest part of your hips and must not interfere with your stride or balance. Silicon grippers on the inside and an adjustable elastic strap will ensure maximum comfort.
Neoprene belts are lightweight and waterproof, making them the first choice among runners.
The pouches on the belt should be easily accessible without having to undo zippers, velcro and flaps. Some pouches come with their own water bottles or you can buy your own. You must be able to reach the water bottle pouches easily with one hand.
Make sure your water bottles have a quick-flow spout and a silicon mouthpiece.
Some of the bells and whistles that come with belts include:
- Energy gel loops
- A sunglasses pouch
- Reflective strips or luminous colors for visibility
- An inside pocket for cash, cards and ID
- A pouch for your cell phone
Running with your phone is a necessity in case of emergency, but it also comes in handy if you like listening to music while you pound the tarmac. If you don’t want to keep your phone in your running belt, you can opt for an armband strap for your phone but this can be a red flag to would be thiefs!
When it comes to earphones, you have a choice between bluetooth earbuds or headphones that attach with a cord, depending on your make of phone and preferences.
Your legs are doing most of the work during a running session, so it’s very important to choose correctly fitted, comfortable and lightweight pants.
There are three main types of running shorts:
- Compression: Compression garments are tight fitting and can assist with your recovery time after a run. They are typically longer than the other types of running shorts and have inbuilt support, much like cycling chamois.
- V-Notch: These are the most common type of running shorts and feature a v-cut out from about 1 inch below the hem. This kind of short allows for a wider range of movement and air flow while running than if the outer seam was sewn all the way down.
- Split shorts: Split shorts are almost the same as V-notch shorts, except the split begins at the waistband. The front and back of the shorts overlap and there are no side seams.
Additional Extras in Running Shorts
While you do get unisex running shorts, it’s better to choose your shorts by gender. Running shorts are designed to offer maximum support where needed depending on whether you are male or female. Men’s running shorts also tend to be longer than women’s shorts and offer enough groin support to eliminate the need for a jock strap.
Some women prefer to wear longer leggings when running which is another option, but they are best kept for winter as they do get hot, and can often cause the legs to feel lethargic.
Running shorts are designed to be worn without underwear to reduce chafing and infection.
Like running tops, shorts are available in a huge range of designs and colors.
Unfortunately, synthetic polyester fabrics offer the best breathability and are quicker drying than natural ones. If you are concerned about the environmental impact of synthetic fabrics, you can buy recycled polyester running clothing.
Running Shoes, Socks and Underwear
Your feet take even more of a pounding than your legs do. The importance of choosing properly fitting, supportive running shoes cannot be overestimated.
You shouldn’t skimp on your choice of running shoes, socks and a good running bra specially designed for high-impact activity. Always buy the best brand you can afford.
Socks are more important than you think. Hot, sweaty feet are prone to chafing and blisters. Cotton fabrics are great for every day wear, but they’re a no-no for running. You want to wrap your feet in a moisture-wicking material like polyester, a wool-nylon blend or acrylic fabric.
Socks designed for running are specially cushioned to support and protect your feet. They should have a tight feel in the middle of your foot and at the heel, but never restrict your toes. Choose socks with a deep heel pocket and seamless toes.
You get different kinds of socks and shoes for different kinds of running. Trail running variations will have extra padding to protect your feet, while road and track items will be correspondingly lighter.
Sock length is a matter of personal preference and you do get running socks in crew, full-length and no-show varieties (although these tend to slip). You can also get socks with individual sections for each toe.
Try on a few pairs with your running shoes to get the perfect fit. It’s important to remember that your running shoes and your socks must work together to keep your feet cool and dry.
Once you’ve invested in all the necessary running equipment for beginners, you can start to expand your collection of gear with some extra features that make for a comfortable run.
A specialized running watch helps you to keep track of your time and reach for your goals. They come with GPS capability and the ability to track the number of calories burned, your pace and distance. Many even have a heart monitor included.
Most of these features can be activated by downloading the relevant apps on your cellphone if you prefer to use that. However, it is convenient to have all this information strapped to your wrist in plain sight, hence the invention of the Smart watch which combines the best features of both.
Running Clothes for Winter
The race must go on regardless of weather conditions, so there may be times when you need to compete or train in less than ideal weather.
There is a vast choice of cold climate running gear available, from shoe attachments that can handle snow and ice, to layers of thermal running clothes for winter that ward off the cold and moisture. A thermal base layer allows you to use your body heat for warmth without overheating, while a lightweight jacket will break the wind and repel moisture. Merino wool is a top choice for base layers as it wicks away perspiration quickly.
Tights are great for cold-weather running, but you may want to consider a pair of wind-resistant pants on blustery days.
Start Your Collection
Unless you’ve got a lot of cash to spare, it’s likely that you’ll need to start building up your collection of running clothes one item at a time. Start with a good pair of shoes and socks and work your way up. Whatever you do, don’t give up on your fit life goals because you don’t have the perfect kit.
Remember, it’s better to have the running skills than have “all the gear, and no idea’, so build your running essentials over time as you begin to understand your style, distance and needs. Adjust your workouts according to what you have, until you have it.
If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there sooner than you think.