As I sit here with sunburned legs and a twinge of soreness in my quad muscles, I have been thinking about some of my favorite things to use when I run. There are all kinds of reviews out there, both positive and negative, for all sorts of running products. I have used these reviews in the past to decide whether or not I want to purchase a product, as I am sure many of you have as well. (Side note: There are no companies paying me to promote their products. Everything I talk about in this post is because I truly think it is a great product and worth talking about!)
The most important piece of gear a runner owns is a pair of running shoes. My first two pairs of shoes were just some shoes I bought at Kohl’s, one pair of Reeboks because I liked the color of them, and one pair of Asics because they were one of the only pair that fit comfortably. I ran in both of the pairs until they were past worn out. My legs let me know about it every time I ran more than seven miles! So, last summer, my running friend and I took an adventure to a running shoe specialty store down the road called Fleet Feet Sports. The staff is specially trained to look at your feet and stride to choose the best pair of running shoes for you. They even let you put on the shoes and run around the parking lot a few times to really get a feel for them! I tried on about four pairs of shoes, and in the end, I decided on a pair of Asics Gel-Cumulus. They had just enough cushion, but were not so soft that they felt like the they would be flattened as soon as I ran a few miles in them. The biggest part of my decision was the padding in the back of the ankles. The backs of my ankles have always been very narrow, which has made it difficult to buy shoes in the past. So many times, they “flop.” (The shoes do not stay on my feet. They come off my heels every time I take a step.) Both pairs of Asics I owned have more padding in the back of the shoe than any other brand I tried. My Gel-Cumulus running shoes took me 26.2 miles through Philadelphia last year, and they are still going strong!
I am also pretty particular about the socks I wear while running. I have two pairs of Nike DriFit socks that were given to me as a gift by two students a couple of years ago. I have yet to find socks made of the exact same material, but I have other pairs of Nike DriFit socks that work well. The socks I love (which I always wear on race days) have a moisture wicking feel to them, with extra padding in the heels and toes. There is also a tab that comes up the back of the socks to help prevent rubbing and blisters on the back of the heels.
Another piece of equipment is actually something I did without for quite a while. It is not essential, but it is really handy! A couple years ago, my husband bought me a Garmin VivoFit2 fitness tracker for Christmas. (For the record, I did not ask him for it. He just thought it would be a really good idea. He was right!) It tracks steps, sleep, distance, and length of workouts. It is small, stylish, easy to use, and replacement bands can be purchased so you can change up your style! It syncs to my SmartPhone through the Garmin app, and all the data it collects is stored there. It does not have a rechargeable battery. I have had this watch for about a year and a half and I have not had to replace the battery yet. This watch meets all my needs. For someone looking for something with a lot of bells and whistles, this is not the fitness watch for you. This particular model does not come with a heart rate monitor, and is not equipped with GPS capabilities. The distance tracker is based off of steps, so I have found that depending on my running pace, it is not always exactly accurate. But if you are running five miles or less, it is usually really close.
For those of you with a desire for something a little more high tech, my running friend has a FitBit Surge. It has all kinds of capabilities! It has a heart rate monitor, tracks running distance off of GPS, shows alerts for text messages and phone calls, and so much more that I am not even aware of! She finds it quite handy. One thing she did mention was the battery is rechargeable and she generally needs to charge it every five days or so, more often if she runs more frequently and longer distances.
One of the great things about running is that it does not require special clothing. You could really just grab something comfortable and go run. I have become a little more picky than that with my choice of running clothing. I have found that cotton is not my favorite to run in. I almost always wear a more “tech, ” moisture wicking material (polyester, etc.) I rarely buy expensive running clothing. It just gets stinky and sweaty after a while anyway! The majority of my running clothes come from Boscovs, Burlington, and Wal-Mart.
For running in colder weather, I have a couple pairs of pants that are my favorites. For running in very cold conditions, I have a pair of fleece-lined, Fila brand pants that come from Kohl’s. (I am fairly certain there was a sale going on and I had gift cards!) They fit perfectly and they are so warm!
For colder days that are not quite as frigid, I have a pair of Jockey running pants. They are not lined. They are comfortable, just warm enough, and they got me through 26.2 miles of mild torture! The waistband is wide, so they are actually kind of flattering, plus they do not slide down while I am running!
For warmer days, I have a pair of Old Navy capri pants that are fantastic! I have had them for quite a few years and they are still holding strong! The waistband is wide, doesn’t slide down, and has a zipper pouch built in the back to hold some small belongings. Speaking of Old Navy, my running friend has a pair of Old Navy running shorts that she wears quite often. They are stylish and work really well! She wore them when we ran a half marathon in Erie last summer!
Running tops…oh, running tops. In the summer, I like to wear lightweight racerback tanks. I believe almost every single one I own comes from Wal-Mart, and they work great! They are nothing fancy and they are inexpensive, but they get the job done!
I have a favorite short sleeved running shirt. It is made by Reebok, and it is bright pink, which is what originally caught my eye! It was either on sale at Boscov’s or Burlington. It is lightweight and not too clingy, yet flattering.
In the colder months, I tend to gravitate toward quarter-zip pullovers. I have one pink camouflage top from Legendary Whitetails and a bright orange Reebok top. I think they were both gifts from my husband, although I know the Reebok one was for sure. (The Legendary Whitetails pullover came from a catalog, and the Reebok pullover came from Dick’s Sporting Goods.) I am almost certain these are the two most expensive pieces of running clothing that I have, but they are well worth it! The pink top is buttery soft on the inside, and just warm enough to be comfortable in fall weather. It is also great for layering! The Reebok top is made of a thicker, warmer material that feels almost padded. It is nice and warm, works well for layering, but also feels nice against my skin.
My ears get cold very easily while running, even if it does not seem that chilly outside. Any kind of wind hitting my ears makes for an unpleasant run. So, to combat this, I have three different ear warmers/headbands. One is very thin, and made of moisture wicking material. It was in a $1.00 cart at Wal-Mart, so I thought it would not hurt to grab one and give it a try. Boy, was I glad I did! It is not the fanciest thing, but one moderately cold days, it does a great job of keeping the wind off of my ears! For days that are a little cooler, I have a reversible headband from Gone For a Run, given to me as a gift by my running friend. And for really chilly days, I have a pink camouflage ear warmer from Wal-Mart that is made of the heaviest material of the three and lined with a fur-like material.
The last piece of equipment I am going to talk about is not essential, but very handy! As my running buddy and I began running longer distances and the days kept getting hotter, we knew we needed to carry water and fuel with us, but we didn’t want to take a backpack or literally carry them in our hands. So we both invested in FlipBelts. They are material belts with one zipper pouch and openings all the way around. It is really just like a tube going around your waist. I was so happy I bought this! There is a hook on the inside for keys, my iPhone 6 fit perfectly, (random tip: I have found that putting my phone in a plastic zipper sandwich bag prevents it from getting inundated with moisture from all the sweating that happens during summer running) and even though you would think that everything would slide around and fall out…it does not! My running friend shoved an entire water bottle into her belt, and while it bounced up and down, it did not move! I purchased two flat, plastic water bottles specifically designed to fit in the FlipBelt, and they work really well for carrying hydration with me. I also use this belt if I am running at alone, and even though I am just going a short distance, I need to take my house key and phone with, for safety sake. Rather than carrying these things and running the risk of losing them, I just put them in my FlipBelt.
So, those are a few of my favorite running things! I hope this was helpful, if you are looking to start running, or even if you have been running for a while, but want to try out some new gear! Running does not have to break the bank. Most of my running clothes come from clearance or sale racks at already inexpensive stores. And they work just fine!
I would love to hear about some favorite running gear that you have! Whether it be a shoe preference, or a favorite pair of running pants that you love to wear, please feel free to comment and help out everyone in the running community!