Mar 25, 2015

New Runner Gear Guide

Running newbie? Here's everything you need.

So you've decided to start a running program...

That's awesome! Running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, the most efficient means of burning calories, and it often comes with an amazing community of people who share your interests.

Running is often labeled as "the simple sport that doesn't require any expensive gear." While you don't need any fancy, expensive equipment, there are some key pieces of gear that you will probably want to purchase in order to have the best running experience possible. 

Let's start with obvious. Shoes are the single most important piece of running gear you can buy! Finding the right pair is slightly more complicated than simply choosing an on-sale pair that looks cool.

That's why you need to get fitted. A good local running specialty store can assess your feet, gait, and running goals and steer you to the perfect pair for your unique needs.

Your running specialty store fit process should determine whether you need a stability shoe (one with medial support to offset overpronation) or a neutral shoe (one that lacks medial support to accommodate a neutral or supinating footstrike).

Once they’ve decided which is right for you, keep an open mind as you try on several different brands and styles within your specified category. Finding the right running shoe is an extremely individual thing, and you want to choose the one that fits your foot the best and feels the most natural and comfortable to you.

Keep in mind that this will be a different shoe for everyone, and the shoe that works great for your "serious runner friend who runs marathons" is not necessarily also the best shoe for you.

A few shoe fitting best practices to keep in mind:

  •   Bring your current pair of running shoes with you. Your forefoot wear pattern paints a picture for shoe-fitting staff about how well your old shoes worked for you from a support standpoint. Having your old shoes handy will also help to describe to shoe store sales staff what you liked and/or didn't like about your old shoes so they can cater selections for you to try.
  •   It is the running specialty industry's general rule of thumb that you should replace your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles. This means that if you have been running in your shoes consistently for 6 to 9 months or longer, it’s probably time for a fresh pair. Also, keep in mind that even non-running miles count towards that 300 to 500 mile expiration date. Maximize the mileage you get out of your shoes by saving them exclusively for running.

Repeat your new runner gear shopping mantra after me: Cotton is rotten!

This little nugget of wisdom is applicable to all running apparel, but for now, let's just chat about socks. Choose socks that are made of "technical material," meaning fabric that wicks moisture away from the foot. Synthetics and wool both manage moisture well, while cotton absorbs it, thus increasing your risk for sock bunching and stretching, which can lead to (gasp!!!) nasty foot blisters! No, thank you!

Keep your feet happy, dry, and ultimately blister free with a good pair of technical socks. Chances are any given pair of socks you might purchase at a running store will meet this description!

Ladies, you're going to need an excellent sports bra.

I dare say that this one is equal in importance to shoes for the ladies. Trust me, you will have an infinitely more enjoyable and comfortable running experience if the girls are adequately supported. Obviously, the bustier you are, the more support you will need.

Again, get fitted. A local specialty store or athletic apparel boutique should be able to size you and assist with style selection that is tailored to your needs. And don't worry; there are plenty of great high impact styles available.

The general rule of thumb with sports bras is that you shouldn't keep any one longer than a year. After a year's worth of use, your bra's elasticity stretches and decreases to the point that it no longer offers the support required to keep you comfortable and bounce-free for running.

Remember the aforementioned running gear shopping mantra? Yes, the one about cotton. Again, you are looking for a synthetic short that wicks moisture away from the body.

In theory, any short that is marketed as a running short should, in fact, be moisture wicking. Additionally, any so-called "running short" (with the exception of short tights) should have a built-in brief or compression short. You can wear underpants with your running shorts if you want, but this built-liner is intended to serve as an underwear substitution. And remember that the more layers you have going on under your shorts, the greater the potential for chaffing. Especially if any of said under-layers are cotton.

Of course the choice to go commando or not is yours and yours alone, but if it's something you've always dreamed of trying a running short present a fine, socially acceptable opportunity to do so. And if not, there are a number of great, moisture-wicking under-garments available for guys and gals alike.

Repeat your running gear shopping mantra once again. Now head to the nearest running store and pick out a nice dry-fit fabric technical shirt. Again, there is an excellent chance that any number of tops you might select at any running or sporting goods store will meet this criteria.

As with cotton socks, cotton shirts will absorb moisture and quickly become saturated and clingy when wet. A technical fabric shirt will keep you drier and more comfortable for longer, and decrease your odds of unfortunate chafing, particularly in the nipple area if you are male, or otherwise opposed to sports bras.

Ok, so this may not exactly fall into the "gear" categories, but chafing is an issue that runners do frequently encounter. It can crop up anywhere... inner thighs, underarms, the sports bra line area for women, the nipples for men, toes, and the list goes on.

Chafing is caused by friction between your skin and your clothing, and it typically happens when clothes become saturated with moisture (becoming clingy) or when they just plan don't fit properly.

Chafing can be avoided or prevented by applying an anti-chafing product, usually some type of water-based roll-on lubricant that resembles deodorant. Not a bad investment if you ask us!

Sometimes it's nice to know how far and fast you are running. A GPS watch can supply this information, and often so much more! GPS watch price points range from ~$100.00 to ~$500.00. Often, the online interface for any given brand is consistent across watches and price points, but the options that are available on the watch itself increase and evolve as prices go up.

Many GPS watches are also compatible with or sold with a heart rate monitor if you want to try heart rate training. It has been my experience the further I go and the faster I get, the more I value the pace and distance data my watch provides.

The GPS watch is also a popular tool for athletes who employee a walk/run interval training program. Many models come equipped to time and alert you of multiple distance and/or time intervals. And obviously, you are going to need a watch in order to upload your exercise data to SportTracks for further analysis. Visit our friend DC Rainmaker's blog for amazingly detailed reviews of pretty much every GPS watch product on the market!

Want this article in infographgic form? 
Click here for the full image: