Running is pretty simple when it comes to the gear you need. You’ll be using your feet 100% of the time, so you need shoes that can withstand all the foot-to-pavement impact while providing your feet with ample support. This will help you avoid injuries and run longer.
If you want to be all Spartan about it, that’s probably all you’ll need. That being said, you can’t really go running in your birthday suit unless you want to get nabbed for indecent exposure. So, if you’re new to the sport of running, we’ve compiled a guide that can help ease your transition from spectator to participant.
Barebones Running Gear
The good thing about running is you don’t need too much gear to start. Here are the essentials you need to avoid injuries and keep you dry.
Cross-trainers are good for the gym and maybe some light trail running, but not if you want to run long distances. If you’re really serious, go to a shoe store that has specialists who can determine your foot type and gait so they can advise you on what running shoes are perfect for your running style.
This is the first step, and by committing to this early on you’re making sure you and your feet last a long time in the game. Brands don’t really matter. What matters here is that you get a shoe that fits, is tailored to your gait and supports/cushions your feet from impact. If you’re still having trouble deciding, ask around. I personally use Nike while some of my running buddies use New Balance. Go with what feels right for you.
We all know that clothes make the man (or woman), but you don’t need designer sporting apparel or a matching outfit when running. When I was starting out, I was running in my old basketball uniform and it worked well for me. If you have old clothes from other sports such as tennis or soccer, you can use them when you’re just starting out. Just make sure that the clothes you choose are made from synthetic fabric combinations that wick away your sweat for easy evaporation, such as Dri-Fit, CoolMax or ClimaLite.
You need a pair of shorts, a few t-shirts, form-fitting underwear, a sports bra (for women) and socks made of moisture wicking fabric. Form-fitting underwear is needed to avoid chafing in the groin region and socks to avoid foot blisters. Your body and the track won’t care if you run in red soccer shorts and a green tennis shirt. As long as you stay warm and dry, you’ll enjoy your run better.
Basic running equipment
The UVA/ UVB radiation from the sun can easily damage your eyes and the thin layer of skin surrounding them. Prolonged sun exposure is known to make wrinkles worse and cause all sorts of skin problems, including skin cancer. Wear sunglasses that protect against the harsh UVA rays from the sun. Choose a pair that provides 100% UV protection and one that also covers the skin surrounding your eyes and the sides of your face, such as wraparounds. Wear a sun visor for added face protection and apply sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 on body parts that are exposed to the sun.
When you’re out for a fun 5k or a full 10k, with the sun beating down and no easy access to drinking water, you need to bring some. Don’t worry about energy food such as gels and bars when you’re just starting out. Save that for longer runs like full and half marathons. Go to a sporting goods store and look for a hydration bottle with a strap that you can easily slip your hand in. These are designed specifically for running, so the runner can easily take a sip and the bottle wouldn’t slip out of their hand. Look for one with extra pockets for spare change, ID and other small items.
Apply Vaseline to areas that are prone to chafing.
Extra Running Gear
Running is all about enjoying your run and having fun. For a lot of beginners, having some extra gear with them is important to keep them motivated.
Running can be boring and monotonous. If music helps keep you motivated, load an iPod with all your favorite songs and take it with you.
If timing your runs is important to you, you can get a watch that has a split time/lap time function for less than $50 to help with your pace. Don’t go all out and buy those expensive watches that have GPS tracking and a heart rate monitor. You won’t need it yet.
The Smartphone is great because it can take the place of your iPod and wristwatch. It also has GPS tracking and sports apps that can help you improve your running times. Map your runs with apps such as Endomodo, Runtastic and Couch25K. If you want to gamify your run, download Zombies, Run! and experience getting chased by zombies.
Cooler than a fanny pack, running belts can carry small items, including your phone (if it’s not gigantic).
Running sleeves and a beanie
When it’s cold and foggy outside, slip these on to keep yourself warm.
An Important note on Cotton
If you’re planning to run wearing anything made of cotton – socks, shorts or shirt – don’t even try. Cotton is good when it’s dry, but once you sweat, cotton gets wet, cold and heavy pretty damn fast. When wet, it interferes with your body’s natural cooling ability because it clings to your skin, so your sweat can’t evaporate naturally. A loose, wet tee also causes chafing due to friction, and will rub your nipples raw if you don’t take the necessary precautions. Cotton socks also get drenched with sweat and cause blisters, so invest in a few pairs of running socks made with synthetic fabric.
Time to get Running
That’s pretty much it. All you need is a professionally fitted running shoe that’s right for your feet and clothes that wick away your sweat to help promote the body’s natural cooling ability. I live in a hot and humid country, so sun protection and hydration are important to me and I never leave home without it. The rest is just gravy.
More reading -> How to conquer rhythmic breathing – a guide for new runners