Going into the running season of 2016, ok we are still a way off, but still, I wanted to share my favorite running gear. It’s only been about two years of real running for me, so I haven’t found the best items everywhere, but for the most part, I’ve at least found things that work well enough for me to finish three marathons and ten halves. Many of these items would work fine for other activities like cycling as well.
Mostly, I use what I found first. If it isn’t broken, I don’t try to fix it. Certain things I found to not work well and I’ll give those as well. You may want to stay clear of some of these.
The selfie stick doesn’t count as gear because I swear that I only used it for this picture. In any event, it was a free gift at a college fair I attended for work from another company. It’s the pretty nice kind with a button for capture, but I’d never run outside with it. At least if I do I’ll post the pictures here first.
I started with the Brooks Ghost 7s after doing a gait analysis at our closest running store. Though running full tilt on a treadmill in jeans probably isn’t super accurate as to how I normally run, I found these super comfortable. Since then, I also moved on to the Ghost 8s, added the similar Saucony Rides (last year’s and this year’s), and also got the Brooks Ravennas (pictured above) which have a little less support, but are also lighter. All seem pretty similar to me, so I’ll probably continue to rotate through them although my original pairs of both are pretty well shot and really only good for short runs now.
Any race shirt in technical fiber. I haven’t bought a single running shirt since starting to run except for two marathon shirts as a reward for finishing. For warm weather, I wear the t-shirts, and in colder, I have a Uniqlo heat tech shirt for warmth and wear one of the longer shirts I got from a race. More and more fall races seem to be giving out long sleeve shirts now which is awesome. If only some would give out things like shorts, socks, or gloves so I didn’t have to buy those.
Nike dryfit shorts. I pretty much rotate through about 5 pairs I have from the outlet store and clearance at the running store. I learned the lesson to only buy ones with pockets since I keep my nutrition stuff in them.
Thorlo Experia socks with padding. I also have two pairs of Bombas which are a bit flashier, but don’t have as much padding and sometimes cause blisters if I don’t put them on exactly right. The Thorlos are comfy, hard to put on wrong, and seem to keep my feet from blistering much. Because they are short though, my ankles get super dirty on runs.
Probably the most important item beside clothing, it took me some time to find the right watch. I now use the Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch for running as well as walks and hikes. Most importantly, it was clearly designed by runners with tracking that actually makes sense. It is super customizable with different metrics to track. Very importantly, the battery lasts nearly a week even with heavy use, and I’ve never had it die during a run. It’s also got built in GPS, so it doesn’t rely on my phone on runs. It does pair with the phone though for smart watch functionality and notifications. I can get text and Google Hangout notifications with full text right on my wrist without having to pull out my phone. My wife always texts me during races to tell me where she’ll be, so seeing this easily while on the run is super important.
It’s also got functionality to time manual laps, important on half and full marathons where the course markers don’t necessarily line up with the GPS measurements. I’m still exploring all the features, but so far it greatly surpasses my Pebble watch for running.
Last year I used a Pebble for most of my run tracking. I had it paired to my phone with Runkeeper running. The watch would show time, distance, and pace from the phone. However, I often had issues with pairing and with the connection dropping, thus making the watch a useless dead weight on my wrist during a run. It also didn’t have much of the functionality for tracking that my Garmin does. It would also die pretty quickly when in running mode. All these together had me ready to throw it off my wrist during three separate races last fall. Moving on to the Garmin has helped restore my sanity and blood pressure.
Fitbit Flex. This is the common Fitbit wrist tracker with no display. I don’t rely on this much for actual tracking of a run, but rather for general tracking of running and overall activity. It’s also nice for tracking sleep, especially since they updated it with automatic detection. Having to set it into sleep mode earlier was always something I’d forget to do.
Before this, I had the Zip, the little clip one. While I liked it just as much, and it seemed to actually stay paired to the phone a bit better, I was constantly breaking the clip or misplacing them. Fitbit’s awesome customer support helped me replace two, but moving to the wrist has been a big improvement.
Fuel Belt Helium 4 Bottle Belt. I started with the original Fuel Belt with 4 bottles, but after a race in NYC, a bottle popped off while crossing the street and a jerk in a cab ran over it. I was able to bend it back and after four washings in bleach, use it still. However, the cap never really fit right again and popped off mid run a few times. Luckily, my sister got me the new version for Christmas. The upgrades like the bigger pocket (phones got bigger) and better velcro are a nice touch. It’s still not enough water for marathon training, but will get me typically to at least 14 miles.
Free United belt I got at the New York City Half Marathon expo. It’s pretty light, water resistant with a silicone insulation, and big enough to hold my iPhone 6s. I prefer using pockets for food, and won’t typically use this for short runs, but on a race or longer training run, having a phone bouncing around in a pocket is no good.
Cold Weather Shirt / Vest
For cold weather, I typically just layer up, but when Asics had a nice sale this year, I upgraded my winter gear a bit with two items. A fleece vest is my last resort for freezing weather. I like the warmth without arm restriction, and the deep zippered pockets are nice for carrying extra water or snacks. It’s also reversible in theory, though I can’t imagine how gross and smelly it’d get after a run with the waterproof material against me. Second was a long sleeve shirt which is most notable for the long sleeves and finger holes which are great for keeping wind and cold out.
Cold Weather Tights
My main tights for cold days (or midnight runs) are also Asics. I’m not a huge fan of Asics shoes, but seem to love their cold weather clothing. I quickly got over any hesitation I felt to wear tights in public, though I do still tend to wear shorts over them. No one needs to see me me in tights alone. Anyway, these are cozy and help prevent chafing on longer, more bitterly cold runs as well.
I got these microfiber gloves on Amazon because they were cheap and had good reviews. I actually really like them as they allow some breathing, but are super warm. I never end up with cold hands on cold runs as a result. They do get pretty gamey after a sweaty run though. I almost threw them out when a little too warm on a run, but am glad I kept them.
I always use my hat from running both the East Hampton and Bridgehampton half marathons in 2014. Oddly, I’ve seen quite a few others in these hats at other races, so I must be on to something. Like the gloves, it is warm, but also gets really nasty after a run. I think I’ve shrunk it in the wash several times, but it keeps fitting somehow.
Honey Stinger waffles. I started off with Gu like everyone else, but kept having stomach distress and discomfort from them (apparently also like many others). At my UltraRunning co-worker’s suggestion, I switched to these waffles which are more food like, and haven’t turned back. My stomach must believe they are actual food because I never have issues with them. I also get a noticeable energy bump from them about 10 minutes after finishing one. The flavors are also much more natural than the GUs. I also usually eat a Cliff Bar before a longer race, though they do make my stomach feel like a brick is sitting in it. I really like the peanut butter and mint flavored ones though.
Yep, I just use the Apple ear buds that came with my phone. From so many smartphones, I have a whole drawer full of them, but find the length and fit of the Apple ones surprisingly better than anything else. The Samsung ones have too short of a cord and the HTC ones don’t stay in my ears. Apple’s are actually pretty comfortable as well, even after a few hours. The controls on the cord are nice when the phone is tucked away or when fingers are super sweaty.
I had a nice pair of Motorola wireless bluetooth headphones that I used to use too, but they mysteriously died. I planned on getting a replacement pair because I prefer not having cords wrapped around my arm while running, but with so many headphones in a drawer, couldn’t rationalize spending money on more.
GoPro Hero. Though I unfortunately forget this more often for races that I’d like, I have taken it on a few runs. Running with it attached to my head or chest looks strange, but is surprisingly comfortable. I typically forget about it after a few minutes. Holding it works as well but only for short runs. Sadly, most of my runs are pretty boring to watch back later. For any activity, it’s hard to beat a GoPro.
Last, but certainly not least, I use Glide for anti-chafing on any run longer than about 30 minutes. After forgetting this once, you never will again. It’s not something you would want to share with a running buddy, but it’s absolutely a necessity for longer runs. This is another example of a case where I found the highest reviewed product, tried it, and stuck with it because it works.
I hope this list helps some burgeoning runners decide which items to go with to minimize discomfort while on the run. I wouldn’t suggest all, especially things like a high end GPS watch until really in the swing of running as they can be distractions or overkill, but finding the right shoes and secondarily, socks, is pretty much the first thing anyone running should do. For these especially, consult an expert or your local running store. Don’t leave it to chance or some bored teenager at the mall. Choosing wrong can derail your running efforts.
These are my choices going into 2016, but several may change through the year. Who knows what 2016 will bring.