Running is meant to be simple, right? It seems that long gone are the days when people literally just laced up their shoes and got out there. There always seems to be a new ‘must have’ piece of gear, gadget or accessory to support our training and our quests for that elusive new PB in the next race. When Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens, it is unlikely that he was wearing a T-shirt made from special moisture managing material or a sports watch on his wrist to keep him on pace for a negative split. The only piece of high tech gear he required was probably some sturdy shoes to protect his feet and to last until he reached his destination to deliver the news of victory against the Persian army.
As a dedicated runner who takes her racing game seriously, I do feel thankful that there are so many great technological inventions we can leverage in this day and age, to give us the extra edge to enhance our sports performance or to make our lives easier. However, I do feel that running can become a very costly pastime if you just mindlessly buy into the latest trends and buzz-word products, without considering their usefulness to you. Having many years of running and racing experience behind my back, I have come up with a definitive list of ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ items. Hopefully you will find these lists helpful, if you are keen to step up your running game, but are unsure of what items to save up for/prioritise investing into and which ones are best to pop onto your gift list for Santa’s next visit.
‘Must have’ running gear and miscellaneous items
1. Proper shoes
To identify the best type of shoe and brand, I strongly recommend getting a gait analysis done at a sports clinic or running shop. If you are prescribed insoles, I suggest that you get these tailor made so that they are moulded to fit the unique shape of your feet. Ill-fitting shoes may not only lead to discomfort but could also potentially pave the way for future injuries.
2. High quality clothing
Try to opt for technical fabrics and design which will not only last you longer, but also provide best comfort and smart features to help focus on your performance. Buy the best you can afford and remember that ultimately, it is not about quantity but about the quality of the things you wear. Avoid cotton and other heavy materials which do not let your skin breathe and lock moisture in, causing chafing and other skin problems.
3. Sports watch (or other tracking device)
The ability to track and monitor your stats will not only help you see your progress, giving you the extra motivation when working towards specific goals, but could also help keep your training on track if you have a particular time goal for a race. If you are unsure what kind of watch to get, DC Rain Maker have very comprehensive reviews on their website.
4. Injury prevention/recovery kit
To become a better runner, just running more or harder is not going to cut it. It is often how well you look after your ‘running engine’ is what becomes the real game-changer. By regularly performing strength conditioning exercises, working on your flexibility, and applying myofascial release techniques, you can ensure that you are in tip top condition for your runs and minimise your risk of injuries. The essential items I recommend are a sturdy foam roller with ridges, a smaller massage ball, and various elastic bands for strengthening specific muscles.
5. Access to a reliable physiotherapist and/or osteopath
It is often tempting to turn to google search when we get bogged down with a persistent niggle or an injury. However, a good physiotherapist/osteopath will not only help you get back on your feet quicker by prescribing treatment for your symptoms, but will also be able to identify the root cause of your problems, helping you to proactively work on your weaknesses. This, in turn, could minimise your chances of getting re-injured and having to put your running on hold.
6. First-aid kit
If you run a lot, it is almost certain that you will experience niggles and soreness from time to time. The must-have items in my first aid kit include Tiger balm, epsom salt, a hot patch stuffed with medicinal herbs, an ice pack, a wax stick (to prevent chafing and the formulation of blisters) and blister shield plasters.
‘Nice to have’ running gear and miscellaneous items
Workaround: wear your normal sunglasses.
2. Head torch and other reflective accessories
Workaround: run in the daylight.
3. Storage ‘on the go’ such as running belt/fanny pack/arm band
Workaround: smart clothes with pockets/hold stuff in your hand.
4. Bottle/hydration bladder
Workaround: just use a regular, recycleable water bottle.
5. Sports supplements such as gels, protein bars and powders
Workaround: make your own snacks.
6. Running club or gym memberships
Workaround: there are plenty of free workouts on the Internet.
7. Magazine subscriptions
Workaround: read online magazines or browse around in the library.
8. Running coach/personal trainer
Workaround: there is plenty of free advice on the Internet.
9. Music player device including headphones
Workaround: run without music, it can be fantastic, especially on trail runs.
10. Running backpack
Workaround: store your stuff in a locker at work.
11. Training holidays abroad
Workaround: c’mon, you can train whenever and wherever you like!
12. Pepper spray or panic button
Workaround: run during times when it is safe such as in the daylight, in areas you are familiar with or go with someone else.
Workaround: there are plenty of free events such as weekly parkruns, Adidas and Nike running clubs etc.
14. Trophy holder/medal display
Workaround: make your own or ask the Hubby! Could be fun doing a bit of DIY 🙂
15. Video recording devices to capture your running adventures
Workaround: how about using your smart phone to make videos?
Conclusions about running gear
As I mentioned earlier, running could easily turn into a costly hobby. However, hopefully, by focussing on what you really need, you can keep the costs down and avoid having to frequently reach into your pockets. For example due to lesser quality gear wearing out too quickly, you could end up having to replace them frequently. Similarly, you could keep getting (re)injured due to poor fitting shoes and not cultivating a recovery/conditioning routine, and then end up having to dig much deeper for specialist treatment.
As you have probably spotted, amongst other things, I mentioned technical clothing on the ‘must have’ items list. I did not include this out of snobbery. The truth is that I have underappreciated high quality technical clothing, until I tried some. I used to wear the same clothes for my running as for my gym workouts. However, when I gave technical running wear a go, I noticed a real difference in how I felt during my runs.
A great example for this is my current favourite outfit for running – the Women’s Accelerate Jacket and the Women’s Finish Advantage Running Tights, both from Asics, which were very kindly sent to me by Millet Sports to try and review.
I would like to say upfront that apart from running in Asics shoes (I swear by the Gel Cumulus), I have never tried their clothing range, so I was curious to see how they compare with other brands I have worn before.
Firstly, I ‘christened’ the jacket during the Hampton Court Half Marathon at the end of February. Its beautiful ‘diva blue’ colour really made me stand out from the crowds on the race photos and indeed I felt like a diva posing with the royal guests, ‘Henry VIII’ and the ladies of his court. The jacket has two good sized chest pockets which I found really handy to store my energy gel and tissues in, eliminating the need to wear a fidgety running belt. Another thing I really love about this jacket is how light weight it is, you barely notice you are wearing anything, yet it keeps you warm enough on cooler days. Generally, the less accessories I need to wear during a race, and the lighter my outfit feels, the more freely I am able run, which makes a huge difference when I am on my feet for a couple of hours. Talking about comfort, I have found the jacket to be a perfect size S (small) in terms of slim fit and the sleeves reaching down to my wrists. This was an important aspect for me as unfortunately, some other brands I have tried in the past automatically make the sleeves short when they make their products in size small, thinking that all people with petite builds have short arms! The jacket is made with ‘motion protect’ technology, so I felt well protected from the occasional wind during the race, and thanks to its waterproof properties, I could have easily survived a bit of rain, too. One thing I needed to get used to was the zip, though. At first, it was slightly tickling my neck when pulled up fully, however, I managed to get over it in a few minutes and later even completely forgot about it touching my neck.
As for the tights, I normally wear size XS (extra small) with most brands, however, with these Asics tights, I had to go up to size S. I put this down to the fact that these are naturally designed to be tight, high compression tights with ‘muscle support’ technology, rather than me having had too much cake lately. I have to admit that it took me some time to get used to the snug fit (I have never worn compression clothes before), however, as I eased into my runs, the tights have started to feel like a ‘second skin’. The compression bands which are placed around the knee, calf and tummy areas give me a sense of stability and extra support when I run in these tights. This particularly feels great around my knees as I have a dodgy left knee. If you like figure-shaping sports wear with a bit of ‘tummy tuck’ effect, you will definitely love this feature around the waist. Despite the tights designed to be tight, I never felt restricted moving in them, I even did a yoga class straight after one of my runs and I have to say that the tights have passed that ultimate test, too! (Even though I am not trying to advocate that you should be using compression wear for yoga!). One other feature I also appreciate is a tiny pocket for your key under the waist band on the left hand side so you can keep your hands free. Finally, just like the jacket, these tights are also made of supreme quality material – I really loved the luxurious, sheer lycra look and feel.
Both the jacket and tights have some reflective details with a discretely placed Asics logo and name, so you can be easily seen if you head out for a run in the dark.
Has this article convinced you to rethink what you invest into when it comes to running? What is on your list of ‘must have’ items for running?