Perhaps Haruki Murakami put it best when he said that “In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” Because let’s face it. For all of the competitive energy that comes with the sport — whether during training runs with friends or on race day amongst the masses — ultimately, your times matter more to you than anyone else. And that’s okay. If anything, the ability to constantly contest yourself and chip away at a new personal best is one of the most rewarding qualities of running. In no other activity is the judge as objective as is the count on the clock.
But in order to prepare yourself for that record-breaking performance, you first have to get the right gear. And while you might think that it’s as simple as slapping on some flashy shoes and a pair breathable athletic shorts, these days, the running industry is bigger and more diverse than ever. As such, there’s an abundance of options to choose from — in everything from socks to singlets to smartwatches — each suited to a different kind of athlete. If you’re not sure where to begin, we understand — there are only so many types of midsole technology that any one person can digest. Thankfully, we’re well-steeped in the space and have the knowledge to get you sorted. Below we’ve broken down a selection of gear for a variety of runners, with relevant recommendations included along the way.
Essentials For The Oval
Although most people associate tracks with timed mile efforts in middle school, runners flock to them because they’re ideal settings for speedwork, what with their flat surface and lack of obstacles in the way. Whether you’re training for a 5k or logging miles for a marathon, it’s to your advantage to improve your engine’s output.
Tiger Tail Massage Stick
A proper warmup is the first step towards a record-setting performance, and it helps to have the right tool for the task. With its cushioned cover and no-slip grip, the Tiger Tail Massage Stick makes for a great way to get your muscles primed and ready to go. Come time to cool down, you’ll also be able to break up any knots that have developed from the day’s effort, ensuring that you feel fresh enough for the week ahead.
Janji 3″ AFO Split Short
If you’re a true speed demon, split shorts are the way to go. And, as with any serious running endeavor, the shorter the better. At 3″ long, Janji’s AFO Split Short does just the ticket, giving you everything you need — including a moisture-wicking liner, a spacious zip pocket, and lots of reflective detailing — and nothing you don’t. But the best part is that because they’re bluesign certified and made from 88% recycled polyster, they’re also sustainable and planet-friendly.
Nike Aeroswift Singlet
Worn by top endurance athletes worldwide, the Nike Aeroswift Singlet is a must-have addition to your track workout wardrobe. It’s made from lightweight recycled polyster and cut with a slim fit, offering a tailor-made feel that’ll have you wondering if it’s even there. And thanks to its moisture-wicking Dri-FIT fabric and targeted ventilation holes, it offers the ultimate one-two punch in provisions for delivering maximum breathability. Nike may have a hand in everything from swimming to skateboarding, but it’s still a running brand through and through.
Theragun Mini Massage Gun
While the above option from Tiger Tail makes for a good start in your post-workout recovery efforts, if you really want to give your muscles some TLC, be sure to grab the Mini Massage Gun from Theragun. In addition to being incredibly portable, it’s also surprisingly potent for such a small package. For instance, it comes with a QX35 Motor featuring Theragun’s patented QuietForce Technology, a generous 150-minute battery life, and three different settings to perfectly dial in your preferred speed.
Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro
While true track aficionados should spring for a pair spikes, most runners will be set with some racing flats. At only 3.9oz, the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro is one of the absolute lightest shoes on the market. Add to that a low-profile SpeedTrac outsole for improved ground feel and a Floatride Foam midsole for responsive cushioning, and you have a pair of runners that are sure to get you a new personal best.
Polar Vantage V2
The Polar Vantage V2 is a smartwatch well-suited to use on the track because of its built-in performance test functionality. In practice, this means that you can quickly determine your personalized training zones — across heart rate, speed, and power — through a series of maximal and submaximal recorded efforts. And because it comes loaded with Training Load Pro and Recovery Pro, the Vantage V2 even allows you to keep track of your fatigue from session to session — an important feature to have for anyone who’s serious about their training.
As much as we’d all like to head for the hills come time to run, most of us live in some type of urban environment. When your type of jungle is one of concrete, we suggest you pick up for the following.
Stance Run Crew
A good run starts with a solid pair of socks, and Stance’s Run Crew is an offering that comes well-prepared for the job. For instance, it’s made from a blend of 73% nylon, 22% polyester, and 5% elastane, an ideal combination for maximum moisture-wicking performance. Because let’s face it — no one wants soggy feat squelching around in their shoes. Crafted using Stance’s trademark Infiknit technology and backed by a lifetime guarantee, these socks truly are a cut above the rest.
lululemon Pace Breaker Short
Every runner needs at least one pair of short shorts in their workout wardrobe, but sometimes your surroundings call for a more modest length. lululemon’s 7″ Pace Breaker Short is the perfect pick for those who find themselves pounding the pavement in the heart of the city. With a four-way stretch fabric construction for comfortable movement and a set of zippered pockets for secure storage, it’s the ideal accompaniment for training runs and commutes alike.
Satisfy Running Moth Eaten T-Shirt
Part Parisian fashion label, part performance running brand, Satisfy is perfect for those who want to infuse their active apparel with a bit of style. The Moth Eaten T-Shirt is a case in point, for though it’s made from cotton and it skews towards streetwear, it features body-mapped ventilation holes to keep you cool and dry while out on your run. And when you consider that it comes with am inner key pocket and a detachable tag, it just goes to show that you can look good and still dress for function.
lululemon More Miles Active Backpack
Although it used to be reserved for only the most fanatic of fitness enthusiasts, run commuting is becoming increasingly popular in city settings because of its ability to beat rush hour traffic. However, in order to do so successfully, you need a pack that was designed to stay in place and bounce-free. The More Miles Active Backpack from lululemon comes with supportive provisions in spades, including a vented chest harness, a set of removable sternum straps, and some quick-adjust compression ties.
Hoka Clifton L
While Hoka is best known for its eye-catching colorways and deep-treaded trail shoes, this all-leather version of the veritable Clifton makes for an understated offering well-suited to urban environments. However, just because they look the part, doesn’t mean they sacrifice on performance. On the contrary, with their cushy EVA midsole and early-stage MetaRocker geometry, they’re just as capable picking up the pace as they are being worn on casual outings.
Apple Watch Series 6
With each iteration of the Apple Watch, it’s grown increasingly capable as an activity tracker. The Series 6 is the most well-equipped version yet, with a blood oxygen level sensor, app-based ECG testing, and precise workout metric tracking. And because it comes with support for contactless payments and cellular connectivity, it’s one of the best running watches to have on your arm while out in the city. Like any Apple offering, it sits squarely at the intersection between form and function.
Everyone from novices to seasoned pros has their eyes on the marathon distance because of the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Here are some items that’ll help you outlast this punishing race.
Feetures Elite Light Cushion No-Show
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and marathons aren’t won in one training run. As such, it’s important to get yourself a pair of socks that you can wear mile after mile without any discomfort, because as soon as you burst that blister, you’re in for a bad experience. Feetures has you covered with their Elite Light Cushion No-Show, a sock that’s engineered with an anatomical design and includes some targeted compression in order to keep your feet happy and irritation-free.
Brooks Sherpa Shorts
Come time for the race, the last thing you want is take any chances that could impact your performance, chief among those being your nutritional needs. Luckily, the Brooks Sherpa Shorts come with three pockets — a zippered one at the rear waistband, an hidden one on the interior, and a pair of envelope pouches at the sides — so that you can carry all of your gels and other essentials. And because they’re made with the brand’s DriLayer fabric, they’ll also keep you dry and feeling ready to run.
Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Singlet
Tracksmith’s Van Cortlandt Singlet is much more than a technical tank top; it’s a cultural running phenomenon. Inspired by the Cornell sash of the 19th century and crafted from a lightweight polyester mesh, it makes for an option that’s as good-looking as it is race-day-ready. As an added bonus, Tracksmith even ships each Van Cortlandt Singlet with a set of four gold safety pins to attach your bib number.
Sunglasses are an essential item for runners because of two main reasons: First, they protect your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays; second, they save your face from unnecessary fatigue brought on by extended squinting. Roka’s SR-1X was designed to address just such problems, with adjustable titanium arms for a personalized fit and a grippy Gecko nose piece for improved retention.
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
Early last autumn, Eliud Kipchoge successfully completed his sub two-hour marathon attempt in a pair of Nike Alphaflys, so it goes without saying that these shoes are designed to deliver world class performances. Underfoot, they feature two Air Zoom pods and a responsive carbon plate sandwiched in the middle of a massive slab of ZoomX foam, a recipe that keeps your legs feeling fresh step after step. And because the upper is made with Nike’s all-new AtomKnit technical fiber, they allow for maximum breathability with minimal moisture absorption.
Garmin Forerunner 745
Less of a smartwatch than it is a purpose-built training tool, Garmin’s Forerunner 745 comes packed with a plethora of features that’ll take your running to the next level. For example, when paired with the accompanying Garmin Connect app, it offers structured workout support and tailor-made recovery suggestions in order to keep you honest and on top of your efforts. And when you consider that it can measure advanced running metrics like stride length, balance, and ground contact time, this is the only coach you’ll ever need.
Requirements For The Weight Room
For some, the gym is as much a second home as it is place to get a pump. Even if you’re hesitant about including cardio, you can’t deny its positive effects on your heart and body composition.
SKLZ Hydro Roller
Were you to pair the recovery benefits of a foam roller with the packable convenience of a water bottle, the SKLZ Hydro Roller is what would result. It’s made from durable stainless steel and it’s specifically designed against dents or crushing, you can roll assured knowing that it will support your weight. And when it comes to fluid carrying capacity, this bottle clocks in at a solid 28oz. — plenty to keep you hydrated throughout even the sweatiest of gym sessions.
Ten Thousand Foundation Short
When you’re doing everything from quick trips on the treadmill to heavy squats under the bar, it’s important that you have a pair of shorts that will wear as hard as you work. As one of the preeminent names in the fitness industry, Ten Thousand is a brand that knows how to make some quality training gear. The Foundation Short exemplifies their expertise to a Tee, mating a robust mid-weight fabric outer layer to a next-level liner in order to give you a piece of exercise apparel that’s without equal.
Rhone Swift Tank
Although not everyone is inclined to rock a tank top in the gym, there’s no denying that they improve your range of motion. Rhone’s Swift Tank is an option that comes with everything you need to get your a sold workout session in, such as a perforated fabric construction that’s quick-drying and odor-resistant; flatlock seams to forgo unnecessary chafe; and a generous cut to allow your arms to move.
Altra Solstice XT
Should you plan on wearing your running shoes to lift weights, do yourself a favor and save the high stack heights for the road — they’ll only squish and make you feel unstable under load. Instead, grab a pair of Altra’s Solstice XT trainers, a pair of shoes that are equally at home repping out deadlifts and running heavy milage. At only 23mm tall fore and aft — in other words, zero drop — they offer a natural foot feel with plenty of ground sensation. And thanks to their improved cage upper, they even come with a hefty dose of support.
Aer Duffel 2
If you’re heading to the gym with any regularity, you’ll need a bag to haul along your essentials. Aer’s original bags were widely-regarded for their spacious storage provisions and durable 900D polyester construction, and their Duffel 2 takes the winning formula and improves on it. However, now it comes with an integrated laptop sleeve for safe carry and some redesigned interior pockets for better organization.
Jaybird Vista Headphones
While you could just as easily turn to the treadmill’s built-in screen for entertainment, chances are good that it won’t work, or — worse still — that you’ll be stuck watching cable news. Save yourself the frustration and pick up a pair of Jaybird’s Vista Headphones, an offering that was designed to meet the needs of even the most demanding of athletes. Tested to MIL-SPEC standards, they feature an IPX7 waterproofing rating in addition to being resistant to shock, dust, and sweat.
Basics For The Backcountry
Trail runners find the most solace in the natural spaces away from the city. But if you’re going to venture forth into the unknown, you need to bring along the right gear to keep you safe.
Ever since Ciele burst onto the scene in 2014, it’s had the running hats space on lock. And it’s for good reason. Pairing timeless style with planet-conscious sustainability, the Canadian outfit has developed a winning formula that works for anyone. As the original design in their arsenal, the GoCap is the product of years of refinement. Lightweight, packable, and ultra-breathable because of its COOLwick mesh construction, it’s no wonder that runners can’t get enough of it.
Path Projects Sykes Short
California-based Path Projects is a grassroots brand dedicated almost exclusively to trail running, so it should come as know surprise that they’d know how to make a solid pair of shorts for roughing it in the backcountry. Take the Sykes for instance. Made from Toray Airtastic fabric, it’ll keep you dry and free of chafing no matter how hot it gets outside. And thanks to its three rear zip pockets, it comes with more than enough room to store everything from bulky items like your smartphone to smaller necessities like your nutrition.
Patagonia Airchaser Shirt
Sure, some prefer to eschew their shirts entirely when out on the trail, but in doing you, you run the risk of exposing yourself to sunburn. Luckily, Patagonia Airchaser’s hardly even feels like it’s there, what with its moisture-wicking Capilene Cool fabric front and breathable mesh backing. But the best part is that because it’s sewn to Fair Trade certifications and made from 68% recycled materials, you can take pride in knowing that you’re protecting the planet, its peoples, and, of course, the trails you hold dear.
Nathan VaporKrar 2.0
It pays to be prepared on any trail running exploit, and you’ll most definitely need to carry some water with you if you want to avoid illnesses brought on by dehydration or heatstroke. Designed in collaboration with renowned ultrarunner Rob Krar, the Nathan VaporKrar 2.0 comes equipped with everything you need for a day out in the backcountry. For instance, it features a pair of 20oz soft flasks with extended tubes for easy sipping, as well as some large front stash pockets, 360-degree reflective detailing, and a safety whistle.
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3
Salomon is truly the best in the game right now when it comes to trail running. Full stop. End of. Their S/Lab Ultra 3 is the hot shoe of the moment, and it’s for good reason. It rides on a grippy Contagrip MA outsole, an addition that’ll get you through everything from soft sand to icy snow with confidence. And because they come with a soft EnergyCell and Salomon’s Quicklace closure system, they’ll keep your feet feeling comfortable no matter how long a day you have planned.
Suunto 9 Smartwatch
When your exploits call for nothing but the longest lasting smartwatch on the market, the Suunto 9 is the option for you. It features up to 120 hours of continuous exercise tracking, so even if you’re at the tail end of the field in a hundred miler, it’ll have no problem logging the entirety of your effort. And it isn’t just a one trick pony. Rather, with its intuitive GPS navigation, built-in barometer, and context-based weather insights, it makes for a powerful watch that can do everything you need and then some.
The 18 Best Running Trails In The US
Now that you have a handle on what gear you’ll need in order to succeed, be sure to check out our guide to the best running trails in the US for a roundup of routes that are sure to inspire you to get out there and get after it.