Running is just a simple sport, theoretically. All you should need is yourself, a pair of shoes, and the ground beneath you in order to partake in the bliss of being a runner. Football players need pads, hockey players need sticks, and cyclists need, well, bicycles, but running is back to basics…right?
Anybody who has ever started to run with any degree of seriousness will find themselves slipping into a seemingly endless abyss of stuff: Instead of grabbing your old Nikes and hitting the open road, maybe now you need a new pair of shoes…and socks…and compression socks…and shorts with a back zipper pocket…and a handheld water bottle…and a baseball hat…and sunglasses that stay on when you run…and that new app that tracks your elevation…and an armband…etc, etc. There’s always new running gear, apparel, and shoes that manufacturers and even publications will convince you that you need in order to perform your best on that next run.
Do you really need any of these things? Technically, no, but logistically, yes. While we don’t urge you to go out and stock up on every piece of gear that Runner’s World is certain you need, here are a few purchases worth your time and money that will make your next run or race all the better.
Trail Shoes: Let’s say you have decided that you’re going to start trail running! If you aren’t hitting the dusty trail all that often, or are only sticking to trails that aren’t awfully technical, your road shoes will do the trick. However, if you’re logging over half your miles on trails, running a trail race, or picking technical paths that require some fancy footwork, the splurge to invest in trail shoes will make a huge difference! The first run with new trail shoes is like magic: Trail running outsoles have deeper lugs, better tread patterns, and will significantly increase your traction on rocky slopes. They also protect your feet from impact and generally include stiff toe counters on the front to prevent toe injuries (because let’s be real, every trail runner has run into a rock at least once). They keep you safe, and speedy!
Sports Headphones: If you’re the type of runner that enjoys tromping along while listening to music or podcasts, do yourself a favor and pick up some headphones specifically designed for athletes. You want a pair that will stay put even on your fastest run or on a hill day. There’s nothing worse than hitting the last, tough mile of a run with sweaty earbuds falling out right and left! Bohm Wireless Headphones with ActiveNoise (available on Amazon) will stay fast no matter the run, and the Bluetooth feature is key. I received these as a Christmas gift, and they’ve honestly changed my life for the better: I wear them on almost every single run. However, do note that if you’re in a race (especially a trail race!), it’s good practice to either not wear headphones at all or to keep one earbud in instead of both. It can be dangerous for other runners racing, whether you’re on a single-track trail or not, if you can’t hear them to be aware of your surroundings.
Energy Gels: For runs over 90 minutes or on race days, gels are fuel that is easy to digest and gives you a boost of energy and some needed sugars and electrolytes to keep you plugging away. They cost relatively little, depending on the brand, so find one that works best for you. If you’re using a gel during a race, make sure that you train with it so that your stomach doesn’t revolt at a new food combined with adrenaline and nerves! They can be a runner’s best friend during those long runs when chowing down on solid food doesn’t sound all that appealing. And although it’s not in gel form, the talk of the athletic community right now is Tailwind, a sports beverage that refills electrolytes just like Gatorade does, but isn’t quite so saccharine. It’s an endurance drink mix originally invented for the Leadville 100, one of the toughest ultramarathons in the country. So, the creators know exactly what athletes’ bodies need!
Anything we missed? What are your essential running purchases? Leave them to help other runners out in the comments section below!