When you commit to a race training plan and go from casual pavement-pounder to a bona-fide runner, your gear needs change tremendously. And while GPS watches and Bluetooth headphones are unequivocally cool, it's often the more, ahem, utilitarian stuff that makes the biggest improvements to your nighttime jaunts and backwoods trail runs. Believe us—when you try out this gear, your definition of "cool" will change.
Once you’re running more than a few miles at a spell, you realize that having water with you is a good idea. And while carrying your water bottle by hand may look slightly cooler, it also puts a weirdly imbalanced weight on your arms, which can affect your running stride, especially over long hauls (which is kinda when you need the H2O the most). Enter the hydration belt. Nathan’s TrailMix Plus Insulated belt has two insulated water bottles to keep your sips from heating up—or freezing—plus a storage pocket for your phone, ID, and/or energy gels.
Wearing your favorite baseball cap may keep the sun out of your eyes during various outdoor activities. But when you're running, a single strong gust can send your headgear fluttering into traffic. Running hats and (super nerd alert!) visors, like the Race Hat and the Supervisor by Headsweats, are made to stay put, and fabricated with sweat-wicking materials designed to dry quickly when they get drenched.
Visors are an even cooler option for hot summer days—unless the race you’re running happens to have ice stations, when tossing some ice cubes in your hat and putting it back on can really chill you out.
One of the unpleasant side effects of logging more and more miles: The possibilities of red, raw, or even bleeding skin from chafing. It only takes one friction-filled run to discover your sensitive spots—and then you'll want to reach for Body Glide, a deodorant-shaped stick of magic that literally keeps things running smoothly. Common spots to lube up if you don’t want to learn the hard way: inner thighs, inside your biceps, the backs of your ankles, and your nipples. By all means, protect the nipples.
If you’re going to run at after dark or before dawn, you need to be visible to traffic. The best option is to wear a vest. The good news? You don’t have to look like a crossing guard. Xinglets from Amphipod have a trim cut and come in hot yellow, hot pink, and less-obnoxious-but-still-effective gray. The Pocket Plus model (shown) has a place to stash essentials.
It’s nice to run free sometimes, but if you don’t carry your wallet, phone, or license on you, you really should wear a customizable bracelet that lists your name and ICE info. The RoadID is a $25 investment for peace of mind in the unlikely (but possible) event that you can’t speak for yourself. The Slim 2 model (shown) is the least obtrusive.
Some of us need extra help to see when we run. To keep eyeglasses from bouncing or sliding, you'll need what hardcore runner types call a "retainer" (yes, really). The No-Tail Adjustable version from Chum's holds tight against your head without extra cording to flap against your neck—or draw undue attention to itself. It works for sunglasses, too, if your wraparounds don’t hold as snugly as you’d like.
Your lower legs can take a beating, especially on long runs and especially as your form suffers due to fatigue. Compression socks or sleeves, like those by PRO Compression, can provide support and keep extremities warm on winter runs. The main difference: Sleeves will fit over your usual socks, if you’re a runner who’s particular about that sort of thing. (PSA: If your calves are chronically pained, see a coach about improving your gait, please.)
The weather rule of thumb for outdoor running: Dress in what you’d wear for a walk if it were 15 to 20 degrees warmer out. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to decide if that means a T, a tank, or a long-sleever. But by wearing a pair of comfortable, stretchy sleeves from the likes of Louva, you can start out more bundled up, then roll the sleeves down as your body heats up. They even double as brow-sweat wipers when you really get going.
We know: Skin-tight clothing isn't generally considered all that masculine. But when temps drop, a slim-fitting base layer is really the best way to keep yourself warm and comfortable by wicking away sweat and holding in body heat. The nicely priced Go-To tights from Brooks do the above and aren't, shall we say, constricting. We'll let you decide if you feel the need to wear shorts on top.