New runners can get overwhelmed with the amount of available running gear and often don’t know where to start. Consider this your start line. For your very first run, just about any gear will do. But as you make this a regular thing, you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible. This is not an exhaustive list (we haven’t even talked cold weather running), but it should start you off right. If on a budget, start with shoes and socks, then slowly add to your arsenal.
All recommendations below are my own and I don’t get any compensation for them (unless you count happy runners). I’ve also provided links within to Runner’s World and like publications’ write-ups on most gear items listed below. It takes a while to find what works for you, but it’s about the journey, not the destination.
See you out there, Pacers.
Shoes are the most important part of a runner’s arsenal. If you’re on a budget, this is the place to spend the bulk of it and not to scrimp. This is also an area that is highly personalized and requires some focused time at the store. The folks at Run With Us are amazing and will work to find the correct shoe for you (and you get a 10% discount as a Pacer). Be prepared to try on several pairs and run them down the street for a bit to see how they feel.
Socks are so important they get their own section. Ill-fitting or just-not-right-for-you socks can be annoying at their least and blister-causing at their worst. Personally, I love SmartWool and Feetures, but there are many great choices out there.
Tops & Bottoms
Whether you go with tanks, tees, or long sleeves for your top or tights versus shorts for bottoms largely depends on personal preference and the weather. It’s best to experiment with a few different types/brands when you get started until you settle on what works for you.
Overall, you’re looking for synthetic materials, like polyester and nylon, designed to wick moisture away from your skin and help speed up evaporation, so you stay cool and dry. Any sun protection is a major bonus.
It’s also important to think about visibility. Bright colors and reflective properties are a runner’s friend.
Further, we highly recommend wearing Pacer gear to club runs, which can be picked up at Run With Us.
(Side note about bras and undies. It’s all a personal preference thing. Shop around and experiment to see what works.)
- Hats/visors. Highly recommend. There are so many out there, so just grab what seems to work for you. Of course, there are Pacer branded ones at Run With Us.
- Sunglasses. You can get fancy (like most gear), but without a doubt Goodrs have become an instant and affordable favorite. At only $25 a pair and designed for running, you can afford to switch out your shades to suit your mood or easily replace a pair you’ve stepped on (might be speaking from personal experience here). Sure, you can spend hundreds on sunglasses, but it’s also not required.
- Music. Aftershokz, Bose, or AirPods are awesome options. (Just note: you really should be aware of your surroundings so mind the volume and think about running with only one ear attached to music.)
- Headlamp. If running in the dark, these are an absolute must. Black Diamond is a solid choice. (Here’s more gear to help you run in the dark.)
Overall, you don’t need to tons of water with you until the miles start creeping up, though this can change due to personal preference or in hot weather. For how to carry your water, pop down to What to Carry (& How to Carry It).
Further, water is great, but electrolytes are the real hero. Gatorade is a good choice, but there are so many brands out there now that provide different niche offerings. My favorite by far: Skratch Labs. It’s a more natural alternative and they are pretty tasty, too.
I know you’re STARVING after a run, but until you’re running for at least an hour, you don’t really NEED fuel on a run. That said, do what’s going to make you happy. This category is very trial-and-error and you have to try them while you’re running to ensure it works for you. (Pro tip: don’t take any snacks offered during a race you haven’t tried before as things could get very, erm, uncomfortable for you.)
From bars to chews, there are so many options available.. Again, I like Skratch Labs and their chews (and for longer runs, I like their recipes for homemade, real food snacks).
- Running Watch: There are so many choices out there. Garmin tends to be a favorite (you can get the lowest entry point for $99 on sale right now). Runner’s World offers a thorough round up of watches, if you want to learn more.
- Phone: The Pacers recommend Strava. It’s a social media platform/app meets tracker for running/walking/biking. So you can post your runs without bothering your Facebook friends. Follow the Pasadena Pacers as we post running routes so you can follow our maps if you stray from the group or need to run on a non-meet-up day. While you won’t get an interval timer with this, you get a lot (and it usually syncs with other run trackers such as Garmin).
- If Strava isn’t your thing, there are so many apps: RunKeeper, Map My Run, Nike, Garmin, and on and on. They’re all fine. Experiment to see what works for you.
- If you need an interval timer as well, just go to your app store and search for a free one. You don’t need anything fancy.
Yes, you need sunscreen for each run. Don’t make me go all mom on you. (Because I totally can.) Just put it on and carry some for long runs. Really anything 30 SPF+ that is designed for sweat will do.
Listen, this is the darker side of running that your non-running friends won’t even think about, but we have to go there. Chaffing is a huge pain-in-the-wherever, but it can totally be prevented.
For your body, you might need a little anti-chafe product wherever you have skin-on-skin (looking at you inner thighs) or friction from your clothing (shoes, inside of arms, etc.). Each body is different, so if you notice chaffing on your run, apply some product there next time. My favorite: Trislide. (Pro tip: make sure to put a towel down when spraying or else the overspray can make things very slippery for you.)
For the men (or non-bra wearers), you cannot forget about your nipples on long runs. It’s best we talk about this now and not when you get a bloody shirt (which does happen). Some people just put band-aids over their nipples. There are, of course, tons of products out there as well.
- Identification. Always, always, always have an ID on you. Always. If you don’t want to carry your driver’s license, try RoadID: In case of an emergency where you can’t talk, RoadIDs have all your emergency contact info. Frankly, every runner should have one—period. I’m a fan of the ones that affix to your shoe as they stay on and I don’t forget to grab it on the way out.
- Phone. It’s your way to snap pics, track runs, and call for help should something go wrong. You really should have it with you. Loads of running apparel have a space for phones. If yours doesn’t, see the items below for one that works for you.
- Money/Credit card. Sometimes you need to buy some stuff while out running, like a snack or water. It happens so best to be prepared.
So, now you have all this STUFF. Here are a couple of ways to tote it all around and still get those miles in:
- Water bottles. Some runners like to hold their water as they run. Some of these options even come with pouches to store the items you need to carry with you.
- Running belts. There are options out there to hold phones, keys, and even water bottles (if you prefer not to hold your water).
- Hydration packs. These are backpacks that have a water bladder/bottle holder so you carry more water and drink as you go. This is more suitable for long runs.