Which running accessories does every runner absolutely need, and which are optional? That is an excellent question.
The Running Accessories We Think Are Essential!
✓ Quality Running Shoes
A pair of quality running shoes should be a non-negotiable for all runners. For new runners, this typically entails a fitting at a local running store.
Running shoe store employees are usually trained in gait analysis so that they can determine if a runner pronates or supinates, and if he or she needs stability shoes, control or if a shoe with little support is best.
A good pair of shoes is the foundation that helps keep a runner healthy and running strong. They are completely worthy of a significant investment!
✓ Speaking of Foundation…Sports Bra!
Female runners know that a well made, a high-quality sports bra is also an essential item. Large breasted women spend upwards of $75 for a bra that holds things in place without chafe or other discomforts (see here all about nipple chafing).
An ill-fitting bra can result not just in chaffing, but also in chest and back pain.
✓ From the Bottom Up
Sure, there are a lot of awesome pieces of apparel that runners want and need, but once you have your shoes, socks run a close second as an important item.
Moisture-wicking, good running socks that fit well and help prevent blisters are a must-have for every runner. If you pair quality shoes with cheap socks, you have done your feet a disservice!
✓ GPS Watch
Novice runners who run the same routes time after time may not see the value of a GPS watch. However, once a runner begins to get more serious about training, a GPS watch is must-have! These little gems are nice for tracking mileage, checking pace and monitoring target heart rate during workouts.
Once runners gain experience, they often engage in serious track workouts and running smartwatches such as a Garmin or Apple Watch help athletes keep focused.
✓ Rainy Day Essentials
During a rain run, most runners agree that there are a few essential items. A lightweight, waterproof running jacket is a worthwhile investment. A runner wants something that will keep the moisture from reaching your skin, yet light and breathable.
A dry-fit, baseball-style running cap keeps the rain out of your eyes and face on the wettest of days, which is necessary.
If the runner carries a phone while running, either for safety or music, a simple ziplock baggie Is an excellent way to protect the electronic device from rain or snow.
✓ Cold Weather
In extremely cold weather, a runner needs either a lightweight yet warm jacket or vest. In addition, there are many pieces that will make running in sub-zero temps more enjoyable.
- Mittens – Most runners own light running gloves. On super cold days, layering a pair of mittens over the gloves will keep the fingers and hands toasty.
- Buff – A buff can be worn over the head, over the face, or just around the neck. If it warms up, runners are even seen with the buff wrapped around a hydration belt or wrist to get it out of the way.
- Hat – Everyone knows that heat escapes through the head. That’s why a nice, warm hat is an essential piece of cold weather running gear.
✓ Safety Items
When asked about “must-have items for every runner,” most runners have a list they feel strongly about. One category that many of these fall into is safety items.
- Road ID – Although Road ID is a name brand and there are other products out there, this is a smart product to have. Road ID is either a bracelet, necklace or tag for the shoe that gives important information. Name, medical information and a person to contact are clearly visible on this piece of safety equipment.
- Reflective or Light Up Vest – For runners who run at dawn, dusk or after dark, a vest or jacket that is reflective is a good choice. One that also lights up is even safer as it increases visibility.
- Headlamp – There are headlamps made especially for runners, but many runners simply buy one at a local hardware store. They don’t have to be fancy to do the job.
- Running Pouch for Cellphone – For safety. Enough said.
✓ Physical Comfort
- Anti-Chafe Balm – There are many brands and things to use such as Body Glide and Aquaphor but they all have the same goal: to prevent chafe. Chafe, blisters and other physical discomforts occur either where the body rubs together or where clothing rubs against the body. Either way, there are things you can do to prevent it.
- Lip Balm – Chapstick or a light lip balm is helpful for lip moisturizer and also as sunscreen. Applying some balm prior to a run on a sunny day is a great idea!
- Sunscreen or Moisturizer Lotion – Even in the dead of winter, it is important to protect exposed skin. Runners should use either sunscreen if there is the danger of sunburn, or a good moisturizer on cold, windy winter days.
- Hand-Warmers – These little miracles are excellent to keep hands warm through extremely cold temperatures. A hand warmer can be slipped inside of a mitten on the below zero days to keep the fingers toasty!
✓ Bonus Items
Headphones are an item that many runners can’t live without. Especially once a runner moves into double-digit mileage runs, headphones playing anything from music to podcasts help keep runners distracted and motivated enough to keep moving. Headphones can be inexpensive if the runners don’t mind being plugged in, or quite pricey for wireless ones.
Hydration belts or packs are often necessary for longer runs, or for races on trails where there is not volunteer support for water and food.
Many runners like having belts for training during longer runs and then continue to use these items when racing. Having your own fluids and hydration helps keep a runner moving through water stations.
Running belts are nice for carrying everything from a cellphone to Kleenex to nourishment. Some running belts are small and others can carry a complete picnic. Runner preference is important here. Runners should consider weight and bounce when choosing a device.
Sunglasses are nice for those sunny day runs, and some runners find themselves unable to hit the road without theirs.
Don’t Leave Home Without Your Gear!
Although which items a runner can’t leave home without is hotly debated one thing is for sure: once a runner figures out which running accessories are essential to him or her, they will always check to be sure they have them!