Whether you're getting ready to take your first steps around the block, training for a marathon, or leaving the pavement behind to hit the trails, finding the right pair of shoes is the first critical step to getting ready to run. Collectively, we've spent many hours and covered thousands of miles in running shoes, so let us guide you through our top pics for every running style.
If most of your runs take you along smoothly paved pathways or city sidewalks, road running shoes are what you need to keep your joints and ligaments protected from the firm, unforgiving concrete surfaces, and asphalt. Within this category, different shoes are great for different types of training, but here are a few of our favorite styles:
Saucony Endorphin Speed 2
Saucony Kinvara 13
Running Shoes for Women
As a lady, you may prefer a shoe fit that is women's-specific, or maybe the fun color options draw you in. Whatever the reason, there are lots of women's running shoes to choose from. These are the ones that performed the best in our hands-on testing:
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22- Women's
Saucony Kinvara 13 - Women's
Trail Running Shoes
If your favorite runs take you over the rocks and roots of a single-track winding through the forest, a solid trail shoe will keep your feet protected from sharp objects and added stability in the sole can help prevent ankle rolls. These options are our go-to's for trail running:
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3
Brooks Divide 2
Trail Running Shoes for Women
Although you do not have to limit yourself to selecting a women's specific trail shoe, there is something to be said about a shoe tailored to your anatomy. Women's shoes typically have a narrower heel shape and a roomy toe box that accommodates common differences between men's and women's feet. The shoes below are our favorite trail running shoes for women:
Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 - Women's
Dynafit Feline SL - Women's
The socks you choose to layer underneath are just as important as the shoes on your feet. The perfect pair of running socks can keep your feet cool, dry, and blister-free through training. There are our top recommendations for any runner:
Balega Blister Resister Quarter
Swiftwick Aspire Zero
Essential Running Clothing
There's no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothes. Most die-hard runners will go out in just about any conditions, and it is essential to have the proper attire to keep you cool (or warm) no matter where you live or what time of year it is. However, even if you wouldn't place yourself in the "die-hard" category, a perfectly light and airy pair of shorts can make your run much more enjoyable. These are the pieces we would choose to concoct the perfect running outfit so that you can focus less on your clothing and more on pounding out the miles.
Running Shorts for Men
Some of the most important features of running shorts are comfort and breathability. We ran through dozens of men's running shorts and looked at these two factors alongside each pair's overall functionality and fit. Many of the styles we tried have different fabric and length options so that you can tailor your pair to your specific needs. Here are some men's shorts that we love:
On Lightweight Short
Under Armour Launch SW 7"
Running Shorts for Women
Women's shorts should serve the same purpose as men's; keeping you light and comfortable, mile after mile. Although not always true, most running shorts made for women have a shorter inseam and be cut to better fit female bodies. Our lady testers ran in more than a dozen pairs, and these are their preferred styles:
Rabbit Dirt Pounders 2.0 - Women's
Lululemon Speed Up
Running shirts can generally be considered gender neutral, but the styles that are not made specifically for women have a looser/straighter cut and more room in the shoulders. However, the essential factor is that your shirt is made from moisture-wicking material and does not chafe or rub with repetitive movement. These top-performing running shirts are the ones we recommend to our friends:
Black Diamond Rhythm Tee
Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily
Running Shirts for Women
Running shirts built for women have a different cut, often more form-fitting, and sometimes come in brighter color schemes. Similar to unisex/men's versions, the best shirts are made from synthetic fabrics that are comfortable to wear and quickly wick away sweat and other moisture. Here are our top choices:
Outdoor Research Echo - Women's
Salomon XA Tee - Women's
Gear to Help You Go the Distance
All you really need to start running is a pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes; that's the beauty of the sport. However, aside from those basics listed above, some additional items can improve your runs and help you stay motivated to get out consistently. While not strictly necessary, accessories that help keep you warm, hydrated, and on the move can be helpful in your training.
As much as we'd like, sometimes we are not gifted with our ideal running weather, and we must layer up to stay comfortable outside. Our competitive selection of running jackets will keep you warm without trapping sweat or weighing you down.
Arc'teryx Incendo Hoody
Running Jackets for Women
Running jackets with a women's-specific fit tend to be smaller in the shoulders and more form fitting throughout. Fit aside, breathability, weather resistance, and comfort are still the most important things to look for in your jacket, and the styles below fit the bill:
Smartwool Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoody - Women's
Salomon Agile Full-Zip Hoodie - Women's
Running Hydration Packs
For shorter distances, hydrating before and after you run is enough. However, when the miles start adding up, you'll want to bring your water with you. These hydration packs made specifically for running allow you to bring along what you need in a hands-free, bounce-free package.
Nathan Pinnacle 12L
REI Swiftland Hydro
Running Hydration Packs for Women
Due to differences in anatomy, this is one of the few categories where a women's specific fit makes a big difference. Key changes include more room in the bust, narrower shoulder straps, and a shorter cut. Out of all the women's hydration packs we tested, these are the ones that made us feel the most comfortable and prepared.
Nathan Pinnacle 12L - Women's
Nathan TrailMix 7L - Women's
Tracking your miles and pace is a good way to monitor training progress. While there are other ways to do this through apps or other programs, a GPS you can wear on your wrist is the ultimate convenience. These are some of our favorite GPS watches we had the pleasure of using:
Garmin Fenix 7
Coros Apex Pro
Cross Training and Recovery Gear
Just as important as the work you put in is the time you give your body to rest and recover. However, "rest" does not mean doing nothing; there are ways you can actively promote muscle recovery, such as stretching and massage. Every good training regimen also includes a cross-training activity of your choice. Whether biking, yoga, or something else, there is gear to go along, and you will see our recommendations below.
Sometimes it is not always possible to run outdoors, or maybe the treadmill in the corner of your spare room serves as the inspiration (or a guilt trip) to get your miles in. Either way, a reliable treadmill is a great way to train on days when you can't make it outside. These are the machines that we prefer:
NordicTrack Commercial 1750
XTerra Fitness TRX3500
Biking is a great way to give your knees a break from the repetitive pounding of your daily run while still building cardio and muscle strength. These exercise bike machines ranked at or near the top of our list:
Bowflex VeloCore 16
Budget Exercise Bikes
If the machines above seem a little pricey, don't worry, you can still get a good workout on a less expensive product. These budget exercise bike options may be more within reach while still providing an excellent alternative to running on your off days.
Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike
For those experiencing knots and tightness in their muscles, the perfect foam roller can help release tension, relieve soreness, and even increase flexibility. Here are a few that seemed to hit the spot every time we used them:
Premvida Arrow Vibrating
Muscle Roller Sticks
For smaller jobs, one of these muscle roller sticks may do the job better. You can target sore spots with more precision and have a bit more control over the amount of pressure you apply.
The Stick Travel Stick
Kamileo Muscle Roller
A little bit of this and a little bit of that, these accessories are odds and ends that aren't 100% necessary but always seem to come in handy during a run. Sun protection is an essential parts of taking care of your body. These accessories make maintaining a consistent and healthy running routine easier, keeping you on your feet and out the door.
If you are outside for prolonged periods of time, it can take a toll on your eyes. Sunglasses are vital in protecting your vision over the long term, but if you try to run in any old pair, they will probably bounce off your face or slip down your nose in just a few minutes. A snug fitting pair of sport sunglasses will stay put and often offer more complete protection than standard glasses.
Sunglasses for Women
For the ladies out there that don't need as secure fitting frames and would prefer a more stylish silhouette, this selection of women's sunglasses has some options that are runner friendly.
CAMP Eyewear Trail
Hit the Road (Or Trails)!
Running isn't for everyone, but those who dedicate themselves to the sport usually do so with an enthusiasm that confounds non-runners. The more you run, the more you want to run. It doesn't take long to recognize the importance of having the right gear to help you push through mile after mile. We hope these recommendations will help you narrow down the expansive list of products available and get you out of your chair and bobbing down the trail soon.
— Abriah Wofford & Nick Bruckbauer
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