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When I started running (17 years ago – OMG I’m old!) I was obsessed with all things running and would buy pretty much every running gimmick that I could get my hands on. Since then I’ve found that there are things that are worth spending your money on, and other things that just aren’t worth it. To save you from making some of the same purchasing mistakes I’ve made, I thought I would share with you my list of running gear worth the investment, and gear that isn’t. These are based on my own personal experience and not everyone will agree with me.
Running Gear Worth Investing In
- Properly fitted running shoes
Not everyone will agree with me on this one as some people prefer barefoot running, but for me, if I don’t wear the right shoes for my feet, I get injured. No two feet are alike, so it’s important to go to a running store to try on several models of shoes until you find a pair that fit you well so that you stay blister and injury free. I personally love my Mizuno Wave Riders.
- Hydration belt/bottle
I have tried more than my share of these. The single bottle kind bounces while you run and if you do long runs with it you’ll find that it bruises your spine. A waistpack with smaller bottles is ok because the weight of the bottles is spread out but I find the water warms up quickly and the pack slides up and around the narrowest part of your body. A hand held is ok, but can get annoying to carry over a long run. The best solution I’ve tried is my CamelBak Classic – it has a pouch for my phone and nutrition, and is the least annoying solution I’ve tried.
- A pair of good headphones
I’ve tried cheap tinny sounding headphones, and others that didn’t stay in my ears so I fought with them my entire run. I’ve also had inexpensive ones get a loose connection in one side (holy annoying) etc. The best headphones I’ve ever owned are my Koss Fitclips – I’ve been using them for 3.5 years and they still work. They also stay put during my run so I don’t have to waste any precious running time putting them back in my ears.
- A good headlamp
If you run in the morning, evenings or on dark dreary days, a good headlamp is a must. I cheaped out and bought myself an inexpensive headlamp from a hardware store but paid the ultimate price for it when I took a nasty spill while running Ragnar So Cal a few years ago. Because it was cheap it didn’t adjust up and down so I had to run with my head at a weird angle to illuminate the ground in front of me. After awhile I gave up then missed a curb that I didn’t see in the dark and went sprawling across a gravel path. It was not pretty. At Christmas I bought my best running friends these Petzl Running Headlamps. They’re bright, adjustable and they seem to like them.
- A good running hat
Cheap running hats don’t fit my head well, they blow off in the wind and look pretty crappy. The best money I’ve ever spent was on my headsweats running visor – I wear it all the time when I run and it’s washable!
- A good reflective vest
This is a must have to be seen when running at night or in the morning. I’ve tried cheap ones that don’t fit right. A good one is adjustable and fits snugly so that you aren’t even aware you’re wearing it. My favourite is my Tuvizo Reflective Vest.
- A Smartphone
I’ve been using the GPS on my iPhone to record/track my running paces, distances and time since 2010. Before that I used the Nike+ foot pod and my iPod touch. There are tons of great running apps out there that will turn your phone (something you probably already own) into a lean mean running recording machine. My two favourite apps are Nike Run Club and iSmoothRun (the only app that also records running cadence and can pair to a bluetooth heart rate monitor).
Ok – these aren’t really a piece of running gear, but investing in strength training equipment is well worth it. Strength training helps to prevent injuries, helps with weight maintenance and also helps build speed. Kettlebells are a low cost way to get a full body strength workout at home. Check out my kettlebell strength workout for runners.
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Running Gear That’s Not Worth Investing In
- Compression Sleeves/Socks
These can be downright dangerous if not fitted properly. Stockings of the wrong size can cause skin redness, indentations and in worst case scenarios may increase the risk of blood clots from pinching the skin or by creating a tourniquet effect. Compression ssocks are specifically designed to apply a graduated amount of pressure to the legs to optimize the return blood flow through the veins to the heart and lungs for re-oxygenation. Graduated pressure means that the compression force of the stocking is the greatest at the ankle area and decreases gradually as the garment continues up the leg. The evidence that these aid recovery or prevent fatigue is largely anecdotal.
- Foam rollers
I personally feel that foam rollers are overpriced for what they do: crushing cells and tissue that are already damaged from a hard workout. These are typically used to increase circulation and increase range of motion in tight muscles. A tight IT band is one example. However muscles may be “tight” because they are already in an elongated condition due to other factors. In the case of an IT Band it may be elongated and tight due to improper running mechanics, overuse or a weak glute med muscle. Treating the cause of tight muscles (ie: improving running mechanics through strengthening, adjusting training load etc) will help your injuries and tight muscles much more than a foam roller. If you still believe in rolling, then a tennis ball massage or massage with a frozen water bottle are much more budget friendly options.
- Running gloves
Specialised running gloves are ridiculously over-priced and just aren’t worth the extra investment. I’ve found that regular ol’ gloves keep my hands just as warm when I run.
- Smartphone Armband
Out of ALL of the running gear I have tried, THIS has got to be the most annoying one. It drove me insane! It slipped down my arm, flipped around, and I couldn’t use the touch screen on my phone. It was a complete disaster!
- A fancy running watch
Despite all of the GPS watches I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing (and many that I’ve loved), I still use my phone as my GPS – pretty much every run I’ve ever done since 2008 have been recorded with the Nike Plus Running App (now called Nike Run Club).
What’s your favourite piece of running gear?
What gear have you tried but wasn’t worth buying?