When I started getting into running, I went through all sorts of gear. Shoes are the big things you think about – and I went though several pairs to find the right fit. Then you have clothing – it should keep you cool, keep you warm, and keep you dry – while you are generating a ton of heat and sweat, running through highly variable conditions. Sure, you can wear a cotton shirt and shorts, and will make it some distance, but it’ll result in discomfort. I’ll occasionally throw on an old shirt and hit the pavement barefoot for a few miles, but that’s about as far as I want to go that way. Beyond that, the difference of modern textiles really starts to become apparent.
Aside from clothing, you have gear. For longer runs, you need to carry water and food. Sometimes, you’ll need to carry additional layers or places to stuff layers you remove. Whatever you use for storage, it shouldn’t encumber your movement in any way or add a significant amount of weight. Runners tend to measure things in grams, and the lighter the better. I’m not that peculiar about my gear, but still don’t want to run with my GR1 backpack that weighs nearly 4lbs when completely empty unless I’m doing so for a specific strength workout (the GR1, for example, has a compartment for weighted plates during Goruck sponsored races).
After running for several months, I’ve found a rotation of gear that I actually use and a pile of gear that I rarely take with me. First, shoes.
Shoes are probably, by far, the most personal choice of all running gear. What works for me may not work for you – feet are highly variable. That being said, I love my Salomon Ultra Pros and have 276 miles on them at the time of this writing. Somehow, if I clean the mud off of them, they look almost like new despite being beat, dragged, and scraped through all sorts of terrain and a couple hundred miles of asphalt/ concrete. I first bought Salomon shoes because they’re a big name in trail running, but it took a few different pairs for me to find the right fit. My Sense rides are nice but a little tight in the toe box, my Ride GTX shoes have a different midsole that gives me hotspots, and they don’t breathe as well. Neither seem to be wearing as well as these do.
Socks are interesting one. I was skeptical about buying $15/pair running socks, and instead bought Saucony running socks that were a six pack for that price. At some point I started having issues with blisters on longer runs and bought a couple pairs of Darn Tough Vertex socks to try out. I now have six pairs of those and a pair of Injinji toe socks in my rotation – the difference is apparent once you start pushing past five or six miles at a time. I haven’t had blisters since the change, except for the occasions where I’ve grabbed the cheap Sauconys or other old socks from my drawer on laundry day.
I have quite a few fancy water bottles and a very fancy hydration pack that includes a hydration bladder, but don’t really use them. If I’m running for less than 10 miles, I’ll use a Flip Belt (zipper model) instead. If running under 7 or 8 miles, I often won’t even take water. The Flip Belt is an elastic, tight fitting belt that has “pockets” you can stuff things into. I’ll use it to carry my phone, a couple gels, a Larabar, and sometimes the 10oz water bottle the company makes. On runs longer than ten miles, I’ll grab my hydration pack but pull the bladder out of it. I’ve found that the 10oz FlipBelt water bottle fits perfectly in the strap pocket, stays out of the way, is big enough for unsupported half marathons, and is more convenient than having to deal with the bladder. I’ll probably use the bladder on longer trail runs, though.
For clothing, I rotate out three pairs of Nike HyperCool and three pairs of Nike HyperWarm (depending on the weather) running tights, under Nike Breathe 2.0 running shorts. Similarly, I rotate four Nike DryFit short-sleeve tops and three long-sleeve that I choose based on the weather. I layer on a Arc’teryx Incendo shell on damp runs in the 40s to mid 60s, a Nike hoodie on dry runs in the high 30s to low 50s, and a Arc’teryx Argus for damp runs in the 30s to 40s, and definitely anything below 30. I either choose Buffs (I have real ones, but also a ton of knockoffs from Amazon that are 90% as good for 10% of the price) or a Salomon running hat – and I do find value in that hat over others, even my Nike one. It’s vented just right and the material is really nice. On cold runs I’ll stock up on Buffs – I might wear one around each wrist, one on my neck, and a couple on top of my head. They’re incredibly versatile. On those colder runs, I’ll often throw in a pair of thin gloves to keep my fingers warm. Actually – I’ll do that in the mid 40s and below.
At some point I switched back from wireless to wired headphones. They are cheap, far smaller and lighter, and don’t hurt my ears as much when bouncing around for a few hours at a time. My ears were getting sore with my beloved Sony WS625s, but I’ll still use them on runs 10K or less. I have a few headlamps, and I choose the lighter/simpler ones for shorter runs and my Nao+ for longer ones. But really, if I can run by moonlight alone, I usually will just do that. Running at night with the trails all to myself is beautiful.
I use my Roll R3 and Roll R8 far more than any foam rollers and fancy massagers, though not nearly enough. That being said, I wouldn’t want to be without them. The R3 is amazingly able to eliminate PF symptoms overnight, and the R8 is far more convenient than a foam roller.
That’s really about it – all I use (aside from my Garmin HRM-Tri and Fenix 5X+) on a regular basis. YMMV, but that should be all you really need.
Edit on Feb 22, 2019: after a few days, I realized that I should have covered a couple more things. Summer is coming quickly here in Austin, and I don’t want to contend with sunburn or heat while running. I usually wear Nike HyperCool compression tights under my shorts, and will continue to do so through the summer – but the ones I own are all 3/4 length, leaving my calves and ankles exposed. In the future I will buy full length, so I don’t have to deal with applying sunscreen to my lower legs. On a similar note, I want to find a nice, thin, cool, moisture wicking and sun protecting long-sleeve shirt to buy several of for summer. I’m not a fan of sunscreen and want to minimize use. I’ve tried a ton of different sunscreens, and the one I like the best is called Thinksport SPF50 Plus – but it’s expensive, and takes time to apply, so I’d rather just save it for my face and hands.