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Do You Really Need to Wear Gaiters?

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The amount and variety of gear designed for runners is ever-increasing. And, over time, this bombardment can make it a real challenge for you to be able to sort the necessary equipment from the more frivolous accessories. A prime example for this unfortunate phenomenon can be found in the humble gaiter.

Although this particular piece of running gear has a long history of use, the fact is that most modern runners aren’t entirely familiar with its purpose or practicality. As a result, it can seem like a totally useless addition to your training wardrobe. But, is it? What are gaiters? Should you give them a try?

A Simple Purpose

Despite the wide selection of gaiters available for purchase, most of the products follow a pretty basic design. Essentially, a gaiter is a fabric tube that slides over your shoes to cover the bottom portion of your pants. Typically, a small cord hooks around the soles of your shoes to hold the gaiter in place.

And, that’s really it. Of course, the precise design and material used will differ slightly depending on the make, model and specific purpose of the individual gaiter.

Salomon Outdoor Unisex High Trail Reflective Gaiters

All that being said, though, there’s still a pretty big question left answered: Why? What’s the point of this extra bit of fabric?

Put simply, gaiters are meant to keep stuff out of your shoes. As mentioned, this fairly simple and straightforward piece of clothing has been used for a very long time, specifically in military applications for this very reason. By creating a seal around the top of your shoe, gaiters can provide an extra layer of protection from all sorts of the debris.

It’s also worth noting that many models of gaiters are waterproof. We’ll discuss the usefulness and specific applications of this feature a little later on, though. For now, the important thing to know is that gaiters block junk from finding it’s way into your shoes.

Is That Really Necessary?

Any runner who has ever had even the smallest bit of sand find it’s way into their shoes can appreciate the value of a good pair of gaiters. Or, for the cold-weather runners out there, your chief concern might be snow.

These issues are about more than comfort, though. Snow, rocks and other bits of debris in your footwear can impact your form and even damage your feet – both of which can lead to more severe injuries. Keeping moisture out of your shoes is also an important way to stay comfortable and maintain a healthy body temperature – especially when running during the winter months.

Read also about best snow running shoes.

When To Use Them

Clearly, then, gaiters are designed with a very specific purpose in mind. So, when would you need to wear them?

As you may have gleaned from the above information, gaiters are all about outdoor running. Inside, away from the elements, they serve absolutely no purpose. Even once you do head outside, though, you may find those gaiters to be equally unnecessary if you’re running on paved, maintained roads or tracks that have very little small debris.

If those runs take you off-road and onto trails, however, you may want to give some serious thought to donning those gaiters. Dirt, sticks, rocks and other bits of nature can all very quickly fall into your shoes – since you likely kick up a lot more stuff with each step than you realize. Gaiters, therefore, are primarily of use to the trail runners and hikers out there.

Picking The Right Ones

Just like any piece of gear, selecting the best gaiters for you starts with thinking about your individual needs and expectations. Factors to consider include the material, construction and length of the gaiters that you’re considering.

For example, do you often run through a lot of water – other from puddles or otherwise? If you do, you will not only want waterproof gaiters but you’ll likely prefer them to come up pretty high on your ankles as an added bit of protection. At the same time, you may find this larger, bulkier models to be both unnecessary and annoying.

Although it may seem like a small detail, the system used to secure those gaiters to your shoes is also an important aspect to think about. If you run generally run on more challenging trails, gaiters that use velcro or other more flimsy systems may not be able to keep up. Of course, if you aren’t concerned with water or particularly heavy debris, you could possible get away with lighter gaiter designs that don’t use any fasteners at all.

The Bottom Line

The real question behind this whole discussion, though, is this: Do you really need to wear gaiters? Unfortunately, the answer – like so many other aspects of health and fitness – isn’t very clear. You might. But that depends entirely on your training style, the locations in which you typically run and even whether your shoes provide adequate protection on their own.

If you do frequently struggle with rocks, dirt, snow or other irritants slipping into your shoes, though, gaiters are definitely worth considering.

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