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What You Actually Need in Your Running Closet

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Runners come in two groups: those that can never have enough running gear and the minimalist who manages to complete full marathons in what seems to be running gear they bought decades ago. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, no one can deny that the surplus of amazing products out on the market is enough to make even the most experienced runner question their purchasing choices. So how do you decide what you need and what is fluff?

Besides honing in on your own personal needs (not everyone needs BodyGlide or NipGuards) where do you draw the line on stocking your closet? Current running items you need are vastly different from just ten ago in their construction and progress with technology related to fabrics and weight of items. Long ago carrying or having to hide water on your route was part of the long run routine. Now with fuel belts, vest and hydration packs, it’s not a necessity.

But the question remain: aside from your favorite kicks, what running gear do you really need?

Your Pretty Little Head

It goes without saying one of the confirmed types of weather you’ll be running in is sunny weather regardless of temperature.  A classic sweat-wicking, reflective long billed hat with an adjustable fit is a must. A long billed hat will protect your face, neck and chest from sun’s rays. Another option would be a visor if you get super-hot but you’ll forgo the extra protection on your scalp.


For cold weather days, a beanie or ear warmer headband added on top will keep you toasty. The lighter your eyes, the more susceptible to the harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun they are. A pair of good sunglasses will protect your eyes, won’t slip, won’t bounce and are polarized all while being friendly to your wallet. The longer the run the more likely the weather and temperature is going to change on you. Early in the morning or late at night having a neck gaiter (i.e. neck warmer) can be an easy piece to add and remove as your run heats up or cools down.


Short of the obvious need for wicking, well-fitting sports bras and tops, some of which need to be bright and reflective, there are other handy products that will make life simpler. If you are running in the morning dark or the evening dusk you need to make sure you are noticed. The old standard reflective vests are a good idea but not ideal; they ride, they don’t look cool and they are an overall nuisance. Enter Nox Gear their Tracer360 is a lightweight, 360 degree, waterproof, adjustable florescence that can be seen better than any product on the market. The most useful item to use without incident is a vest.

If you live in an area with weather than seems to change from one extreme to another, a medium weight vest like the Oiselle Vigor Vest will allow for warmth without bulk and can be unzipped if you warm up. A feather weight vest simply will protect you from rain and act as a vessel to carry a few small, like keys, gels and a phone, and keep them from getting wet.

For most runners, having a jacket for cooler weather is a must.  A jacket like the New Balance Heat Run Jacket works well in variety of weather conditions or if you need something when you travel or if the weather patterns suddenly changes.  Pick a jacket that is tight fitting but allows for some room for a couple of layers underneath, and will keep you warm while wicking away sweat.

Lower Half

Besides your go to running shorts, consider having a pair of compression tights or capris.  They can seems daunting especially when you pick up a pair that looks like they could fit a toddler and not your adult size body. The compression pants like those made by CW-X offer different compression patterns that support specific parts of your body like back, hips, knees, hamstrings and core. There are also fleece lined versions.  However, all that said, having a pair of running tights is a good idea, compression or not. And if you are running in a climate that is below 30 degrees on a consistent basis for a portion of the year, then make sure your tights are fleece lined.

Compression socks reviewed

An overlooked item by some runners are socks. Make sure to have a few pairs of quality moisture-wicking socks.  Compression socks for recovery after long runs and hard workouts are the happiest investment you’ll make.  Companies like Swiftwick, CEP and Zensah offer not only compression socks but if you prefer, compression calf sleeves.

Additional Accessories

If your runs last longer than 30 minutes, a fuel belt or handheld bottle like one by Amphipod is a must for hydration and fuel. Some people enjoy the hands free option of the fuel belt.  Others don’t like having something around their waist. Others swear by both for different distances. Either way, carrying water and fuel along with your car or house key and phone can be a one stop shop with these gadgets.

Your hands aren’t doing much while you run but they can get pretty cold even where the rest of you is not.  A pair of light gloves like the Mizuno Breath Thermos Knit Gloves or wind proof mittens for windy and extra cool days like the Pearl Izumi Ride Shine Wind Mitt are worth having in your arsenal.

Like reflective gear, it is worth considering having an identification bracelet, like RoadID, that has your name, emergency contact information and other important medical information in case something goes wrong.  Don’t want to wear a bracelet? There are also necklaces, shoe tags or even a tag that can go on your running watch.

Last but Not Least

The final piece of gear needed is a sunscreen you will actually wear. For a lot of people the Sport-type products works great especially on the shoulders, arms and legs against the sweat and humidity. Don’t forget your knees and the backs of your legs. Most people think their shoulders are what gets hit hardest and fail to put sunscreen on all exposed skin. Coppertone SPORT Sunscreen Lotion comes in a variety of SPFs and can be purchased a lotion or continuous spray. Bothered by the thickness of a sport lotion? Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen comes in almost any form you’d like: lotion, spray or dry mist and with ample SPF choices.

More often than not, less is more, even in cold weather, so keep that in mind when filling your closet. Correctly chosen items can save you money and gear grief in the long run.

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