Running Essentials

The 10 most important products a runner can own

by Sean Fishpool and Alice Palmer


If you’re just getting started, don’t be befuddled by terms like wicking, pronation or GPS. Get everything you need - not what the shop assistant wants to sell you – with our guide to key kit essentials.

If you’ve been running for a while, you’ll probably own a version of most of these items. But if you’re a beginner, this list should get you on the right track and help you enjoy years of safe, rewarding running.

1. The Right Running Shoes

Why? A good running shoe is the single most important thing a runner needs. There are two key words though: running and you. Firstly, don't run in a shoe designed for any other sport, because it won't provide the cushioning and stability that the repetitive action of running requires. Secondly, go shoe-buying with patience and an open mind, to a specialist running shop. Unfortunately, just because you like the look of a shoe and it fits, it doesn't mean it's the right one for you. Arm yourself with an up-to-date RW Shoe Guide, then head to a good specialist retailer. They'll spend time analysing your running style and history before making suggestions. Try on a range of shoes across different brands, styles and sizes, jog around in the shop, and don't be afraid to go elsewhere if you don't feel any of them are right for you.
Expect to pay: £60-£90
Read more: How To Choose A Shoe | Interactive Shoe Finder | Spring Shoe Buyer's Guide 2009

2. A Sports Watch

Why? If you’ve stepped up to a training programme, a specialised sports watch will come in very handy. We're not suggesting you become time-obsessed (leave the watch at home for leisurely recovery runs and long, slow sessions), but once you've passed those early months, structured speedwork sessions and carefully paced racing are a surefire recipe for running faster. Most speed and distance monitors will be able to store lap times and mile splits, let you upload a training plan and download incredibly detailed stats to your computer, so you can get the most out of your session. Being able to see patterns in your training can help identify mistakes too: do you set off too fast and tire quickly? Just how steep was that hill? There’s a huge variety of kit available, from add-ons for mobile phones and iPods, to powerful wrist units with footpods.
Expect to pay: £10-£300+
The next step: RW Test: Speed and Distance Monitors | GPS: Your Questions Answered

3. A Technical T-Shirt

Why? Technical (or 'wicking') T-shirts move sweat away from your skin to the outer surface of the fabric, where it evaporates. They feel light, cool and comfortable against the skin, unlike cotton, which gets heavy and damp when you sweat. They're usually made from nylon (or brand names like Coolmax, Dri-FIT or Climalite), and the good ones work so well that they're virtually wearable straight out of the washing machine.
Expect to pay: £15-£35
Read more: Men's T-Shirt Reviews | Women's T-Shirt Reviews

4. A High-Impact Sports Bra

Why? There's only one excuse for not wearing a sports bra when you run, and that's being male. Otherwise, no matter what size you are, you need to arm yourself against the irreversible effects of gravity as you run. Why? Because once the ligaments around the breasts stretch, there's nothing you can do to shorten them again. Normal bras reduce breast movement by around 35 per cent, but a good sports bra achieves closer to 60 per cent. A- and B-cup sizes normally suit crop-top compression styles, while larger sizes require moulded cups. Either way, look for a bra which has been designed for high-impact activities.
Expect to pay: £15-£40
Read more: How To Choose A Sports Bra | Sports Bra Reviews

5. A Training Log

Why? Every run is an achievement, and a training log, whether on paper or online, is a record of that. More importantly, it helps to show where you've gone right and where you may have gone wrong in your training. If you want to build on a successful 10K from last year, for instance, you can discover what the key ingredients were in your build-up by checking your log. If your marathon didn't go to plan, your log doubtless has the answer. Did you really do as many long runs as you thought? Or did you take enough rest days and cross-train enough? Some people record everything from the weather to what they thought as they ran, others just note the bare-bones, such as routes and times. Either way it spares your poor family from some earache."Did I ever tell you how magnificently I came back in the second half of the Luton Half-Marathon?" "No! Mum - tell it to your log!"
Expect to pay: Nothing
Read more: Diary Products | RW Training Log

6. A Bag Of Frozen Peas

Why? Promptly icing an injury is the best way to minimise tissue damage, but ask any expert and they'll tell you it's one of the most underused treatments there is. If you'd rather go through months of physio and running at half-speed to clear up your injury, fine; but we'd rather use the quicker (and much cheaper) option of reducing the inflammation with a bag of frozen peas as soon as it happens. Here's the drill: wrap a bag of frozen peas in a damp tea towel and compress it firmly against the injury site for 12-15 minutes. Try to elevate the injured area. Repeat this hourly, or as often as you can for the next three days. You can use it again if you feel twinges as you gently stretch out the injury on subsequent days.
Expect to pay: £1-2.50
Read more: The RICE Method

7. A Heart Rate Monitor

Why? Runners are notoriously bad at judging the effort they're putting into a run. A heart rate monitor gives you an objective snapshot and helps you know whether you should be speeding up or slowing down for the particular session you're doing. (It's surprising how many of us take our recovery runs way too fast, for instance.) Also, a monitor can help to reflect your improving fitness and act as an early warning signal if illness is approaching. Most heart rate monitors will also be able to calculate your target training zones. A basic model will just report your heart rate, while top-of-the-range versions will be able to count calories and produce reams of other stats.
Expect to pay: £10-£300
Read more: Heart Rate Monitors: The Basics | Complete Guide to Heart Rate Training

8. A Comfortable Drinks Carrier

Why? Think of your body as a car engine. Carbohydrate is its petrol, but water is the oil that keeps all the internal processes moving smoothly. You can lose more than a litre of water an hour through sweat, and this will start to affect your efficiency if you don't replace it. Drinking regularly throughout the day will put your body on top form, but if you're training for more than an hour you should top up your fluid levels as you run. There are various ways of carrying water, but it's important that the method you choose doesn't affect your running style. A bottle belt can carry plenty of liquid, but make sure it doesn't bounce; a hand-held bottle is convenient but it carries less liquid, and the bigger ones may weigh you down.
Expect to pay: £3-£25
Read more: Drinking On The Run

9. A Complex-Carbohydrate Energy Drink

Why? A professional sports drink is the best way to take in large quantities of easily digestible energy. You can use it before training (particularly useful for pre-breakfast runs); during sessions lasting more than 90 minutes; and in between speed reps to help you stay stronger for longer. Half an hour after training is the key window for restoring muscle glycogen and fluid, and a sports drink is a convenient way of doing both. Good sports drinks are made with 'complex' carbohydrates - usually maltodextrin - which pack more energy than 'simple' carbohydrates such as sucrose and fructose. Some also contain minerals to speed water absorption and replace what you've sweated out. Whether you go for powder or a ready-mixed version, the real key is simply to find a brand that you like drinking.
Expect to pay: 40p (powder sachets) to £1.50 (ready-mixed) per 500ml
Read more: A Quick Guide To Sports Drinks | Complete Guide to Hydration | Sports Drinks Reviews

10. A Lightweight Jacket

Why? A running jacket makes training in cold or wet weather easier to face, and is a must if you're training in high country. The key factor for runners is breathability - how well the jacket lets sweat escape. It's a matter of personal preference, but for urban running it’s better to pick a showerproof, highly breathable jacket over a fully waterproof one that steams up rapidly on the inside. Either way, look for a model with plenty of vents built into it, and a slim running cut that allows easy freedom of movement without excess fabric getting in the way. A light mesh lining can help the jacket to feel less clingy, though an unlined option is better if you're seeking minimal weight.
Expect to pay: £30-£130
Read more: How To Choose Winter Kit | RW Test: Lightweight Jackets

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products general, training log, shoe choice, peas, watches

Discuss this article

help, I plan to start running to improve my fitness but need to buy some running kit. I work in a shop that stocks some ronhill products so I would prefer to buy ronhill . I've not done ANY real running since I left school so I am totaly clueless when it comes to kit. Any advise would be apreciated
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 18:40

The most important piece of kit will be your running shoes, which should be comfortable and suited to your running style.

At this time of year thin layers are best, so a long sleeved wicking top for those cooler days, a running vest or short sleeved wicking top for warm days. shorts or thin trackers complete the kit apart from socks.

Good luck and you don't need to spend a fortune, look around for bargains and last years stock on sale.
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 19:04

Another thing to look out for at this time of year is the winter gear being sold off cheap - a waterproof and/or windproof jacket is a must for winter, also thicker tracksters or fleece lined tights and a thermal base layer, also woolly hat and thermal gloves. I think RH make most of these items. And don't forget the reflective bib for winter

Posted: 10/05/2003 at 19:45

not too sure about the tights, I always thought it was a criminal offence for men to wear lycra
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 19:49

and like I said in my first post I work in a shop that stocks some ronhill products so I can get stuff from ronhill pretty cheep, anyone got any ronhill reviews? what ronhill kit should I get?

Posted: 10/05/2003 at 20:00

Hi Marcus

Most of my running kit is RonHill. Obviously not my shoes or socks but I've got RH running shorts, vest, and tracksters (thick ones and thin ones for different weather). My stuff's all girl shape though so exact products wouldn't help you. I've also got RH running gloves too.

Have fun shopping!

Posted: 10/05/2003 at 20:04

I've treated myself to some of Ronhill's summer range (girly colours!!) but I couldn't believe how big the sizes are. I don't think I've ever had a size 10 top before! Don't know if the men's are also on the big side though.
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 20:55

thanks I'll try some on in the shop to get the size right befor I order anything, it might be that all the running has made you so slim that you've gone down a size
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 20:58

Marcus - men in lycra are fine! Ronhill tracksters with the waterproofing stuff is the bee's knees for wet winter runs. Oooo welcome to the wonderful world of running kit.
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 21:51

I'm sorry meerkat but your reputation proceeds you, your one of those pervy female runners who only runs as an excuse to look at scantily clad men :P
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 21:59

Great if you can get all 'the right stuff', but there is nothing wrong in a pair of shorts GOOD running shoes and a T shirt for summer months. Dangly Spice is bang on with the wet and windy days though. Lycra? Not too sure about that
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:13

any suggestions on which shorts?
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:16

Marcus - sad but true. Seriously though (ahem) I run in Hind shorts and love them (the girly ones). But Chimp is a recent convert to lycra, with baggier shorts worn over the top.
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:19

doesnt that get a bit hot? wouldnt want to bake my bits!!
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:22

Marcus - Light weight shorts, nothing heavy like rugby shorts. Meerkat. Why wear shorts over the lycra? Surely you lose aerodynamic benefits
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:29

Just joking, honest
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:30

hmmm been looking at the gear forums and lots of people seem to be having problems with chaffing whilst wearing shorts, is this a problem with all shorts or are there any anti-chaff shorts on the market?
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:40

Marcus, I used to run in 1980 (20 yr old-how time has passed) What I do remember about long runs is not so much the thighs but the nipples. I did half marathon in ordinary T shirt and by heck they were sore. Vasaline was no good. Saw a number of people putting plasters over them, wish I did. There was a problem with chaffing on upper thighs, but they toughened up as training for half marathan went on. Wasn't as big then as I am now though so don't know how I will fare now when I increase my distance
Posted: 10/05/2003 at 22:59

Marcus - I seem to remembet that Chimp goes for the lycra/baggy short combo and thereby acheives (1) no chafing (2) no startling sights for the ladies. He's a regular on the Mature thread, if you want to ask him.
Grumps - LOVE the cymru dragon! God's own country!
Posted: 11/05/2003 at 08:17

I only married my hubby because years ago he used to have runners bottom (small and pert!) and ran in some VERY nice yellow/blue rhills. 15 years later (after numerous ops on a broken leg) he no longer runs and the same rhills fit my daughter!! Thank god for memories.
Posted: 11/05/2003 at 09:01

female runners are so shallow LOL
Posted: 11/05/2003 at 18:57

Hi. Meerkat alerted me to this thread. I do NOT wear baggy shorts over lycra. Who do think I am John Banes??

No You need to wear lycra alone. The commando/not commando argument has yet to be resolved. I swing both ways.
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 12:42

So its a sturdy pair of under crackers for me!
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 12:45

Much is written about kit and most of it is nonsense…motion control, technical super dry lightweight and breatherable tops, wicks?, gillets, micro fiber? All a load of marketing humbug. Good pair of Dunlop green flash, empire building shorts al la Eric Morecambe, standard Y fronts (optional) and a M&S string vest is all you need to run like the wind and drive the women crazy.

Posted: 13/05/2003 at 13:25

What a lovely picture you describe Mr Slazenger...

Just wanted to add a thmbs up for Ronhill's wicking stuff. Better than most, lasts well, good value.
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 14:01

Nike do a pair of lycra shorts with the seams running across the body (left to right from inside of leg to opposite side rather than back to front.) No Chafing ( research by Mr Fergalk)
comfy running
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 15:06

I'd be too embarrased to go into work if any of the customers saw me in lycra, it just does not leave ANYTHING to the imagination, was thinking about getting some ronhill elite baggy shorts anyone tryed them?
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 19:27

That's why we love Chimp, marcus.
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 19:41

so what do you wear to run in, meerkat?
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 19:42

also does the pain in your bronchioles ( I hope thats how you spell it ) and lungs subside with time and practice?
Posted: 13/05/2003 at 20:36

*apologies in advance for the long post*

I've not long been running myself, but for what it's worth I wouldn't worry *too* much about clothing, it's really not going to make a huge amount of difference you're just starting out! Spend most of your time choosing the right shoes, and you can build up your kitbag from there!

I often run in normal footballers shorts which normal boxers underneath though I do have a pair of lined sports shorts (comfy and come halfway down my thighs) which i prefer to use. Personally not a fan of lycra, or incredibly 'short shorts'; I don't think i'll ever wear either!

I wear various T-shirts, most just normal sports branded T-shirts, nothing special! In the cold I put a long sleave top underneath, maybe not as comfortable as some of these hi-tech jobbies you can get, but does the job. I've got one T-shirt that's like a breathable mesh which I prefer to wear as it's most comfortable (but can be bloomin' cold though!)

I usually use just normal white socks! recently bought some running specific training socks and they're VERY comfy, i don't think they help me run any faster though! lol. Normal white socks are fine really.

My current preferred running kit costs:
Shorts - £4 (on sale@JJB)
Top - £10 (at a bike show years ago)
Socks - £6 (local running shop)
Shoes - £50 (on sale@JJB)

Perfectly happy and comfortable running in it as well :)
Posted: 04/04/2006 at 15:22

Please get your shoes sorted first . Sweatshop or any where that has a "footscan" can save you miles of agony . The RW "wetfoot" test is a very good guide to your foot type . Feet first . Take it easy .
Posted: 13/02/2008 at 13:24

I hope he's got his shoes sorted by now, this thread is 5yrs old...! LOL
Posted: 13/02/2008 at 15:19

Takes me a while to catch up with some of  `em .
Posted: 13/02/2008 at 18:15

Did you get that running gear lad?
Posted: 09/07/2009 at 03:23

I'm having to do my early morning runs in the dark now. What is the best kit for visual and doesn't feel heavy?
Posted: 01/10/2011 at 15:42

What I want to know is how these old posts come back to life after years of absence  do people get really bored and decide to read a few years at a time  haha
Posted: 03/10/2011 at 15:47

My essential running kit for winter 

Posted: 05/12/2012 at 17:11

Or even here:


Posted: 05/12/2012 at 17:11

I wear full length running tights in the winter, but with shorts over the top; going with just the tights feels like going out wearing underwear.

Posted: 05/12/2012 at 21:58

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