The sport of running is about as simple as you can get, requiring very little equipment to get started. Whether you are a new runner or a young runner about to join your high school cross country team, here is an overview of the basic items you will need to get the most out of your running.
Foot structures vary and so do a runner’s shoe needs. You can read through my more comprehensive shoe buying guide to get all the details on how to assess your own foot structure and what to look for in running shoes. But the most important thing to keep in mind is to find as minimal a shoe as necessary to meet your needs.
This means as lightweight a shoe as possible with the smallest amount of heel to toe drop you are comfortable with and only as much pronation control as you truly need (if you’ve never used a shoe with pronation control and have never had any related injuries, there is no need to start wearing that type of shoe).
Also, be sure the toe box in your shoes provides enough room for your toes to spread while standing. To find out, take out the insole and place it on the ground. Now stand on the insole. If your forefoot and toes extend beyond the sides of the insole, this means your foot is going to be squeezed every time you take a step while running. This is a clear sign the shoe is not for you. Look for one with a roomier toe box.
Since we’re on the topic of shoes, it’s probably a good idea to mention something about socks. Choose running socks that are made of a moisture wicking material. This typically means a synthetic material (although smart wool is also popular among some runners). Definitely avoid cotton. Thin socks tend to work best. If you have blister problems, then two layers of thin socks work much better than a single thick sock. But if you double up your socks, make sure you choose your running shoe size with that in mind.
Even if you live in a warmer climate, you should own at least one pair of running pants and a running jacket. This can be as simple as a pair of sweat pants and a cotton sweatshirt, although technical materials will be much more comfortable once you start sweating in them (or running in the rain). And you should be prepared to sweat in your warmups. After all, the point is to use them to help you warm up prior to workouts and races so you aren’t starting off cold. If it is below 65 degrees when you start out, wear them until you are warmed up.
Since I’ve mentioned “moisture wicking” and “technical” materials a few times now, it is probably worth making a few more notes in this area. In both colder and hotter temperatures, technical materials that are designed to pull moisture away from your skin will keep you more comfortable. They will keep you cooler on hot days and warmer on cold days. With that said, there is nothing wrong with running in a cotton t-shirt.
The main thing with clothing is to find items that are comfortable for you. As homo sapiens, we rely upon clothing to help adjust to the environment around us. It is a good idea to learn how to make the most of clothing options to stay cool on hot days and warm on cold days. At the least, this means wearing your warmups to workouts/races when it is below 65 degrees, and being ready to put on dry clothes and warmups after completing your workouts/races in cooler weather.
I consider a basic running watch to be just as essential as a good pair of running shoes for a serious runner. Why? Because as a competitive runner you need to become more aware of your times while running. And the best way to do this is to wear and use a watch with a stopwatch function. This will allow you to monitor the duration of runs prescribed by your coach. During interval sessions, it will allow you to keep track of your interval times. And it will help you monitor your pace during runs of known distances. Tuning into time will help you become a better and more aware runner.
There you have it. Those are the basic items any new runner should own. There is beauty in the simplicity of running. With running, it’s amazing how a minimal amount of gear can bring about a maximal amount of enjoyment once you get out there and run. Enjoy!