9 Gear Essentials Every Serious Runner Needs

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Some women can't wait for the latest fashions to hit their local department store, but for me I get that same thrill when I walk into my local running specialty store. In the five years since I took up running, I have purchased more pairs of running shoes, socks, shorts, tech shirts and sports bras than I have any other ''real'' articles of clothing. Plus, because I have the freedom to work from home, many times I am sitting in my workout gear waiting to pound the pavement or hit the gym so purchasing other clothing really isn't a necessity.

Below are just a few of my favorite running products, ones that help me perform at my best and others that just get me excited to hit the road. Even if you are not a runner, walkers can benefit from them, as well.

Brooks Running Jacket (starting at $59)

One of the most fundamental pieces of outerwear attire for runners is a solid running jacket. I am partial to the Brooks running jacket because of its tailored fit, large pockets, and a small inside pocket to store my iPod. This jacket offers a full-zip closure with a chin guard, and a ribbed hem and cuffs for extra warmth and comfort. I currently own five Brooks running jackets (yes, I do have an obsession with running jackets), four of which I purchased at the Rock 'n' Roll runs. Even after 40-plus washes, the jackets look just as good as they did when I purchased them a year ago.

Brooks Thermal Running Vest ($110)

When temperatures are too warm for a full running jacket, I resort to wearing my running vest. What I love about a running vest is the versatility. Like a jacket, it also offers a number of pockets to carry my keys, money and cell phone on my runs. It makes a great transition item from season to season and can be worn over a long-sleeved tech shirt if the weather dips too low. The vest also offers wind and water resistance and has super lightweight poly insulation so you won't feel the added bulk when running. Reflectors on the back and front of the vest help make me more visible to drivers, which is a must for anyone who prefers running after the sun sets.

Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves (price varies)

I was first introduced to compression leg sleeves last summer when I traveled to Seattle to run the Rock 'n' Roll half-marathon. Compression leg sleeves work to increasy oxygen blood flow to the lower legs, which in turn helps speed up your recovery time. While they can be worn during your runs, I prefer to wear them for post-run recovery only.

Brooks Moving Comfort Fiona Sports Bra ($44)

When I first started running, I wore the Champion Shape 2000 sports bra. As the years passed, though, they became next to impossible to find. I spent the next year on the hunt for the perfect sports bra. I was convinced I would never find another one I liked more than my Champion, but all my fears were allayed when I discovered Moving Comfort's Fiona Sports Bra. I bought one a few months ago just to give it a try and it has since dethroned my faithful Champion. The support the Fiona provides is exceptional. In the four months I have been wearing it, I have never had issues with the straps slipping or experiencing the annoying chaffing that can be a problem when making a switch. While they are a tad on the expensive side, they are worth every penny I paid.

FlipBelt ($30)

I can't get enough of the FlipBelt. Simply slide your phone, key, ID or other belongings into the opening of the stretchy Lycra belt, and then flip the belt to secure the contents. The quick-drying fabric wicks away sweat and moisture, and doesn't chafe or irritate the skin. Unlike other belts that slip and slide, interrupting the flow of your run, this one stays put through every mile. The various, vivid color options also mean it doubles as a stylish accessory. The reflective logo helps keep you visible during dark runs.

SPIbelt Running Waist Pack ($19.99)

While many will call the SpiBelt a small version of a fanny pack, for runners and walkers we like to call them activity belts. Heavy sweaters like me or runners who head out on the road in the rain or snow will love the water-resistant fabric, which keeps your money, keys and small celll phone dry no matter the conditions. 

Saucony Ride Running Shoes ($80 and up)

After years of struggling with on-again, off-again injuries, I discovered these cushioned, supportive running shoes and never looked back! I love how the wider toe box offers plenty of room, while still providing a secure fit along the length of the foot. The flexible outsole moves with my stride, and the breathable mesh keeps my feet cool even during hot summer runs. 

Oakley Sports Sunglasses ($160 and up)

Sports sunglasses are a necessity. Facial tension can lead to tight shoulders and upper-body tension, which could ultimately affect your running form. Sports sunglasses offer glare resistance and anti-slip ear pieces, and because they are lightweight, they are ideal not only for running, but walking and cycling as well. While they are a little pricey, you do get what you pay for and that is a quality product that can last for years. I have owned my Oakely glasses for five years now and they have been one of my best investments.

TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller (Price varies $21.50 and up)

This product is a lifesaver when you don't have the time or money for a professional massage. The sturdy tool gets deep into the muscles to release myofascial adhesions and knots, maximizing the flow of blood and oxygen to the muscles and increasing flexibility. Plus, it's made of super-durable materials that stand up to daily use.

Do you own any of these running items? What would you add to the list?

We hope you love these products as much as we do! SparkPeople may collect a small percentage of revenue from the links on this page.

Updated August 2016. 

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Essential: good shoes. Report
CREAKYCAT 6/27/2020
YES to Saucony Ride shoes--I've been wearing them for years. Thumbs up to the FlipBelt--I still prefer stretchy shorts, capris or tights with a pocket on the upper thigh, but this is the next best way to carry phone, i.d. and keys without them bouncing around. In addition to this list, I love New Balance long-sleeved run shirts, and Patagonia's lightweight rain shell with a visor hood, zippered pockets, and pit zips for ventilation. Report
RYCGIRL 3/2/2020
thx Report
RAZZOOZLE 1/25/2020
thank you Report
REDROBIN47 12/29/2019
Good shoes are essential. I'm not so sure about all the other stuff. Report
GREEN_EYES2 12/17/2019
Thank you Report
CECELW 11/5/2019
I've never heard of the stick apparatus Report
Wish someone would do an article on socks Report
Maybe the title should be "Every FEMALE runner needs"? I know I need to lose weight, but I don't think I need a bra to run yet... Report
too expensive to buy, on disability Report
I have most of that Report
Nah. We really don't need any of this crap. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Needs updating as I'm always looking for a decent sports bra that is also cheap, and the link to the Fiona states that the style is no longer in stock...and...never was available in my size... Report
love them Report
I bought a new outfit last weekend (top, shorts, socks) and told my husband I am sure I have more running clothes than I do work (office) clothing. lol Report
Great share of Gear! Report
This article is in TOTAL contradiction to the one I just read! These are not necessary for a good, healthy run. Anyone who believes all of this- I have swamp land that's perfect for golf to sell. Report
These are not essentials, the fitness fanny packs and other items you can get cheap at Amazon. Light in the Box.com sells many Smart watchers & 3 will work on your computer, they range from $11.00 - $200.00 and they charge $4.00 for shipping,insurance & tracking the order. It takes 2 weeks to get & they ship worldwide. They also have other items they sell wholesale. They do sell fit bit & other brand names. Report
I'm not even gonna grap sparkpoints for this "article" because it was nothing more than an ad. Report
This could be discouraging to someone wanting to start, but may feel intimidated. Same as gym intimidation, feeling out of place in a new environment.

The essentials of running are getting out there, not spending $550.00 on suggestions. A good pair of shoes is next. Saucony makes a great shoe, but you need the right shoe for your need, not a particular style. If you're running outside, BE SEEN. Bright, light colors day or night; reflective gear and a light if you're out there in the dark. If you need sunglasses you probably have some so no worry there.

If you want to spend the money go for I won't fault you. But these are not essentials. Report
I use the Moving Comfort sports bra and I swear by it. The best sports bra I've ever owned and worth every penny! Report
Yes to the Saucony Ride shoes! Bought my first pair a month ago. I wore Saucony's Grid Cohesion for years, but felt I could use more cushioning. Right call--they're so amazing, I don't want to take them off. Report
$160 for sunglasses? I just cannot wrap my head around the idea of spending more for a pair of sunglasses than 3-4 pairs of quality running shoes! Report
I looooove Brooks!! And since they merged with Moving Comfort it's a one-stop-shop for me :D Report
A minimalist yet motion control shoe. Hmmm. Sounds paradoxical, LOL. Report
I have the fiona sport bra and I absolutely love it! Report
I have the fiona sport bra and I absolutely love it! Report
Another "women's only" article on SP. I realize there are mostly women here, but how hard would it be to add some men's items?

Jeff Report
While I enjoyed your article, I recommend not giving particular types for bras and shoes. These two items are fitted for each individual depending on body type and feet shape. I love the Brooks running jacket. Also, the foam roller goes well with the Stick. They're fabulous! Report
I'm surprised you guys didn't include the Road IDs in this list - they are one of the most important things I've got in my runs :-D Report
The Stick is good after a long day on your feet too! Very much recommended! Report
Well, all I can say is I am new at running and I have alot to learn. I will check out the stick and a few more items. Thanks very helpful blog! Report
I never thought about wearing my compression socks post run. I have had issues with shin splints and some stress fractures in the past so I think I will give that a try. I love the jacket! And for $70, it's a steal. I think I may have to try the sports bra, too. Thanks for all the info!
Rhonda Report
Thank you so much for this list! I'm a new runner and just ran my first 10K race! The Fiona bra is so comfortable and supportive! Wish they made regular, everyday bras that comfortable and supportive! The Stick is great for the sore muscles and kinks since my race! I'm going to check out the Brooks jacket. A local store is having a sale on Brooks! Report
looks cool Report
Love the Stick! Haven't tried the other's. Thanks! Report
How ironic but my husband gave me a Brooks running jacket for Christmas, I'm pretty certain it's the same one shown in the photo. Yes, it is a FANTASTIC jacket. I don't run with an ipod, however, that pocket could be used to hold other small items. The Brooks jacket that I have is VERY warm. I actually can't wear it if the temps hit 30 or higher. And the bright yellow green is perfect, visibility is key. It really is a great jacket. Report
I have compression leg sleeves, but I don't use them for running. I used them for support when I tore my calf muscle. While my leg has healed, I'll occasionally wear them when I feel they need stability.

Keep in mind all the 'Stick" fits into a suitcase! Great for destination running.

I have been trying some "Teds" that I got at the hospital for a trial to see if the compression sleeves are for me. Just an idea to offer!
Obviously try on a training run - not a race the first couple of times. Report
I guess we are pretty different.

I have a stick, but I am partial to my foam roller and tennis balls (in a sock). I learned about the tennis balls from my physical therapist. For muscular pain in the shoulders, neck and lower back, put two tennis balls in a sock, lie on the floor, and put the sock under the affected muscles. Adjust the intensity by lying still, moving around or adjusting the amount of weight you put on them. If regular tennis balls are too intense, you can get (softer) softball pitching machine balls at a sports store, or punch holes in your tennis balls. This method may be useful for other muscles as well, but I haven't tried it. It's very easy on the budget, and it feels like a deep tissue massage.

I also own a Fuel Belt (with water bottles, worn around the waist) because I don't like carrying water, and I prefer a visor to sunglasses. For the rest, I am very much a minimalist, except in shoes. I just wear whatever athletic shorts, capris, or long pants I have. For my feet, I need a lot of motion control, so I wear Brooks Ariels with custom orthotics. Report
Thanks for the info on the bra. The only thing I really need in that long list of goodies. Pat in Maine. Report
I just got a Moving Comforts Fiona bra as well and as I'm a 34DD it's quite difficult to find my size anywhere--which wasn't a problem on Amazon for these bras. I hesitated at first because of cost, but it was well worth it after I tried it. I hardly move at all while running and it's really comfy. I also like that it has hooks and doesn't just go over the head like many other "sports" bras. I would highly recommend it. I also got a MC Juno bra and it's pretty good too, but it does go over the head as well as hook. Report
I want that running jacket!
The Stick sounds cool! Report
My Sports bra of choice is Enelle. It is totally motion control! (And as a triple D runner, that's important.) Report
I own the moving comfort bra. I am a 36 DD and it works. Which is fantastic. Report
Thanks for the info on the sports bra. I am looking for a good one in a size that is sooooooo hard to find. I immediately hit the link and found it in my size! Yay, I know what I am going to be spending some money on. Report
I do have the stick, but I don't run anymore, due to joint problems. I also have a sport bra, but not the one mentioned. Report
Thank you! I have never heard of The Stick, but after your blog and the other comments, I think it's definitely something I need to try. Report
I have 2 Brooks Jackets and one Saucony one. The Saucony is my new favorite. I also love my Saucony running pants, and since I live in the NW, my Saucony running glove/mitts. I have most of the other things too. I run with my Zensah's and love them. I also switch off with a pair of Skin compression sleeves and sometimes compression socks. Makes a big difference in how my legs feel. Report