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?

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Updated August 2016.