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. 

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I love the jacket and The Stick looks interesting. I'm getting a CamelBak for my bike rides. My friend has one and really loves it. Report
I also love my Newtons, they are well worth the money! Report
One last item, that is very inexpensive- a tennis ball! This is a must have for me. I sit at night and roll my foot over it. It releases any tension in my feet and feels so good! Report
I LOVE my Newtons! I quit having shin splints after getting my Newtons last summer. Also love my Brooks running jackets & vest, & my Moving Comfort bra (not the Fiona but Moving Comfort is the BEST!). Report
I would totally add The Grid:


It has done wonders for my IT Band that regular rollers can't even touch. Also, it has really helped my shins too which really burn because I use "barefoot technology" type shoes outdoors. Report
Great list! I was pretty skeptical about The Stick--25 bucks for a rod with some beads?!--until I tried it! Worth every penny! Haven't tried that sports bra. Would you say it's good for bigger bosoms? I've always held on to my Champion bra before too. Report
I am going to buy the bra, for both me and daughter who plans on running soon. Report
I love my RaceReady shorts. They are running shorts (RaceReady also does other things) with net pockets and other pockets around the waist band. I can store my phone, my IDs, GU gels, pretty much anything I need for running long distances in them without any kind of fanny pack. I don't race in anything else during the summer anymore.

Also, for long distances, I love my CamelBak that goes over my shoulders. I still have to stash water bottles sometimes for training runs to fill up the CamelBak, but I can't imagine carrying a water bottle with me or not having water for longer than 10 mile runs.

And for every workout (but especially running because of the sweat), I like my Sweaty Band hair bands. They are $18 each (which seems like a lot) but I NEVER get sweat in my eyes anymore, they stay put in my hair, are washable and come in super cute colors and patterns. Report
Love my Fiona Sports Bra!!! I even bought it a size up while preggo and nursing to fit my new body. Looking forward to going back down to my old size...my baby is 6 months old now so not too much longer! Report
My chiropractor recommended The Stick to me on Monday. Seems I'm having an issue with an IT band as I'm training to walk my first half-marathon. I cannot afford to stop training at this point so I'm willing to give it a go. I have not sourced The Stick locally yet but it's on my list of things to do in the next few days.

I would add running capris to the list -since I bought my first pair, I've loved them. Have the foam roller, but have never tried the stick. Thanks for the info Nancy! Report
I just bought the stick 2 nights ago and I love it. I have 2 AXIS foam rollers (large & small) that I use to roll out IT bands, but the rollers never seemed to get my calves loosened up. The stick works grat for that. Report
I love, love, love my newtons! Don't let the bright color scare you off. I was nervous at first. But I have gotten more compliments about them than strange looks! Report
Thanks for the great blog. I've been thinking about a jacket, and I'll have to give the Brooks a try. I love my Fiona bra, too. It is the first one I bought when I started running, and I have had zero problems with bouncing or chafing. Report
Tried on the Newtons at the store, I ran about 10 steps in them and almost IMMEDIATELY had burning foot pain that lasted several hours. I will not be trying them again.

My son likes to take my Stick off my chair where I keep it and whack me in the shins with it.

I have the Zensah compression socks and I like them very much although with just 4 months wear they are looking pretty ratty already. Report
I would add a neck warmer, aka neckgaiter aka buff. My favorite one is made by Original Buff out of merino wool. I can wear it as a neckerchief, a sahariane, a scarf and a balaclava. Price is around $30. Report
The STICK sounds interesting. Report
This blog entry is so helpful. I've never heard of the Stick. I checked out a video demo clip from "The Doctors." Sounds like something that I could certainly benefit from owning. Thanks! Report
I've just bought the Zensah calf sleeves at the suggestion of my chiropractor. He suggests I run in them to keep my calfs warm and supported. Good information for the SpiBelt! I'm planning to run my marathon sans a fuel belt, but wondered what I could carry all my gels in; problem solved. I also buy Oakley sunglasses; keeps my peepers happy and protected. I don't have a "Stick," but I've got a MuscleTrac; same difference only it has "gears" to work into the muscle.

I'm thinking that bluetooth headphones might be a good addition to the list. I'm considering buying some now that the headphone jack on my phone is going out. Report
Love this blog Nancy! I own some sort of all of these items except for the "Stick" which I probably need to purchase soon. I love my Moving Comfort Fiona, one of the best sports bras I've ever come in contact with. I also bought the Spibelt at the Dallas White Rock Marathon Expo and bought the one with the extra loops for your Gu and straps for your bib. Love it!

What I'd add to a runners list, is Body Glide and a reflector light of some kind to either clip on your cap/visor or on your shirt. Report
I was wondering, is the Fiona bra great for big boobs ??? I run and do aerobics and it's hard to find a bra that will leave my "girls" in place and also not get a uniboob !!!
I am now wearing the Shock Absorber bra and it's not bad at all.
Thanks in advance,
Loloute / Nicole Report
Hey everyone, with the exception of the sports bra, all the items can be used by both sexes...they make a male version of the jacket and vest. They also carry the Zenhah for men, too!

great article nancy, i am right with ya right down to the brooks products. i gave up the newtons after 6 weeks, just was not right for me. Report
Nancy...that's my new running jacket! Love it! Report
I agree. Let's see more content for men! Report
Do bad this site doesn't have post like this for men. Report
I lucked out and found my Fiona at Ross--$10 plus tax! Obviously I love it! Thanks for the other tips. Report
I have The Stick. It has really saved my legs. It has helped me to keep me from going back to physical therapy. Report
Just an FYI Moving Comfort has a new bra...the Juno...It's even better than the Fiona....AND...it's a racer back style...so you can wear it with tanks!

LOVE my compression socks and swear by them! Report
I'm wearing my Fiona right now! I got mine at Sierra Trading Post for less than $25. Report
LOL--when I saw the water resistant SpiBelt, I thought, "Wow, there must be other people who fall into puddles like I do!" Then I read your description and the illusion was shattered. :)

And the Fiona is my absolute favorite! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! Finally a sports bra that I can rely on instead of leaving in the back of my drawer.

As always, thanks for the awesome information, Nancy! Report
Those newtons are awesome. A little bit of an adjustment period though so be cautious!! I love em