How to choose the best gear…
It’s always important to have the correct equipment to train safely and correctly. Running is a simple sport and, luckily, requires very little specialist kit. The most technical and most important purchase will be your running shoes. Shoes have evolved over the past ten years into sophisticated pieces of technology which each manufacturer has their own version of.
Next you need some socks to train in. It is wise to invest in a proper pair of running socks that have been designed to wick away moisture and sweat from the foot so you don’t slip and suffer so many blisters when running. Look for more padding in certain areas to aid the shoes in cushioning. Some of the latest socks are designed to be left and right specific. As with most things nowadays, you get what you pay for and a £1 pair of socks won’t give you as much comfort as an £8 pair.
Shorts and tights
Shorts should be comfortable, lightweight and have the ability to wick away sweat when you train. Most running shorts now come with a pant liner so you don’t have to wear anything else with them. Try them on first, as some of the inners can be a little restrictive if you don’t get the right size. Most shorts come with elastic waist bands, but it is worth paying a little extra to get a draw string as well, so you can tie the shorts to your specification rather than rely on the elastic to hold them up.
Elastic-only shorts often move down a little, especially in wet conditions. Your shorts shouldn’t be so tight that they cut off circulation round your waist but not so loose that they flap around all the time either. Check the slit up the side, often this is quite large to allow for a greater ventilation but make sure you are happy with how much leg it shows when you run.
When the weather gets cold it is advisable to wear tights to keep your legs warmer and thus reduce the chance of injury. Fabric technology has exploded recently with the aid of new synthetic materials and NASA technology.
Running tights can be custom fit to hug the legs more efficiently and stop the wind and rain penetrating the leg itself. This helps to reduce injuries from cold muscles and also means that you can enjoy running when the weather is a not ideal. Only diehard older runners now wear loose fitting cotton tights.
Fashionable and technologically knowledgeable runners are choosing high tech garments that help them in their running. Tights should be snug fitting and comfortable. It is important to try them on before you buy because many manufacturers have different cuts to suit different styles of runner. Generally the more expensive the tight, then the more comfortable they will be, and the better at keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.
Short and long sleeve t-shirts have also benefited from technological advances. The mid to top range t-shirts all wick away sweat to keep you cooler and allow a greater air circulation through the fabric.
They feel very light-weight but have the properties to keep you warm or cool depending on when and how you wear them. Running t-shirts should be reasonably tight but not figure-hugging and likewise they shouldn’t flap around when you run in them. It is a fine balance between well fitted and slightly baggy you should aim for. With long sleeve t-shirts, you should aim to get ones with cuffed sleeves so they stay down around your wrists.
If there are no cuffs, then the sleeves often ride up your arms when you run, and this can be both annoying and cold.
Gloves should be lightweight and comfortable. Only in extreme weather will you need to wear thick running gloves and more often than not you will heat up enough to be okay in the normal thin type. Woollen gloves are the norm because they are cheap but they don’t offer the same water proof and wind stopper capabilities of the new high tech fabrics. Woollen gloves will be fine for most runners but if you are venturing out into cold or wet climates, it is worth investing in a high tech pair. Running with cold hands can ruin the experience for you, so choose carefully when you buy, especially in winter.
Hats are similar to gloves in that woollen ones are the norm because they are easy to get hold of and cheap. The more high tech versions, such as fleece, offer wind stopping capabilities and some are waterproof as well. Peaked caps have become more fashionable recently and are favoured by younger runners. These hats offer greater protection from the rain, snow and sun but often they can get blown off in windy conditions, and they don’t offer the same warmth capabilities as woollen or high tech fabrics. In addition, they are better for runners who wear glasses because they help the glasses from getting rain or snow on.
When the weather gets really cold or wet it is advisable to run in a gillet or a long sleeve waterproof top. These offer excellent wind-stopping and rain-resistance capabilities and can keep you warm and dry throughout any run. These types of tops are multi-purpose because they can be used casually as well and the ones at the top end are very high tech and guaranteed waterproof and windproof. Cheaper versions will be fine for most running conditions but they will sacrifice certain aspects like being 100% waterproof or windproof.
Being prepared for cooler conditions enables you to stay warm, dry and enjoy the run more. In warmer climates the new fabrics and technologies enable you to train harder by staying cooler and wicking away sweat and moisture from the body. Both of these mean you can’t blame the weather for not training anymore and you can get and stay fitter all year round now in comfort and style.