At its core, running is one of the most basic sports. You don’t even really need shoes. Instead, you can just up and run wherever and whenever your heart desires.
But, if you want to take this sport seriously, settling on what to wear running can be an extremely important decision.
When new runners first start out, the lack of necessary gear can be an absolute godsend.
Not only can this help save money, but it also allows newcomers to decide if running is something they will enjoy throughout the foreseeable future.
But as new runners evolve into intermediate runners, they often find themselves overwhelmed by the saturated running gear market. Planning appropriate mileage, rest, and nutrition is already a chore-and-a-half.
So trying to decide what to wear running, without spending an absolute fortune, can stop many up-and-coming runners in their tracks.
But why is high-quality running gear so important in the first place? And what should you invest in when it comes to your own running wardrobe?
Why You Should Invest in a Quality Running Wardrobe
You might be asking yourself: If I can start running in an old t-shirt and shoes, why can’t I keep running in the same gear?
Well, first, this old gear will eventually wear out. Even if your first pair of running shoes (which probably weren’t top-of-the-line, to begin with) work for a while, the soles will eventually break down. And when this happens, you put yourself at high risk for injury.
As you become more invested in running as a sport and perhaps even start competing in some races, you’ll likely find that your old shirt and shoes just don’t quite cut it anymore.
At some point, almost every runner chooses to upgrade their running wardrobe. Here are some of the biggest benefits of doing so:
Feels like home
While sprinters might not care whether their running attire is super comfortable, long-distance runners should pay particular attention to this facet of their running wardrobe. After all, running a half- or full-marathon is miserable enough without chafing and heavy fabric.
Fortunately, being comfortable on a run doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive running attire available. But it does mean shopping smart and practical.
When shopping for clothes of any type, most of us are pretty aware of the fit and overall comfort.
When it comes to what to wear running, though, you must also look at the fabric content. Some of the best fabrics for running attire include nylon and polyester, which offer uncomparable breathability and moisture-wicking properties.
Some major athletic brands offer proprietary fabric blends, like Nike’s Dri-Fit or Under Armour’s Charged Cotton (a blend of cotton and synthetic fabrics for extra moisture-wicking). However, looking at the actual fabric content of different items is the easiest way to decide what to wear running.
Amp it up
Ever wondered why competitive sprinters seem to wear as little clothing as possible?
When it comes to sprinters and other speed runners, wearing the appropriate running gear could be the difference between a win and second place.
Not only do you want to choose something lightweight and comfortable, but you also want to consider aerodynamics when choosing what to wear running.
Realistically, apparel might not make too much of a difference outside of the most competitive sprinters. But what you wear running can still very much help or hinder you on race day, regardless of your competitive ranking!
For long-distance runners, extra comfort goes hand-in-hand with increased performance.
The lighter, drier, and (most importantly) more pain-free you can stay throughout your run, the better your mental and physical endurance will be.
One of the most famous examples of this is the dreaded bleeding nipple.
That’s right, endurance runners (typically men, since women more often than not wear sports bras) often suffer from bleeding nipples as their shirt rubs against the sensitive skin of their chest.
Many runners opt to bandage their nipples pre-race for a little extra protection, but opting for a non-chafing shirt can also help.
That is just one (and perhaps the most dramatic) example of how choosing what to wear running can impact your performance.
But ask any experienced runner, and they’ll have plenty of stories of chafing, tangled drawstrings, and other wardrobe mishaps on race day.
Everyone could use a boost
Whether you consider yourself a fashionista or just an average consumer, one thing is pretty much true for all of us:
We feel our best when we look our best. And this is true for running gear, too.
Many of us might have no issue strapping on our running shoes and heading out the door for our scheduled runs. But for others, this can be a more difficult task than completing the run itself!
However, having a comfortable and stylish running outfit can offer a little extra motivation on those tough days.
Some people even save certain running items for special occasions, like a big race or bucket list route.
Even if you wear your new running outfit every day, it can help you feel a bit more confident and ready to hit the pavement or trails.
But remember the runner’s age-old adage — nothing new on race day.
What to Wear Running from Head to Toe
So now that you understand the importance of your running wardrobe, let’s look at exactly what to wear running.
Of course, many of these items are situational. You might not wear a hat of any type on your runs. Or you might prefer to run shirtless.
Either way, here’s what we recommend investing in for the best running wardrobe around.
Running headgear can play multiple roles. For those of us concerned about sun exposure, a hat or visor can offer much-needed protection from UV rays.
If you rock the bald look or have very fine hair, then a hat can even help protect the delicate skin of your scalp.
Even if you’re less concerned about sun exposure than the average person, a brimmed hat can help keep the sun out of your eyes during a run.
Or, in rainy weather, it can block raindrops from hitting your face and getting into your eyes.
If you run with your hair in a ponytail, we’re partial to running visors like the Under Armour Fly-By Visor.
While visors might not be the most fashionable headgear option out there, this visor comes in a range of colors and even has reflective accents for added visibility.
For full-head protection, a standard baseball-style cap is probably the best option. Although there’s no shortage of high-quality running caps out there, our personal favorite at the moment is the Nike AeroBill Featherlight Cap.
If you live in a colder climate, then investing in a warm-but-breathable skull cap will help keep your entire body a little bit warmer. Right now, we’re loving the Tough Headwear Thermal Running Beanie.
Investing in a pair of running sunglasses might not be at the top of your shopping list. But when it comes to deciding what to wear running, sunglasses can be a necessity on a bright, sunny day.
Unfortunately, a “normal” pair of sunglasses just won’t do for most runners. Instead, you’ll need to pick up a pair of sunglasses specifically designed for running and other active sports.
Right now, our two favorite styles of running sunglasses include the DUCO Polarized Sports sunglasses and JOJEN Polarized Sports sunglasses.
Both of these sunglasses offer full UV protection and polarization, along with a lightweight and flexible frame fo no-budge wear.
Belts and packs
If you tend to stick to shorter distances, then you might wonder why a running pack is necessary.
For long-distance runners, though, the ability to carry food, water, and other items on a multi-hour run is crucial to their performance and safety.
Even if you do run shorter distances, how often do you find yourself wishing for an easier way to carry your phone or keys?
Luckily, running belts come in all different sizes and styles to meet a variety of needs. You can even find belts and packs specifically designed for hydration.
Here are some of our favorite belt styles:
If you want something compact, lightweight, and discreet, then you’ll probably love the SPIbelt. This running belt is fully adjustable, both in the strap and the pouch, and can hold oversized phones like the iPhone Plus range.
There’s enough room in this belt for bars, gummies, or gels. But you probably won’t have space to carry any water.
For something a bit more substantial, that also offers a hydration solution, we suggest the URPOWER Running Belt. While bulkier than the SPIbelt, it offers two water bottles and a zipper pouch for carrying your smaller belongings.
Like shirts, your running bottoms are largely a matter of personal choice. However, there are a few clear choices when it comes to deciding what to wear running.
Let’s start with warmer weather. Finding a high-quality pair of running shorts can be a struggle, especially if you deal with chafing thighs. Plus, not every runner wants to wear skin-tight shorts during their run around the neighborhood.
Our favorite warm-weather running bottoms for women are the Under Armour Perforated Fly-By Shorts. For men, we suggest the Baleaf Woven 5″ Shorts.
But what about when the temperatures drop?
Some of you are lucky enough to live in warm or temperate climates where shorts are appropriate running attire year-round. But for many of us, the decision of what to wear running largely depends on the weather.
If you’re a fan of Under Armour, we suggest checking out their line of ColdGear apparel. The Women’s Leggings and Men’s Compression Leggings offer extra warmth, whether worn alone or layered under a pair of running joggers.
While nothing can truly stop the cold temperatures, the right running attire can help keep you comfortable even during the winter months.
To compress or not to compress? When it comes to running socks, this is the age-old question.
So are compression socks really worth the extra price and struggle of putting them on or taking them off?
When it comes to running, compression socks are supposed to limit swelling in the lower legs. And, according to published research, they are at least somewhat effective.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that compression socks will impact your performance for the better. But there’s also no evidence that compression socks will harm you during a run, either.
If you want to try out compression socks for yourself, we recommend trying out a pair like the FuelMeFeet Copper Compression Socks. If you have a favorite sports brand, though, they likely sell a variety of compression gear, as well.
For runners who prefer just plain, old, boring socks, we’re big fans of Saucony’s range of No-Show Sports Socks. Saucony offers athletic performance socks tailored for both women and men.
The right pair of running socks can stop blisters in their tracks. In fact, when it comes to what to wear running, your socks can be almost as important as your shoes.
Take Your Running Wardrobe to the Next Level
Looking at our recommendations above, you might be worried about the amount of money you’ll need to invest in what to wear running. But don’t worry! There is a wide range of budget running gear companies on the market offering products at or near the level of major sports brands.
Plus, most runners won’t need to invest in a full-sized running wardrobe. Instead, all you need is a good pair of shoes, socks, and bottoms. Everything else is technically optional.
Whether you choose to deck yourself out in everything we recommended here or stick to your tried-and-true basics, choosing what to wear running can really help step up your game.
Have a favorite piece of running apparel you think everyone should own? Let us know about it in the comments below!