My list of running gear is ever growing.
When it comes to hobbies and recreation, unlike those of us (a-hem Trex) who are gear heads from the start, I am of the mind that one eases into gearing up in case the venture loses its appeal early and I am trucking off to Goodwill to donate stuff I don’t use anymore.
So I generally start inexpensively, buying the least amount of gear possible for whatever new thing I am trying out. For example when I started playing Roller Derby my first pair of skates were under $200, my pads set and helmet under $150. By the time I retired from the sport my skates alone, which included high end bearings, wheels, plates and trucks, boot, toe guard, and stopper, were $1500. That doesn’t include the $300 for pads and helmet, or the $95 custom dentist made mouth guard. Yikes! Keep in mind this was my hobby before I had kids 😉
As with any one who becomes serious about their interests, whether it be an athlete, musician, or machinist, you learn there is a difference between the cheap equipment and the expensive stuff. Just ask any professional golfer what’s in his golf bag. But while there is a difference in the quality of a product and how it generally feels, and moves etc, it is the talent and hard work of the person using the equipment that makes the most difference. I would wager to guess that Tiger Woods could pick up just about any 9 iron and put that ball on the green.
With running, like Derby, I eased my way into the sport, buying first a couple pairs of Asics Nimbus, soon realizing they weren’t going to be what was needed to get the job done. Ten pairs of shoes later, I have slowly but surely acquired and purchased more and more running gear; so much so that I have one large dresser drawer, half my closet, and one side of our hall closet dedicated to all my running stuff.
I have found that like with skates, and pads there is some running gear you don’t cheap out on, such as shoes, socks, and sports bras. But when it comes to clothing I am cheap. So far for general training purposes, and shorter distances, the inexpensive versions of things like shirts and pants are about 80% as good, if not more, over the super expensive stuff when you take into account the wear and tear, frequent washings, and occasional bleaching’s. But for Ultra distances I am finding that materials and seam placement is going to make a HUGE difference, which is why I just plunked down $65 for a pair of shorts rated for ultra-running to replace the ones that recently caused me to have to run with a thick layer of Desitin where this product is typically applied. Ouch!
At the moment my biggest complaint is that I haven’t found a pair of underwear, shorts, or tights, that doesn’t have a seam or gusset stitching right in the wrong place. With all so called ‘seamless’ underwear there is a major chafe point (CP) where they join the front and back fabric with a rear/crotch seam. I own several pairs. That seam shows under leggings and tight skirts. I have to go with a thong if I truly want seamless. I have looked and looked and I thought I had found the ones that might work, however when I read the reviews one of the negative reviews was from a women with the same problem I have! It ‘seams’ like the running clothing industry has some catching up to do when it comes to comfortable underwear. Why not go commando you ask? Well I have done this as well and found the seams in the the crotch of the pants eventually give me the same issue. So if you happen by this post and have any recommendations for running shorts, underwear, or compression tights that are actually seamless in the crotch area, not just visually but physically, then please leave me a comment!
I just purchased some new shorts and tights from some bigger name brands who supposedly design gear with longer distance in mind. I will provide experiential opinions and reviews of such items in future posts, but since, over the past year and a half, I have acquired quite a bit of running gear, the vast majority of which I have gotten my money’s (or Trex’s) worth out of it, and because I rely on product reviews and runner blogs for recommendations, I figured I should pass along a few myself. So here is my current (use daily) and past (retired) inventory and what I liked/disliked about them.
Road Shoes: Note I have a wide but average length foot. My width is not in the toe box like all the companies tout, it is in the forefoot at the knuckles, so I am still stuck looking for and purchasing Wide widths in most brands where available.
- Altra Escalante (Mens 7.5, because the women’s weren’t wide enough! #annoyed / Up to 8K) – Most comfortable shoe I own, but these are only great for short distances on flat, straight paved trail or road, not much else. Wore these for my first 20 mile run and found them lacking in the cushion/support department. Also annoyed that the women’s version wasn’t wide enough, probably not buying this shoe again since I can’t wear them for a lot of the current distances we are running.
- Hoka Clifton 4‘s (Women’s 8 wide/ 5K-Half Marathon) – Wore for my first full Marathon mainly because I trained in them. I liked them, but do find the Gaviota’s fit my foot shape just a tad better so I have relegated them to my Saturday or mid distance run shoes. My one complaint is that Hoka is tapering their toe boxes too much these days! I don’t mind duck feet shoes if it means my feet don’t hurt after runs!
- Hoka Gaviota (Women’s 8 wide / Half Marathon+) – I have raced Half-Marathons, our 20 Mile, and have run the vast majority of our paved long runs in these shoes. They have good bounce and cushion and they fit my wide foot better than other shoes I have tried. I do still have to buy them in a Wide width however as the regular squeezed my foot.
Other Retired Road Shoes:
- Asics Nimbus 18 (Women’s 8/ Up to half marathon) – Purchased when I was dealing with Plantar based on reviews that they were the best for this. Found them to be too narrow for my feet and just not up to the task of providing support and space for longer distances.
- Hoka Clifton 3′s – (Women’s 8.5 / half marathon) Initially these were a bit narrow, but I got used to them and found I really liked them. These were my daily and long distance shoes until they wore out and I tried the Clifton 4’s.
- Altra Timps (Women’s 8.5 / Marathon + / Moderately technical terrain) – Have worn for all short and long distance trail races and runs this year. Generally well cushioned, noticing some breakdown in support now after about 200 miles. Fit isn’t great however. I can’t use the last eyelete to lock lace as it hit the top of my foot and hurts. They are a tad sloppy because I had to go a half size up to accommodate my wide forefoot. My foot slips a bit in the shoe when we run Carl or Lip buster. I don’t quite feel like they grip sandy rock or slippery muddy surfaces as securely as I would like. All that said, I ran a full trail marathon in them without any issues so can’t rule them out as a solid option as my alternate trail shoe.
- Altra Lone Peaks 3.5 (Women’s 8.5 / Very technical terrain) – Newly purchased on sale since I need to figured out what I will be running our first 50K in. I have run a total of 7 Carls in them and am extremely happy with how they performed on the steep rocky accent and decent laps we did this weekend. They fit a little better than my Timps, not as sloppy (yet?) and they grip the ground like no bodies business.
- Topo Terraventure (Women’s 8.5 / 5k) – Wore these in the early days of our trail running, but realized quickly they were not supportive enough for long distance for me. So I mostly use them to mow my lawn in or occasional run short runs. I liked the width of these but I feel every rock under my feet in them so they just aren’t padded or cushioned enough for my sensitive feet.
Hydration Vest & Belts:
- Nathan Vapor Krar (Marathon +) – Used during all major long distance runs after 30k for self-supplied hydration and supplemental nutrition. Highly recommend for comfort and lightweight materials. Storage pockets in back are a bit hard to reach for my short arms. Wished pockets in front were a bit bigger. See our detailed review of this pack here.
- Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure 1L (Half Marathon) – Use for all daily summer and winter runs. Hard bottles are easy to refill. Have extra bottles I often fill and freeze and keep as spares in my car for swapping out during our longer weekend runs. Love the water proof pocket for my cell phone and car key. I think ALL utility belts and vest should have this. Storage is extremely limited, but works for shorter distance needs. Don’t like how narrow the band is, and the velcro will eventually give out, rendering this belt useless unless is repair it some way. Have to synch belt super high and tight around my waist to keep it from bouncing.
- Flip Belt Zip w/ 11oz bottle (5K – Half Marathon, supported, cooler weather) – Used this prior to buying the UD for all my cooler weather shorter runs. Comfortably fits my iPhone, my car key, 2 gels, and the hard bottle which fits snuggly with no bounce. Also found this is a great option for taking to an amusement or water parks for carrying phone (in a waterproof case) with cash and car key. Would like to see this come in a PUL material or with a waterproof pouch.
- Cotopaxi Veloz 6L Hydration pack (Half Marathon – 30K trail) – Used up to 30K prior to purchasing the Nathan. Limited front pocket storage doesn’t allow for much storage of alternative liquid fuel options plus gels and cell phone. Stiff shoulder straps were not ideal for longer running. Liked because the straps and pockets don’t compress by boobs. Huge design win. Also like the pocket arrangements in the back compared to Nathan. Like the Kangaroo pocket which I used to store extra bottles of electrolyte fuel. Paired with Flip Belt for cellphone storage.
Used for every Run unless otherwise stated.
- Halo II Sweatband Pullover – I hate sweat in my eyes and these really work. I have been using Halo’s since 2006 and I have never been unhappy with any model or version. HIGHLY recommend.
- Injinji Toe Socks – After my first run in a pair I have never worn anything else. I have these in various weights and lengths for trail summer, trail winter, road summer, road winter. LOVE THEM. HIGHLY recommend.
- Garmin Fenix 3HR – Bought mine from Trex when he upgraded to the 5. Have worn it every day since, on every long run, in the pool to do lap swims, etc. This is a great watch! I feel like it will last forever. A few minor glitchy issues every so often, but nothing a reboot and sync didn’t fix. Functions I couldn’t live without are the Garmin and Custom Workouts features, and GPS Livetrack. Also occasionally use the compass, and course mapping. I use notifications for text messages, and still get amazing battery life. I love how durable this watch feels. I debated on getting the 5s because of how big this watch is on my wrist but I have come to like the security of a large piece of durable hardware on my wrist. Kind of like Wonder Woman’s wrist cuffs!
- Stryd Live – Bought since it was less expensive than its predecessor so I could more precisely run our distance intervals and paces for races. Since Trex and I run according to HR levels and not power I use it for distance only. There is some evidence that Power Training for Trail running is reliable however it’s rather complex to figure out and frankly as my fellow Oklahoman Sweet Brown would say “ain’t nobody got time for that”
- Wahoo HR – Handed down / gifted / loaned indefinitely to me from Trex when he graduated to Garmin and his Scoshe. Had no real issues to report. Have had to buy a few replacement bands, but I buy the cheaper generic knock offs from Amazon.
- RoadID II – all the cool kids are wearing them these days. Plus I had to have something to put my ‘Winner’ charm on when I beat Trex in one of our earlier races. Since then as tradition, we typically gift Distance charms following big milestone. I wear mine constantly and never take it off like a wedding band, because I am lazy, unlike Trex who changes his band to color coordinate with his watch bands.
- Plantronics BackBeat FIT – Waterproof Wireless Headphones – Love these. If you need a pair of headphones that you can always count on, rain, snow, sleet or shine, these are an excellent choice. I have two pairs and will buy more when these finally quit working. I love the fact that the connecting wire between the ear pieces stay off my head and neck the controls are easy to use to adjust volume, skip music, answer calls etc. And most important for a trail runner like me (GASP!) who likes to have a bit of music in the background while I run, they are very durable and water resistant. I have taken them in the shower and been in pouring down rains in these. I have taken calls on the trail using them and the microphone sound is pretty decent according to most receivers. If you are picky about sound quality of your music then they may get a few points in the minus column as they are not Bose quality in that area, but I can hear my music and they keep me from having to hear Trex whine and complain all the time and they have held up through a lot of wear and tear.
- OOFOS: Recovery flip flops – Love these. Wear them all the time, not just for when needed post run. I wouldn’t recommend the lighter colors for anything other than home use as they pick up grime and turn black and ugly fast, but otherwise these are a MUST HAVE.
- Target Champion C9 – Tops, tights, and shorts. I generally use Target C9 wear for my daily short distance and even long distance runs. Besides the THINX sport shorts they have been my only shorts. I own some race shirts and my CDRC shirt, but generally unless I am wearing matching gear with Trex, then I am probably wearing something from Target. As I said above these are great for the price and how well they hold up.
Other Stuff worn/used as needed Occasionally:
- Zensha Compression calf sleeves (usually for trail and long long distances) – Like these, no complaints. Feel they help as are designed.
- Rock or K Tape – I preferred K tape over Rock tape until their quality of materials stopped adhering to their former standards. My issue with Rock Tape still holds, they fray around the edges and also leave glued edges on my skin when I peal them up. But as of this post they seem to hold better than my last rolls of K Tape so I will stick with them for now.
- Pandana buff – This is a light weight neck cover that worked well for me in the winter. Will probably buy a Buff brand at some point just because they are available everywhere in so many fun patterns. Likely Trex and I will have matching ones at some point.
- Black Diamond Head Lamp – These have been worn on our Snake trail and Midnight Madness in the dark. Good for night time paved trail runs IMO, but read Trex’s run report to get a more technical perspective on how to avoid spiders and snakes when running in the woods at night.
- Mace: Small Hand Held Pepper spray – I carry this on occasion when I run solo. I fit it in my hand comfortably rotating the head so I can press the trigger easily without the need of my other hand. If you have ever encountered a stranger on the trail or road that eyeballed you a little too long then you will understand why this is a part of my arsenal.
- Speedo Large 35L Teamster Backpack – Bag I use to haul all my crap around with when traveling to races. I have owned a few of these over the years, including one as my diaper bag, my Derby Bag, and originally as designed as my swim gear bag. The water proof bottom and extra large opening is ideal for all sorts of stuff.
- THINX Sports Shorts – I wrote about these a little while back, and unfortunately I made the mistake and wore them during a long hot run recently and found that the thick inner fabric was too coarse and the seams in the crotch were in the wrong place resulting in the above aforementioned need to apply liberal amounts of Desitin where they caused serious chaffing. These are being relegated to short distance running only which means I am going to have to find an alternative should the stars and moons align again.
- Sports Bra’s – I wrote about my experience with my go to bra’s here but I wanted to include the updated list here
- Zensah Seamless Sports Bra: Zensha has been a good fit so far for long distances. The reviews hold true, light and soft, but I wouldn’t recommend for larger busted women as this product won’t support you enough.
- SheFit Sports Bra
- Brooks Sports Bra
- Diva Cup #2 – I have been pleased with this for daily use, but not for running. Which is why I am trying the FemmyCycle next. Since women are all shaped and sized a bit differently I recommend researching here a bit before buying.
- FemmyCycle report coming soon.
- Pibella Travel Pearl – Because sometimes I don’t feel like sitting on a porta potty seat or baring my a$$ to the world when nature calls. Highly recommend carrying individually wrapped Femwipes or toilet wipes and practice practice practice! Seriously, practice in the shower for a good week then with clothes on only after you have achieved expert level status in your aim and can insert this thing blindly with one hand. Also don’t wait till you have to go like a race horse, it will get messy.
I think that pretty much covers what I generally wear or carry on my person, or have worn for running. Obviously this will adapt and change with experience and distance. Lastly, I want to give a heart felt shout out to real people who take the time to write reviews and blogs that provide solid information about the products you use in your everyday running and why or why not. Sponsored reviews are nice and all but they tend to gloss over the nitty gritty and downplay the issues that could wind up costing someone like me hundreds of dollars in gear that doesn’t work for me. That kinda thing really chafes IYKWIM!
NOTE: I have or Trex has purchased all of the products mentioned in this article at retail price, from retail stores, for personal use. We have no affiliations with any retailers, companies, or suppliers. This is strictly a user review of these products.