Running kit buying guide

 

Running has exploded as a popular hobby in recent years, with running gear now sophisticated and technologically advanced. This guide aims to take you through all the kit you need to get you out there, pounding the roads and building up those miles. 

Running shoes

Good running shoes are essential and it's vitally important you choose the right ones for you. It's estimated that in a 5 mile run, the feet strike the ground 7,500 times, so if you wear the wrong shoes this means a huge amount of stress is absorbed by your joints The wrong shoes can leave you exposed to injuries every time you run. Men and Women run differently so remember that shoes are designed specifically for your gender.

Choosing the right shoes isn't always easy; the way you run, your weight, the shape of your feet, and the surfaces you tend to run on will affect the type of shoe you require. One person's ideal shoe will be completely wrong for another person. For everyday running on roads or treadmills, there are two main types of running shoes - cushioned and structured. To choose between them you'll need to understand the way you run.

Pronation

When you're looking to buy running shoes for the first time you'll need to get to grips with your gait cycle, which is related to your stride and the way your feet hit the ground.
The cycle starts when one foot makes contact with the ground and ends when that same foot makes contact again. Pronation is a part of this cycle; it's the inward rolling motion of the foot, after the heel is down on the ground, which occurs naturally as a cushioning mechanism to absorb shock and provide you with balance on each stride.

There are three different ways you could pronate. And there are two different ways you can work out your pronation; the first of which is by looking at the soles of some of your old shoes. Bear in mind, that if your old running shoes are structured and show no sign of an inwards lean, it's probably the shoes stopping this and you will still need support from your running shoes.

The other way to work out you pronation is the 'print test'. Wet your feet and then print a footprint onto a piece of paper, or a floor where it will remain visible. This test works on the premise that your wet footprint roughly correlates to the way you plant your foot when running.

The three types of pronation are:

Neutral

Description: Even rolling between the outside heel and the inside ball of your foot. This type of pronation is the most efficient gait because the ball of your foot is absorbing enough shock and so doesn't require a motion control shoe.

Shoe wear: Even wear on your shoes

Footprint: Neutral runners create a 'normal' footprint so you would have a normal-sized arch and show the forefoot and heel connected by a broad band.

Ideal shoes: Cushioned.

Over-pronation

Description: Rolling onto the inside of your foot too much, this makes your arch flatten and stretches soft tissues. This causes strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your foot and lower leg, which at first will just cause fatigue but could go on to cause more serious injuries.

Shoe wear: The wear on your shoes will be along the inside, mainly around the toes.
Footprint: Your footprint will have a low arch and will look as though it's the whole sole of your foot.

Ideal shoes: Structured, or if your over-pronation is quite severe you'll need to look for specialised Motion Control shoes to adjust your inward roll.

 

Under-pronation

Description: Sometimes referred to as supination. This type of gait means that your foot doesn't roll enough onto the inside. As your foot doesn't pronate enough, it won't be an effective shock absorber.

Shoe wear: The wear will be on the outside of your shoes.

Footprint: Leaves a very narrow print with almost no band at all between your forefoot and the heel.

Ideal shoes: Heavily cushioned shoes to compensate for the lack of shock absorbency in your natural gait.

Roughly 75% of the population over-pronate, 20% have a neutral gait and just 5% under-pronate.

 

Weight

Your weight should also be taken into consideration when choosing your shoes, as heavier runners require additional cushioning and/or enhanced motion control features. This applies to men over 85kg and women over 73kg.

 

Running surfaces

If you predominantly run on a trail or off road then you'll need specialised trail running shoes. These will be made in more durable materials, and will have greater traction on the soles to give you better grip on uneven surfaces.

 

Gait analysis

We offer a gait analysis service in our Oxford Street and Canary Wharf shops. This is where you'll be asked to walk or run on a treadmill and the degree of pronation will be examined when your feet hit the ground. Our shop Partners will then be able to advise you on the best running shoes to suit your gait.

 

Barefoot running

Barefoot running is an increasingly big debate within the running world. Proponents of the barefoot movement argue that running barefoot reduces your risk of injury. Unfortunately, the modern world doesn't really cater for this and your feet need adequate protection from hazards on the ground. Barefoot running shoes are designed to offer you thin, lightweight protection but also encourage your feet to move naturally. As with all running shoes, you need to consider the environment you'll be running in when choosing your shoes.

Running clothing

Running clothing has vastly improved in recent years in terms of fit and fabric, enabling you to have a far more enjoyable running experience.

 

Socks

Let's start from the bottom of your run outfit. If you're going to run a lot you'll need some good running socks, specifically developed to reduce the discomforts associated with running in mind.

When you're out running, you may develop blisters along the fronts of your toes due to the seams on your socks. To prevent this, look for socks that are seamless or have flat seams across the toes so they won't rub on your feet.

Another area prone to blisters on runners' feet is your Achilles heel; socks can be too thin or trainer liners may slip down to expose your foot to the rough surface at the back of your shoes. To prevent this, running socks should have a cushioned heel with extended padding over the heel to reduce rubbing. There are 3 types of running socks – all of which are anatomically designed to prevent blisters.

  1. Padded socks - providing padding in areas you need them the most – arch, heel and ball of your foot.
  2. Lightweight socks - are made to keep your feet cool and light so you can run for longer. These feature different compression areas to ensure they don't create crinkles.
  3. Double layered socks – these socks are made from 2 layers which move against each other, preventing your foot from any friction.


Spring/summer or indoors running kit

Running when it's warm can be much more enjoyable and comfortable if you're wearing the right clothes. Over-heating or chafing will distract you from your goals and could limit your run. If you're running on a treadmill then you won't be affected by wind chill or dampness in the air. Despite the sometimes overly-aggressive air conditioning in gyms, you'll usually find that you get hotter when running indoors. For this reason, you should dress similarly to an outdoors run in warmer weather.

 

Shorts

Running shorts come in a variety of styles and shapes, from the loose-fitting to the more figure-hugging. Men may want to look for shorts with an inner brief for help with support.

Running shorts should be lightweight and breathable so you can remain comfortable and free from distraction as you run. Look out for shorts made from technical fabrics that help by keeping you cool through ventilation and wicking moisture away from the body.

Most running shorts and tees also provides practical pockets for keys or other small valuables, and some even feature headphone loop holes so you won't get in a tangle. High visibility piping will also help you stand-out in the dark. All these features make it easier for you to focus on your run and achieve your personal best.

 

T-shirts and vests

Similar to shorts, your top should be made with a technical, synthetic fabric. If the weather is really warm, women may want to opt for a sports bra. A good running top should feel light, cool and comfortable against your skin, unlike cotton which will become heavy and damp from your sweat. Some good running tops work so well that you can virtually wear them straight out of the washing machine.

 

Hats or visors

A hat with a visor will help to keep the sun out of your eyes, or the rain on a wet day. On warm days, you should opt for a light colour that will reflect the heat and keep your head cool.

Autumn/winter running kit

Dressing to run in the winter is a delicate balance between feeling too cold to move your legs and sweating too much on your clothing, making them feel clammy and cold. The key to this tightrope is wearing layers.

Test your outfit before you set off by putting on as many layers as you think you need, then go outside. Add or subtract layers until you can feel the cold but you aren't shivering. Once you start running, your body will heat up anyway and you should feel warm and comfortable within a few minutes. If you don't, put more layers on. If you don't feel confident about your chosen number of layers, take a few extra layers with you or keep your run close to home. As a rule, choose a multitude of lightweight layers, rather than a few warm layers.

 

 

 

Tights

Running tights may make you feel self-conscious but when it's freezing on your run you'll realise they really are one of the most essential items in your winter running arsenal. Running tights prevent draughts of wind hitting your legs and the compressing fit will increase your blood flow, keeping you warmer. If you don't feel comfortable running in tights, try wearing a pair of shorts over the top.

 

Base Layers

When it's really cold you're going to need a warm, extra layer next to your skin; otherwise you'll only find excuses not to go out running. Running base layers are usually made from a performance fabric which is designed to keep you warm with a compression fit for freedom of movement and improved blood circulation.

 

Jacket

Your jacket for running shouldn't be overly bulky as this will restrict your range of movement and slow you down. Look for a wind and water resistant shell coat made in a breathable fabric. As a rule – the more water resistant a jacket gets, the less breathable it will be, so find out what is more important to you. If you're going to be running at night or in low-light levels, having reflective strips on your jacket is extremely useful and can help keep you safe.

 

Headgear and gloves

When it's cold, your body will work on keeping your core warm first to protect your vital organs and will move to your extremities last. This makes hats and gloves very important pieces of kit for winter running. A good rule of thumb here is to go out with more than you think you need; if you do get too hot, they're the easiest things to take off and carry or store away.

Again, look for breathable fabrics to prevent you from over-heating. You need something that's warm but lightweight and breathable. If possible, go for gloves that allow you to tie your shoes, adjust your clothes and operate an MP3 player without taking them off. Headgear for running comes in a variety of shapes and fabrics: there are the traditional beanie hats; versatile snoods that can also function as hats; or if you feel too hot in a full hat, you could wear an insulated headband.

Sports watches

If you're following a training programme, a specialised sports watch will really come in handy. Monitoring the length of time you're running for is a good indicator of your improved stamina and running ability. A sports watch will not only monitor this for you but can be used for structured speed sessions and carefully paced racing; helping you to increase your running speed and knock seconds off your personal best.

Many runners are concerned with the amount of calories they've burnt on their route; basic sports watches may roughly count your calories as well as having a timing function.

The top of the range sports watches are now equipped with GPS, so they record your distance and the route you follow, which can then be uploaded onto your computer and logged. This data can then be uploaded to running community websites so you can track your own progress against your friends or other runners around the area you live in.

Heart rate monitors

When running without the handy features of a treadmill, you'll find it's extremely hard to judge the amount of effort you're putting into a run. A heart rate monitor offers you objective and factual information to keep you motivated, and helps you to know if you should be speeding up or slowing down.

Heart rate monitors generally come in two forms - as a fabric belt with a monitor attached which is worn around your chest, or as a simple-looking watch. The watches are easy-to-use, often with touch-screen technology. Plus they function as normal watches so you can wear one every day.

Similarly to dieting, it's notoriously hard to keep up a new fitness routine. So to stick with your running, you'll need to keep motivated. The features of a heart rate monitor watch can help with this as they allow you to work out targets for each run and you can oversee any improvements you make. Finding the right one for you depends on what you want to monitor and how much you're willing to spend.

A basic heart rate monitor will not only show your heart rate as you run, but also create heart rate-based target zones for you to train within. So when you're running, the monitor will tell you if you need to run faster to increase your heart rate or slow down to lower your heart rate, getting you back to within your targeted zones.

Spending just a little more means you can also monitor the amount of calories you've burnt on a run. This is a good way to track and target your progress as you go through your training.

Many of the advanced heart rate monitors come with GPS, so are able to measure, time, distance, speed, heart rate and calorie burn.

Running accessories

Running accessories are developed to be highly functional, aiming to make your run more enjoyable, easier and/or safer.

If you're planning on a long run, you'll need hydration. Water bottles designed for runners are easy to hold, so you won't mind carrying one with you. Look for a bottle designed with a handle or an ergonomically-shaped one which will fit comfortably into your hand.

In the winter months, running in dwindling light levels or just street lights becomes dangerous if you're not visible. To ensure that vehicles can see you, it's wise to invest in reflective accessories, such as a reflective bib made in a technical fabric or LED lights that attach to your clothing or to multi-functional waist packs.

Listening to an MP3 player on your run is a great way to keep yourself motivated. However, it is sensible to keep your music low or to listen with just one earphone, so that you can hear traffic and stay aware of others around you.