All it takes is a few simple items to build a basic running wardrobe from the ground up. Let’s face it: Running is a fairly low-tech activity. You don’t need complicated machines or heavy equipment, just you and your legs, and some ground to cover. In fact, the only gear a runner really requires is apparel (at least, in most countries), which is why runners need to select their clothing with care.
According to Jerry Macari, a New York City–based marathoner and athletic-wear retailer, as one might imagine, good shoes are the most important items in a beginner runner’s wardrobe. They don’t need to be expensive, but they should be chosen wisely for the best fit. Novices should go to a running specialty store to talk with knowledgeable salespeople because, observes Macari, “most [consumers] aren’t familiar with the nuances of shoes.” Macari suggests that you try on two or three different styles and brands before making a selection, and most importantly, he adds—run. Run in the hallway or outside if store personnel will allow it, and buy what feels best.
When it comes to clothing, Macari notes that even in the winter runners really need only two layers: a base layer to keep skin dry and a second layer to provide some insulation. Men and women should look for running tights and long-sleeve tops made from new synthetic performance fabrics. When buying the base layers, look for fabrics that wick or draw moisture away from the skin to the outside layers of the material, which speeds evaporation. Outer layers, such as jackets, hats and gloves, should be made of waterproof or water-resistant fabrics that breathe, which means just saying no to nylon, says Macari. Socks should be thin to reduce heat-producing friction between the foot and shoe.
The only other must-have item is a watch. Macari believes that digital watches make monitoring your pace as easy as possible. He suggests one with a built-in heart rate monitor, a device that measures cardiovascular effort and enables runners to train more efficiently. Although the ones with monitors may cost a little more, the varieties that emit a beep when you’ve hit your target heart rate are worth the price, says Macari.
How many running outfits does a beginner runner need? Not many. Macari notes from personal experience that the latest high-tech garments wear well wash after wash, so decide how many times a week you’re going to be running, subtract the number of times a week you’ll be doing laundry, and just buy enough to cover yourself in between.