Running accessories are not necessary for running; however, accessories can make your running much more enjoyable. All that is really needed are a pair of shoes and clothes that you are willing to get sweaty. Today, with the popularity of barefoot running the shoes are even optional.
I started running 5 years ago. Through that time I have used different pieces of running gear. Following is a list of the best running accessories that I have grown to love in my time as a runner.
Of course shoes are at the top of the list. The wrong shoes can cause aches and pains in a runner's knees, hips and joints that will sideline him or her from the sport. But proper shoes could help the runner get back on the road. When looking for shoes, you should take the time to visit a specialty running store for a gait analysis. The store's workers will instruct you in the type of shoes that are best for the way you run. The right shoes will work with your body mechanics to keep you from having many of the pains that may have plagued you in the past when running. Out of courtesy, you should buy your first pair of shoes from the running store if the gait analysis was free. Afterwards you can look online to find relatively good deals on running shoes.
Shoe manufacturers update their line of shoes every year. If you find a particular model that you like this year, you may consider buying two pair if you can afford them. Next year's model may not be as comfortable as this year's. Because of the constant changing and updating of models, you can safely buy a shoe on clearance knowing that even if you paid full price for the latest model, they probably won't be available the next time you need to purchase new running shoes.
You don't need to spend $65 for a pair of specialty shorts, but you do want to avoid cotton in your running clothes as much as possible. Once you find a line of shorts or running pants that you like, consider buying three or four pair. Just like shoes, running accessory companies change their styles almost every year. The clothes that you liked last year may not be available this year. And if they are, they may not fit as well as before. If available, go to the manufacturer's outlet store to shop for the running skirts that you like. Then buy as many as you can.
Shirts and Socks
As with running shorts and skirts, you want to avoid cotton at all costs in your shirts and socks. There are many running clothing manufacturers that make shirts out of "technical material." That's just a fancy name for non-cotton clothing. While you can run a couple of miles in a cotton shirt, you shouldn't wear cotton once you begin running more than 5 miles at a time. Cotton holds sweat next to your body and begins to chafe anything it rubs against.
Even if you don't get a tech shirt, do yourself a huge favor and get non-cotton socks. Cotton socks will cause blisters on your feet because they are constantly wet. Running socks can cost as much as $20 per pair, but you can usually pick up some non-cotton socks for $3 or $4 at your local discount store. There is a difference between the $20 socks and the $3 socks, but there is a greater difference in switching from cotton to non-cotton socks.
Not everyone needs to time their runs, but if you are going to keep track of your exercise, a good running watch is a must. You want to look for a watch that can keep track of multiple laps. Though you may never run a marathon (26.2 miles) you should consider getting a watch that has at least a 30 lap memory. This allows you to keep track of how long it took you to run each mile of a race up to the marathon distance. Being able to store the split times from several runs is also a nice feature.
As mentioned above, cotton can chafe. Unfortunately, this can happen with technical material as well, but only after a much longer distance. Or, you might have skin rubbing against skin between your thighs or under your arms. A lubricant, like BodyGlide or SportShield by 2Toms, can be used to keep you from chaffing or getting blisters. I have a crooked toe that I put a little lube on before a long run since it unnaturally rubs the toe next to it. Men, you will find out quickly that long runs without some kind of lubricant or a covering over your nipples is not an optional running accessory.
Always carry some form of identification while running. Though you hope it never happens, you don't want medical personnel spending hours trying to find your contact information if they are needing to administer some kind of care. There are specialty running identification bracelets that you can get, or you can simply carry your driver's license when you run.
I have a long list of running accessories that I currently use, or have used in the past. Some will never be replaced after wearing out. However, my favorite running accessory is my Amphipod AirFlow Lite. I bought this belt over 2 years ago and it has accompanied me on 95% (or more) of my runs since then. I use it to carry my ID and cell phone/MP3 player. I also carry a bit of cash for a drink or taxi if the need arises. About the only time I do not have my Amphipod belt is when I wear a CamelBak hydration pack for a longer run when I need to carry water with me along with all the other items.
There is my list of the best running accessories every runner should have. What makes your list? Leave a comment below. Or sign up with Info Barrel and write your own list. I would love to read it.