July 9, 2022

3 seasoned runners sound off on what gear you really need.


You’re doing it! Making that decision to try running for the first time or get back into it after an absence is the first step. Now what?

Getting a few pieces of equipment serves a few purposes, with comfort and safety high on the list. And buying something changes the game a little: You’ve invested in yourself.

“The two most important things are shoes that fit your feet and for women, having a good sports bra,” said Stacey Kendrick, health educator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “If you have a high arch or tend to run on the outside of your foot, for example, a specifically designed shoe can help your feet to feel better and for you to run with less chance of injury.”

1. Running shoes

“I bought shoes right away because I didn’t really have a pair, just shoes that I walked in,” said Melanie Staudt, who started running at age 62. Staudt, now 65, recommends going to a running-specific store for good fit, knowledgeable people and a return policy that allows you to run in the shoes and return/exchange them if they’re not right after all.

“Feet get tired and fatigue without support,” said Staudt of Nolensville, Tennessee. Sore feet or knees can discourage a new runner. Sometimes, the problem can be fixed with new shoes. But pay attention to your body and visit your doctor if pain persists.

“Think of your shoes as safety equipment for your feet,” advises the National Institutes of Health. “Check them regularly, and replace them when they’re worn out. You can tell you need new shoes when the tread on the bottom is worn down, your feet (especially your arches) feel tired after activity, or your shins, knees or hips hurt after activity.”

Staudt, a cancer survivor, started walking to regain strength after chemotherapy treatment. The running happened by providence. She went to a Couch to 5K meeting for her daughter, Liz, just to take notes. “It was pretty persuasive,” she laughs. “They were enthusiastic, nice and included walkers.” By the end of the meeting, she was all in.

Karen Miles, 51, waited to buy better running shoes six months into her newfound exercise. “That new purchase was another thing to keep me going,” said the Smyrna, Tennessee, resident.

Truth be told, “good” can translate to “more expensive.” New runners can benefit from an initial good pair, then shop around later for something comparable and less expensive.

“I don’t need to wear the latest model of my favorite shoe,” said Kendrick, who has been running for more than 30 years. “If I can get the shoe I like that’s two years old and not in the current colors, I can usually save money.”


2. Sports bra

“It does make the running easier. It’s just uncomfortable without the bra,” Staudt said. “They have all sizes and shapes and support — that’s something a lot of women don’t know. They’re not just for the skinny ones, which is how it used to be years ago.”

Big bust or small, a sports bra is a must.


3. Clothing

Comfort, comfort, comfort. It’s fun to look cute, but the main idea is to run/walk in clothes that keep you comfortable. A guideline is no cotton.

“Weather-appropriate, moisture-wicking clothing is important,” Kendrick said. Find moisture-wicking shirts, shorts, leggings and socks at big box or running stores.

“At first, I probably didn’t have moisture-wicking clothes and probably just ran in cotton,” said Staudt, who gradually added to her clothing.

Another great way to get running shirts? Sign up for a 5K. Along with the accomplishment, you often get one with registration.


4, 5, 6…10.

Once the essentials are in place, new runners may be overwhelmed by the gear available.

“Some people are all about gear, but I’m not,” Staudt said. “I waited until I really needed something to get it.”

Helpful items can include a water bottle, either hand-held or on a belt; a device that displays distance, time and more; pouches or belts to hold keys; and headlamps for nighttime running. For the cold of winter, cover up with an ear-warmer headband, gloves and layers of clothing.

Running has become a joy for Staudt, introducing her to new people, accomplishments and places.

“Running is a great excuse to go someplace,” said Staudt, who has finished half-marathons with her daughter in Lake Powell, Arizona, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and in Yellowstone National Park. Their next half will be in Zion National Park in Utah in April 2017.


More help for runners

Read what you need to know about getting started in running later in life here, and find all of our running posts here.