The best running gear can not only give you the extra motivation you might need to get out the door—it can also make runs more comfortable and safe. Even though jogging is a gloriously low-maintenance sport, the right gear can make all the difference. The best running shoes, along with high-performance, fuss-free running apparel and a few extra accessories that cater to the needs of your run or the weather will be different for everyone.
Take cold weather running, for example. If you’re equipped with best-fitting layers like running tights, gloves, running socks, and a headband that keeps you dry without adding bulk you can easily take on winter running. The same goes for sweaty summer running: a hydration vest, sunscreen, and lightweight gear that slicks away sweat instead of sticking to you is a game-changer.
Read on for some of the best running gear picks for women, from shoes to hats, to get you geared up and out the door for that jog. We listed top picks from Nike, Amazon, Lululemon, and more.
Everyday Running Shoes
Of course, it all starts with the shoes. Being fitted for a pair of running shoes is a worthwhile time investment for any semi-regular runner. But if you know you don’t require shoes to stave off any postural imbalances or compensate for flat feet, a neutral pair of shoes is the place to start. These four pairs of sneakers are all fairly goldilocks in their fit: they provide some cushion without being ultra puffy. Try them out for day-to-day casual jogs, tempo work, and even long runs.
And if you’re wondering how often to replace your running shoes, it’s best to replace them every 300 miles or so (or when the soles start to show obvious signs of wear) for injury prevention.
Speed Running Shoes
Speed work is an excellent way to take your running to the next level. A faster pair of shoes, like the Nike Zoom Fly 4 Premium, will help you with a quicker, lighter step turnover. If you’re after speed on race day though, look to a pair with a carbon fiber plate, which works to propel you forward with every step. You’ll be bagging a new PR in no time.
Running Sports Bras
Second to shoes, a good sports bra is non-negotiable. I’ve run in ill-fitting shorts and too-hot layers plenty of times—but I will turn around if I realize I’ve forgotten to put on the right high-support running bra. These four below accommodate a range of cup sizes and all stand up to high-impact activities. The Sweaty Betty Ultra Running Bra, is shockingly lightweight for how much support it provides, thanks to a tiny cross-back clip. Always seem to be juggling your phone or keys? The Brooks Drive 3, which is equipped with a back pocket, is the ideal solution.
Whether you’re the bike-short or classic running shorts type (or, both in one, like the pair from Year of Ours, below) you’ll probably find a slightly higher waistband is the key to comfort. Other musts: chafe-free seams, zero wedgies, and comfortable fabrics. Below, are four pairs that fit the bill, from a no-frills, classic mesh pair by Athleta, to a pair of pocketed bike shorts from new New York-based brand Wolaco.
The right compression leggings can make all the difference on your run. These four pairs all have waistbands that stay up, mile after mile, seams that lay flat and don’t rub, and are constructed from moisture-wicking fabric. In hot weather, the Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Crop can’t be beat (except, of course, by shorts) thanks to the incredibly lightweight material. If you’re a pockets gal, try the Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity pair, which have a zip pocket at the back for keys and a credit card or ID, as well as a side pocket large enough for your phone. An added bonus: reflective seams, to keep you safe on dusk runs.
If the maximum mobility that a sleeveless shirt provides is calling your name, consider any of these performance tank tops. The Hoka tank has a slim-cut fit which is ideal for running fast, as it adds next to zero drag. If you like something breathier, consider the Featherweight Tank from All Access, which is good looking enough for any post-run lunch, too.
Always checking your splits? Consider Oiselle’s Flow Shirt, which has a keyhole for your watch face. Coupled with thumb holes, you can keep warm and keep an eye on your pace in this long sleeve. In warmer weather, consider a shirt with UV protection, like this one below from Lululemon—or, opt for a breezy short sleeve in high-performance material and wonder how you ever ran in sweaty, sticky concert tees again.
In colder temps, opting for a few thin layers—a moisture-wicking shirt plus a rain jacket or rain shell—will serve you better than one bulky piece of constrictive outerwear. Ideally, your layers can be tied around your waist if you heat up, as you need to dress warmly enough to be comfortable during your warm-up and cool down. Unsure of how warm your running jacket needs to be? One standard piece of advice when choosing layers is to dress for weather about 20 degrees warmer, to compensate for how much your body heat kicks in on the run.
Warm Running Essentials
Accessories are not an afterthought with running. High-vis headbands, gloves with touchscreen ability, clips, packs, and bands to hold your phone, gels, or cash are all key. As someone who chronically loses a single running glove, I’m particularly keen on this pair from Lululemon: in addition to being water repellant, they have a handy clip to stay together when not in use.
Cushioned socks that soothe tired soles, keep odor at bay, and help to prevent blisters are a handy (footy?) unlock in upping your mileage with ease. A mid-rise sock is often more comfortable as it will prevent your ankles from scratchy plants while trail running, but this pair from Smartwool is the ideal ankle height pair if that’s more your thing, thanks to the generous cushioning.
Anyone who runs through the summer months might already be thinking about a hat or sunglasses—but don’t discount the damage even bleak winter sun can do while you’re racking up the miles. A cap can help you push through mile after mile without causing your head to heat up. As far as glasses go, Goodr’s affordable polarized sunglasses are a great entry-level option. Beauty product-wise, a high SPF and a smooth anti-chafe balm are essential. I’m partial to Dennis Gross sunscreen on my face, as it doesn’t make me break out even after daily application on sweaty runs. (And, it doesn’t leave that dreaded white cast on my brown skin.) Supergoop Play is ideal for the body: it comes in a giant pump-top bottle, which acts as a good reminder to apply liberally.
Running Snacks and Hydration
If your run is longer than 45 minutes, consider your fueling strategy. A general guideline is to sip about four to six ounces of water every 20 minutes, but you can customize that based on the weather and your personal needs. A water bottle or hand flask, like the one from Nathan, is an easy place to start. If you’d rather go hands-free, consider water on your belt instead, or in an easy sipping pack, like the Osprey Dyna 1.5. It’s the most lightweight pack I’ve tried: six miles in and I had forgotten I was wearing it. (Except, of course, that I felt exceptionally well hydrated.)
Running in the dark requires reflective gear at least, and maybe light up gear, if it’s really dark. A headlamp or chest strap won’t slow you down, and a simple reflective vest can be tossed on over any top layer. Running alone? Consider bringing an emergency whistle with you. (And turn off the noise-canceling function on your earbuds or headphones.)