“There are a lot of gimmicks that companies use to try and get you to buy their products,” says Kara Goucher. She would know: The long-distance runner and Olympic medalist (who recently ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio half marathon with a time of 1:11—let that pace sink in) has tried her fair share of gear.
Even as a full-time professional runner, Goucher’s approach is simple: The best way to know what you need is to just start running and reevaluate later. “Every body is different, and you’ll never know what you need until you start and see how your body reacts,” she says.
But you have to start somewhere—which is why we turned to the ultra marathoner to find out what running gear is 100 percent essential, whether you want to start jogging before work or are training for your very first marathon.
Keep reading to see the Kara Goucher’s running kit must-haves at every level.
Your stats: You’re new to running, run occasionally, or less than three miles on average.
A good pair of sneakers
Goucher’s biggest recommendation for those just starting out is to go to a local running store to get fitted in a good pair of sneakers. “Everyone’s feet have different shapes and needs—from where you land on your stride to your arch height—and a supportive shoe is crucial to running comfortably and pain-free,” she explains.
A supportive sports bra
“As women, having the right bra is always important, but it makes a world of difference when running,” she says. “You want something that is extra supportive, but still comfortable, with sweat-wicking fabric so that you don’t chafe.” (Amen to that.) As for other clothing, when you’re first starting out comfort is key, she explains. So feel free to stock up on all the cute, comfy pieces you want—Goucher gives you full permission.
Lots of water
“Hydration is important no matter what level of runner you are, so if you’re new to the sport, definitely start to up your water intake,” she says. Goucher recommends getting a water bottle that you love so you’ll want to carry it around all day; that way you’ll never forget to drink up.
Shop the beginner’s gear:
Lululemon Pace Rival Crop, $88
Saucony Freedom Tank, $42
Asics Adjust Bra, $48
Brooks Running Glycerin 14, $150
Bobble Water Bottle, $24.99
SkullCandy XTFree Headphones, $99.99
Your stats: You split your time between fitness classes and four mile-plus runs. You’ve most likely run a 5K—and a longer race wouldn’t be out of the question.
Layers to protect from the elements
As you start upping your mileage, Goucher suggests prepping for the elements. “While shorter runs are all about comfort, if you’re clocking in more than four or five miles regularly, you’ll want to be dressed appropriately to ensure that you are warm, dry, and comfortable,” she explains. (It’s a good idea to stock up on natural sunscreen too.)
Music or a podcast
“Music is such a personal preference—it helps some people and distracts others, so you just have to figure out what works for you,” says Goucher, adding, “I personally love listening to podcasts that keep me entertained on longer runs.” Either way you lean, it’s always helpful to have a hands-free options, whether it’s wireless headphones, an armband, or a clip-on iPod.
While fitness trackers have recently started attracting attention for not being as useful as people once thought, Goucher says they’re not necessary anyway. “I think any kind of wearable timepiece is helpful to keep track of how long you’re out there,” she explains. “But you definitely don’t need to spend a ton of money on one—a simple watch that tells the time and fits your budget will work just as well.”
Shop the trainer’s gear:
Saucony Breeze Tank, $44
Lululemon Run With The Sun Bra, $58
Sweaty Betty Triple Jump Shorts, $100
Nike Hyper Shield Light Jacket, $300
Bombas Socks, $12
Asics Sneakers, $120
FitBit Alta, $116.99
Belkin Armband, $22.99
Your stats: Running is your workout of choice and you’re regularly training for a half- or full- marathon.
While you should be drinking water anyway, Goucher says it’s important to step up your hydration game when you start running more. “On long-distance runs, your body will be losing more water and nutrients than you may realize,” she says. “Nuun tablets are my go-to brand, but any kind of hydrating supplement will help you feel better.”
Compression tights or socks
While you may think wearing compression socks during a run is a must, Goucher says it’s afterwards that’s most important: “Wearing some kind of compression on your leg muscles will do wonders for your recovery; it’ll help you feel less sore and keep you feeling great to tackle your next big run,” she explains. (Also, they make for a pretty badass #fromwhereistand accent.)
This is when you can assess your personal running needs and, according to Goucher, buy accordingly. “If you find your eyes getting sore from the sun or you need a place to hold your phone and keys when you’re on hour-long runs, then definitely buy the appropriate gear,” she explains. “But this is the time when all gear is case-by-case and you should only buy the stuff you really need.”
Shop the marathoner’s gear:
Saucony Freedom Short Sleeve, $45
Nike Elite Compression Socks, $50
C9 Champion Woven Run Shorts Geo Print, $16.99
Asics Sneakers, $90
Nike Vision Tailwind Sunglasses, $146
Nuun Hydrating Tablets, $24.95
Belkin Fitness Belt, $39.99
If you’re new to running, you’ll definitely want to know about the most common (debunked) running myths. Ready to take things to the next level? We’ve compiled 50 of the coolest races in every U.S. state for you to try this year.