From chafing to knee pain, there are a host of problems that can be prevented or minimised with good running gear.
Most runners tend to learn by trial and error when it comes to running gear. If you have already made your gear-related mistakes and are looking to fix them, or if you aim to avoid suffering from the use of incorrect gear, this list is for you:
Tees, tops and shorts
Nihar Jain, 29, started running recently and during one of his first Fartlek interval-training sessions wore an old dry fit vest. By the time the Kolkata-based businessman was done with the 2km warm-up and 20-minute Fartlek session, he had badly chafed his inner biceps and the sides of his chest. Upon closer inspection of the vest, which he uses regularly in the gym, he realised that the material had become rougher and harder over time, which caused the chafing. Your most comfortable regular cotton tees can also cause extreme chafing and at times even lead to bleeding nipples among men.
Also read: Fitness planner: Beginners' guide to running 10K in eight weeks - Part 1
Another common chafing zone is the inner thigh, which could be because of improper shorts, briefs or boxers. Boxers are a complete non-starter in long distance running and should be avoided at all costs unless you are willing to brave painfully chafed thighs.
As for women, Delhi-based running coach and founder of All In Running, Nakul Butta says, “Finding a sports bra that is supportive and enables training remains a big challenge for many women.”
While there are plenty of established brands peddling running gear, try homegrown brand HRX’s running range. They have excellent dry fit tees and vests for men and singlets, tanks and tops for women designed to cope with the high repetitions of long distance running, wicking away sweat and also drying quickly. Another brand that stands out for tees is Uniqlo, especially their Airism range of micro-mesh vests and tops. They are very light and soft on the skin.
Also read: Fitness planner: Beginners' guide to running 10K in eight weeks - Part 2
HRX’s shorts for runners with tights attached are available for both men and women, and women can also choose from a range of full length and three-quarter tights and leggings. Both the shorts and leggings have enough stretch to let you move freely, no matter the length of your stride. Uniqlo’s sports utility range of shorts are also a great option.
Prices for HRX men’s tees and vests start at Rs 494; women’s tanks and tops are Rs 500 onwards. The brand’s shorts with lining for men start at Rs 999 and women’s shorts with lining start at Rs 919.
Uniqlo’s Airism range of tops and vests starts at Rs 990; and sports utility range shorts start at Rs 1,490.
Both HRX and Uniqlo offer sports bras as well, but as Butta says, it is a challenge to find the one that works best for you.
Finding the right sports bra can be a challenge; try a few different brands before you settle on one that works for you.
Staying on clothing, one new gear that you ought to add in your sporting wardrobe is a pair of compression tights. They are excellent at regulating blood circulation and help delay cramps. Tights also cut out the chafing of the thighs. If you are into ultra running, compression tops will justify the expense by the time you have finished your run. I have used Under Armour and Skins and both are great options. It is difficult to get hold of Nike Pro range of compression gear in India, and if you don’t find that, don’t waste your money on the other tights retailed locally. Another brand you might want to try is 2XU.
Also read: Fitness planner: Beginners' guide to running 10K in eight weeks - Part 3
Relying on your phone to track your run is fine in the beginning but once you have made up your mind to take up running, it is good to buy a proper GPS watch to track not only your runs but also your heart rate, progress and many more things that a good GPS-enabled watch tracks. There is the homegrown Titan Traq, available at half the cost of Garmin’s entry level running watch, the Forerunner 55, but when it comes to performance, and also its app, it falls way short of Garmin’s range of offerings across budgets.
My pick is the excellent mid-range Garmin Forerunner 245 Music, which lets you load music on the watch, and you can connect your earphones to the watch via Bluetooth and enjoy the music on your run without having to carry a phone or any other device. It also has a multisport (cycling, swimming) option and even tracks your strength training and HIIT sessions as well as a host of other activities like skiing, hiking, football, etc. It comes with an in-built wrist-based heart rate monitor. The Garmin Forerunner 245 Music retails for Rs 29,990. If you are okay without the music, I suggest the newly launched Forerunner 55, which is priced at Rs 20,990. It does almost everything that the Forerunner 245 Music does but has a slightly poor display and a shorter battery life.
A GPS watch that also tracks your heart rate and work out is a good investment, if you want to take up long-distance running.
Also read: Fitness planner: Beginners' guide to running 10K in eight weeks - Part 4
By the time you finish your run, you are going to be a sweaty mess. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look good right at the beginning of your training session. And a pair of sunglasses works like a dream when it comes to upping your coolness quotient, even when you are covered in dirt and sweat. Apart from enhancing your looks, sunglasses are excellent at protecting your eyes from the dirt, bugs and dust particles floating in the air that could cause irritation in the eyes.
While you could get an affordable pair from Decathlon, when it comes to eyes, it’s best to err on the side of caution and get something good. Oakley’s Radar EV Path Road with Prizm lens, especially designed for running, is my top pick, despite its eye-watering price tag of Rs 10,390. The frame and the lens of this pair is pretty much indestructible, so rough usage is not an issue. The lens is made of the company’s patented material called Plutonite, which is shatter-proof and doesn’t crack or break even when you drop heavy objects on it. This means that no matter how hard you fall, your eyes will be safer with the shades on. Despite all that strength, the lens isn’t scratch-proof.
A good pair of sunglasses can shield your eyes from the sun, bugs and pollutants, and protect them in case you fall.
Also read: Fitness planner: How to run faster, and top your personal best
Yes, we've saved the best for last. Wrong shoes won’t just leave you with blisters and bruises but could lead to a serious injury as well. Whether you are a barefoot runner or someone who prefers a lot cushioning, everyone wears shoes. Yes, even the barefoot runners need shoes to protect their feet from broken glass, stones, pebbles, metal scrap and other stuff that is often found on our roads. Barefoot shoes and sandals have a thin sole that lets the runner feel everything on the road but doesn’t let sharp objects rupture the soles of the feet. Try Luna sandals, which Milind Soman used to run in at one point of time. And then you have Xero Shoes and Vibrams as well. There plenty of barefoot shoes to pick from.
Now, coming to the actual running shoes. Each brand promises shoes that can make you go faster. Don’t fall for it. While shoes do help to improve performance, it is you who has to do all the hard work no matter what shoes you wear. Pick a pair that you are most comfortable in. Try different shoes and see what feels the most comfortable—thick cushioning, or as little cushioning as possible, broad toe box or a narrow one, flat shoes or shoes with a high heel to toe drop. You won’t know until you try different pairs and different brands.
However, as a starting point if you like your shoes to have ample cushioning, you could try the Gel Nimbus or Gel Kayano range from Asics. Both the Gel Nimbus and Gel Kayano have been around for many years, and have been updated every year. Each new iteration of these shoes comes with slight improvement based on runner feedback which helps runners. The gel in the soles of these shoes works along with the foam and rubber that makes up the sole to absorb the shock from the footstrike and return some bounce to the runner to help her/him run more efficiently. However, these are slightly heavy shoes and if you are gunning for a time goal, use some lighter shoes like Asics’ DynaBlast 2 on race day.
Puma’s Deviate Nitro are race day shoes that use the latest carbon technology. They are very light and the carbon plate in the sole returns a lot more energy and bounce to the runner than either Gel Nimbus and Gel Kayano. The one drawback of the new generation of race day shoes is that they don’t last as long the sturdier training shoes.