I used to hate running—but this gear helped me learn to love it
From ages 5 to 24, I spent most of my time in the ice rink, training or competing as an elite figure skater. But being athletic didn’t prevent me from dreading that one often loathed physical activity: running. To me, running meant that horrifying gym-class mile, or forced laps around the rink as a punishment for training mistakes during skating practice.
My disdain for running remained through my school days, athletic training, and rehabilitation for a ruptured Achilles tendon that required time on the treadmill. But then, when the world shut down in March 2020, it dawned on me that unless I wanted to spend a lot of money on an elliptical (my favorite form of non-skating cardio) or subject myself to more HIIT workouts and burpees than I could stomach, I was going to have to hit the pavement and come to terms with running.
It worked. Over the past year and change, I’ve pounded out more miles than I ever thought I could, all outdoors through two blazing hot Texas summers and one very chilly winter (well, by Texas standards). It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen on its own—I relied on some crucial pieces of gear and training tools to learn to call myself a runner. These are some things that helped me take running from something to dread to—dare I say?—a fun, enjoyable workout.
1. Running shoes to provide support
As a figure skater, I’ve always been attuned to the wellbeing of my feet—and anyone who wants to start running should be, too. You can’t run—or, at least, you won’t have fun running—if your running shoes don’t fit properly or feel uncomfortable.
My feet are on the flat side, so the best shoe I've found to support me in my running adventures is the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, a stability shoe that prevents overpronation, or the inward collapse of the feet. They offer the right combination of support and cushioning to keep my feet and calves happy and ready for my next run. I wear a size 5 (my usual size) and they fit well, providing arch support without feeling too heavy.
Because shoes are so personal, I recommend hitting up your local running store and working with an expert to find the right fit and style. If you aren’t able to get to a store, Brooks Ghost shoes are a good starting sneaker for most people who don't need the extra stabilization of the Adrenalines. Both Brooks shoes come in men's and women's sizes.
- Get Brooks Adrenaline GTS from Brooks Running for $130
- Get Brooks Ghost 14 from Brooks Running for $130
2. A running belt to keep essentials close
After my first few runs, I realized that scampering around with a phone and keys in my pocket was not a great long-term plan. (Hello, painful skin indents.) At first I tried an armband, but it was challenging to find one that wasn’t overly snug but still stayed in place—not to mention, having the weight of a smartphone on one arm can throw off your rhythm. So I turned to a running belt. My go-to is the Nathan Zipster belt.
The Zipster has four pockets—two with zippers and two without—and I use the zip pockets to store my keys and phone. It comes sizes XS to XL, which is suitable for waists 26 to 40 inches wide. I have the XS size and it's snug on my waist, but I'm able to comfortably fit a t-shirt or tank top between it and my skin. I just step into the looped band and slide it up to a comfortable spot on my waist.
3. Socks to prevent blisters and keep feet comfortable
Even with the right running shoes, the wrong pair of socks can cause gnarly blisters. During the warmer seasons, I’m not too picky about my running socks—any low-cut athletic sock does the job. Right now, Puma's all-purpose athletic socks are my favorite.
With colder weather, I’m much choosier. No matter how hard I am working (and sweating), if my ankles are exposed to freezing temperatures, my whole body feels miserable. The best sock I have found for cold weather running is Smartwool’s PhD Run Light Elite low-cut sock, available in sizes small, medium, and large, or women’s shoe sizes 4 to 12.5. The wool provides a little extra warmth while wicking away sweat to keep my feet from feeling too soggy. The cut also has just enough ankle coverage to hit over the bottom of my leggings, plus it fits my foot snugly so it doesn’t move around in my shoe.
- Get Puma Low Cut Sock 6-Pack from Amazon for $11.15
- Get Smartwool Run Light Socks from Smartwool for $18.95
4. Leggings that fit well and manage temperature
Like socks and shoes, the leggings or shorts you run in can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your run. On warm days, I don Fabletics’ Trinity high-waisted pocket leggings. They are super lightweight, very soft, and don’t impact my range of motion. The leggings come in an inclusive range of women’s sizes from XXS to 4X. I wear the size XXS, my usual size, and they're snug enough to stay in place throughout my workout, but not so tight that they're uncomfortable. If I could live in them I would.
In the winter months, I am a big fan of Athleta’s Altitude Polartec leggings. They're extra thick and keep my legs nice and toasty, but still breathable so I don't get too hot throughout my run. These leggings come in women’s sizes XXS to XL. I have the XS size and they are a little looser than I traditionally like my leggings to be—I could've sized down for a snugger fit—but the extra room allows air to circulate while I run, helping me regulate my body temperature during chillier weather.
- Get the Trinity High-Waisted Pocket Leggings from Fabletics for $79.95
- Get the Altitude Tight from Athleta for $98
5. Layers for cooler weather
Summer running is a game of figuring out how many items of clothes I can choose not to wear. But once the temperature starts to cool down, adding layers is key. In the fall and spring I like to wear a light windbreaker, like Lululemon’s Goal Smasher jacket, over an athletic tank top or t-shirt. It’s a great lightweight option that keeps me warm and dry, yet is easy enough to take off and tie around my waist when I start to work up a sweat. The jacket comes in women’s sizes 0 to 14. I wear a size 2 and it's snug enough to not get in my way, yet roomy enough to fit another layer underneath if I want.
When the temperature starts to plummet, I like to add a quarter-zip top between my bottom layer and windbreaker. Although I've tried a variety of options, my favorite is Icebreaker’s Merino175 Everyday Long Sleeve half-zip thermal. The wool keeps me warm but is breathable enough to prevent me from overheating. The jacket comes in women’s sizes XS to XL, and my XS is a little long on me, as I'm quite short waisted, but it's still super comfortable.
- Get the Goal Smasher Jacket from Lululemon for $148
- Get the Merino 175 Everyday Long Sleeve from Icebreaker for $95
6. A running app for extra motivation
When I started my running adventure, I wasn’t sure how long I would keep it going. This made me reluctant to invest in a device like a Fitbit or running watch. Instead, I went hunting for the best free running phone app. I settled on Runkeeper by Asics, and all these months later I am still using it.
The app's basic version allows you to track your running times, mileage and elevation gains, and connect with other friends on the app and is free to download and use. You can also upgrade to the premium version for $9.99 a month or $39.99 a year, which provides access to Asics’ training plans and more in-depth run data analysis. I'm happy with the basic version and have found that the app’s GPS feature and mileage trackers are as detailed as I need. I especially like that it provides an audio option that tells you your average speed, total time, and distance at regular intervals. All in all, it's a great way for me to compare runs and plan for future workouts.
7. Recovery tools to be ready to run another day
Proper post-workout recovery is vital for ensuring you feel well enough to head out on your next workout. So while I always make sure to cool down and stretch after each run, I also use my two favorite recovery tools: Roll Recovery’s R8 Roller and a standard lacrosse ball.
The R8 looks like a bunch of rollerblade wheels attached to a spring-loaded, clamp-like shell that rolls over extremities. It does a great job of massaging some of my bigger muscle groups like my quadriceps and hamstrings. The lacrosse ball helps me dig into some of the tighter spots and experience the relief of myofascial release, which refers to getting the fascia that surrounds the muscles to relax.
8. A good attitude
Even with all the right equipment, running can sometimes feel frustrating. I’ve found that setting smart, healthy expectations makes a huge difference in the quality of my run. When I first started running, I was annoyed by how slow my pace was. As a naturally competitive person, I wanted to see improvement in my times—but the more fixated I was, the slower I became. Instead, I decided to focus on how many miles I was logging. By presenting myself with a new challenge and redirecting my competitive energy, my runs became a lot more satisfying.
Beyond that, what gets me out on the road each morning is the fact that my runs provide a time for me to put down the phone, stop scrolling on social media or watching the news, and just think through my day, my struggles, and my triumphs. Sound appealing to you? If so, you may want to take up running, too.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.