Running gear essentials: what you need to get started

Starting out as a runner? Our in-house expert tells you which essentials you need to get going – without spending a fortune.

Building up a good running kit is essential for beginners, but it’s easy to get carried away with unnecessary extras. Everything is so colourful and exciting, and it can be hard to resist grabbing one of everything when you’re hypnotised by neon.

There’s kit for runners everywhereit’s a big business for brands. The global running gear market reached a value of $36.8 billion (£30.1 billion) in 2021 and it’s expected to grow to $55.8 billion (£45.7 billion) by 2027 

But what do you need to get through your first months as a new runner?

Instead of buying bits of kit that will be used once and forgotten about, we’ve got the base items you need to cover miles comfortably – and without breaking the bank.

Running kit laid out on wooden floor with trainers, top, leggings and phone holder.Credit: Shutterstock/Enfoca y dispara

Running shoes

Get the right trainers

The most obvious place to start is with a pair of good running shoes – and finding the right ones for your needs is essential.

Running puts a lot of pressure on your knees, ankles and feet, so having the correct shoes is a must to prevent injury. It can be tempting to order some off the internet, but if you want the best shoes for your feet, you need to test them out first.

Get yourself to a running shoe shop and ask for a gait analysis, which will provide you with invaluable information about your running style. UK-wide brands to offer this service include Runner’s Need and Asics, but plenty of great independent running shops exist too.

Most shops will have a treadmill, which they’ll record you running on for a couple of minutes. Others might ask you to run outside if they don’t have one. Either way, someone will watch you run. It can be embarrassing at first, but just go with it. You’ll have comfortable new shoes as a reward.

The adviser will be looking at your degree of pronation. Underpronation is where the feet don’t roll in very far. Overpronation is where the feet roll in too much. They’ll also look at where you strike your foot when you land – if you hit the ground with your heel, for example – to see where you need support.

Frankie Gassin, store manager of Run Company in Brighton, told us his top tips to guide you when buying your first pair of running shoes.



To understand what grip you need, think about where you’re going to spend most of your time running. For road running you’ll need shoes that are flexible and light with a smooth sole. If you’re trail running on grassy and uneven surfaces, you’ll be looking for bigger lugs on the outsoles – the bottom of the shoe.

This will increase stability when going over rocks and uneven surfaces. They’re also a bit stiffer in the midsole (the layering between the insole and the outsole), to protect your feet from the rough terrain.

Road running shoes have a smoother outsole and tend to be more lightweight and flexible. This is because you don’t need as much stability when running on even ground, like tarmac.

Road running shoe being held up against a blue skyCredit: Exceptional
When buying running shoes, think about the surface you’ll be running on


When running or walking, our feet tend to swell. I recommend having a thumb-size gap between your toes and the end of your shoes, to avoid friction that can cause bruising to toenails. Don’t just go by your usual shoe size as fit can vary, depending on brands and models – always try the shoes on.


Technology has improved the way running shoes are made. Super cushioning is designed to absorb shock and lower the impact running has on joints. These types of soles will  get you through your run comfortably, minimising injures.

How long does a running shoe last?

The life of a running shoe depends on its mileage. A good time to renew them is typically when reaching around 500 miles (800 km), to avoid the risk of injuries. Alternatively, if you notice they are becoming worn out and the support is not what it used to be, it’s probably time for a new pair.

Other shoe considerations

Be prepared to choose fit over style. Even if you have your heart set on some you’ve seen, they may not be suitable for your feet when you try them on.

Make sure you run in them, either in the shop or outside, for at least a few minutes before you buy them. If you feel any sort of rubbing it will likely lead to blisters down the line – so they’re probably not the shoe for you.

Some shops have a returns and refund policy, meaning if you’re not happy with the shoes after you’ve bought them, you can return them – providing you do so within a certain number of days, in a resalable condition, with proof of purchase. Check the returns policy before you buy.



As a seasoned runner, I’ve tried lots of different shoes. Here are some of the most respected names to look for:

  • On: all their shoes have CloudTec cushioning technology, designed to take you from the roads to the mountains with a bounce in your step.
  • Nike: a trusted brand for shoes amongst runners and athletes. The Vaporfly series has been worn by a number of marathon winners.
  • Brooks: with their “run happy” motto, this brand produces reliable and comfortable shoes for a joyous run.
  • Hoka: their extra-cushioned shoes are great sole mates.
  • New Balance: stability and comfort are at the forefront here, to help propel you through your runs.

Running clothes

What to wear for running

While your outfit will vary from run to run based on factors such as the weather (OK, mainly the weather), key clothing items to consider adding to your running gear essentials shopping list include:

  • Base layers
  • Running bottoms – whether leggings, tracksuit bottoms or shorts
  • A running jacket
  • Running socks
  • A sports bra
  • Hat, scarf and gloves
  • Sunglasses

Wicking is the key word to look for when it comes to running gear – from your base layer to your bottoms to your socks. These fabrics draw moisture away from the body during activities, transferring sweat to the top layer to help keep you dry (and therefore warm).

When selecting running bottoms, be sure to go for styles that won’t slip-down as you run. Take a look at our pick of the best leggings for some stylish suggestions.

If you opt for shorts, look for whether they have a liner or not. Some do, so you don’t need to wear underwear – which some people prefer, while others find it can lead to chafing. It’s a good idea not to spend too much on your first pair of running shorts, while you’re still finding out what styles suit you.

A waterproof, windproof running jacket is also invaluable, given our unpredictable weather. Try it on and move around in every possible direction. It needs to be non-restrictive, but well-fitting enough so it won’t be billowing in the wind. Some jackets will have elasticated cuffs, which could help keep you a bit warmer. If you’re someone who tends to get hot when you run, choose the lightest jacket so you don’t overheat.

Finally, a supportive sports bra is a must for women, given the high-impact nature of running. Here at Exceptional, we’ve tested the best sports bras to help you find one that’s right for you.


“It’s important to try a variety of products and brands until you find ones you really like and feel comfortable in,” advises running coach Mike McKnight. Here are six to look out for:

  1. Lucy Locket Loves: colourful, comfortable, stand-out activewear.
  2. Karrimor: reasonably priced running gear, from clothes to accessories.
  3. Under Armour: their soft, sweat-wicking clothes are popular amongst runners.
  4. Sweaty Betty: designed to make active women feel beautiful and powerful.
  5. Adidas: their running kit incorporates innovative technology for all weather scenarios.
  6. Mizuno: running coach Mike McKnight rates this brand’s “comfort and quality of materials, attention to detail and level of workmanship.”

Other things to consider when choosing your running kit include:


Consider what you’ll need to take with you on your run. Will you have your keys, money or phone with you? If so, places to stash your stuff are essential.

Leggings with side pockets are useful for carrying phones. Some running shorts have waist pockets that are large enough to fit a phone, so check this before you buy if that’s important to you. Smaller zip pockets are ideal to keep your keys or a bit of change in.


Be as visible as possible throughout the year. Wear colours you can easily be seen in and look for clothing that is reflective. Sometimes a run might go on longer than planned and you could suddenly find yourself in the dark, or the weather could turn. Be bright to stay safe.

Runner on top of mountain wearing bright yellow topCredit: Shutterstock/rdonar

Cold weather wear

If you plan on running in cold weather, get a base layer that helps draw the sweat away from your body to keep you warm and dry. Depending on how cold it is, you might want to add lightweight layers on top of that, but remember you’ll get warm once you get going. Consider whether you need a hat, or if you just want to keep your ears warm, a Buff or similar stretchy neck scarf will do. Lightweight gloves are also great if it’s chilly.

Hot weather essentials

A cap will keep the sun out of your eyes and protect your head from the rays. Sunglasses specifically designed for running will stay more secure on your face than traditional ones. They should have some grip so they stay in place, but not so much they’re uncomfortable.

Running tech

Power your run with these gadgets

Fitness tracker or watch

If you’re just looking to track your time, then a standard watch will do the job. However, if you’re starting to count the miles (or kilometers), a fitness tracker or watch could help you understand your pace (your speed).

Active woman in the woods looking at her fitness watchCredit: Shutterstock/Anantoliy Karlyuk

Some devices – such as Apple Watch and Fitbit – are also compatible with apps including Strava, Map My Run and Nike Run Club, which are popular among runners looking to track their time and distance. The basic versions of these apps are free, so you can test them out to see which you prefer.

Running accessories

Additional essentials

Water supplies

Whatever the weather, it’s a sensible idea to make sure you have easy access to water. If your planned route doesn’t have any convenient pitstops, then a running bottle you can easily carry is a good idea. Other options include a running belt with bottles attached, or else a hydration backpack – I like the Woodside 2 litre hydration backpack, (£3.99 at Woodside).

Running arm band

If you find yourself with nowhere to stash your stuff (or you just don’t like the feel of your phone jiggling around in your pocket), then consider a running arm band. These handy buys strap to your arm, and are typically big enough to hold a phone, set of keys and a bank card or some cash. Amazon has an extensive range to choose from for under £15. Meanwhile, Lululemon’s Fast and Free armband (£35) comes with reflective details to help you standout in low light.

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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