11 Top Running Accessories – When Do You Need Them & Why
When I first started running I didn’t know much about running accessories. I’d heard of some but wasn’t sure if I needed any. Unlike the top 3 runner’s essentials – shoes, shorts and top – the accessories would start to interest me as my running progressed and needs became more elaborate.
It is likely that you will need some accessories straight away but some may not be required until much later. It will all depend on your needs as a runner and the journey that you will take.
When it comes to very basic running accessories you are likely to need a phone for your training program, your running photos and your music, and you’ll need storage for your important essentials.
1. The king of running accessories: Armband
The first piece that I bought was a small armband. I needed something where I could put my phone and my house key. It’s a simple, basic and inexpensive part of your gear and a very useful one too. To an untrained eye you will look like a pro with a mysterious equipment attached to your arm. Great start!
2. Phone + running headphones
Although not strictly only a running accessory, my phone was a must because I followed Couch to 5K program and needed instructions throughout the run. I also wanted to listen to some music and take pictures hence a phone was a crucial part of my beginners gear.
In order to hear the instructions I naturally needed a pair of headphones too. This is where choices become wider because there are cheap and expensive options, wireless and the ones with wires, many different designs as well.
I picked an inexpensive wired option that clips around my ears and if one of them comes off the cable will still be connected to my phone and I won’t lose it. BUT, that is my option and yours can be something completely different.
Whatever your choice you must make sure that you can hear above the sounds in your earphones. For your own safety and safety of others, you don’t want to be cut off from the surrounding noises when running outside!
“What happens if my phone is bigger than my armband? And if I want to change songs and volumes mid-run? And if I need to carry more things?”
3. Waist pouch or a flipbelt
Apart from getting a bigger armband, in order to get your phone easier to access you can get a belt with a small waist pouch where there is enough room for your keys, a phone and a few other bits. If you need something with more storage room, you can go with a flipbelt! It works like a belt, you can place it over or under your top and fill it up with more goodies. It’s one big pocket that can carry way more than a smallish waist pouch.
“But what if I need to carry a bottle of water with me and some say that carrying any weight in my hands can put strains onto certain muscles!”
4. Pocket flask belts or running hydration belts
If you need to carry a bottle of water with you and want to avoid the risk of muscle strain there are single as well as double pocket flask belts or hydration belts. Enough room for the valuables and essentials PLUS you have a holder for your water bottle – or two!
Tip – go for the ones that do not bounce! Nothing more annoying than a bottle bouncing against your thigh while you’re running.
As your runs start to become more frequent and longer and you start to experience all types of weather, you are likely to look for a few more pieces of equipment.
5. Running shades!
At first I didn’t see the point of having them, my runs were too short and I chose the weather that I liked. Once I hit my first running Spring/Summer season I realised I needed something to protect my eyes from the sun (as well as light rain).
Although there are many choices out there, the common theme is lightness of material and ability to stay on top of the nose without sliding down when the face gets sweaty. And they will make you look very cool, don’t forget that crucial detail!
6. Running cap
At the same time that I got my shades, I knew I needed a running hat or cap. Sun or rain, you will need it at some stage.
Most runners that you see wearing them, wear simple baseball style light and breathable hats and they do the job.
Decide what you mostly need it for – hot, cold or rainy days? If it’s really cold and very windy in the winter you can wear a warmer skull cap or a headband that can cover your ears. Or if it’s very warm and you just need to protect your eyes a visor can be your solution! I have various options, just in case. The more time you spend outside, the weather will tell you what you need as you go along.
7. Running gloves
Something I didn’t think of until one frosty and windy morning were running gloves! My fingers really hurt and never warmed up so I went and bought a light and comfortable pair of running gloves. They are incredibly useful at the beginning of a cold winter run before your cardio steps up a gear and your body becomes warm. Once you don’t need them during the run simply take them off and put them in the pocket!
8. Running apps and watches
Some months into my new running hobby I downloaded a simple app that tracked my routes and recorded some basic info about my distances and speed. A few years later as I further developed my running interests and decided that long distance running appealed to me I needed more information, specifically about my heart rate so that I could focus on bits like interval training and heart rate zones. I needed a good runners watch to link up with a more detailed app on my phone. There are various options, some fairly affordable and some very expensive.
Decide on the main purpose of your app or your watch, that’s where the money is! Don’t buy something that you are unlikely to use to its full potential! Don’t end up like some who quit running after a few months and have drawers full of very expensive gear that they are unable to get rid of.
Buy wisely and never be tempted to panic-buy in big sales.
9. Running backpacks, hydration vests and hydropacks
Have you ever seen people running with backpacks? At first I didn’t know why those guys seemed to carry weight on their backs. What was the purpose? When I took up marathon training, a new world of requirements opened up. You cannot run a solo marathon or an ultra-marathon without supplies. You will need extra food and drink, maybe an extra jacket, some extras that you will have to carry on your back if you run alone.
Some runners put it all in a large back pocket of a backpack, some put their drinks in special front holders of a hydration vest and some go for hydropacks on their backs that hold several litres of their chosen running fluid, normally a dedicated energy drink.
There aren’t right or wrong choices, you learn as you go and gain knowledge through time and experience.
10. Hi vis running gear
Hi Vis gear is essential for those who run in the dark and need to be seen by passing traffic. There are high visibility jackets, tights, gloves and even socks! Very useful when running in poorly lit urban areas.
11. Personal transport, i.e. car
🚙 And finally – a car! If you decide to go for a long run away from home, instead of using public transport it’s better to drive or have someone drive you there. You may need more supplies, you may get injured, or you may get caught up in bad weather – that car could be your shelter.
There is nothing pleasant about missing a train whilst being cold, wet and hungry. Long solo runs need planning and a car is one the precious accessories in that case.
Many of us who spend lots of time outside running short and long distances will have a selection of useful accessories. I bought all of mine when I really needed them and at times there were misses when I realised that I bought something that I didn’t really need or like.
Sometimes we like what we have but then decide to go for an upgrade (watches or hydration packs). All is well once we end up fully equipped with what makes our runs safer and more comfortable.
Next time you are out there, take a look at the passing runner and check out what they’ve got. You may end up with another useful idea!
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