Because you deserve some new gear.
You’ve logged countless miles, curated an epic Spotify playlist (or downloaded new podcasts), and planned entire weekends around your long runs. Whether you’re training for your first marathon, half, 10K, or 5K race, you’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point—so it’s fair to say you deserve new gear for your big day. Treat yourself to clothes and accessories that will help you perform your best while keeping you comfortable and supported. Here, top picks from fitness experts and Health editors.
Because finding the right running shoe can be challenging, you should test a new pair in-store before buying, says Health’s fitness editor Rozalynn Frazier. She recommends looking for a sneaker that’s made for distance and offers good support, such as the Nike Free RN Distance. Two other options: Asics Gel-Kayano ($160; zappos.com), or the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 ($150; newbalance.com).
Most experts suggest training in new kicks for at least two weeks leading up to a race. “Ideally, running six to 10 times in new shoes will be sufficient to make sure there are no issues before race day,” says Lindsey Haeberlin, a USA Triathlon coach and Gold’s Gym personal trainer. “I generally get a new pair 3 to 4 weeks before a race, so I can get a few solid weeks of training in.”
As with running shoes, test your new shirt before race day. “You don’t want to buy a top you’ve never run in, and be messing around it because you don’t like the way it fits,” Haeberlin says. She also stresses the importance of choosing breathable fabrics—this will likely mean you’re looking for something made of synthetic fabric rather than cotton, which tends to hold moisture. We love the Lululemon Cool Racerback *Luxtreme, which has a snug fit and is made of sweat-wicking Lycra fabric.
Health editors recently tested more than 70 different sports bras to find the best ones on the market. For high-impact workouts like running, one that rose to the top was the New Balance Shapely Shifter Bra. Testers liked that the fabric was light and could easily wick away sweat.
Prefer shorts instead of leggings? Try Nike 3” Tempo Modern Embossed running shorts, which have multiple pockets, built-in briefs, and mesh panels to encourage airflow. Bonus: They come in eight bright hues that will make it easier for your cheering squad to spot you crossing the finish line.
It’s easy to forget about socks (they’re not exactly the sexiest thing to shop for), but don’t underestimate the importance of a well-fitting pair. “Exercise socks should always grip to your skin like a second skin,” Lorna Jane Clarkson, the COO and founder of Lorna Jane Activewear previously told Health. Try the Brooks Ghost Midweight Running Socks, which have a little extra cushioning on the heel and toe.
You’ll be given cups of water during the race, but if you’d prefer to have quick access to H2O, your best bet is to find a bottle that’s light enough to hold. Try the super-light Amphipod Hydraform Lite, which has an ergonomic shape. “It’s easy to carry and very comfortable,” says Health’s food director, Beth Lipton, who is an avid runner.
There’s nothing worse than having to slow down to fix a ponytail that’s gone rogue. “Since I have long, heavy hair, I use the Scunci No-Slip Grip Evolution Jelly Ponytailers so my ponytail doesn’t slip out,” says Health’s assistant digital editor Alison Mango, also an avid runner. “Also, they last forever—I kid you not, I’ve used the same pack for four years and haven’t broken any of them.”
If you have short hair or bangs, you may prefer to wear a headband instead of (or in addition to) a ponytail. Stock up on Nike Printed Headbands, which have silicone on the inside for a secure fit and come in packs of six, so you’ll have plenty of color options on hand to match your race day outfit.
Running day sustenance
Many runners swear by portable energy gels and chews like Gu Gels ($15 for a 6-pack, amazon.com), which contain carbohydrates and electrolytes to help keep your energy levels up during a race. But while popular, they're not for everyone. If you can’t stomach them, have a very light snack about an hour before you run, such as a banana. Lipton also likes Health Warrior Chia Bars, which contain nutrient-rich chia seeds for energy.
Stash your phone, credit cards, cash, keys, and more in the waterproof Original Spibelt running belt (it can expand to fit items up to 6 ½ inches long, including the iPhone 6S). The no-bounce pouch is also designed to fit snugly against your waist while you run, so you won’t have to worry about chafing.
Race day skincare
Finally, don’t forget about your skin. You’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, so apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before you leave the house. David Stoll, MD, a dermatologist and author of A Woman’s Skin, suggests finding a formula that’s made for sensitive skin, such as Vanicream SPF 30.
Also important: “After you finish your race, don’t forget to shower directly after,” he says. “Hanging around in sweaty clothes can clog pores and cause acne.”