running gear to stick with it

Beginner’s Guide to Start Running and Stick with It

A while back, I wrote a blog for Fitocracy that pretty much summed up my thoughts on what you need to start running. In it, I said all you really need to learn how to start running is a good pair of running shoes.

Which in a lot of ways is true. If you want to start running, the only thing you truly need is a pair of running shoes that won’t hurt your feet. You can’t run any distance at all if you feel like knives are stabbing into the soles of your feet.

Anything else is a bonus.

Once you’ve found those shoes, though, and you don’t really know how to start running, you can easily get overwhelmed by all the gear out there. You don’t need it, really, but there are a few extra gizmos and gadgets that will make your life easier. If you are going to start running and actually stick with it, that is.

  • Running Shoes
  • Running Socks
  • Smartphone/Headphones
  • Tech shirts/shorts
  • Sports bras

Now, I know that looks like a lot of stuff, but it really isn’t. You can pick up most of this stuff at Walmart or Target for relatively cheap. Not including shoes and smartphone, you can easily snag enough stuff for a whole week of running for under $50.

1. Running Shoes

Pretty self-explanatory. You want something that will cushion your feet and legs from the impact with the ground. I personally run in Asics Gel-Nimbus (check out my GIF review of the 13, 14, and 15s if you’re interested in it), but they’re a little pricey to start out with. Which is totally unnecessary, if you go along with  my defense of Walmart bikes and discount running shoes.

Just find something that doesn’t hurt your feet. If they don’t hurt, you’re probably fine. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that new runners don’t need to worry about any of the fancy supination/pronation/motion control stuff.

Again…just find a shoe that doesn’t hurt. That’s all you need to find the right, first running shoes. (That, and being able to afford them, of course.)

And since running is a dirty habit, you’re gonna need to know how to wash your running shoes eventually. I got ya covered on that, too, friendo.

2. Running Socks

You may be thinking “I got socks. Don’t need to buy socks.” But here’s the thing: don’t wear cotton socks when you run. Ever.

You want something that is made to wick away sweat from your feet, not wrap them up so that when you’re done, all you can see is a wrinkly, stinky, soggy toe-burrito.

That’s a one-way trip to Blistertown, USA. Spend the ten bucks on some synthetic socks (I like seamless ones, but it’s not a necessity) and slide your footsies into them.

It took me too long to realize that running socks are almost as important as running shoes.

3. Smartphone/Headphones

I’m going to lump the smartphone/headphones bullets together in this one because they’re pretty simple and go hand-in-hand. You want the smartphone to run GPS and music apps, and you want headphones that won’t fall out of your ears.

I use Bose Soundsport headphones now because I was given a set for free and fell in love, but my backup is a $10 set I grabbed at Walgreens. My wife runs in those or the basic Apple earbuds.

The only criteria I really have for running headphones is that they don’t fall out of my ears, so I want them to have an over-the-ear hook. It’s pretty easy to find what kind of headphones/earbuds work for your workouts.

Download an app like RunKeeper or Strava for GPS tracking, sign up, and start using it to track your runs (they’re free, btw). It gives approximate calorie burn, pacing, splits, and all the wonderful number-crunchy goodness that you can use to keep up with yourself.

Then I suggest downloading Spotify or Pandora–or you could just use iTunes Radio or Google Play Music–for whatever sounds you want distracting you while you get used to putting one foot in front of the other. Over the summer, I really started getting into podcasts and audiobooks while I ran, so there’s that, too. Just find something you like listening to and do it.

Some people say you shouldn’t listen to music (or podcasts, etc. ) because you should be listening to your body. And that’s fine for experienced runners. For new runners, though, who are just getting started, our bodies are screaming STOP STOP OH GOD STOP every step of the way, and we need something to distract us.

Once you quiet your inner-voice, feel free to ditch the headphones. Until then, I really do think music is the best way to go.

4. Tech Shirts

Now, this is the least important gear to newbies. Honestly, you can run in whatever T-shirts and shorts/pants you have already. Don’t think you need wicking tech fabrics just to get out the door and start to run.

But as you up the mileage, you’re going to want to invest in something that is, once again, not cotton.

I have 3 words for you: chafing, bloody nipples.

If those don’t tell you all you need to know, then I suggest you just go run a few miles in cotton boxer briefs and a tight T-shirt. Seriously. Running is a dirty habit, and you have to get used to a lot of discomfort. You can save yourself from the worst of it just by putting on the right kind of clothes.

For shirts, I suggest anything that’s smooth. The most important thing is that there isn’t a rough texture or seam near the chest because you will come back in after a few miles with raw, bloody nipples from the friction.

I’ve found that pretty much any tech shirt is better than a normal cotton tee, but if you can feel the grain of a shirt with your fingertips, you’ll feel it with your nipples, too.

Therefore…smooth and silky.

I like to run with shirts slightly loose and hangy instead of fitted. You may not. Just see what works for you. I think body shape has a lot to do with what’s best here.

5. Sports Bras

Women, though, don’t have to worry about friction destroying their chests. Your sports bras will protect you from the bloody chafing that men suffer through. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t protect you from the crushing reality that is gravity.

As you run, your chest is going to move. The bigger your bust, the more it’s going to move and the more it’s going to hurt. To start with, don’t worry about finding the perfect sports bra (unless you’re particularly large-chested). Your primary concern is stability.

Go into the stores, find your cup size (your real cup size–do a fitting if you have to), and jump up and down. If you find that uncomfortable or you move around a lot, then you’ll want a tighter, more compressing and stabilizing bra. My wife swears by the Moving Comfort Jubilee or the Grace 2, but those are on the costlier sides.

If you’re just hitting Walmart or Target for a quickie sports bra, get one that keeps you stable. Yoga bras work well enough to begin with, too–but you’ll eventually want to upgrade to a more stable one.

Just remember: do not run in your normal bra. You might think it’s okay because you can complete a short run or two, but take my wife’s hard-win advice on this--buy a good sports bra as soon as it is humanly possible for you to do so.

6. Tech shorts/pants

For shorts/pants, I like them with built-in underwear to prevent my nether regions from chafing. I tried running for a long time in normal boxer briefs, but I have thunder-thighs, and I got rubbed raw more than my fair share.

I tried some running shorts with trunks in them, and again, I visited Chafetown. When I found some with briefs, I never looked back. My wife found the same thing with her shorts, too.

An interior brief liner is the way to go.

There are also three lengths for running short seams–5, 7, and 9-inches. I run in 7-inch seams because 5s make me feel like I’m in booty shorts, and I ran in 9s until I realized I could move my legs way better in the 7s. It’s a personal preference, really.

Just be aware there are different options out there, and you may need to give different options test drives runs.

And You Just Learned How to Start Running!

That was a lot to take in. It really was. I know.

But honestly, running is hard (and awesome and exhilarating and spiritual and so many other things), and starting out as a new runner is extra hard.

Sure, all you really need are shoes that don’t hurt your feet, but if you go out and shave your nipples off or find a blister burrito inside your socks, there’s a good chance you won’t keep up pounding the pavement.

I’m a realist. I understand that you don’t absolutely need a bunch of crap to go running, but having some cool stuff makes your quality of life exponentially better.

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t even need to get all of this stuff all at once. Piece together your running kit as you go. Grab some shoes, head out the door, and see what you need to make your runs better and better each and every time you lace up.




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  1. Mike

    Hey BJ…this is an absolutely epic post on getting started with running!

    I know personally I need to up my game when it comes to running apparel. Like I need some tech shirts for longer summer runs…

    I recently picked up some things for winter running, like gloves, a toque, and thicker/warmer socks…

    Keep it up with the epic posts in 2015…


  2. Michael

    Oh man! I thought this was going to somehow recommend the “ultimate” outfit that a fan of the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline might wear during a run. Say, perhaps, a pair of Black Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars and a vintage Space Invaders t-shirt?

    • B.J. Keeton

      I’m so sorry to disappoint, but I think you’re on the right track. I can’t imagine actually running in a pair of Chucks, though. I use them for weight lifting, but the complete lack of support makes me wonder how athletes of decades past actually performed in them. I call my black Chucks my “dress shoes,” and I wear them for meetings. 😉 That’s okay and classy, right? 😉

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You can also hear more of Beej on the Dragon Quest FM podcast every Friday morning!

He also has some really awesome sci-fi and fantasy novels that you should totally buy.


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