Our Essential Guide to the Best Men's Running Gear
MSN Lifestyle (2-26-2020)
This is a list of gear beginning male runners will find most useful during the coming spring months, including breathable socks, a quick-drying tech shirt, durable shorts, a versatile jacket, and more. Below you’ll find recommendations for each and the functionality considered when making the selection.
How We Chose This Gear
Every piece of gear on this list has been evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and use our own experience to determine the best options for your runs. In some cases, where we’ve gone deeper on a certain product, we included links to the full reviews. We hand-picked the gear below based on performance, price, comfort, technical features, and style to build this collection of top running essentials for men.
One thing: You’ll notice that we didn’t include any shoes. Runners swear by maximalist shoes and minimalist shoes, stability shoes and lightweight racers, midsoles with gel technology, air technology and, lately, foam technology. Studies still debate the degree to which footwear affects running biomechanics and performance, but you can easily experience a shoe fitting just by trying on a few different brands and styles. Start here, then visit a local running store to try on shoes and find the one best tailored your unique foot strike and gait.
Everyone’s list of essentials looks different. We’re curious to know how this list compares to others. New runners: What’s proven useful? And what solutions are you still searching for? Seasoned runners: If you see something here you love, give it a nod. Is something missing? What can’t you run without? Let us know in the comments.
Coverage that keeps you cool in the blaring sun.
Balega Silver No-Show
Running shoes are breeding grounds for bacteria, which of course means your socks are going to stink. While wool will cut down on the odors, you can also boost comfort and smell fresh with these. Balega covers the moisture-wicking fibers with silver ions to kill germs. We found they remain stink-free, even after multiple wearings between washes (yes, we know this is gross, but we still do it). Runners will also like the thick cushion underfoot, and the breathable top which kept us cool during an extended bout of 90-plus degree days in Pennsylvania.
Fourlaps Level Tee
Here’s what makes this shirt worth your splurge. Fourlaps calls the Level its most technical tee yet, and uses what the brand calls 37.5 technology. Active particles in the shirt’s fabric detect infrared energy, which is emitted as body heat. So when those first beads of sweat start dripping on your run, the material pulls heat away from your core to keep you at a comfy 98.6 degrees. And when the sun goes down and you start to shiver on a night run, the opposite happens. The fabric draws heat back in and traps warmth to keep you toasty.
Brooks Sherpa 5”
Brooks’s Sherpa, the latest in a long line of well-designed shorts, has a five-inch inseam—this puts the bottom hem midway down the thigh—and a solid side panel that prevents it from billowing like split shorts. The mesh liner is moderately supportive and, like the rest of the short, breathable and quick-drying. And, finally, mercifully, the Sherpa features three pockets: Two hip pockets hold keys, cards, and nutrition, and a sweat-resistant back zip pocket is large enough for a smartphone.
Goodr The OGs
Running in the wrong sunglasses quickly leads to running with no sunglasses, and, because the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays on the eyes are cumulative (which means you’re cooking your eyeballs just a little bit more every time you head out without proper shades), running without sunglasses can eventually lead to one or many types of eye damage. Goodr makes shades that specifically address the discomforts of running in eyewear. Your eyeballs will like their polarized lenses that provide UV400 protection—optometrists recommend this because it blocks 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. You’ll appreciate the lightweight, bounce-free frames and the non-slip coating that stays grippy even when you sweat. The Goodr website features dozens of creative colorways—at only $25, you’ll likely end up with more than one pair.
Gear necessary to weather the weather.
Hill City LS Bodymap Train Tee
Bodymap refers to this top’s ventilation technology, which identifies the torso’s natural heat zones. Said our tester, “Think Galen Rupp’s racing kit from the 2016 Olympic marathon, but on a microscopic level.” This body-mapping tech makes the Hill City long-sleeve versatile for unpredictable weather, when you’re not sure if the climate will make you sweat a little extra or cause you to cover your hands with your cuffs.
Vuori Sunday Performance Jogger
We took these on a chilly taper run and found the thin poly-elastane blend moved surprisingly well; it wasn’t so silky thin that it bounced around our knees, but it wasn’t thick enough to suffocate our legs. The drawcord waistband cinched securely and comfortably, the smart taper kept the pant out of the way, and the wide, stretchy cuffs held tight to our ankles.
Brooks Canopy Jacket
We hold our running jackets to exacting standards. As our outermost layer, they must perform the delicate task of shielding us from the elements without trapping so much heat that we’re forced to shed them mid-run. Brooks’s Canopy Jacket is a feature-rich shell versatile enough to feel right in almost any condition. The ripstop polyester is a durable, wind- and water-resistant layer that moves and breathes well. When it’s coldest out, use the long thumbhole cuffs to cover your hands and close the chin-high front zip. If it rains, unroll the stored hood from the back collar. The right pocket hides a tight-holding inner pocket and the left pocket turns inside to allow the jacket to pack down into itself. Layering the jacket over a short-sleeved tech shirt will take you to temperatures around 40 degrees. Anything colder than that and you’ll want to add a long-sleeved middle layer.
Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Wind Training Gloves
One tester has been running in a pair of Smartwool’s extremely thin merino liners for years, using them as his primary winter running gloves. But this upgraded model has won him over when the weather turns ugly. It’s still made with merino, of course, it’s just slightly thicker—though still no heftier than most polyester models. In our freezer tests, the glove long outlasted typical running models, and it was no contest on the roads when we worked up a sweat. Sure, you get warm and your hands get damp, but the merino holds onto that heat so you stay warm even after you stop moving. Boosting warmth is a windproof panel on the back of the hand and fingers. Our only complaint: Smartwool claims the thumb and forefinger are touchscreen compatible, but we couldn’t even get an iPhone to swipe open.
The Buff head wrap will likely be your most-used accessory. The polyester-elastane fabric breathes and wicks moisture like a tech shirt, but stretches and holds like a fitted headband. AT 20 inches long, it can also be a neckerchief when the sun is beating down, a hood or a beanie when temperatures are cool, a face mask or a balaclava in the bitter cold, a hair band when your hair is down, a hair tie when you want to pull it up, and, if doubled on your wrist, a hands-free means of wiping sweat. If the full-length version feels like too much when your run heats up, check out Buff’s nine-inch headband.
Items critical to proper fueling and recovery.
This is why you should drink Nuun instead of anything else. The American College of Sports Medicine’s position on hydration during exercise is clear: replace every bit of what you use. Sodium, chloride, and potassium are the critical trifecta for maintaining electrolyte balance during exercise. Magnesium moderates oxygen uptake in our muscles, increasing our endurance. Water is water and we sweat out a lot of it. Nuun Electrolyte tablets provide 360 mg of sodium, 100 mg of potassium, 25 mg of magnesium, 13 mg of calcium, 1 gram of sugar, and 10 calories. A popular 20-ounce sports drink comes complete with less of what you need and more of what you don’t: 270 mg sodium, 75 mg potassium, zero magnesium, zero calcium, 34 grams of sugar, and 140 calories.
Jelly Belly Sport Beans
Glucose, stored as glycogen, is a major fuel source for our muscles. Our glycogen stores, on average, can fuel a moderately paced run for 90 to 120 minutes. When the stores become critically low, sudden fatigue and weakness set in, reducing muscle capacity—this is “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” Mid-run carbohydrates (30 to 90 grams per hour, depending on exercise intensity and duration) give our muscles enough readily available glucose to prevent depleting glycogen stores. Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans are convenient to carry and dose out. And when you’re dry-mouthed at mile 17, these small beans are much easier to chew than some of the larger, moisture-sapping gummies out there.
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller
A post-workout massage is one of the few non-drug—or even non-surgical—remedies we have for sore muscles, and foam rollers are convenient and torturous stand-ins for an in-home therapist. Size, texture, and densities vary. Denser foam rollers make for a deeper, more painful massage, but they last longer. Softer rollers might feel better initially, but their most-used areas will inevitably break down and compress until they’re ineffective. TriggerPoint’s Grid Foam Roller avoids this by wrapping a just-plush-enough foam around a rigid plastic frame. The combination strikes a nice (effective but tolerable) balance. Grab one of these and start with your IT bands—it’s pain-free and downright delightful.
Body Glide Anti-Chafing Balm
We all learn the hard way that salt, like the kind that your sweat leaves behind, is uniquely effective at abrading human skin. Body Glide’s anti-chafing stick is a non-oily, all-natural, allergen-free balm that can be rubbed like deodorant onto any hotspot to put a protective layer between sensitive skin and an ill-placed seam or, perhaps, the rigid upper of a new pair of shoes. Get this before you need it, and even if you think you won’t, because walking anywhere after the fact to buy a chafe stick will be the worst experience of your life.
SPIbelt + Waterproof aLOKSAK
Most running shorts and pants can hold nutrition, keys, an I.D., and a bit of cash, but few offer a smartphone-sized waterproof pocket for what has become a thousand-dollar running accessory. Against logic, low-profile running belts with waterproof exteriors are just as rare. SPIbelt offers the next best by coupling an original belt with a waterproof pouch that attaches to the inside of the belt. The straps are elastic, so they cinch tight enough to prevent bouncing but still sit comfortably on the hips. Twist the belt so the pouch sits on your lower back, and you’ll forget you’re wearing it within a mile.
Garmin Forerunner 45
For runners used to following basic metrics—i.e., pace, time, and distance—the Forerunner 45 is a user-friendly entry into more advanced territory. Bluetooth connectivity syncs data to the Garmin Connect phone app. Like a personal assistant, the watch notifies you about calendar appointments and incoming calls. Besides recording your sleep, stress, and heart rate, a body battery feature—a number out of 100 that represents your energy level—lets you know if it’s advisable to workout or take a rest day. The smaller 45S is also available, but the 45 itself has enough notches to fit comfortably on our tester’s five-inch wrist. Some features may seem superfluous—personally, she could do without the Garmin Coach, which provides training plans and custom workouts—while others, like the assistance/incident detection feature, are a nice touch. However, your phone must be within close proximity for the safety feature to work.
Jabra Elite Active 65t
Jabra’s Elite Active 65t is everything you want in truly wireless sport earbuds. Both of our testers found a secure fit with the three included sizes of silicone inserts, and special projects editor Kit Fox, a regular AirPods user, said the Jabras had the best sound quality of any wireless headphones he’d tried. The bass isn’t as impressive as offerings from Bose and Sennheiser, but the buds still thump when you’ve established a tight seal and deliver a balanced sound across hip-hop, rock, folk (Fox’s second-favorite) and podcasts (his favorite). They’re lightweight and didn’t move once our runs began, and the hear-through mode brings in ambient sound when necessary. However, that ambient sound quality still isn’t great when the buds are sealed properly in your ears. Test editor Dan Roe said he went down an insert size, losing some of the in-ear sound quality to gain ambient noise for outdoor running. The five-hour battery life is enough for most runs, and the small charging case packs an additional 10 hours. Sound investment: Jabra’s warranty covers the earbuds for two years of dust and sweat damage.