How to Choose Running Apparel

Due to improvements in running apparel over the last several years, almost anyone can run comfortably in just about any kind of weather (hurricanes, blizzards and ice storms not withstanding!). Running throughout the year is definitely doable. I know it's one my favorite activities as it allows me to experience first hand the changing of the seasons, is a great stress reliever and gives me plenty of time for uninterrupted thought.

One question that often comes up is, Do I really need all the different types of running gear/clothes to be a runner? On this page, I'll answer this question and many more. Topics to be discussed include:

  1. Basic Running Apparel Needs
  2. Winter Running Clothes Essentials
  3. Summer Running Gear Need To Knows
  4. Top Recommended Online Running Apparel Merchants

Basic Running Apparel Needs

Running Apparel manufacturers and some apparel resellers would have you believe that you need a different outfit for every 5 to 10 degree change in temperature.

Don't believe it!

You really don't need that much gear to run comfortably year around. You probably already have at least some of the running apparel you'll need and even if you don't, everything doesn't need to be purchased all at once. Buy it as you need it. Good running clothes can last for several years (with the proper care). So, consider your purchase an investment in You that will pay off in increased comfort and health.

Listed below are your basic running apparel needs in order to run comfortably in most parts of the United States:

Having more of each running apparel item can be a plus as it reduces the number of times you have to do laundry and keeps you from worrying about whether your clothing has dried from a previous run.

Winter Running Clothes Essentials

The key to dressing comfortably for winter running is Layering. Not just one thick layer but two to three lightweight layers. Multiple lightweight layering allows perspiration to more easily escape while simultaneously holding in more heat so that you stay warmer and drier. If you become overheated during a run, just remove a layer. If later you become chilled, just re-add the layer you removed.

Upper Body Layering

At most, use three layers for the upper body depending on just how cold it is outside.

The Base layer (layer closest to your skin) should wick moisture away from your skin and move it to the next layer. It is imperative that you wear a CoolMax type of shirt (one with wicking properties). At all costs, avoid cotton! Cotton will get wet when you perspire and then stay wet, chilling you to the bone.

The Middle Layer should further insulate the body while still wicking moisture outward. Middle layers are often a bit heavier than the Base Layer, should only be used in very cold conditions and should fit loosely over the Base Layer. Due to fluctuating body temperatures and weather conditions, the middle layer should be easy to remove. Some suggested running apparel fabrics include Polartec, Thermax and fleece.

A lightweight, breathable, windproof jacket often serves as the Outer Layer. Whether you choose a jacket, shell or vest, the outer layer should protect you against cold, wind, rain or snow while still allowing perspiration to evaporate. My suggestion is to look for a microfiber, ventilated jacket.

Lower Body Layering

In extreme temperatures (below freezing), up to two layers can be necessary. Between zero degrees Fahrenheit and approximately 45 degrees, one layer should be sufficient. Above 45 degrees, your legs should feel fine uncovered especially once you are five to ten minutes into your run. Fabrics to look for include microfiber, micromesh, microfleece, lycra, tactel, and CoolMax.

Covering Your Extremities

Heads, hands and feet. Do they need to be covered in cold weather temperatures? You betcha! First of all, in freezing weather or below, wear a hat. Covering your head helps keep the rest of your extremities warm. The old saying that heat goes to your head is true. And, if your body is working to keep your head warm, your hands and feet are going to suffer. Second, wear moisture wicking gloves and socks. Although you may think you need to layer your socks, you don't. One pair is enough.

Dressing Guide for Cold Weather Running Apparel

-10 to 0 degrees 10 to 30 degrees 40 to 45 degrees
3 upper body layers 2 upper body layers 1 upper body layer
2 lower body layers 1 lower body layer optional
thick gloves thin gloves gloves optional
hat and headband hat optional

Note: Wind Chill not considered in table above. Dress a little warmer on windy days. Click link to determine wind chill factor.

Summer Running Gear Need To Knows

Planning on running this summer? Get ready to sweat. It's inevitable.

However, you can make it cooler and more comfortable IF you choose running apparel made from the right materials.

Take my advice and save your favorite cotton T-shirt for after your run.

Consider choosing a mesh top made with CoolMax polyester that will wick perspiration away from the body to outside the fabric, where evaporation can occur. Choose shorts made of Supplex nylon that will hang comfortably and not stick to sweaty skin.

Many men like to run without a shirt on during the summer. This can have a dangerous long-term effect on your skin leading to premature aging and some forms of skin cancer. My recommendation is to wear sunscreen and a CoolMax T-shirt to protect yourself from the sun's damaging UV radiation.

Top Recommended Online Running Apparel Merchants

Running apparel does not need to be expensive or complicated. Most of the ideas presented previously can be summarized by the following list:

  1. You can run comfortably all year. Invest in the basic running apparel (shorts, shirts, etc.). Buy as you need it.

  2. Stay away from cotton shirts and socks. Run in clothes that have wicking (ability to move moisture away from your skin to the garment's surface) capabilities (CoolMax, microfiber, etc.) for the greatest comfort in both hot and cold temperatures.

  3. For cold weather running, dress in Layers.

Once you are ready to purchase running gear and you want to shop online, I suggest that you visit the following running apparel merchants:

Listed below is my Top Recommendation:

  1. Zappos
    Top notch selection of all kinds of running apparel, great prices, FREE Shipping, FREE Return Shipping, and 365 day Return Policy. NOT JUST FOR SHOES! - Powered by Service
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