"It is hard to say that there is one shoe out there for everyone," says Bart Yasso, chief running officer at Runner's World magazine and author of "My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon".
"You need the right shoe for your body type and the right shoe for the type of running you are going to do. That could be different for the person who will run 100 miles in a week versus the person who may run 100 miles over three months."
This point is further stressed by Warren Greene, Runner's World's resident gear expert. Greene says that it isn't a matter of just finding the best shoe, but finding the right shoe for you. "The people who run the shops really know the shoes. They have the experience to fit you," says Greene, who also stresses that the best shoe isn't the one with the highest price. Good quality running shoes can still be found for $80 to $100, although last year's spike in oil prices did send shoes on an upward sprint. However, Greene suggests that once you find the right shoe, you stick with it and order your replacements online. "While a lot of people think 'nothing new' is a bad thing, it is actually a positive when it comes to right shoes."
Proper shoe care is also important. Your running shoes should be replaced long before they reach the point of no return. "A good pair of shoes can last about 400 miles," says Yasso, and while many sales people will advise replacing them every three or four months, the need to replace your shoes is really based on distance, not time.
"If you look at the bottom and see it is well worn then it is already past the point where it should have been replaced. You go off the feel more than how it looks."
In addition to shoes, there is an endless variety of specialized shorts, shirts, and even socks for running. Yasso offers some recommendations for both newbies and seasoned runners:
"You can go out in a cotton shirt and cotton shorts, and you don't have to buy the technical running gear," says Yasso. However, the specialized clothing will keep your skin dry, which is important on long runs.
These InSport Lycra Shorts ($18.99 + $7 s&h at We Play Sports) can be worn under sweats or cotton shorts and conform to high school and collegiate track regulations.
While it may officially be spring, cold weather is still a factor in much of the country. For those chilly days and evenings, a long sleeve shirt, such as the Nike Men's Dri-FIT UV Essential Long Sleeve Running Shirt ($31.99 + $6 s&h at Sports Authority) will keep you warm and keep your sweat from building up on your body. Likewise, the ASICS Men's Frankie Short-sleeve Running Shirt ($29.99 + $6 s&h at Fogdog.com, pictured) is made of a moisture-wicking fabric that draws sweat away from your body, while the 50+ UPF UV protection ensures you won't burn from the sun's rays.
Women's Running Gear
"Women should invest in a jog or sports bra," says Yasso, and many companies, including Nike and Reebok have products that go way beyond just a pair of pink running shoes.
The Reebok Women's Core Run Bra Top ($22.50 + $0 s&h with a $25 purchase at Amazon.com) can be worn sans shirt on hot days, or underneath a shirt for times when you want to cover up. It's made of Play Dry, a moisture-wicking fabric that also provides support throughout your runs.
New Balance's Lightning Dry line of shorts, such as the New Balance Women's 5" 2 Step Shorts ($27.95 + $6 s&h at Holabird Sports, pictured), feature an internal compression short and a textured knit outer short for both comfort and support. There's even an inner pouch pocket on the front waist and the fabric offers UV protection of UPF 40+.
The best part about running is that once you have the right gear, the world is your private course. "You don't need a lot of time and don't have to invest a half a day," says Yasso. "A 30- to 40-minute window is all you need."
— Peter Suciu