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Best gear for runners in 2021, according to runners

No matter your fitness level, wearing the right pair of sneakers, socks, sunglasses and other accessories can help make your run more comfortable.
High quality and functional running apparel and accessories can make a huge difference in how successful your run is. We consulted a few committed runners about their favorite running accessories.
High quality and functional running apparel and accessories can make a huge difference in how successful your run is. We consulted a few committed runners about their favorite running accessories.Nuun; AfterShokz; Getty Images

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Running, on the surface, is a pretty low-gear activity. Put on your favorite pair of running shorts, an exercise bra, sneakers, maybe some earbuds, walk out the door, then get going! But sometimes, complications can arise to disrupt the melody: You start to chafe, your running pants don’t have pockets and you’re tired of stashing your phone in your waistband. Or your all-purpose workout shoes aren’t cutting it anymore. That’s where running gear comes in. High quality and functional running apparel and accessories can make a huge difference in how successful your run is. We consulted a few committed runners about their favorite accessories when they’re hitting the road.

1. Orange Mud Endurance Pack V2

“I use this for all my running hydration and storage needs,” said Jason Falcon, ultramarathoner and owner of Falcon Fitness & Nutrition in Virginia Beach. Before finding this pack, he'd experimented with packs from three to four different big name companies, each of which was uncomfortable, poorly fitted, caused chafing or the hydration bladder would leak. “This pack solves all those problems,” he said. “Super comfy, can't even tell you're wearing it, perfect for running four miles or 40 miles — I've raced all my ultramarathons in this vest and have never been left wishing it did something more or something better.” Featuring two built-in pockets for smartphones and a 2L water bladder, this pack ensures you’ve got all your essentials while on the trail.

2. Amphipod Air Flow MicroStretch Plus Belt

Jordan Zimmerman, a regular marathoner based in Louisville, Kentucky, likes this running belt for its convenience and design. “It fits large phones, keys, snacks, credit cards [and] is adjustable to many, many sizes of waists.” She also likes that it repels sweat, meaning it can be used over and over in between washes.“I love this way more than an armband, which has a limited size range for arms, usually, and in really hot, sweaty weather, irritates and chafes my skin,” she said. With a central pocket, this belt easily fits your smartphone, meaning your hands are free to move while working out. Additionally, you’ll stay cool because the paneled mesh wicks away moisture and circulates air away from your body.

3. Nike Swoosh Pocket Bra

Or, if you wear a bra and don’t like a belt, Zimmerman recommends this sports bra from Nike. “This bra will fit your keys and ID some small, essential things.” Designed for trail runners, this medium impact sports bra includes multiple small pockets so you can comfortably carry the things you need. The bra also features Nike’s Dri-FIT technology and sweat-wicking mesh panels, ensuring maximum breathability.

4.Nuun Sport Electrolyte Tablets

Leigh Power, a longtime runner based in Vancouver, Canada, drinks NUUN before or after her runs. Made with electrolytes, minerals and a touch of sugar (1 gram of dextrose), the tablets help improve muscle function by providing additional hydration to the body. She said drinking water with these electrolyte tablets is "better than straight water for pre- or post-run hydration." The tablets come in flavors like Orange, Tri-Berry, Citrus Fruit and Lemon Lime and they all have a variety of vitamins and caffeine.

5. Buff Lightweight Sports Band

Power calls her Buff band “the essential piece” and “super versatile.” She said, “It’s a lightweight piece of material that can be used as a headband, around your neck to keep you warm or cool [or]wrapped around your wrist like a tennis wristband.” Made from 100-percent eco-friendly Merino wool, it is breathable, odor-resistant and quick-drying. Power hasalso seen people use them as masks while running, which we don’t recommend doing as they don’t follow CDC guidelines for effective face masks.

6. Tough Headwear Head/Wrist Sweatbands

Power loves sweatbands to keep sweat off of her while she’s running. “Everyone uses them for tennis, but I love them for running, too.” These sweatbands from Tough Headwear are double-layered with stretchy cotton for maximum sweat absorption. The machine-washable wristbands are available in seven colors, including Black, Light Gray, Navy, Pink, Rainbow, “USA” (red, white and blue) and White.

7. Adidas Superlite Visor

Zimmerman always recommends wearing hats or a visor because it “will protect the sensitive skin on your face from the sun's rays and also soak up sweat around the hairline so that it doesn't get into your eyes. It also keeps rain out of your eyes if you catch yourself out in a storm unexpectedly.” Her favorite is the Superlite Visor by Adidas, made from recycled polyester. This visor also features sweat-wicking mesh paneling for lightweight breathability.

8. Goodr A Ginger's Soul Running Sunglasses

If you don’t want to run with a hat on, Zimmerman recommends these sunglasses. “I was a nay-sayer for years, thinking they'd bop around on my face — but these are really inexpensive, come in fun colors and stay put. Now I own three pairs to match various running outfits.” With polarized lenses, these sunglasses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Coated with an anti-scratch and anti-saltwater layer of protection, they minimize any accidental damage.

9. New Balance Women's Fresh Foam Roav V1 Sneaker

Power said that the right running shoes are a matter of personal choice and preference, based on “the shape of your foot, whether you pronate or supinate, how much cushion you need and the heel drop,” all of which vary by individual. She prefers these New Balance running shoes, which she loves for their cushioning and endurance. These lightweight shoes feature a foam midsole that cushions the impact to provide a comfortable run. The heel is shaped with what New Balance calls “Ultra Heel,” which means the shoe hugs your ankle for a supportive fit.

10. Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Men's Running Shoe

Falcon’s favorite trail running shoes are these Nike Terra Kigers. “I've worn them in almost all of my trail races, something like 10 different ultramarathons — they take a beating and after a wash they still look new.” He loves that they’re supportive and have lots of cushioning and grip, “I have raced in about eight degrees all the way up to 90 degrees in them, and the comfort is always there.” These sneakers include foam midsoles that provide cushioning for high impact activities like running or hiking. Designed with the pressure caused by high-mileage runs that trailer runners experience, the shoes uniquely feature padded tongues that help relieve pressure and foot swelling.

11. ALTRA Men's Escalante 2 Road Running Shoe

For road running, Falcon prefers these Altra Escalante shoes, calling them “super minimalist but at the same time super springy.” He said that they “let your foot splay naturally, so are great for those who want a wider toe box, and feel weightless on your foot.” He’s used them for everything from timed miles to half marathons and thinks they’re overall an “awesome training shoe or race day shoe.” Like the Nike Air Zoom, these sneakers feature a cushioned midsole that minimizes impact on the knees.

12. Bombas Women's Original Socks

“I’m super into Bombas socks,” said Power. “I like the quality material, and don’t have to worry about blisters from running.” Made of Bombas’ classic “Extra-Long Staple Cotton,” this sock promises to keep your feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. With extra care for your ankle, the sock includes a blister tab that prevents any annoying rubbing between your foot and your shoe. An added plus is that for every Bombas sock purchased, one is donated to one of 3,000+ homeless shelters across the United States.

13. AfterShokz Air Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

It can be hard to find headphones that stay in during movement — especially while you’re sweating. Zimmerman recommends the Aftershokz. “They use bone-conducting technology — which transmits sound through your cheekbones — and don't actually sit inside of your ear. That way, you can hear cars, bikes, animals, etc., before they see you.” They’re pricier than some other headphones, she said, “but worth it for safety, in my opinion.” By delivering music through your cheekbones, your ears remain open to ambient noises. Besides providing a flexible fit, the headphones are also IP55 certified to be sweat-, dust- and moisture-repellant.

14. Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm

For chafing, Zimmerman calls this “a godsend. She continues, “Seriously, I don't know what I'd do without it during longer runs.” By applying this to chafed areas before you get dressed, the balm helps ensure your skin is protected from additional irritation, chafing, and rubbing. Made with plant-derived ingredients, Body Glide promises to keep pores clog-free by allowing sweat to escape.

15. Goodwipes Body Wipes

If you tend to get sweaty or need to use a park bathroom along your running route, Zimmerman recommends the individually wrapped Goodwipes Body Wipes. “It's great if you're going to ‘run’ errands, or ‘jog to brunch’ and don't want to look like a sweaty mess when you have to be around people. They’re also great for the environment, in comparison with their peers.” Made from plants, the wipes are 100-percent biodegradable and hypoallergenic for sensitive skin. They’re infused with natural tea tree oil, peppermint, aloe and ginseng.

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Kala Herh contributed.