What to Wear Running, Regardless of Level or Weather

Two women running outside

Sweaty Betty

Unlike many other sports, running is a fairly low-maintenance sport to get into. As far as gear goes, all you really need is a pair of running shoes and some pavement to pound. That being said, workout gear (also known as athleisure) has come a long way. For example, some newer lines of running leggings come with features like mesh paneling and reflective elements, and running shorts have convenient pockets as well as a compression lining.

Innovation has grown so much that the options for both high-performance clothing and high-tech accessories can get overwhelming. In an effort to cut through the cluttered and crowded shelves, we chatted with longtime runners for some of their favorite picks as well as their tips to find some of your own.

From a multiple marathoner to a casual jogger, we put together the definitive guide to what to wear on your next run regardless of what level of runner you are or the weather.

Running Shoes

Picking out the right pair of running shoes is arguably the most important part of your training ensemble, but it is also the trickiest. The “right” pair of running shoes varies from person to person. While some may require more support, others may need a wider frame.

12-time marathoner, Maggie Kuenzi, recommends visiting a running shoe shop in your area. “These places usually have an educated staff who can help direct you to a pair that works for your needs,” she says, “Most of them allow you to run in the shoes before purchasing. Plus, they have pretty generous return policies if you aren’t happy with what you bought.”

A few guidelines before buying: Most experts will tell you to size a half size up in running shoes. “Your feet tend to swell when you are running.” says Jess Wisse, a Chicago based four-time marathoner. “Your toes should have room to wiggle, and your heels should feel secure.”

When it comes to support, everyone’s comfort level is different, but it is important to remember that running shoes are not meant to be broken in. They should feel comfortable on your first wear. If you are a beginner, try on a few cushioned pairs. These provide more support, but they can also feel heavier. Compare how you feel to a more lightweight pair, and see what you prefer.

Instead of a time limit, running shoes have a mileage limit. Most last somewhere between 300-500 miles before they need replacing. Some brands, like On, allow you to track your mileage online, so you know where you are at with each pair.

Product Picks

Running Leggings

The great debate: Leggings vs. running shorts. The answer is largely subjective, varying from person to person. Makenzie Vos, a Chicago-based trainer at F45 Training, prefers leggings for her workouts.

“Leggings and biker shorts are my go-to.” she shares. “They prevent chafing during long-distance runs.”

“Your running shorts and leggings should be moisture wicking, include four-way stretch so they are comfortable and not restrictive.” adds Lindsey Clayton, a New York-based Barry’s instructor. “Also, look for plenty of pockets to hold things like keys, phone, running nutrition, cash, and whatever else you need to bring with you. Most importantly, leggings should stay put. When you’re wearing the best leggings, you don’t even realize they’re there, and that’s the ultimate goal with run gear.”

Reflective Fabric: If you tend to run in the evenings or on the road look for a pair of leggings with reflective elements. This lets others on the road know that you are there and are coming.

Drawstring: One of the most common complaints about leggings is that they fall down mid workout. A drawstring helps keep your leggings in place from mile one all the way to the finish line.

Pockets: Nothing feels better than having your hands free during a run. Look for leggings with pockets so you can stash away everyday items like your phone and keys.

Running Shorts

While Vos prefers running in leggings, Keunzi would rather wear shorts. “Something about feeling the wind on my legs makes me feel like a real runner,” she says.

Looking for shorts requires some of the same criteria as leggings (e.g. pockets, reflective elements, lining, etc.). Shorts offer less coverage than traditional tights, but if you tend to get overheated on runs, shorts provide better airflow.

Shorts also offer a different aesthetic. “I work hard for my legs,” says Wisse, “I want to show them off.”

Sports Bras

The hunt for the perfect sports bra feels endless, but we rounded up some guidelines before making your next purchase.

Vos recommends sports bras fitting a little tighter for runs. Smaller chests should look for compression fabrics, which help keep your girls in place. Larger chests should look for both compression fabrics and encapsulation, or individual support for each breast. If you want a more modest look, try a higher cut sports bra.

Look for moisture-wicking fabrics to help prevent chafing and wetness while on a jog.

Keunzi likes the below option from Sweaty Betty, because it not only provides adequate support, but you can also adjust the straps to fit the style of top you are wearing.

Running in Cold Weather

An easy rule to follow while running in the cold: Wear thin, lightweight layers that are easy to remove, so you can adjust as you run. Think light vests, jackets, long sleeve tops, etc.

Keunzi recommends dressing like the weather is 15 to 20 degrees warmer.

“You will get warmer as you run,” says Keunzi, “Make sure you are wearing things you can take off as needed.”

“Remember, everything should still be moisture wicking because as the temperature drops, the last thing you want on your body is freezing, cold, heavy wet sweat!” says Clayton, “I would invest in a thicker run sock, a tight fitting down run jacket, lightweight waterproof gloves, and a hat and/or ear cover.”

The Beauty Breakdown

While running outside, you are not only exposed to the temperature, but you are also exposed to harmful UV rays, friction, and more. We recommend applying a blendable, sweat-resistant SPF 30 before setting out to protect your skin from burning. If you plan to set out on a longer jog, make sure to reapply as necessary, every two hours or so. A misting spray is an easy way to reapply while on-the-go.

When wearing shorts, especially in warmer weather, apply an anti-chafing stick pre-run. This makes your thighs glide against each other instead of scraping.

Related Stories