I first wrote this in 2012. A lot of new products are on the market now, plus I have learned a bit more over the last few years on how to manage my gear. First a bit about me so you know my back ground. I’m 51 years old. Started running when I was 18, mostly just to impress girls, like most 18 year old. I didn’t start really training and getting into running until I was about 44. Ran my 1st Half marathon and have been hooked ever since. A few years later I took a RRCA coaching class to learn more. I have not pursued coaching for $$$ because my real job’s schedule is crazy and does not fit, but if I could make enough I would rather coach then work. I have run 109 total races, twenty six of them 5k (19:01 PR), twelve 10k (40:32 PR), thirty half marathons (1:28:42 PR), ten marathons (3:16:44 PR) and three 50k trail ultra-marathons (4:52:12 PR). The rest of them were anything from 7k to 20 miles. Keep in mind my racing life didn’t really start till I was 44. As you can see I like running half marathons the most. OK, now that you know I’m a running geek, let’s move on to the gadgets. Oh, one last comment, all of the gadgets list are ones I have tried and like. No one has paid me any money to recommend them. Trust me if I had a sponsor for any of these I would let you know, and everyone else that they were paying me. The only money I make from running is the occasional change I find on the road, and it is not much, but I still pick it up. So yes I am a paid runner, in a way J
Shoes—this is a no brainier. The most important piece of equipment for a runner is his shoes. But how do you find the right pair? I recommend going to a running store and get fitted. They will watch your stride, measure your foot and recommend a pair. Try them out and if you like that brand, stick with them; if not try again until you find the one that works. Consider buying a pair of racing flats. Flats are light weight and have a low heel-to-toe drop, normally zero. Start slowly with the flats, as you have to adapt your body to them. But they will help prevent injury and improve your gait. I switched to Newtons about 2 years ago and love them. These shoes are not for everyone, I went to a running store and was able to demo a pair for a week. The price is at the top end for sure, but they last a lot longer than any other shoe so really you will save money buying fewer shoes. I have retired 4 pairs of Newtons and averaged 800 miles on the training shoes, 500 miles on the racing pair. I recommend you have a pair or maybe even two pair (rotate them every few days) to train in. Then have the same brand, maybe a lighter version to just race in. You don’t want to be in a race and have a worn out pair of training shoes that fall apart before the finish line. Plus if you only race in one pair, when you put them on, you know it is game time.
Shoe insole – Yes you spent a lot of money on the shoes, and they have a cheap insole in them that provide no support at all. Get a good insole with some arch support. Again, ask at the running store what they recommend. I like the Sole brand. Again they are pricey, but if you get them on sale they are not too bad. Plus they last a long time, I use them in 2 or maybe 3 different shoes. I never use a new shoe with a new insole. If I buy a new insole, I put it in a used shoe. And same goes with the new shoe, I use a used insole.
GPS Watch—I can’t image running without one. Next to shoes, I would have to say this is the most important piece of equipment I have. We are so lucky to live in a time that we have all this technology to help us run and train. There is no way I could do my interval training without this piece of equipment. Listed below are the watches my wife and I have tried.
Garmin FR70 $79
Not a GPS watch, uses a foot pod (optional), buttons are hard to push, wife used for a week and sent it back. I would not recommend.
Nike plus Sports Watch $179
Pros – Wife uses and likes it. Screen is customizable. Has back light and large numbers/letters. Online software, works with Nike+ foot sensor (included with watch). Software tracks shoe’s mileage, post for Facebook or Twitter. Links to earndit.com. Plugs in to USB to charge. Charge lasts a long time.
Cons—USB plug looks like it could corrode, being exposed to sweat.
Garmin 305 forerunner $278 (w/HR monitor)
Pro’s – easy to use. Can customize screens, large screen if you need glasses and don’t run in them. Has online software “Garmin Connect” or can use “Training Center” software on your computer.
Cons—Battery life only about 6 hours at best. After about 2 years of use, mine only lasted about 1.5hrs. Not waterproof; no swimming in this watch. Charging stand corroded and needed to be cleaned to get a good connection.
Garmin 310XT $299 (w/HR monitor) – This was a great watch, water proof and improved battery. I have always used Garmin because they were the first to make GPS gear. I am used to using them and like the software that comes with them.
Pro’s – Battery life 20 hours, have not had it ever turn off because of a dead battery. Waterproof; you can swim with it. Large customizable screen, not as bulky as the 305, but same screen size. Charges with a clip and plugs into USB port. Has online software “Garmin Connect” or can use “Training Center” software on your computer.
Cons –Ant+ wireless protocol is used to transfer data to your computer; sometimes works right away, sometimes it takes a while and a bit of tinkering.
Garmin 910XT – This is a great watch. I never had problems with it, lasted 2 years and then I sold it to buy the next model. I ran over 3,500 miles with it.
Pro’s – Batter life 20 hours, waterproof, charging connection improved over the 310XT. Looks a little more like a watch, but still large enough to see the numbers. Customizable screen, same functions as the 310XT.
Cons – None that I can think of, at least until they came out with the 920XT.
Garmin 920XT – I have had for about 5 months now and ran about 700 miles with it. Of course it is expensive, but if you run a lot this watch is worth the cost and then some.
Pro’s – With the HR monitor (new for this model only “HR run”) you get so much more data. Cadence, vertical oscillation, ground contact time. The 910XT had Cadence if you used a foot pod connected to it (wireless), but the 920XT HR monitor has it built in. It also gives you (if you train with HR run monitor) predicted VO2 max, which is very accurate (My tested VO2 max is 57, watch predicts 56). The watch will also give you race prediction times based on your train. Also it gives you recovery time after your workout, this will keep you injury free and help you improve by not over training. Most of us have done that, I know I have. It also connects by Bluetooth to your phone and can give you alerts when you get emails, phone calls or text. It shows who is calling, emailing or texting and a bit of the text or subject of the email. I have not used this but the phone app can be installed on family and friends phone and they can track you on your run real time. Really this watch has so many features I don’t think I will ever use them all. Like the 910Xt it is made for tri-athletes and has a swim, bike and run mode. The battery life is a week or more in watch mode, while running I think depending on Bluetooth and what accuracy it is in can last at least 24 hours, or in the battery save mode up to 40 or more hours (I have not used for that long so I’m only going by the book here)
Cons – If there are any, I can’t see them. Maybe it is still a bit big, but again, I like a larger watch screen to see more information.
Heart Rate monitor—A must to give you quick, effort-level feedback to make sure you’re training in the right zone for the run you’re doing.
Foot pod—Another must; works with various GPS watches, most of which are proprietary (Garmin Pod for Garmin, Nike Pod for Nike etc…) If you are concerned about your run economy, knowing your cadence is very important. Not needed for the 920XT
Compression sleeves arms/legs/pants/shorts
Arm sleeves—I have used once during a marathon and they worked OK. If you need a little extra warmth, they are nice to use and as you warm up you can roll them down and use them as a sweat band.
Leg sleeves or socks—I use both socks and sleeves. Both are great and I recommend them. I have used before a race to help reduce any inflammation and I have used during a race to help keep the legs from cramping.
Pants—These are great if you run in cold temps. They are a must to bring along to a race if you’re not 100% sure of the race conditions. It is always better to be prepared for a cold run and have these packed, just in case.
Shorts—I use these for all my runs and find them to be very comfortable. The keep you from chaffing and help keep you cool by pulling sweat away.
Water containers—This is a necessary evil; if I run for less than 60 minutes, I don’t use them. Mainly a must for long runs and races. If you think you’re going to save time not having the weight from the water in a marathon, you will pay the price in the last 6.2 miles with leg cramps—at least I did.
Amphipod Water Belt—I like this one the best. You can have as many water bottles on the belt as you want, just buy more and install. I think my belt came with two 8oz bottles and I bought 4 more 10oz. I normally use 2 10oz bottles for my long runs.
Nathan Water bottle (hand)—I have used one, and just don’t like the hand holder. I try to relax my hands on my runs to ensure I’m not wasting energy holding on to a water bottle. But I do know a few runners that like this type of bottle, so it is up to you. Try them and form your own opinion.
Nathan Intensity Vest—A water bladder in a vest with pockets in front. This one is made for females; my wife uses and likes it. Reflective for night running, and allows her to carry her phone and music player. There is also a larger pocket in the back, in front of the bladder, that could hold a towel, or clothes that you take off mid run. I don’t like using water bladders because they slosh around too much, and set up/storage is more work. (Wife says, “If you wear ear buds, you don’t hear the sloshing.”)
SPI Belt (small personal items belt)—Not a must have, but helps you carry your car keys, GU, and bib all in one easy belt. Zipper pouch is large enough to put a cell phone in, but I don’t use it for that.
Road ID—If you run alone, I would recommend having some type of ID band. Most of us don’t carry ID when we run.
Endruacool—I just got this and have used it a few times in 95+ degree runs. They work, but I am not a big fan of carrying more stuff with me. It also dries out fast on real hot runs and when it is dry, it does not cool.
Sweat band—I like using a good sweat wrist band to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
Reflective vest – A must if you run at night. Get one that reflective and has lights. It might not be cool to wear one, but being alive is way cool compared to the alternative.
Elevation Training—I have not tried this. Seems like it would work, but running in 95 degree temperatures is enough extreme training for me.
Training Mask 2.0—People I have talked to that do use this say to get the 2.0 model, not as restrictive. I just got one of these, have yet to use it. From what I have read they don’t work, but I am going to give it a try. Certainly not something that is needed. Just if you want to take it to the next level I guess.
Fitbit—There are a few different models of these now. I use the Fit Zip, small water proof and only counts steps. Cost is about $50, they have others that are $99 and can track floor climbed, your sleep, and then even more expensive ones $150+ that have HR and other high tech stuff. These are the latest fad I would say. I use mine to get points for a wellness plan at work. With the points I get reduced health insurance cost and get free stuff (like a Garmin 920XT, Trek 1.1 road bike, or Ipad air 2). I figure I’m doing the work so might as well take advantage of the free stuff. Check to see if your company has a wellness plan available, it might be worth it if they do to have invest $50 in a fit bit.
Ice Packs—A must for any runner. Ice is the best prevention to an injury. Don’t wait for the pain; ice after long runs and reduce any inflammation before it becomes and injury.
Moji Knee Ice Wrap—This is by far the best ice pack I have found for the knee. It conforms to your knee, stays cold just the right amount of time. It is only takes a few seconds to put on and you can move around while it is working. A must if you have any knee pain.
Rollers—I’m just starting to learn the benefits of SMR (Self-Myofascial-Release)
Foam roller – You will need to do this at some point.
Marathon Stick—I have this, but prefer the foam roller. This is more a compact roller to take with you in your bag on trips.
Roll Recovery R8 – Just saw this at the last expo I was at and tried it. No sales pitch required I bought one and love it. If you find using a foam roller is difficult and time consuming (get out a matt, have to support yourself as you roll over it causing more pain in other spots) like I do then you would enjoy this product. It is fast, simple, easy to use and feels like a deep tissue massage.
Running Apps and software
Runkeeper—This is a great app that you can use on your smart phone. It turns your phone into a GPS watch. Set up a group of “street team” from your friends and motivate each other to reach your goals.
Endomundo—Another smart-phone running app. My wife likes this one better than Runkeeper.
Runner’s Studio—A software program that you use on your computer. Tracks all your runs, helps you manage equipment (mainly for tracking your running shoes miles). Set goals and monitor your progress. Track all your past and future races. Can import GPS data (.gpx, .tcx, .fit, .pwx files), Polar data (.hrm files) and text delimited or comma separated data.
HIGI (formally called Earndit)—Great online site that lets you earn points as you work out and get in shape. You can earn rewards as you get points, compete against others in challenges, and earn prizes. I have won a few and used some of their coupons to save money. They are fun and motivating to help me work out. Earn reward points and use them for discounts, like 2-for-1 deals. If you are in a location that they have a Higi station you can earn points for getting you blood pressure and heart rate checked also. Nothing in Texas though, I have not used them L
Running simulation equipment (when you don’t or can’t run outside)
NordicTrack T7SI $1300
Elliptical—A great low impact machine, that simulates running.
Precor $4500 – A bit pricey, but Precor equipment is the best out there and will last forever. I bought mine after knee surgery to rehab. I got a prescription from my doctor for a low impact exercise machine and bought this tax free (medical prescriptions are not taxed). These are also great for losing weight: set the machine in front of the TV, put it on HR program, and do one hour 3-4 times a week and you will lose weight.
Supplements – Listed below are just a few of the supplements on the market and the ones I have tried. I would recommend talking to your doctor about any supplement you want to try. There are lots of claims out there by a lot of products. In general, I do not believe there is a pill that I can take and then run a marathon. You have to train and work hard. Having said that, there are products out there that will help you with that training. Never try something new in a race; always use a product in a training run first to see how your body will respond to it.
Gels packs– These are great for long runs and/or races. A must for marathons. Make sure you try them out; never try something new in a race that you have not trained with. I have used them before and during a race. If you take them before a race, do not take them until 15 minutes prior to the start. They can spike your blood sugar levels and trigger your body (pancreas) to produce insulin. So you will get a boost (spike) in energy, then a crash when your insulin is produced. GU is the most popular brand and I like them. They have two types of packs: One is just carbs and cost is about $1 a pack. The other “Roctane” has electrolytes, carbs, and caffeine are more tailored for marathon or longer runs and cost about $2 a pack. They also have “chomps” that are like gummies if you prefer that. https://guenergy.com/. I have also tried “Honey stingers” and like them. My advice is buy a single pack of any brand and test it out. Some people like them, some don’t. Experiment and find what you like on your next training run.
UCan—I have tried this product a few times. It seems to work. It is not a quick boost like the GU packs, but if you get an upset stomach from the GU packs, you might want to try this and see if it works better. http://www.generationucan.com/home.html
MRI Black Powder— Pre workout powder drink mix that will boost your intensity. I started using this after trying a few different brands. For me it works and I have continued to use this as a pre-run (on my interval and tempo runs) and pre-race ritual. I would recommend getting an individual pack and try it out. If it is not for you, then you are not out a lot of money. http://mri-performance.com/products/black-powder/
ON Amino Energy – Another Pre workout powder drink mix that will boost your intensity. I like this better then Black power, but they both work. Might depend on what flavor they have and your taste. Again try a sample to make sure you don’t have a full tub of something you don’t like. http://www.optimumnutrition.com/products/essential-amino-energy-p-275.html
GI Nutrition—They have protein, pre work out (pump), and post work out (recovery). I’m on my first tub of pump and recovery and like it so far (I used my earndit points to get the recovery free for buying pump). Pump is similar to the black powder product. http://www.ginutrition.net/
Protein Powder shakes—These are great for after work out recover drinks to make sure you’re getting enough protein to rebuild your muscles after a hard run. I have used Muscle Milk http://www.musclemilk.com/. Muscle milk taste good but is not the best. The one I like the best is ON 100% Whey Isolate. It’s a bit more $$$ but worth it. http://www.optimumnutrition.com/products/performance-whey-isolate-p-285.html
Electrolyte caps—These are a must if you’re doing a marathon or longer. I have tried two different pills. “S-caps” seem to be the most used and talked about http://www.succeedscaps.com/products/s_caps/. I have also tried the “Salt Stick” brand http://www.saltstick.com/. I like both; the Salt Stick has a dispenser that is easy to use.
NUUN – Electrolyte, caffeine, and B vitamins. Much better than using Gatorade. http://www.nuun.com/