Gear for Runners: FAQ

What gear do I need to start running?
My Great Aunt Gert used to say, referring to home furnishings, "All you need is a bed and a table. And you don't really need the table." If Great Aunt Gert were around today, and talking about running, she'd probably answer your question thusly: "All you need is a pair of shoes and some gumption. And you don't really need the shoes." (I'm guessing Aunt Gert would be a barefoot running enthusiast.)

In Dumb Runner's opinion, here is what you need to start running:

  • Comfortable shoes and socks
  • A few decent pairs of running shorts 
  • Climate-appropriate shirts
  • A good sports bra, if your physiology calls for one
  • At least one water-resistant or waterproof jacket, preferably one that also "breathes"
  • A simple digital watch, for measuring your runs (by time, not distance)

And that's it. Those are the basics. If you live in a region with cold and/or snowy winters, naturally you'll want a few more items of clothing:

  • Warm tights or running pants
  • An insulating vest, to wear alone or under your rain jacket, depending on the temperature
  • Hats and gloves
  • If you're a guy: Something to stuff down the front of your pants. Especially if it's cold and windy. This is no joke.

How do I choose the right shoes for me?
We recently noticed an article, on another website, intended to address common questions about running shoes. It was 6,264 words long. We are not making this number up.

Readers, that is lunacy.

Let Dumb Runner demystify this for you. Choosing running shoes, especially when you're first starting out, is actually pretty simple:

  1. Visit a specialty running store. Not the "athletic shoe" emporium at the mall, with the window display of Nike high-tops. A real running store. One that sells running stuff only and is staffed by actual runners.
  2. Tell them a bit about yourself – your athletic and/or running history, if any; your running goals; and anything else you feel might be pertinent (injury history, foot problems, etc.).
  3. With their help, try a few pairs of shoes. Run a bit in them. Buy the ones that feel the most comfortable to you.

Presto! You have running shoes.

Should I have them do a gait analysis?
If you want. While you're at it you could also have them evaluate your joints via X-Ray Spex. Dumb Runner's stance on gait analyses is that they're useless. 

That's harsh.
At Dumb Runner, we call 'em like we see 'em.

What if I run in my new shoes a few times and decide they aren't working out?
This is why you shop at specialty running stores. Most of them will, or should, let you exchange your shoes for a different pair, even after you've run in them in a little bit.

Specialty running stores are awesome!
You said it.

Don't I need a GPS watch, though?


Are cotton shirts really that bad to run in?
Cotton shirts are perfectly fine. At least for shorter, easier runs. I'm not sure when, exactly, everyone got hysterical about running in cotton shirts. Or, for that matter, when everyone took as gospel that non-cotton shirts "wick" moisture away from the skin. Which, overwhelmingly, they do not. Whatever you're wearing, if you're running very far you will want to protect your nipples with Band-Aids or something. Because... Ouch. Nipple chafing is also no joke.

This isn't a "gear" question, exactly, but can you recommend any good books about running?
Yes. Runners of North America—A Definitive Guide to the SpeciesThe Runner's Rule Book, and C is for Chafing are all must-reads. Buy several copies of each.

Do you have a question about gear that's not addressed on this page? Ask it on our Submit a Question page and we'll do our best to help you out.