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big_sombreroFinding the right running clothes is something that I put little thought into before my first outing.  I had no idea. Sweatpants or cargo shorts? Mankini* or poncho? Maybe a Sombrero? These seem ridiculous, but through the process of trial and error I found the clothing that was comfortable for me to run in for long distances while in half marathon training and marathon training. This will be different for everyone because it is based on individual preference, so if you want to run in a poncho. Go for it.  It’s up to you.
Running a marathon is something you’ve previously committed to.  Soon you are planning to begin a training program, and you speed dated your way through the running store to buy your first pair of kicks.

Now it’s time to get you ready for the ball Cinderella.

The question still remains when it comes to running clothes, what do I wear?  The good news is that running, as an individual sport, doesn’t really require a lot of flashy, techie, expensive gear.  You can go crazy and spend much much more, and we’ll go into some of the coolest running gadgetry in a later post.  Shoes are the largest expense and you’ll use them for many many miles.  On the whole, running clothing is relatively inexpensive.

The Basics

running clothes

Kansas City Marathon (circa 2002)

Truth is, it takes very little to get started running.  You need a shirt (ladies will also need a sports bra), shorts, socks, and shoes, that’s it. These are the basics, the bare minimum. This will of course vary based on the weather.

Running in the Cold   <Running in the Heat>

Ultimately you are looking for clothing that is comfortable, functional AND durable.  Here’s a rundown.


While in marathon training, your running clothes should be comfortable.  You should feel good in the clothes you run in.  Don’t be persuaded by the many ads out there that promoting clothing that may be functional but not comfortable.  ThinkRunning Clothes compression shirts.  If a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears wears a super tight compression shirt, then if you wear it you’ll be just as fast. Right? No not necessarily.  What about those super high notch shorts that the die hard runners wear?  Don’t get bullied into buying performance clothes just because it works for others.  Find clothes that are comfortable to you.  If it happens to be a compression shirt, great.  The goal is to seek comfort.


Pajama pants may be really comfortable for lounging around watching Kansas Basketball (shameless plug) or (here’s another one) Kansas City Chiefs Football, but are less than functional when taken on the open road for a run.  For functionality you are looking for clothes that breathe, that wick sweat away and that don’t impede your training.

Here are the words used by some of the different clothing companies:

Basically, what these fancy trademarked and copyrighted words mean is that they expel heat and moisture away from body to keep you cool. Look for Shirts, shorts, pants, and hats that are both comfortable to wear and have some version of trademarked moisture wicking technology for full functionality.


Durability refers to the longevity of the clothing.  When shopping for running clothes the feel of the fabric will give you an idea on the durability.  You may have to shell out a few extra dollars to go for the premium brand solely because it will last longer.   You should be able to run in your clothes for at least one season, if not longer.   It’s always nice to get new shirts and shorts, if its financially feasible.  I’ve run in the same shorts for a couple years not because I can’t afford new shorts but because they meet all the requirements of great running clothes.  Obviously they are durable and comfortable, I’ve been running in them for years. They are also functional.  And yes, I wash them.
It all comes down to how you feel about the running clothes you buy. How you feel in those clothes directly translates to your overall running experience.  If you’re shorts ride up, that adds discomfort and frustration which consequently affects your running psyche.*  It sounds like a small thing, but when your out on a hot day, running 12 miles, pulling your shorts out of your butt is unnecessary stress that could be avoided.  We are in the business of breaking down those unnecessary stresses, making the running experience a positive one. You will be spending a lot of time in your running clothes over the course of your marathon training so do it right from the beginning. Find running clothes that are, comfortable, functional, and durable.


3 Responses to Running Clothes: What to Wear

  1. […] In previous posts we have chatted about the best clothes for any condition.  While running in cold weather there is general consensus that you’ll want to wear a fabric that doesn’t absorb moisture (e.g. not cotton).  Synthetic clothing is generally very good at not absorbing sweat, wicking it away. Surprisingly wool is great when it’s cold because it will keep you warm even when your sweating like a crazy person. […]

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