What to wear running

Finding what to wear running is something that most people don’t put a lot of thought into. I had no idea. Sweatpants or cargo shorts? Mankini* or poncho? Maybe a Sombrero? Through the process of trial and error, I found the proper clothing to train for a marathon. Of course, it’s different for everyone because it is based on individual preferences. 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. 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. Let’s chat about what to wear running.

The question still remains, when getting started what to wear running. 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. Running clothing is relatively inexpensive.

What to wear running basics

what to wear running
Kansas City Marathon (circa 2002)

Truth is, it takes very little to get started running. You could go and get a whole outfit at the local sporting goods store or on Amazon and be perfectly suited for what to wear running. You’ll need a shirt (ladies will also need a sports bra), shorts, socks, and shoes, that’s it. These are the basics, the bare minimum. Of course, this will vary based on the weather.

running shirt

Running shirt

When looking for a shirt to run in, look for something that is breathable. This includes polyesters, moisture-wicking clothing, spandex, and others. If this is your first time running, get a couple of different brands and styles to find what you feel comfortable in. You’ll need short-sleeved shirts in the warmer months and long-sleeved in the cooler months.

running shorts

Running shorts

There are hundreds of different styles of running shorts. You can find shorts with pockets or without pockets. Some people like pockets because they’re handy for keys or phones. Whereas others like to run “lighter” and carry less stuff, so they go with shorts without pockets. There are super short shorts with a high notch and there are knee-length shorts. Some shorts have underwear built-in, so you may or may not wear undergarments or underwear when you run. It’s up to you.

Running pants

Running pants are similar to running shorts. There are many varieties, styles, materials, colors, and brands. Tight compression spandex pants are available from many brands. As well as loose polyester pants. It’s about you. Try different styles and brands until you find what works for you.

Base layer clothing

A base layer is the layer of clothing that lies closest to your skin. Also known as “second skin.” Base layers provide warmth while absorbing and wicking away sweat to keep warm, dry, and comfortable.

Base layers come in a variety of fabrics and styles that have benefits best suited for cold climate running.


These are pretty self-explanatory. For men, this is boxers or briefs and maybe an undershirt. For women, panties and a sports bra. There are different varieties of running clothes with underwear “built-in” for simplicity and comfort. Just like anything else, it’s a judgment call for you. Run in what you feel most comfortable in.

Outer wear

During the winter months, running outerwear may be necessary. When I run I get hot and I sweat a lot, so I only wear a fleece jacket or softshell jacket when it is really cold. There are some great jackets that will keep you warm and also provide sweat-wicking to keep you dry. While running in cold weather, it’s a good practice to dress in layers so you can remove layers as needed.

Running hat

Headwear is used for two purposes. One, to cover your ears for warmth while running during the winter months or cold climates. Two, to wick away moisture. There are many different options when it comes to headwear from visors to beanies. Try out many varieties until you find the right fit for you.

Running socks

One of the best buys for running is socks. If you wear the right sock, you will enjoy the run. If you wear the wrong sock it could lead to blisters, chaffing, and an uncomfortable running experience. Running socks today are equipped with cushioning, ventilation, arch support, and compression. The best running socks are the ones that make the run a good experience for you. Find a good moisture-wicking sock and go from there.

Running shoes

Your running shoes are the single biggest investment. A good pair will make training so much more pleasant. A bad pair can make your life miserable. There are so many factors that go into the perfect pair. Check out the article on finding the best running shoe for some insights to help you decide.

Running technology

There is a whole slew of useful gadgetry to up your running game. Some people want to track their running route and share their training run with their running community. Others may want to just track their heart rate and distance. You may want to listen to music while you run or just enjoy the sounds of nature. Running tech is a wide spectrum and, like just about everything else, is based on what makes you comfortable. Here are a few options to keep in mind.


What is the right running watch? That depends on what you are looking for in a watch. I run with an Apple Watch. It has all the features that I need. It tracks distance, GPS, heart rate, steps and syncs my music library. Some watches have more bells and whistles, tracking things like VO2 max, sleep quality tracking, ECG, and other metrics.

Fitness tracker

Wearables are a big deal right now. Everybody seems to have one. Fitness trackers are basically a watch. They can do just about everything a watch can do. They range in price and functionality. You can get into a great fitness tracker for under $100.


If you like to listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts to pass the time, there are a number of great options on the market. You can use any smartphone or music player. Many watches have enough memory that you don’t even need to take your phone on a run. I listen to music or audiobooks so that I don’t have to hear myself breathing heavily.


The length of the run will determine the necessity of bringing water. When I first started running I didn’t take a bottle of water with me until I ran my first 5 milers. The reason I put hydration in the clothing article is that water bottle and hydration packs are part of the whole “outfit.” I used a Camelbak hydration backpack when I ran a 12-mile training run. It worked really well. There are a number of different hydration backpacks, fanny packs, belts, and vests. There are also great water bottles designed for running, equipped with handles and velcro. Find the best hydration experience for your own personal running needs.

What to wear running in the cold                                                     

Running clothing is a personal choice. Every chubby runner is different and has different preferences. 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. Think 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 for you.  If it happens to be a compression shirt, great.  The goal is to seek comfort.

What to wear running in the heat

what to wear running


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 doesn’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 the 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 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 it’s financially feasible. I’ve run in the same shorts for a couple of 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.

what to wear running
How Does Moisture Wicking Work?

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 you 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.

Now you know what to wear running.