Last updated on February 8th, 2023
For me, one of the most attractive things about running is that you don’t need much “equipment” to participate in the sport. You can be spontaneous and go whenever you want, without planning or preparation, and you certainly don’t need a lot of expensive gear. A decent pair of shoes is the only thing you absolutely must have. (When I say “a decent pair of shoes,” I truly mean that–everybody’s feet and body mechanics are different, and you might require expensive custom-fit shoes, but you might not. For more than 20 years, I have worn different models of Saucony running shoes–ranging from relatively inexpensive to downright cheap–and I have never even had a blister after a full marathon.)
So aside from the shoes, what else would you want to take with you on your runs? I tend to be a minimalist, but I do like to carry the necessities with me, which is why the FlipBelt (see below) is my all-time favorite piece of running gear that I have ever owned. Every runner has different needs, likes and dislikes, and the gadgets on this list could make your runs more convenient, more entertaining, and even safer. Check them out, and see what works for you.
Don’t you dare call this a fanny pack. It’s everything a fanny pack isn’t: It’s sleek, it’s form-fitting, and it won’t make you look 20 pounds heavier or like a mama kangaroo (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). What the heck is it? It’s a unisex tubular waist band made of stretchy Spandex and Lycra that fits snugly without riding up and holds all your items. In fact, that’s what makes the FlipBelt the best running accessory in my world–it’s super low-profile but holds a ton of stuff. I can fit my phone, car and house keys, driver’s license, credit card, a few dollars, granola bar, Gu packets, Clif Bloks, half a bagel, and (if I want…) a king-size package of peanut M&M’s–and I’d still have room for more. It’s like a bottomless pit, but if all you want to carry is your car key, it does that beautifully–and securely–too. (There’s a key clip inside.) Some models have a zipper (mine doesn’t, and I have never felt like I needed a zipper), and the manufacturer recently came out with a FlipBelt that accommodates hydration bottles. This product’s design is nothing short of brilliant.
Camelbak Fourteener 20
Staying hydrated is crucial when running any distance, but carrying water with you isn’t as easy as it might sound. Lugging a water bottle can be heavy, throw your gait outta whack and ruin an otherwise great run. So companies have come up with some pretty smart alternatives. The Camelbak has become known as the go-to hydration pack system, and there are many varieties of the basic model. Basically, the Camelbak is a flat water backpack with a long straw that reaches your mouth. As a backpack, it distributes the weight across your entire upper body, so if running with one full bottle hanging off a belt throws your form off (it does mine), try a Camelbak. In addition to the even weight distribution, here’s another plus: no reaching for a bottle…just sip as you go.
Nathan Trail Mix
Maybe you’ve tried a Camelback and didn’t love it. In that case, try a hydration belt like the Nathan Trail Mix. I know, I know. It sounds like a snack. But it’s a hydration system with multiple small bottles of water instead of one bottle. Again, the biggest benefit is equal weight distribution of the water, so you don’t feel off-balance as you go. Smaller bottles also make it easy to see if you’re drinking the right amount of water at the right times. Maybe your goal is to consume 8 ounces every 20 minutes (a good rule of thumb for beginners); the small bottles let you know if you’re on track. Plus, you can always refill them along your route.
Plantronics Backbeat Fit
So you like to jam some tunes on your runs. OK, but be careful, especially if you’re running anywhere near cars and crossing streets. I like my super basic earbuds hooked up to my phone, but you may be in the market for something a little more techy–a little more up-to-date–like wireless headphones. Plantronics Backbeat Fit wireless sport headphones have a design that goes over and behind your ears, which keeps them securely in place, and they’re also waterproof. In addition, the headphones have what’s called an “open eartip” so you can still hear the sounds around you. Safety first, folks.
Sabre 3-in-1 Pepper Spray with Adjustable Hand Strap
For those early-morning or nighttime runs in the dark–especially if you’re running solo–you may want to take something with you for self-defense. I’ve tried holding a canister of pepper spray in my hand as I run, and let me tell you–it’s not easy, and I’ve dropped it on the ground a lot. Jamming pepper spray into your belt or attaching it to your shoe isn’t a great idea, either, because what if you need it? An attacker isn’t going to “hold on a sec” while you free your pepper spray for use. Sabre’s 3-in-1 Pepper Spray for athletes has an adjustable Velcro hand strap. You hold the spray canister in your hand, so you’re ready if you need it, but you don’t have to grasp it tightly (what I used to do) while you run. The design also has a locking top to prevent accidental discharge.
RoadID Wrist ID Elite
Listen up, solo runners. We don’t like to think about it, but the reality is that something could happen on a run to incapacitate us, even briefly. If we’re carrying identification, people can help us better. RoadID has a line of identification bracelets designed with athletes in mind. They’re lightweight and contain your vital info–name, phone number, emergency contacts and phone numbers, and anything else you want to list. Several models are available. They’re comfortable, and you can include up to five lines of custom text on the bracelet. RoadID, the company that makes these, has several testimonials on their website that attest to the fact that these bracelets could actually save your life.
Amphipod ZipPod Stretch Shoe Pocket
Maybe you’re an extreme minimalist when you run. You don’t want to carry anything. All you want to take on your run is your car key, damnit! But remember that one time you put it in the tiny pocket in the back of your running shorts, and it fell out and you had to spend $200 replacing your fancy fob? Well here’s a great solution to that problem. RoadRunner’s Amphipod Shoe Pocket attaches securely to your shoe and keeps your key dry and safe. It also has room for a credit card, driver’s license and a $5 bill for an “emergency” Diet Coke.