A Few of My Favorite Things (a.k.a. Running Gear I Like)

I’m always checking out new running gear, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. I don’t have any sponsors. No one paid me or gave me freebies to promote these products. These are my unbiased opinions.

Shoes

Like most people who have been running for a number of years, I’ve tried several different types and brands of footwear. I tend to favor styles that encourage a natural foot position and a forefoot landing. That’s why I have worn Newton shoes for several years, but have also recently added Altra shoes into the rotation. Both brands have a diverse product line-up with options for neutral, stability, trail and racing. Most recently, I’ve been wearing Altra Olympus and Altra Paradigm. The Olympus is a trail shoe and the paradigm is a road show, but they both offer extra padding, a zero-drop and a wide toe box to allow the piggies to relax. I also have a pair of Altra Lone Peak, which are suitable for more technical trails.

Boo checks out my Altra Paradigms

Newton has recently revamped its product line. In the past I’ve worn the Lady Isaac S and the Motion, as well as the Terra, which is good for non-technical trails. I’m not sure where to go in the new Newton product line. If I keep having good results with Altra, Newton may have lost me, but I’ll always have some respect for what they’ve done in the running shoe industry.
Socks
When I started running, I wore Champion C9 socks that I got at Target. These were fine when my mileage was low. After being diagnosed with a stress fracture to the tibia, I permanently switched to compression socks. There are all kinds of claims about compression socks: they help with circulation, they speed recovery… And while those things may be true, I wear them mainly because they feel good. When I was recovering from the stress fracture, my whole calf felt a little “wonky” (that’s a technical term) and I felt so much more secure with the tight fit of the compression sock.
Scot and I wearing our holiday themed Pro Compression socks at the 2013 Ugly Sweater Run

Now, if I don’t wear compression socks, my legs feel naked. I have an awesome runners tan too: white calves, tan-ish knees, white thighs. One unexpected benefit of compression socks was a decrease in blisters. Because the socks are so tight, there isn’t any extra fabric to rub and chafe and cause those pesky blisters. I used to get an occasional blister, but now I don’t get them at all. A final benefit of compression socks is that you can make a fashion statement with them, if you are so inclined. They come in all different colors and patterns for mixing and matching. My brand of choice is Pro Compression and most of my pairs are theirs.
Skirt
I was a slow convert to wearing a skirt for running. When they first became popular, I thought they were silly and too girly for me. But I never liked the feeling of looser running shorts, and I never liked the look of tight shorts on my body. My first trial was with Running Skirts brand. I still have two of their capri skirts and wear them in the winter when I need extra leg coverage. But three seasons of the year or more, I’m a Sparkle Skirts fan all the way.
I need my Sparkle Skirts to run my best. They don’t directly enhance my performance, but they make me feel good and give me pockets to carry all my stuff. They also cover up lumps and bumps and never ride up and chafe. I’ve tried other running skirts, but this one is for me for several reasons: ample fabric that doesn’t bind or hug the hips and butt too tightly; the shorts are a perfect length (not too short, not too long); the pockets on the sides of the shorts are huge and I can carry my iPhone and gels in them for a full marathon; the company is constantly coming out with new fabric designs to suit all kinds of tastes; the company offers ways in which you can customize your skirt order, and they’re great about doing the occasional special order.
I got engaged in a Sprakle Skirt at the 2012 Route 66 Marathon

And then I got married in a Sparkle Skirt at the 2012 Honolulu Marathon

When I found out that I’d be getting married during the 2012 Honolulu marathon, one of the first things I did was to contact Leah from Sparkle Skirts. At the time, they did not regularly stock a white skirt, so I custom ordered one to wear during my wedding marathon. I would not have wanted to wear any other running skirt or short.

Hydration Belt

When I started training for my first marathon, I used a belt that held a single, huge bottle. It bounced around a lot. It also didn’t have much storage space for gels and the like. I moved on to a Fuel Belt with 4 bottles. It was OK, but I was never in love with the way it fit and functioned. Now I run with a Fitletic (formerly called IFitness) belt that holds two 8 oz. bottles and has a generous zippered pouch that can hold my phone or a ton of gels.
Wearing my classic iFitness (now Fitletic) belt which holds fluids, lots of stuff in the center pocket, and my race bib. At the 2014 Reston 10 Miler with Pam and Megan.

The Fitletic bottles are easy to use: just squeeze. No need to fumble with opening nozzles when you want to drink on the run. The pouch is stretchy and holds a lot, but if you need to hold more, you can buy an add-on pouch. I also love the bib holders. It’s nice to not worry about pinning your bib on your shirt. Fitletic products have evolved over the few years I’ve been using them. I like that they are always seeking to improve. 

Nutrition
I have long been a Gu fan, and blogged about it here. But I’m now starting to transition to Vega products. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years, and I like that Vega products are all vegan. They have protein powders and some supplements. They also have a line of Vega Sport products to fuel and recover from intense workouts. I bought some samplers of Vega products in order to try several things. The stuff isn't cheap, but it's vegan and contains premium ingredients, so I think it's worth it.
Here's what I’ve already tried from Vega, and what I think so far:
  • Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer - Scot and I tried both flavors before a race. Not only did we not care for the taste, we also didn't notice a performance benefit.
  • Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator - I've tried both flavors and I like the Lemon Lime, but not the Pom-Berry, which had a funny taste. I'll definitely buy the Lemon Lime to use on runs.
  • Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator - This will be my replacement for Endurox R4 once I run out. Nothing is wrong with Endurox R4, but I'm trying to go dairy-free. I like both flavors of the Recovery Accelerator.
  • Vega Sport Endurance Gel - The jury is out on this one. I tried one of the flavors (can't remember which) and while it did the job, I wasn't fond of the texture. It was not as smooth as the Gu that I'm used to.
  • Vega Protein Smoothie in Natural - I’ve been mixing in a scoop of the powder with my own almond milk and fruit for a delicious, vegan, protein-packed smoothie. The texture is less creamy than a whey-based powder, but this flavor does not overpower the other smoothie ingredients.
  • Vega One Shake - This has all the protein of the Protein Smoothie, plus fiber, antioxidants, 3 full servings of veggies and more; it is a nutritional powerhouse and can be used as a meal replacement. I mixed the Chocolate flavor with coconut milk, banana and cherries for a smoothie. It tasted good but was a little gritty; maybe I needed more fruit. Scot tried the Vanilla Chai flavor and liked it.
  • Vega One Bars - There aren't a lot of flavors, but these are similar in nutritional content to the Vega One Shakes. The chocolate is very chocolaty. These are a good option for a breakfast bar with some added nutrition.
  • SaviSeed (Oh Natural and Karmalized) - These are a really yummy snack. They are tropical seeds full of protein and omega 3s. I preferred the plain but the Karmalized are good if you need to satisfy a sweet tooth. I have yet to try the Cocoa Kissed.

GPS

Ah, here is where I have a gap. I do not own a GPS watch. For years I held out, running only with a simple Timex sports watch. Then I started sometimes using the RunKeeper app on my iPhone. Finally, I decided to try a Tom Tom sports watch. The Tom Tom has a simple design and is not too big, like many of the Garmin models. Unfortunately, my battery died the first time I tried to use it for a marathon. It was supposed to have an 8 hour battery life, but it gave out at 6 hours. I returned the Tom Tom for a full refund at REI. It may have just been a single faulty model, and it looks like they've upgraded the model since I had mine. Maybe I would have had better luck if I’d gotten a replacement. Instead, I may go for a Bia Sport watch. I saw this on Kickstarter a while back, and now they’re on the market. I saw someone wearing one at a race recently, and she said she loved hers. So, I may have a review to write if and when I get a Bia Sport.

Question: What are your favorite products in any of the gear categories I’ve covered above?

Comments

  1. I think the things you covered through the post are quiet impressive, good job and great efforts. I found it very interesting and enjoyed reading all of it...keep it up, lovely job..Vega Recovery Accelerator

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