Ultra Running Gear

Essential Running Gear For The Ultrarunner

The running gear an ultra runner needs might take up more room in his/her wardrobe than other clothes.

A variety of equipment such as running shoes, tops, tights, jackets, caps, backpacks and socks are on display and always at hand when needed.

Good quality trail running shoes easily have a life span of hundreds of miles and good-quality running clothes can last many, many years. Shoes and socks are generally the most frequently replaced item in the runner's wardrobe.

I remember buying my first running fleece top by Nike eleven years ago and only threw it out recently because it looked slightly dated.

Although it's understood that wearing pure cotton T-Shirts during running should be a thing of the past you still stumble upon those who seem to be glued to cotton tops.

Investing a bit more cash into highly-functional running gear, including compression wear is worth every cent in the long run.

Click here to share your opinion about compression socks with visitors to this page

For sure, experienced ultrarunners know which running clothes they need. Nevertheless you'll still find some new ideas for special equipment here.

Let me now introduce you to the running gear essentials every ultrarunner should own.

First, let's discover the key items you need anytime. We'll start from bottom to top.

  • Two pairs of running shoes for long distance road running, e.g. stability shoes for motion control, neutral or damping and everyday use
  • Two pairs of trail running shoes; one heavier pair for running in mud and snow with Gore-Tex
  • One pair of lightweight trainers for shorter, faster runs
  • Two pairs of thick socks for winter
  • Two pairs of thin socks for summer
  • One pair of 3/4 tights and one pair of long tights
  • Two thin T-Shirts; Meryl, elasthane, polyamid and polyester are excellent fabrics
  • Two thin long-sleeved tops and one rain jacket
  • Running Cap

You may already have found your favourite brand of shoes and other running gear. It's often easier to stick to the name you know from experience than trying a new shoe make.

However don’t be prejudiced against change. You must bear in mind that manufactures have a habit of reinventing their shoe models periodically. Often, changes that have been made to a shoe that you've used to can cause problems requiring you to think about orthotics.

This means that a simple facelift of a shoe, which previously you could buy blind, and that you have been happy with for years, might result in a wider fit, or more or less dense sole which then renders the model no longer suitable. I personally have experienced this, so beware of mail order shopping for new models.

As for finding the right pair of running shoe, whether it is a high-mileage road, trail or racing shoe there are no limits when it comes to high-tech materials and designs available. Of course, that's where extra dollars and cents are being paid. Yet, there has been a trend in the past two years of going back to the theory of barefoot running.

Running shoes have been specially designed to get this effect. No doubt that such shoes are comfortable and feel different when worn running occasionally.

Don't make the same mistake like I did, though, during my first 12-hour run and wear such shoes for the complete duration of the race. I developed an overuse injury that could have been avoided by alternating with a stability running shoe.

Contrary to the trend in advertising that a running will make us run faster or naturally let us improve our running style, the secret to getting faster lies in the running technique and appropriate training.

Bottom line: The perfect shoe isn't the one with the best fit but the one that enables you to run most efficiently.

Review some of the best running shoes for women and find out which are the top picks in various running shoe categories.

When talking about running socks there doesn't seem to exist the one brand that keeps our feet blister-free.

Many ultrarunners use Drymax socks and claim that even after hours of running and even participating in multiple day events their feet stay completely dry and blister-free.

I am personally very fond of Falke socks which are more popular in Europe. Their RU 3 and RU 4 range kept my feet in perfect condition whilst running through the Sahara desert. In England, 1000 mile socks can be found in most stores.

A new trend in running socks is an anatomical fit. This is supposed to prevent blistering, yet the sock material is fairly thick. Injinji is the brand to look out for here.

Rain jackets specially for running come in all different designs. It's worth to look for those jackets and some other running gear in bike shops, too. Often, you can store away the jacket into a zipper pocket and clip it around the waist if you get too warm and the rain may stop.

montane running jacket

Let's move on to the running gear you need during the seasons.

In spring and summer...

  • Two pairs of shorts
  • Sleeveless tops
  • One lightweight wind-and water-resistant jacket; Montane's slipstream jacket works wonders and folds down to the size of an apple
  • Thin running gloves
  • Desert hat with extra neck protection or cap

In winter...

  • Extra-warm long tights that can be worn over thinner tights if temperature is below -5°C
  • Thermal underwear
  • One short-sleeved and one long-sleeved thermal top
  • Fleece or windbreaker
  • Windstopper gloves
  • Fleece hat and windbreaker buff for throat and face protection against extreme coldness

Especially during runs over ninety minutes in length putting on the right running gear in really cold temperatures can require some thinking.

I would often put on three or four layers but still get cold on my upper body and hands once the body starts getting dehydrated. So I experimented a little with how I'd layer my running clothes and think that less is more.

In practice, wearing one long-or short sleeved thermal, one thin long-sleeved top and a fleece should keep you warm enough. Running gear by Odlo is very recommendable, especially their winter training range.

When competing in ultramarathon races always make sure you've tried and tested all your running gear and other running equipment in training prior to the event.

Not just your shoes should be well worn in but also your other running clothes like tights, shorts, sports bras, socks and tops to avoid chafing when you least need it.

Skinfit, an established brand in Europe, has recently launched their shops in the U.S. and will hopefully attract more and more athletes.

Although worn by many triathletes, every ultrarunner should at least own a pair of their short running tights and tri shorts as an absolute must-have. There's a little rear pocket, too, where you can safely keep an extra energy bar or a gel flask. And those shorts stick to where you put them. Definitely the best value for money.

running shorts

sports bra

For women only I personally recommend Skinfit's sports bra. There are three colours to choose from, the fit is extremely comfortable and it even doubles up as a swimming top. I also know of Triumph's Triaction sports bras which look great but might cut into your skin after a while. Look out for a bra without adjusters on the straps and at the back.

Last but bot least, let's find out which special running equipment is needed during ultramarathon training and races:

  • Daypack with drinking bladder; Nathan has launched a special women's fit that I am amazed about; the Intensity Lady is suited perfectly to the women's body; Camelbak is also recommendable
  • Trekking poles
  • First-aid kit
  • Sport sunglasses
  • Sunscreen, often forgotten but absolutely necessary in your daypack or pocket
  • Water bottle carrier
  • Led headlamp for early morning and evening runs during winter; Petzl's Tikka Plus headlamp has got three lighting levels and sits comfortably around your head
  • Compression socks

As you can see, it is quite easy to keep your running gear simple and organized. It's great to keep an eye on the latest trends in the running clothes industry but after all, we are out there to run instead of turning into fashion models.

What's Your Take On Compression Socks?

Compression socks have been all the rage years. Many ultrarunners vow the positive effects as wearing compression socks during long races and hours of training prevents muscle fatigue and even cramps.

The interesting question is:

Have you tried running in compression socks and what were the initial effects? Or do you think compression socks are more of a gimmick than actual must-have gear in ultrarunning?

More than any other item of running gear the use and benefits of compression socks causes great controversy.

Your contribution counts as it can help other ultrarunners form an opinion and help to decide whether such socks are worth a try.

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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click on the links below to see some great stories about the purpose of wearing compression socks or not. They were all written by other ultrarunners visiting this page.

Go Barefoot! Not rated yet
I have been a serious runner for a while now and have begun scaling back on the running gear. At first, I bought socks, watches, shoes, shirts, pants, …

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