- I’ve been a runner for six years, and I’ve spent most of the last three years testing and reviewing hundreds of products.
- Recently, I trained for my first half-marathon. Below, I round up all the durable, high-performing, trustworthy products I relied upon during training and on race day.
If you don’t want to hate every second of a race, your only option is to prepare. For half- and full-marathons, that ideally includes a good training plan, healthy habits that support your training, and the right toolkit of great gear.
Like most physical activities, the products you use take on heightened importance. In every other area of your day, a sock is an understudy. On a long-distance run, it is just as vital as the shorts that don’t chafe, the sneakers with adequate arch support and energy return, and the supportive sports bra.
I’ve been an on-and-off runner for the last six years, and I recently trained for a half-marathon. For the last three of those years, I’ve also tested and reviewed hundreds of products for Insider Picks. Below, I’ve aggregated the tools that I used in my own training, and the ones I trusted on race day. If you’re looking for products that won’t let you down, I highly recommend any of them.
Below, you’ll find my healthy habit shortcuts and most of my all-time favorite products for running. They deliver on durability and performance best of all the options I’ve tried yet.
Long-lasting wireless earbuds that stay in place
Jaybird’s Vista Earbuds are the best earbuds Jaybird has made yet, and I’ve trusted them for the last three years with my main running headphones. They’re comfortable in-ear, never pop out, and deliver on both rich audio quality and great noise isolation. They’ve got six hours of battery life on their own, and an additional 10 with their charging case. Five minutes in the case equals one hour of playback, and the case itself is light and compact, so you can toss it into the hidden pocket on running shorts. Find a full review here.
A supportive, lightweight sports bra
I wear a 32DD, and Under Armour’s Eclipse Sports Bra is one of the very few that I trust. It’s supportive but not stuffy, doesn’t cause chafing, and has adjustable straps and a breathable mesh lining. Mine is an older version that’s since been replaced by this, but it looks identical. For more personalized options, check out the Insider Picks buying guide for the best sports bras you can buy.
Wireless headphones with perforated, removable pads
When I’m not wearing my Jaybird Vistas, I’m wearing these exercise-specific headphones created by Under Armor in collaboration with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
They have ventilated ear cushions for constant breathability, and they’re removable so you can pop them off and hand wash them to keep the pads hygienic. They also have an incredible 16-hour battery life that usually lasts me a week of workouts, and five minutes of charge equals one hour of playback. Oversized controls are easy to manipulate, the grippy band material keeps them in place while I run, and there’s a good bass-heavy sound courtesy of JBL.
An effective hydrating balm
This is a multipurpose ointment that tourists love to pick up at French pharmacies. It’s nongreasy and packed with plant extracts and Vaseline, and it’s traditionally used to soothe mothers’ nipples during breastfeeding. But it’s also gained notoriety among makeup artists. Personally, it’s the best and only product that moisturizes my lips after running headlong into wind for an hour.
Thin, durable running tights with targeted compression
Hands down, these are the best running tights I own. They’re so breathable and lightweight that they feel like a thin second skin. They’re also made specifically for runners, with an internal anatomical mapping that forces more blood into areas put under the most stress during a run, like your quads and calves, to help you recover fast and work more efficiently. In other words, it’s targeted compression that doesn’t feel obtrusive.
Unfortunately, they also have a price to match their quality. And there have been complaints in the past that 2XU tights are see-through. Mine are not, and they’ve updated the style to add more strategic paneling to avoid any oops-moments. But to be honest, I’d wear them even if they were slightly too sheer. They’re that good. Find my full review here.
Breathable, comfortable running shorts
I’ve always preferred leggings for runs, but Janji has converted me. These shorts are fantastic. The material is light and breathable, moisture-wicking, and fast-drying. The back pocket is roomy and zippered for security, with a loop you can attach your keys to. There’s a moisture-wicking brief liner and a drawcord waistband. But, aside from that, it’s also a uniquely cool and functional style — they’re short like most running shorts, but the longer back lends a little more security while the curved, shorter front maintains peak mobility. I love running in them.
A hydrating face wash
When I go for a run after work, I wash the day’s grime and makeup away first to avoid blocked pores. To keep from drying out my skin or messing with its natural barrier, I use a gentle and hydrating cleanser. At night, I still use my AHA/BHA exfoliants to slough off dead skin cells.
I’ve tried a lot of great running shoes over the years of testing products. A few of my favorites are Nike’s Flyknit Epic React, On Cloudswift, Adidas Pulseboost HD, and these Saucony Kinvaras are the ones I wore on race day. They’re neutral. They’re a great match for anyone looking for versatility. A dense foam makes them cushiony enough for long-distance runs, but light like a race shoe. The woven mesh upper is breathable and forgettable. In other words, it’s the shoe you wear if you want something that stays out of your way. Find a full review of the Kinvaras here.
Breathable, lightweight underwear
When you’re running, everything makes a difference, including underwear. If you’re looking for breathability and comfort, it doesn’t get better than Athleta’s Performa line — and I’ve tried enough of the internet’s best and newest underwear lines to know. They go for $16 per thong, but you can get three or more for $12 each. The Performa material is unbelievably lightweight, and the mesh material is superior in airflow.
Socks with protective blister tabs
Does $16 for socks sound ridiculous to you? Well, it probably is. I can’t defend the price, but I can say these are the best socks if that’s what you’re after. Bombas running socks are lightweight, moisture-wicking, and very breathable. They have strategic cushioning for the areas that need it most, and a design that protects you from blistering from the heel or lip of your sneaker. Plus, they donate a pair of socks for every pair purchased. And, while $16 is a lot for a pair of socks, a $5 pair can make $100-plus running shoes unbearable if they’re too thick.
Sleepwear that helps your muscles recover overnight
Recover Ultra Comfort Sleepwear Long Sleeve Shirt, available at Under Armour and Amazon, from $42.51
If you didn’t know, Under Armour makes pajamas that use infrared light to help you recover faster while you sleep. A mineral-lined fabric sends infrared energy back to your muscles to improve circulation and muscle regeneration. It’s the tech Tom Brady is known to use, and its part of the TB12 Sleepwear line at Under Armour.
The pajamas themselves are super soft. They’re loose, and the fabric is lightweight, has four-way stretch, and feels cool-to-the-touch. Despite the proposed cheat code of infrared tech, they’re also just some of the best pajamas I own.
I can’t measure if these pajamas’ infrared tech works. But coworkers and friends and other reviewers at ESPN tend to think they do help. And, even if it’s a placebo effect, they make me feel good about having an intentional regimen, which helps me maintain healthy habits that make training easier. I’m more likely to eat well and wake up early when I’m taking steps as granular as wearing a specific pair of pajamas right after a tough workout.
An exercise app that gives back
There are lots of apps that will benefit you during training. Some will help you develop a running habit, build an adaptive training plan, and map your run and track your metrics. And some will simply help you mix it up with other demanding classes on the cheap when you need to get some cardio in but don’t want to run anymore.
If you don’t have a gym membership because you’re using local trails, you may want to look into POPiN for inclement weather. It lets you pay per minute or hour at local gyms.
Healthy grocery delivery
If you’re working and training, sometimes heading to the grocery store is a nice break. Other times, it’s a chore and your muscles are sore and your hair is wet. For the latter, it may be good to treat yourself to grocery delivery like Instacart.
Or, use a healthy eating meal kit service. You’ll give up some autonomy in making your own diet, but it’s also unbeatably convenient. My personal favorite is Hungryroot. The ingredients are healthy and fresh, the packaging relatively eco-friendly, lots of dietary restriction options available, and the food is always delicious.
If you’re doing your own grocery shopping, focus on proteins and carbohydrates and keep these rules of thumb in mind.