Earlier this month, Reddit user agreeingstorm9 posed a question on the r/running subreddit: “What running purchase do you regret the most? Or think is a giant waste of money?” More than 300 comments stand as proof that there are many—as are the reasons why a piece of gear may not work out.
Maybe you put too much stock in your running group’s hype about a trendy pair of joggers, or perhaps you relied too heavily on Amazon reviews only to end up with a product that wears out after a few uses.
Our experienced test team actually tries everything it recommends, from sneakers and socks to percussion massagers and treadmills. We make sure to only recommend the products we’ve loved—a.k.a. products that are high quality, durable, and as functional as possible—for our gift guides and shopping roundups to help prevent regretful purchases.
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To learn from the hard lessons of those Reddit commenters, we pored over the list of woes to help you learn how to shop better for running gear (including specific recommendations), or figure out how to make what you already have work.
⇨ I bought a “million pairs of shoes” in search of the perfect pair.
While our experts ensure we only recommend great running shoes, it can still feel like a shot in the dark to buy shoes online—specifically for new or uneducated runners. Reddit user pimpampoumz lamented the “million pairs of shoes” they bought when they were “desperately trying to find the one that worked for me,” which is something nearly every runner can relate to. Even if you’ve already found your perfect pair, we all remember those months of testing different brands and styles to find the support, comfort, breathability, shock protection, and of course, look, that makes us want to hit the trail or treadmill again.
We wish we could fix this problem for you entirely, but the bottom line is that we cannot see your feet or watch you run. (And please, do not fill our inboxes with feet pics.) We are, however, experts in how to find the perfect fit, and one way to avoid pimpampoumz’s “millions of pairs” issue is to learn about your feet before shopping online. An employee at your local running shop can give you insights like your foot size, foot profile, and arch height, or you can learn how to take these measurements at home for online shopping. Understanding your feet will help you avoid regretful purchases: If you know you have high arches, for instance, you can trust these recommendations for shoes with arch support.
What to Know Before You Shop
- Foot size and profile
- Arch type and height
- Gait and pace
It’s also a good idea to read up on our resources about different types of running shoes and shoe tech, and marry that knowledge with your running goals. For instance, if you’re a casual jogger who cares more about distance than pace, you don’t need to worry about getting the fastest shoe. On the other hand, all runners should know about the basics, such as heel-to-toe drop, since factors like that determine your preferences and comfort when running.
Types of Running Shoes
- Lightweight and racing
- Daily trainers
- Trail running shoes
- Stability shoes
If you have no idea where to start with these preferences, our best recommendation is to visit your local running store to make sure you’re in the correct size and the right pair for your gait, arch height, mileage, and terrain. Once you sort out the type of shoe that’s safest and most comfortable for you, like thick cushioned shoes for people with desire protection from pavement or heavy-duty trail runners for people who like tumultuous trails, you can start shopping online. And don’t forget: A poor fit might be easily fixed with a new pair of insoles.
If you have been properly fit in the past, and know what works for you, check out the best shoes that we tested this year and you can buy right now.
⇨ My “vest was too hot, plus my phone kept bouncing around and butt-dialing people.”
Yes, vests can be a bit warmer than shirts, but they shouldn’t cause overheating—a vest is supposed to make your run easier, not sweatier. Vests are best if you need additional storage but don’t want (or need) to clad yourself in a full jacket and prefer to not wear a hip belt. You can easily tote water, gels, and other necessities while staying hands free.
Look for materials that are lightweight and ventilated to avoid the problem Reddit user wheezy_runner had, where their vest was too hot and not secure enough to hold items. Our test team has determined that the best materials for vests include ripstop polyester and mesh, but it’s also a good idea to consider what you’re wearing beneath your vest. A lightweight shirt can help prevent chafing, for instance, whereas an insulated thermal shirt might lead to overheating where the vest is snug.
As for the phone bouncing around, try stashing it in different pockets or sizing your vest tighter so it hugs your cargo closer to your body. While hydration vests are adjustable, it’s still worth paying attention to the size guide to avoid bouncing and chafing. We recommend sizing up if you’re between sizes so long as you can cinch down the adjustable straps for a tighter fit.
Since I’m a bit of a pack-rat runner, I am no stranger to the vest and have run many miles with a whole bunch of stuff packed in there—and I can safely say no butt dials have been made since my vest fits snugly against my body.
Read our full article on vests here.
Our Hydration Vest Recommendations
⇨ “My nice shorts wear out too fast.”
Having owned both expensive and budget shorts, I feel confident that most high-quality running shorts can last ages if you take care of them right—but there are a few reasons your expensive shorts might wear out quickly, like what happened to Reddit user PurplePotamus.
Some pricey shorts are made with materials like wool or hemp, which can shrink or lose elasticity when put through the wash. Instead, we recommend washing them by hand or using the cold water setting on your washer, then hanging or tumbling dry on low to prevent pilling, wear, and loosening over time.
If budget shorts, like a good ol’ pair of Nike Tempos, work fine for you, you can get away with throwing everything into the wash in one load—but try to wash like colors and materials together to keep your shorts bright and stretchy. Tumbling dry on low is always recommended for fabrics with elasticity—even less expensive materials, like polyester—since they’re apt to shrink with too much heat. If you’re feeling lost about how to take care of your running shorts, just look at the care tag before washing.
⇨ “I regret my down-filled running jacket.”
While down jackets are cozy and great for winter walks and outings, it’s best to dress as if the temperature is 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it is, because your body temperature rises significantly when you run. Instead of down, which can be expensive and too warm for runners, layer up with base layers and a shell that breaks the wind.
If you do need an insulated jacket, synthetic filling retains heat even after getting wet with sweat, so you won’t be a popsicle by the end of your run. If it’s really cold, a vest is great for keeping in body heat without constricting your arms or causing you to overheat.
⇨ I tried trendy bras that look cute but aren’t supportive.
If you have ever tried to wear a cute, strappy Lululemon bra and realized your grave mistake shortly into your run, you are not alone. Redditors Alastairthetorturer and poodleaficianado said their most stylish bras ended up in the trash after resulting in chafing so bad it bled. There’s nothing worse than worrying about that pulling pain, hotspot chafing, and cumbersome bouncing while you’re trying to focus on your run—but these days, there’s no shortage of attractive bras that are also supportive.
Here’s our full review of high-impact running bras for more info on how to choose the right one.
⇨ “I ditched my rain jacket because it doesn’t keep me dry.”
If your rain jacket isn’t keeping you dry, chances are it’s not a true rain jacket. Windbreakers are often marketed as rain jackets, and while they are water-resistant, they’re not fully waterproof. This means that, after a while, rain will begin to soak in and the jacket will trap it, leaving you freezing, wet, and liable to chafe. If you choose to forgo a rain jacket and embrace the wet, more power to you. But for those who don’t want to feel like a drowned rat post-run, here are some jackets that will actually keep you dry.
For more jackets to keep you dry, check out our full reviews of the best rain coats.
⇨ “My carbon-plated shoes gave me an Achilles issue.”
Carbon-plated shoes are the pinnacle of running shoes now, so much so that if you show up to a competitive race without a pair of these super kicks on, you may feel the odd one out. But while they are designed to make you faster, some runners associate them with shin and Achilles pain, like Reddit commenter Raiseruntimeerror.
Because the carbon plate is so stiff and snappy—exactly what makes it oh, so fast—it may also be hard on your feet and ankles. A big part of those shoes feeling as light and fast as they do is the foam that surrounds the plate, but if carbon plates aren’t for you, there are plenty of kicks that can replicate that snappy, fast feeling without the plate. Here are some of the best shoes to race in that will give you that springy feel without a carbon plate.
Check out our top running shoes of the year for more options.
⇨ “I bought $60 worth of Gu and it hurt my stomach.”
Though sports gels are designed to be easily digestible, the sickly sweet, edible slime can do the opposite, with many runners reporting that it turned their stomachs. Overthinker37 made the mistake of going all in on a bulk box of Gu before making sure their tummy could handle it. Whether you have never tried using gels before or are looking to test out a new one, you always want to test a few before committing to a large pack. Since everyone’s stomach is different, you never quite know what will make you feel your best, and what will leave you stopping at every porta-potty. If you have a sensitive stomach, test to see which gel will work the best for you. But here are some that tend to work best for those with tummy troubles.
Here are tried and true energy gels we love.
Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe. Gabi began her journalism career as a Digital Editorial Fellow for Runner’s World and Bicycling Magazine, and has since advanced to a Runner’s World Editor specializing in commerce. She has a double degree in English and Media and Communication from Muhlenberg College where she also ran cross country and track.