What to Wear When You Start Running?

Whether you are just starting to run or an accomplished athlete, the 3 most important considerations concerning what to wear are: Comfort, how it will affect your running, and how it will affect your body. If today is your very first day and the weather is nice, I say wear whatever is handy. In fact, except for your shoes, I think that goes for the first couple of months.

What if you decide you don’t like running, after all?

The reason I suggest wearing anything comfortable at first is simply the fact that you may decide not to continue on, right? But listen, if you’re still running several times a week after a couple of months, it’s time to start taking your running apparel seriously.

Instead of telling you what to wear, I’m going to focus on what not to wear first. Just having a heads up on types of clothing that usually causes problems will make your time more enjoyable from the beginning.

What NOT TO Wear

Cotton Clothing

I’m a great fan of cotton clothes. In fact, I don’t wear anything but cotton, EXCEPT WHEN I RUN.

Cotton chafes and you will have raw spots in unspeakable places. And that’s not all; get cotton wet from sweat, rain, or snow, it won’t dry out. It just gets heavier and heavier. Unless you are running on a treadmill, it’s just not a good idea.

Whether it’s tops, bottoms, or socks, stay away from 100% cotton and stick with synthetic materials that wick away moisture from your skin. Opt instead for lightweight polyester, acrylic, and CoolMax materials that won’t hold moisture and chafe.

As you start running more, you will learn:

  • Not to wear stuff that leads to chaffing
  • To shop outlet and second-hand stores for bargains on lightweight running attire.
  • Wedgies quickly become disconcerting and discouraging.
  • Clothes that don’t fit keep your attention focused on what to do about it instead of on your breath.

Clothing changes as you learn more about what to expect. What I’m saying is this: As you continue the sport or hobby, your clothes will become more specific to your own needs than when you started.

Some lessons are self-taught.

I first jogged in a pair of cut off blue jeans, but quickly learned about clothes chafing my legs, and being uncomfortable. Just like every other runner in the world: The longer you participate, the more you’ll know what you enjoy wearing and what causes discomfort.

Worn Out Shoes

what to wear when you start running
You can start running in any comfortable shoes, but quickly find something more substantial.

On the one hand, there’s no need to go out and purchase expensive shoes just to find out you don’t even like running? On the other hand, you are asking for trouble when you run in worn out and broke down shoes. You will quickly find yourself with everything from shin splints to aching joints and blisters to make you cry.

The more you run on a regular basis, the more important the shoes you wear will become. However, I think any comfortable shoes will do — to start with. But I may as well tell you upfront: You will need a good pair of shoes if you continue.

Old Shoes are Bad News.

Old shoes lose the ability to absorb shock and keep your feet and ankles stable which inturn stresses ankles, knee, and hip joints. Shop around for a decent pair of shoes that:

  • Has the same general shape of your foot
  • Your heel doesn’t slip around in and allows your ankle to move comfortably
  • A sole that flexes with your foot (you do not want shoe soles that are stiff and unbending)
  • Clothes That Aren’t Comfortable
  • Everybody wants to look their best, and some of us are hell-bent to be sexy? You might as well forget it, or you’ll soon give up on your goals. Don’t wear clothes that are far too large and baggy, and forget impressing people with your sexy body.

Continuing past your first few runs in anything other than a good pair of well-fitted running shoes can cause unnecessary aches, pains, and serious problems. My first pair of shoes were a pair of high top basketball shoes that taught me what shin splints were, and that they could shut me down for days.

Speed and stamina usually become a natural progression into the sport, and shoes can make or break either one. So, start shopping for the perfect pair early on.

Heavy Clothing

It’s tempting to start out with heavy coats and shirts when it’s cold, but they will just cause sweating. You will feel cozy when you start out, but it won’t take long to overheat. When you overheat and sweat, you shed the heavy coat or shirt, and take a chill.

Heavy Clothing, well, it just stays heavy.

Instead, wear a couple of layers of thin clothing that wick moisture and then take a layer off when you warm up. Wear something you can remove and tie around your shoulders or waist when your body temp warms. And get yourself a good pair of running socks instead of the cotton socks that look so warm.

The most important thing to remember is to stay comfortable, dry, warm, cool, and agile.

If you have bad knees or want to take precautions against damaging your knees — consider good knee sleeves from the beginning.

Dealing With Sweat On A Run

Dealing with sweat while running
Wear clothes that wick sweat away from your body.

It won’t take you long to realize that the best clothes to run in are often synthetic fibers because they are able to wick the sweat off your body, into your clothes and then evaporate into the atmosphere.

The thing about cotton clothes for running is that they stick to your body during a workout. When that happens the rough cotton fibers start scratching, chaffing, and making raw places.

If you run, you will sweat.

One thing I’ve learned about dealing with sweat is that the more conditioned your body becomes to running — the more you will sweat! As your body learns what you’re up it starts to sweat quicker.  Your body becomes more efficient at cooling itself than when you first started.

What that means to you is that the further you progress into a regular routine, the more serious attention you give to your clothes. And don’t forget, you will likely sweat summer and winter.

Dressing for Winter Running

Don’t make this common mistake: Overdressing for cool or cold weather.

Sure those heavy clothes feel warm and cozy when you start out, but it won’t take long to see the error of your ways. Instead, put on light layers and expect to be cold for the first 5-10 minutes of your run. Wearing two layers of light clothing allows you to take off the top layer and attach it to your body somehow.

A good warm-up routine will be essential to get your muscles, tendons, and ligaments warm before you commence.  Knowing how to warm up for a run before you take off will help keep you free of injury, summer or winter.

What About Hats and Gloves?

what to wear when you start running
What it looks like after a gun in the winter.

I’ll be the first to tell you that when it gets below 40 degrees, I’m wearing a hat and gloves. If it gets really cold, a stocking hat is in order. Did you know a third of your body heat escapes through your head?

Wearing a warm hat can help keep your clothing to a minimum.

The first thing to hurt from cold when I run is my hands! I’m guessing a lot of that has to do with the fact that my hands stick out in front of me, leading the way? So, I wear a pair of gloves and can sick into them into my waistband when I decide I don’t need them anymore.

Rain Gear for Running

Woman starting to run in rain wearing a rain coat
Wear something to keep you dry when running in the rain and snow

Don’t let the rain stop you from getting out! You may find it the most satisfying days to exercise. That hypnotic sound of my feet plopping the ground in rhythm intensifies with the sound of rain, and beauty of the wet world. Don’t miss it!

Just get quality rain gear and plan on using it, especially on cold days.

Look for either a jacket or a pullover that’s made with synthetic material. They will allow air in while keeping the rain out. You’ll find great rain gear at most any sporting goods store, and will be a great investment.

In conclusion:

Whether it’s cold, wet, warm, or hot — what to wear when you start running plays a large part in getting the most out of your runs. I don’t think there’s any reason to start buying expensive clothing to wear before you’ve made running a regular part of your life.

As you progress into a regular routine you will see how different weather and conditions affect your body and your runs. Then you know how to shop for the best clothes and what to expect from them.

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