Our Essential Guide to the Best Men’s Running Gear

by The Runner’s World Editors, John Tyler Allen
·16 min read
Photo credit: Staff
Photo credit: Staff

This is a list of gear both beginners and advanced male runners will find most useful during the coming spring and summer months. We’ve included the best breathable socks, lightweight tights, durable shorts, versatile jackets, and many other items that have undergone our strenuous testing process and impressed us as we put them through the paces on our runs. Below you’ll find our top recommendations for products to boost your workouts, and recovery, as well as the functionality considered when making these selections.

How We Test Gear

Every piece of gear on this list has been evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and use our own experience to determine the best options for your runs. In some cases, where we’ve gone deeper on a certain product, we included links to the full reviews. We hand-picked the gear below based on performance, price, comfort, technical features, and style to build this collection of top running essentials for men.

Discuss

Everyone’s list of essentials looks different. We’re curious to know how this list compares to others. New runners: What’s proven useful? And what solutions are you still searching for? Seasoned runners: If you see something here you love, give it a nod. Is something missing? What can’t you run without? Let us know in the comments.

—BEST SOCKS—

Swiftwick Pursuit Ultralight

Admittedly, the conversations we have at Runner’s World—even virtually—aren’t your usual water-cooler gossip. But during an online chat between test editors, this was the sock that immediately sparked an uproar, with three runners and cyclists using the “100” emoji to declare their fondness for them. Swiftwick uses a lightweight all-season merino wool that naturally cuts down on stink and keeps the Pursuit Ultralight feeling remarkably cool and dry on foot. We know this because we’ve worn it for back-to-back 80-degree, 98% humidity 10-milers without a wash in between. There’s just enough cushioning for comfort, but it’s not overly plush, so the sock fits well in both daily trainers and snugger racing flats. (If you want a bit more padding, spring for the medium-cushioned Pursuit. Check out the Zero, One, or Seven styles if you prefer a different cuff height.) While it didn’t cause any blisters or rubbing, we did notice that the toe seam does protrude slightly.

—BUDGET PERFORMER TIGHTS—

Under Armour Fly Fast HeatGear Tights

Under Armour’s ColdGear line is designed to keep you warm when the weather is cool; the brand’s HeatGear line keeps you cool when the weather is warm. With that in mind, the Fly Fast tights aren’t the pair you’ll want to grab when the temperature dips below freezing. Instead, they’re ideal for chilly Spring morning runs when you want a little more coverage to keep your muscles warm, or as an extra layer under shorts. The Fly Fast has stretchy mesh paneling behind the knees for more breathability and better range of motion, and uses a quick-drying blend of four-way stretch polyester and spandex. The only drawback is that these tights don’t have side pockets, but there is a zip compartment along the back waistband.

—BEST JOGGERS—

Fourlaps Rush 2.0

In the Rush Jogger 2.0, men’s brand Fourlaps offers another premium warm-up (translate: classy lounge pant) to the athleisure category. A deep inseam, generous thighs, and tapered calves cut a runner-friendly form and leave room enough for a full stride, said our tester, Derek. But the French terry cotton, while lightweight and silky soft, was sodden by the end of a four-mile run. Such is the compromise with plushy, insulating high-cotton blends. The pants performed best, he said, when rolled tight, carried in a CamelBak, and donned as a cool-down layer—here, he pointed to the stretchy elastic waistband that reached easily over shorts and a zipped pocket-in-pocket that’s convenient for securing cards and keys. While their tapered calves and fitted ankle cuffs proved too narrow to fit over his shoe’s heel, these joggers excelled during Derek’s easy warm-up laps on the track and especially, the post-workout “nap test.”

—SHORTS WITH POCKETS—

Tracksmith Session 7”

Tracksmith still offers the Session shorts with a five-inch inseam, but the brand dropped these new bottoms with two more inches of coverage after runners asked for longer options. The new Sessions still allow range of motion and have sweat-drying, odor-resisting fabric that let our tester wear them a couple of times before he had to throw them in the wash. An internal drawstring provides adjustability, and a back zipper pocket offers a place for storage. According to our tester, the fit and fabric is comfortable and soft and “clings in all the right places,” making the seven-inch option versatile for both fast running and knocking out errands around town afterward.

—SHORT SLEEVE TEE—

Korsa Premier Run Short Sleeve

Road Runner Sports, which has 40 retail stores in a dozen states, recently launched its own apparel line called Korsa. The gear isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s not prohibitively expensive for the quality of the products. This short sleeve shirt, for example, has quickly become a favorite of ours. It has a comfortably loose cut—it’s fairly boxy, but will fit a wide range of runners without being too loose or tight. The dot print design is actually reflective on the front panel, but it has pin-sized holes on the back and sleeves for ventilation. Best of all, if you’re a regular RRS shopper, you can save another 10 percent by signing up for its VIP program.

—BEST TANK—

Rabbit EZ Tank

We love Rabbit’s lounge collection of EZ tops and bottoms. Made of buttery soft poly-spandex fabric, it’s a mystery to us how Rabbit makes this top so smooth, but we won’t lose sleep over that enigma—or in this tank. The shirt is cozy enough to wear to bed and functionally sound thanks to its stretch-woven, sweat-wicking material that makes it comfortable for running outside in humidity. This tank does lack the structure of tech-tee fabrics, so it does sag more when wet, according to features editor Matt Allyn after a rainy run. But if you’re headed to a dry starting line, Rabbit’s soft materials still perform: another tester was seconds away from a marathon PR while wearing the EZ short-sleeve version.

—WATERPROOF JACKET—

Janji Rainrunner Pack Jacket

Spring showers and pop-up Summer thunderstorms can turn a run into a soggy slog pretty quickly, unless you’ve got the right rain gear. After trying several options that left him soaked or overheated after a few miles, one tester raved about this new release from Janji. “This is peak running jacket. It’s perfectly tailored for a streamlined fit, elastic enough to stretch with you, waterproof, and fully vented in the front and back, so it’s extraordinarily breathable. Even though it’s featherweight, it still has a stowable hood,” he said. His favorite feature above all? The convenient storage options. “It also has a waterproof chest pocket! Praise Pre.”

—BEST BASELAYER—

Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Long Sleeve

Getting out the door in uncertain weather is a little faster with this shirt—the versatile “Capilene Cool” fabric will self-correct for some of your layering errors. On its own, the shirt is lightweight and breathable, but with the toastiness and coverage of full sleeves. We especially liked it for breezy late-evening runs or cool morning miles after coffee but still before the sun. Once you get moving, roll up the sleeves and it’s the ideal, sweat-wicking top to keep you from overheating when you’re moving fast. True to Patagonia’s mission, the shirt is made of recycled materials so you can feel good about both your run and your gear.

—CASUAL TEE—

Never Not Bootleggin’ Anti Running Short Sleeve

Back in 2016, friends and running buds Hector Espinal and Adam Francique started screen-printing t-shirts without any intention of selling them. But, when requests for apparel flooded the pair’s Instagram DMs, Never Not Bootleggin’ was born. NNB’s first drop sold out within just three days. Based in New York City, Hector and Adam (who also coaches for Adidas Runners) are still making simple yet stylish shirts, like this 100% cotton short sleeve. It’s ideal for those easy jogs or rest days when you feel like repping that “love-hate” relationship with running. (Snag one quick, because they sell out fast!)

—AFFORDABLE SUNGLASSES—

Knockaround Fast Lanes

On a sandy beach or during a sweaty run, it’s important to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Plus, as the days get longer, it’s likely you’ll be squinting into the sun glare more often at sunrise or golden hour. Knockaround makes shades that specifically address the discomforts of running in eyewear, and its Fast Lanes model features a slightly wider fit with larger frames for big noggins. Your eyeballs will like their polarized lenses that provide UV400 protection—optometrists recommend this because it blocks 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. You’ll appreciate the lightweight, bounce-free frames and the nonslip nose pad that stays grippy even when you sweat. There’s over 15 colors to choose from at just $25, or you can design your own custom colorway.

—BUDGET DAILY TRAINER—

Brooks Trace

Brooks made a bold move etching a “1” into the tag on the tongue—indicating there’s more to come—but this rookie is a top pick. For both minimalists who want a bit more cushioning and Ghost loyalists seeking a soft and speedy option like the Saucony Kinvara, the Trace delivers. The new model has adequate cushioning, enough flex at toe-off, a responsive midsole, and all-around comfort. There is ample wiggle room in the toebox, and our testers reported that the padded heel collar helped reduce blistering and nicely cradled their foot. It’s also sufficiently durable; several runners noted how well the shoe held up after strenuous workouts in tempestuous winter weather. Given the Trace’s price and solid performance, we’d love to see Brooks release a stability version with guide rails for overpronators.

Read Review

—BEST DO-IT-ALL TRAINER—

Hoka One One Mach 4

After testing the Mach 4, Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate said that it is “the best Mach yet, and perhaps the best current Hoka.” It’s so good that he ran in nothing but the Mach for six weeks straight. Our other testers agreed. One declared that it was her new favorite cushioned road shoe. And another, a first-time Hoka wearer, said the shoe impressed her after a single run. We already loved the light weight and explosive rebound of the first three Machs. But Hoka went next-level, adding design features borrowed from the Carbon X and Rocket X. In this way, the Mach 4 is like Saucony’s Endorphin Speed or the Brooks Hyperion Tempo—a dynamic training shoe that’s more versatile than the pure racers in each brand’s line. It owes this oomph to the responsive Profly foam and early-stage Meta-Rocker (a slightly curved sole shape) that feels like it catapults you forward. This shoe is generously cushioned without turning your run into a slog, so you can rock it for everything from easy jogs and recovery runs to an interval session on the track. The upper is woven with heat-pressed TPU embroidered yarns, and hugs your foot more securely than the Mach 3. A sportier-looking heel collar provides padding without any friction on the Achilles.

Read Review

—EXTRA-SUPPORTIVE SHORTS—

Saxx Pilot Shorts

When a product functions as advertised, especially when it comes to support, that’s something to rave about. The Pilot’s 3D hammock-shaped BallPark Pouch is appropriately named for keeping everything in place, and the flat-seam, reverse stitching prevents friction and chafing, as well. “These shorts were so light I thought it was impossible for them to have two layers. Of course, I was proven wrong as soon as I slipped them on and felt the stretchy—and über-soft—quad-length interior brief,” said our Special Projects Editor, Kit Fox. “Saxx’s marketing is accurate. These are the lightest pair of running shorts I’ve ever worn.”

Runner’s World+ members, save an exclusive 20% off Saxx shorts!

—LIGHTWEIGHT STORM SHELL—

Eddie Bauer BC Uplift

This featherlight jacket contains a whole lotta waterproof tech to keep you dry year-round. Its seam-sealed nylon shell is rated 20K/20K waterproof. One tester ran in the snow (with a couple of layers underneath) and later in a heavy rainstorm, and returned with a dry shirt underneath on both occasions. After we donned the Uplift and stood under the showerhead, it dried quickly, with only a 0.2-ounce difference from its original weight (5.5 ounces originally, 6.4 ounces when wet, 5.7 ounces after drying). Our tester loved how the jacket doesn’t add extra bulk. Packability was also a favorite feature; the BC Uplift can scrunch into its own chest pocket, making it easy to toss into your duffel or racebelt when the sun comes out.

—PACKABLE LIGHTWEIGHT HAT—

Buff Pack Run Cap

A hat’s job is to comfortably protect us from the sun. We evaluate them accordingly, donning them before sweltering lunch runs and weekend adventures in the woods and comparing notes on comfort, sweat-wicking, and packability. The latter metric is especially important for ultrarunners, like our video producer Pat Heine, who want sun protection on the fly and minimal clutter in their packs. That’s where theBuff Pack Run Cap excels. At a single ounce, it was so light that the polyester material didn’t trap heat or moisture, so it doesn’t get everything else wet when it’s time to stash it—just wring it out. It protected against harmful ultraviolet rays with a UPF 50 rating, and a slim, built-in headband soaked up beads of sweat.

—HANDHELD WATER BOTTLE—

Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask

One issue some runners have with plastic handhelds is that they tend to get slippery with sweat and spillage—no matter how taut the strap is around your hand. The SpeedDraw resolves this problem with a rubber backing and textured plastic on the sides so the water bottle won’t slide around, and you won’t need to run with a clenched fist. “Every feature of the bottle is designed with comfort and function in mind,” said one tester. “The hand strap is made of a soft fabric and is adjustable to create a snug fit for different sizes. Even though the bottle is made of a harder plastic, it still feels soft and flexible and squeezes easily in your hand.”

—BEST FOAM ROLLER—

TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller

If you’ve been to a physical therapist’s office, you’ve likely seen a Trigger Point. And for good reason—they last. The multi-density exterior foam covers a rigid, hollow core, which means that the roller retains its shape, even with heavy use, over many years. One of our testers has had this model for more than five years and it is in like-new condition, despite dedicated use. She’s not alone: This brand has a loyal fan club, with more than 3,000 rave reviews on Amazon. We consider this a middle ground in firmness—not too hard, not too soft—which makes it a good introductory roller. It’s available in two lengths (13- and 26-inch), and the hollow center construction also has an unintended benefit: If you are traveling, you can easily stuff your running shorts, top, and socks inside it.

—WATER-RESISTANT SUNSCREEN—

Unsun Everyday Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen

Some of our runners on staff admit they’ve learned the hard way that sunscreen does, in fact, expire. For this reason, we’re tossing last year’s tubes, balms, and lotions and restocking our cabinets with new sunscreens. One brand worth a try for runners is Unsun, which makes this face-specific SPF 30 formula that resists water for up to 80 minutes. Unlike SPFs that can feel drying or tight, Unsun’s sunscreens are loaded with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil to keep your skin hydrated and protected. This Black-owned brand makes everything from tinted formulas with vitamin C to silky, mineral-based creams.

—GPS WATCH—

Garmin Forerunner 45

For runners used to following basic metrics—i.e., pace, time, and distance—the Forerunner 45 is a user-friendly entry into more advanced territory. Bluetooth connectivity syncs data to the Garmin Connect phone app. Like a personal assistant, the watch notifies you about calendar appointments and incoming calls. Besides recording your sleep, stress, and heart rate, a body battery feature—a number out of 100 that represents your energy level—lets you know if it’s advisable to work out or take a rest day. The smaller 45S is also available, but the 45 itself has enough notches to fit comfortably on our tester’s five-inch wrist. Some features may seem superfluous—personally, he could do without the Garmin Coach, which provides training plans and custom workouts—while others, like the assistance/incident detection feature, are a nice touch. However, your phone must be within close proximity for the safety feature to work.

Read Review

—WIRELESS EARBUDS—

Beats Powerbeats Pro

The Powerbeats Pro is the complete package: top-notch sound, long-run comfort, easy pairing, reliable connectivity, and a battery big enough to get you through a marathon—or longer. The charging case packs an additional 15 hours of juice but you’re not likely to need it; the buds last for nine hours on a single charge. “The sound you get from the Powerbeats Pro is really expansive,” said our Runner-in-Chief, Jeff Dengate. “Every song sounds like you’re listening in a larger room, with speakers positioned away from you.” Ambient noise starts out minimal but increases as sweat causes the earbuds to lose some of their seal. The music gets a little hollower, but the awareness means you’ll pick up loud environmental noises like sirens and horns. Bluetooth pairing is immediate with an iPhone, and a five-minute quick charge delivers 90 minutes of playback. The Powerbeats are rated IPX4 so they’ll withstand a rainstorm (but not submersion), and despite their large size, the buds keep a low enough profile to be comfortable with a hat and sunglasses.

Read Review

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