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Gear doesn’t make the runner, but the right kind of gear can rev up your runs. Runner’s World staff tests the heck out of shoes, electronics, apparel, and accessories that can help to make your workouts easier, faster, and, just as important, more fun.
As runners, we know the value in finding the softest shirts, the most effective recovery tools, and earbuds with the clearest sound. The 24 items listed here aced the tests of our diverse team of ultramarathoners, recreational runners, former collegiate track stars, and miles-before-sunrise monsters. This is the gear we continue to use long after the initial test period has ended.
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer
“Holy shit these are fun,” said features director Matt Allyn. “No shoe has ever inspired me to want to run more often. I just look at them on the top of my test-shoe pile and think about tacking extra miles onto today’s run.” That sentiment was echoed by every tester who wore this new extra-thick training shoe. The midsole is so tall that it’s technically against World Athletics rules to wear during a race, though the shoe is so heavy that no real contenders would lace it up when every second matters. But when you want to just bounce down the road like you’re on a pogo stick, this is the shoe for you. Sandwiched in all that foam is a cambered carbon-fiber plate, which has an arch shape. That design, combined with a void in the bottom layer of foam, boosts cushioning without adding any more weight. The Trainer isn’t the first “illegal” shoe we’ve worn in the maximalist, super-shoe era, but it feels the most stable of all the offerings so far. Rest assured, you’ll stay planted atop the foam as you round corners and hop off curbs. —Jeff Dengate
Hoka Mafate Speed 4
The best Hoka trail shoe this year is the Mafate Speed 4. The Mafate was the easy choice for our staff at Whiteface Mountain Runs, in both the Mountain Race and the Vertical Kilometer race. This technical trail shoe features a Vibram Litebase outsole with 5mm lugs that bite into mud and rock alike, and the grip was good enough on 40 percent grades when our tired legs wanted to tumble downhill. The responsive Profly+ midsole (also found in Hoka’s Mach 5) conforms over technical trails but provides great energy return. While we race-tested it on shorter distances, the Mafate is just as confident and comfortable on long runs. It provided solid protection against rocks and roots as we transitioned from springy stride to ultra shuffle.—Pat Heine-Holmberg
Hear me out: This year’s breakout star in the everyday trainer, cushioned running shoe category is by a company known for popularizing yoga pants. The Blissfeel is a part of Lululemon’s expansion into the runner’s space: The brand introduced a Global Run apparel collection last year, and began a sponsorship with pro steeplechaser Colleen Quigley and, later, mid-distance runner Nikki Hiltz. Releasing a running shoe was an obvious next step. The Blissfeel is a women-specific trainer; the development team cued in on the difference between men’s and women’s biomechanics, resulting in a shoe that accommodates a woman’s foot width, heel angle, and center of balance. Moderately cushioned and responsive, it belongs right up there with Nike’s Pegasus and Brooks’s Ghost. The Blissfeel isn’t my first choice for speed, but it can handle those workouts, thanks to its supportive midsole and high rebound. A racing shoe? No. A shoe to train for racing? Definitely.—Amanda Furrer
1. Shokz OpenRun Pro
The safest headphones for running got a big upgrade this year. Shokz (the company changed its name from AfterShokz a year ago) uses bone-conduction technology to transfer sound through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open to hear approaching cars and other hazards. OpenRun Pro features richer sound with better bass than the Aeropex, a Gear of the Year winner in 2019. You still won’t mistake the audio quality for a decent pair of earbuds, but it’s a fair compromise we’re willing to make for the added protection. The sound is plenty loud when playing music, but spoken word, like podcasts, can be hard to decipher along busy roads. Battery life has been extended to an impressive 10 hours—up from the eight hours of the Aeropex—while a five-minute charge gives you 1.5 hours of playback.—J.D.
2. Jabra Elite 3
I have trouble with earbuds; most fall out or they are so tight it feels like my ears will explode. The Jabra Elite 3’s smooth silicone gel tips allow me to listen to music during my runs without issue. While it may not have all the features of Jabra’s pricier versions, like the Elite 75t ($150), which has slightly better sound quality and battery life, the Elite 3 is a solid deal for what you get: noise isolation and hear-through options, up to seven hours of battery life, and a 10-minute quick charge for one hour of listening. The Elite 3 is wallet-friendly and gives me more freedom to run in challenging weather—the ’buds have IP55 rainproof protection—without too much risk of getting waterlogged.—Amy Wolff
3. Jaybird Vista 2
I’ve worn the original Jaybird Vistas for multiple double-digit training runs, several 13.1-mile races, as well as a 26.2, and they’ve felt comfortable through every mile. While other wireless earbuds tend to slide around when I’m running, causing me to continually reset them in my ears, I ran in the Vistas for hours without having to adjust. That holds true for 90-degree, humid weather when I’m super sweaty as well as on rainy days (plus, they’re waterproof!). Just like the first iteration, the Vista 2’s tips have little hooks that hold tight inside your ears; the box has different sizes so you can customize your fit. In addition to the feel, the sound quality on the Vistas is also super clear; you can hear every word of your audiobook and every beat of that Justin Bieber song. Plus, you have the option to make them noise-canceling or allow background sounds to come through so you’re able to hear a car coming up from behind you on the road. Even better: The battery lasts long enough to tackle long distances—up to eight hours. And you can do a quick five-minute charge in the portable case, which gives an hour of power. In other words, these buds have it all.—Mallory Creveling
1. Garmin Enduro 2
The newest version of the ultra-endurance Enduro nearly doubles the battery life of the first version during activity, and lasts for 120 hours in normal GPS mode with optical heart rate active. Over a month and a half of using GPS tracking on regular training runs and bike-commuting to Runner’s World HQ, as well as a 15-hour run in the Alps using built-in navigation for confidence through a few off-trail sections, I’ve only had to recharge the watch once. It’s easy to fine-tune battery performance if you need even longer run time, and the menu shows how many hours you’ll gain or lose by turning different sensors off and on. Daily-use features, like Garmin Pay, music apps, and a touchscreen, really make it a tool of convenience on the go. For trail adventures and ultra racing, the Enduro 2 now has access to more satellite systems, topo maps for navigation, and even a decent flashlight that is bright enough to use as an emergency backup if your headlamp fails on the trail.—P.H.H.
2. Apple Watch Ultra
“Is the Ultra a Garmin killer?” Well, probably not, but it represents the tech giant’s first formidable sports watch that can hang with premium adventure trackers from Garmin, Coros, and Polar. The 49mm titanium case is larger than previous Apple Watches and houses a bigger battery that can last up to 36 hours in mixed use. Even when used for long endurance events, it’ll have enough juice to get you through a marathon or triathlon with GPS, heart rate, and wireless streaming music, which the earlier version of the Apple Watch could not do. Plus, it’s one of a few watches to hit the market this year with dual-frequency GPS, leveraging a second signal from satellites to greatly increase accuracy. A new “Action” button on the side can be customized to quickly launch apps or take splits. This isn’t entirely new—Garmin has long had “hot keys”—but it’s a convenient feature from a smartwatch that was primarily controlled through a touchscreen and makes it much easier to use when you’re running with gloves on.—J.D.
3. Garmin Forerunner 255
The 200-series has always been one of the best values for a GPS running watch. It has all the features most runners will ever need, but isn’t packed with extra functions that go unused and drive up the price. The biggest reason to like the 255 is because it has multi-band GPS, meaning the watch can receive two radio signals from a single satellite and, because it’s able to tell if one of those signals happened to bounce off a building or rock wall, it can filter out any inaccurate data points. The result is a far more accurate GPS track of your runs. You’ll otherwise only find that accuracy in Garmin’s 955 and Fenix watches, plus the Coros Vertix 2 and Apple Watch Ultra, for now. The 255 also gets running power, a metric that is slowly growing in running. It measures in watts how much work you’re doing, so you can maintain the right effort with more consistency than relying on other means like heart rate.—J.D.
Rab Phantom Waterproof Pull-On Jacket
I have a closet packed with rain jackets, but this is the lightest fully waterproof jacket I’ve ever tested. At 3.0 ounces, it’s almost a full ounce lighter than the super popular, but not waterproof, Patagonia Houdini. It still packs up small enough to fit into the pockets of some running shorts without pulling them down or bouncing around. Breathable and slim fitting, the Phantom doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re out for a swim if you throw it on underneath a hydration pack, running all day through storms. The snug hood with a wire brim keeps water from streaming in around your face. Since waterproof jackets are still good at keeping some heat against the body, this is a great shell for snowy runs as well, and the half-length zipper lets you regulate the temperature on cold runs. The price is steep, but it’s cheaper than other lightweight rain jackets that use Gore-Tex Shakedry membranes.—P.H.H.
Adidas FastImpact Luxe Run High-Support Bra
Finding a bra with enough support for running has always been a challenge for me and my D cups. Sports bras either feel way too restrictive or not nearly supportive enough. But this one has stopped my search. Thanks to its adjustability (you can alter the straps, as well as the band), you basically get a customized bra that’s tight enough to stop the bounce yet still comfortable in a way that doesn’t distract from speedy or long miles. The soft, smooth fabric also enhances comfort. Adidas expanded its sizing to offer more in-between options, so you can easily find what works for you. (The size guide on Adidas’s website works wonders for helping you buy the right one.) This bra doesn’t have the traditional hook-and-eye closure on the back. So, pro tip: Loop the bottom band through the side holes before putting the bra over your head, then just pull the bottom straps toward the front, find the tightness that feels best, and then hook it in place.—M.C.
1. Lululemon Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve 2.0
Meet the do-anything tee that conquers intervals and weekend long runs. The fabric on this Lululemon shirt is unbeatable—soft, lightweight, breathable, and cool. Plus, its seamless construction takes comfort to the next level. It also comes in different lengths. I like that the regular short sleeve hits a bit lower on the hips, while the racing option sits higher up so it doesn’t get in the way of a strong knee drive. What I love most about the Swiftly, though, is that it stops the armpit chafing I tend to experience on long, sweaty workouts. That’s why I’ve slipped into it for long training runs, as well as for tackling the big 26.2. To top it off, this tee looks cute and flattering. And it comes in a range of colors, including a highlighter yellow and neon orange—both of which are in my closet and perfect for standing out on the racecourse so your friends can spot you.—M.C.
2. Oiselle Flyte Shorts
I’m all about pockets, so choosing Oiselle’s pocketless Flyte Shorts as Gear of the Year sounds like I’ve been body-snatched. One thing I’d like to emphasize is that Oiselle truly gets women’s shorts right. In the past, I’ve trained and raced in the O-Mazing Mini Shorts, which have a 360-degree pocket that mimics a run belt. I’ve tested the Pocket Jogger Shorts, bottoms that give you the option to store your smartphone in either the lower back or hip pocket (a hotly debated topic amongst our staff). But the Flyte is simplicity at its finest. The compressive poly/nylon/elastane blend fits like a second skin, and the ribbed high-rise waist stays put without cutting off circulation. The seamless construction and drawstring-free waistband make these my go-to marathon bottoms because I know my skin won’t chafe and I won’t have to fuss with adjusting the fit. For race-day fuel, I still wear a pocket bra to carry gels; the stripped down Flyte is worth the boob storage.—A.F.
Swiftwick Flite XT Trail
I’ve been sock-obsessed since my days of middle school cross country. Experience taught me that a good pair will keep your feet comfy and blister-free, and elevate the fit of your running shoe. The Flite XT Trail (available in Two ($24) and Five ($27) cuff heights) earns my sock geek seal of approval for just that reason—it makes the fit of my running shoe feel a little more locked in. To build its “most technologically advanced” sock, Swiftwick used the original Flite XT model as a blueprint. Both pairs use portions of grippy fibrous material beneath the heel and forefoot, which help prevent your foot from sliding around inside your shoe. There’s just enough cushion to fill the extra space in daily trainers that have a bit too much wiggle room and resolve any irritating heel slippage I sometimes experience in shoes with stiff rocker soles. This trail-specific version, however, also incorporates merino wool, which naturally prevents foot odor and feels a little softer against the skin. The material is thick and durable, and dries quickly after I soak it in a rainstorm, but it’s still not too heavy or mushy. (FYI, I have a personal triple-wear limit for my running socks before I wash them, though I’ve found these guys don’t stink or feel overstretched by the third wear.) Snug arch and ankle compression lends extra support for lateral movements in agility drills and cross-training, hence the “XT.” If you’re like me and it’s been years since you’ve stepped inside a gym to do anything besides run on a treadmill, that added stability also shines when dodging rocks, roots, and potholes, or cruising along on crowned roads.—Morgan Petruny
1. Territory Run Co. The Long Haul
I’ve found that a running hat is essential on days when the sun is blazing. I’m picky with my cap checklist: It must be lightweight, comfortable, breathable, and protective. The Long Haul Cap by Territory Run ticks all the boxes. The wide brim is pliable and helps with visibility by blocking sunlight or rain from my face. The soft front panel has a moisture-wicking sweatband on the inside. The fit is easily adjustable with a snap closure in the back. I’m hoarding several of these hats even though they’re extremely durable—stick with hand-washing only. It’s packable too! I’ve shoved it into my duffel bag and it always springs back into shape, looking as good as new.—A.W.
2. Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Long Sleeve 2.0
From fall through winter and into spring, there’s no shirt I wear more than this long sleeve. It has the marks of a perfect top for its versatility; it performs well on a run, on the couch, or in a cafe because of its athletic cut, flat-seam construction, and buttery soft lightweight fabric. But what makes it stand out in the now-crowded field of comfy, functional athleisure wear is the ribbed mesh side panels, which are seamlessly (literally) integrated into the sides of the shirt. I can feel a cooling breeze moving through while the slightly tighter fabrics in the front keep me appropriately toasty. That’s the Vent in the name. The “Metal” refers to the silver woven with nylon and polyester to slow the growth of stink-causing bacteria. As someone who sweats a lot, I’m not grossing out my family by running in this long-sleeve. And while I wouldn’t wear the shirt to dinner after a tempo, I’d be comfortable enough for a round of soft serve.—Matt Allyn
Known for its hydration products, Nathan expanded its offerings with an apparel line, and then delved into eyewear this year. We put the sunglasses on 10 RW+ members across eight U.S. states and six different climates; they logged hundreds of miles to exhaustively test the heck out of these glasses. Testers loved the no-slip fit and protection from glare, plus the polarized lenses remained fog-free in snowy, 23-degree weather. I rarely wore sunglasses during my runs, but now I’m a Nathan groupie.—A.F.
1. Article One The H Sunglasses
With eyewear handcrafted in Italy, Article One sells the kind of glasses that scream “form over function.” But the company is no stranger to the trial of miles. We’ve previously lauded its collaborations with Tracksmith (2018 Gear of the Year) and Ciele (2019), and now it’s launched a new Active collection on its own. A standout among the five frames is the H, which supports the H Foundation for cancer research—Article One donates 100 percent of profits from the style. After a set of 6 x 800 at 5K pace in July, I was a puddle, but the H performed flawlessly. They didn’t slip or bounce, the lenses didn’t fog, and somehow sweat didn’t even drop onto the antireflective lenses. They even stayed put when I did a set of jump squats and lunges after the workout. The frames are a bit heavier than sport-specific glasses, but they’re not a bother on long runs or if you’re wearing them all day at the beach (I’ve done both).—J.D.
2. Smith Uplift RX
I generally don’t wear contacts when running because I’ve lost them in the past to the occasional bug that flies into my eye, or dirt particles, or from rubbing my eyes if I get sunscreen in them. Of all the prescription running glasses I’ve tested, these are the ones I gravitate toward when I head out for a run. They fit close to the face, which I actually like because it prevents particles from coming in contact with my eye, and provides a snug fit. They are lightweight, fog resistant, and light-adjusting, and they stay in place through a lot of hot, humid, sweaty miles (no nose slippage). The wrapped design gives you side protection and enhanced field of vision. Bonus: They didn’t budge when I took my mountain bike out for a few spins this summer, or whilst jumping on the trampoline with my kiddos! I even wear them when I practice yoga/Pilates and don’t have time to put in contacts. All around, these are the best sport corrective eyewear I’ve worn, and they’re half the price of competitors’.—Jennifer Acker
The world of inflatable compression sleeves has become a cluttered marketplace. Just search “Normatec” on Amazon and see the wide range of options—most at far cheaper prices than the original recovery boots. It’s basically a race to the bottom, but Normatec isn’t compromising on the quality we’ve come to love, even as it has dropped its own prices. The 3 maintains the same pulsing action that makes it feel more like an actual massage compared to competitive products, plus the seven levels of squeeze ranging from “ooh” to “ouch.” But the big change is the new compressor: It lacks a display screen (which we’ve previously shattered), replaced with little LED lights that indicate your setting. Under the sleek cover is a battery that lasts 50 percent longer, too.—J.D.
1. Black Diamond Sprinter 500
This little affordable headlamp is perfect to take with you on just about any run when you’re not sure if you might need extra visibility. Compact and weighing 3.7 ounces, it easily fits in the pocket of most running shorts. The 500 lumen brightness is more than enough to light up the trail, and three blinking red lights on the rear boost safety on dark road runs all year round. While other small headlamps put both the battery and lamp unit on the front on a simple strap, the Sprinter 500 has a balanced feel we love because the battery is mounted on the back of the head.—P.H.H.
2. Leki Ultratrail FX.One Superlite
If you watched any of the major mountain ultras this year, you may have noticed just about every runner at the front of the races grasped a pair of these poles as they charged up steep climbs. And for good reason: They are exceptionally lightweight—3.2 ounces lighter than the non-Superlite Ultratrail poles and almost an ounce lighter than Black Diamond’s Carbon Z poles. Even with such weight savings, the FX.One are still stiff, and Leki’s Trigger Shark gloves provide better connection to the poles, so they can offset the effort from your legs even more, saving you energy to run longer.—P.H.H.
Salomon ADV Skin 12
The ADV Skin hydration vests have been a go-to for runners for almost 10 years since debuting on the likes of François D’Haene at the 2012 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. The 12-liter version of the vest strikes a great balance between having a comfortable, all-day fit with minimal bounce and being able to carry just about everything under the sun, including all the mandatory gear to run 100- or 200-mile races in the Alps. Tweaks on the newest version of the pack include a slightly wider fit around the neck and additional padding to reduce the risk of chafing. Salomon also added a wide, stretchy rear top pocket for quickly stashing headlamps or jackets. It’s a small detail that has a huge impact on race day. The ADV Skin 12 has six pockets up front, two soft flasks, three more large pockets in the rear, and a whole bunch of re-positionable bungee straps to allow you to tailor the pack for all your adventures.—P.H.H.
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