Even though I just started running more seriously just this past year, I've already realized that having good and comfortable gear makes a huge difference. While there are tons of products out there, prices and the quality of items greatly differ. Sometimes it's necessary to spend the extra money for a better product, but a lot of times I'm easily able to get away with spending half the amount for a product I equally love.
Through my personal experience of trial and error, here are my top six (I tried increasing my list to ten items, but I just didn't love all of them, and I couldn't narrow down my list to five, so seven favorites it is!) favorite and must have items for running:
1. Nike + App (iPhone or Watch)
I hate running without knowing how far I've run and what my pace is. I know there are tons of other apps out there that do pretty much the same things as Nike+, but this is the first app/watch I've used and it's working for me. I enjoy how easily both my phone and watch sync to one program and how simple it is to go back and view previous runs and routes. I do wish it had a longer battery life though; from my experience it lasts about seven hours. I am curious to know what my heart rate is throughout my run, so if my running habit continues I'll probably eventually end up trying the PolarFT4 watch as well.
2. Sweaty Bands
My hair is really long and thick, and when I run I sweat a lot. No joke. Sweat and lots of hair don't mix well; my hair gets frizzy and it hard to maintain. I've tried lots of different headbands, but most are either too wide for my small head or too stretchy and slip off. Sweaty Bands come in many colors and prints, but my favorite by far, and the only ones I wear are the sparkly glitter ones.
3. Target Champion brand Athletic Socks
Many people swear by more expensive running socks. I agree that your feet are super important to take care of as they're the ones that constantly hit the ground. When I first started running I solely wore regular cotton socks and had no problem with them. Yes my feet sweat, but it didn't bother me. My stubborn self finally tried actual athletic socks and I did notice increased comfort, so I haven't worn cotton since. I've also tried more expensive brands of athletic socks, but they didn't make my feet feel any better, so personally that steeper price isn't worth it.
4. UltrAspire Handheld Water Bottle
This is the first handheld water bottle I've ever used and I still like it better than the other one I own. I like how there's a pocket to carry keys, Gu's, or money. I also appreciate the mesh that completely encompasses the bottle so that your hand doesn't freeze when you're holding your water bottle full of ice water.
5. Target Gloves
This past Winter was my first cold weather running season and I heavily relied on gloves. I hate when my fingers are cold and I can't bend my hands; my fingers get swollen and they're useless. I've tried other "insulated" gloves and they aren't any better than these cheaper Target gloves. (Target doesn't sell them anymore, probably because it's almost Summer, but here's a similar pair I found on Amazon). More expensive pairs are actually stiffer and heavier. Plus it's really easy to lose a glove, and with this price, I don't fret about having to replace them (I haven't lost them yet though).
6. Hot Chilly Pants
I've had a hard time finding the perfect fitting pair of running pants. I have major issues with the waist band and thighs fitting correctly. Proportionally speaking, my thighs are much bigger than my waist. So when I buy pants to fit my thighs, I am constantly pulling them up throughout my run because the waist band is too loose. Hot Chillys fit great and they provide the perfect amount of warmth without being too hot. I've run a marathon, many long trail runs, and numerous shorter road runs in them without any problems. They are a little pricy, but definitely worth the cost. They also make for a great winter wardrobe staple; I've worn them several times under maxi skirts!
So there's my list of my top six essential running items, several of which I use during every single run. Without all of these gadgets and apparel I probably would've given up running a long time ago.