Running Gadgets: Useful Items That May Help Your Fitness Program
When you go into your local running store, you see a counter full of goodies and racks of items designed and placed there specifically to entice you to spend your money. Some things are necessary for running; others are mere fluff and expensive "cool guy" gadgets that are not necessary for the average workout. If you have the money to spare and you are absolutely craving a Garmin Forerunner 405CX GPS watch (typical retail: $300-$400) then you can feel free to purchase it. If, however, you need to save a few dollars where you can, then ou will enjoy the following tips about optimizing your cash when purchasing running gear.
Any Watch Will Do
The watch is the device most emblematic of running. It is the time that matters for training, repeats, pushing the envelope, and improving upon personal bests. You should be careful, however, because subtle differences in functions, size, and even colors can result in large price differences. The most expensive watches have GPS and heart rate capabilities, and one model can even harness the sun's light to fry an egg while you run!
Ok, so that was false, but there are some extremely elaborate models out there that can set you back a pretty penny. However, while GPS and heart rate functions are interesting, they aren't exactly necessary. You must have some extremely specific tuning, mileage, and training requirements before you need know exactly what your pace to the second and mileage to the hundredth of a mile is. I ran for an NCAA Division 2 cross country team for several years, and I never needed a GPS device.
Each person has expectations for a watch, however, and you should consider carefully how necessary those functions are before you pay 75 dollars extra for a device that can load training data onto your computer and then keep it in the box it came in. If you get a watch with a timer, lap/split ability, and a night glowing function, then you have covered the basic necessities. Look for a design that looks rugged and simple and can handle abuse. I paid $75 for a Timex watch because it had big numbers, but I didn't notice that the buttons were delicate and had edges that could easily catch on objects. Do some price comparisons and try to think about reliability. Timex definitely isn't a bad company; their Ironman series of watches are tough and durable (I still have one that is 8 years old).
Nifty Clothes and Socks
If you are thinking that buying a plethora of winter running items like hats, UnderArmor, jackets, and pants is going to somehow motivate you to go outside and be alone in the cold, then you are probably spending some unnecessary money. Running is a sport in which mobility is prized, and covering yourself in clothes makes it a bit difficult to run! Pick items that you consider vital: some runners' ears hurt in very cold weather, and mufflers are useful to them. If you do need to buy lots of items to survive the arctic blast of wintry air, then avoid name brands. Fabric is fabric, and you can find quality moisture-wicking materials at cheaper prices.
Socks are particularly notorious for robbing your money. I found a design that supported my foot very well, and I went in to discover that the items were $9 a pair! This is actually low for the average running sock; some special designs can set you back twenty dollars or more. The thing to remember is that a sock is a sock, and it is probably the most abused part of your running gear except your shoes. They all function as a boundary between your shoe and foot, and they all gather moisture from your feet. The expensive ribbing and cool designs are there to make money.
If there is one item that you should consider investing in heavily, then it is the running shoe. Time is more important than money when investing in shoes. Take the time to remember whether you under-pronate, over-pronate, or have a normal foot, and what kind of arch support you need. Some running stores will analyze your footstroke. If you do get that opportunity, remember what they tell you! Also, take time to try more than one pair of shoes on and see what feels good. You can save yourself a lot of grief if you notice that one particular design rubs uncomfortably. Each person has a particular shoe preference (and mine is Aasics).
Adidas, Nike, New Balance, Aasics, Reebok, and Mizuno all create good running shoe models. Aasics, Mizuno, and New Balance are generally considered the gold standard of reliability, while Reebok and Adidas offer good training shoes for average feet. Nike's specialty is the cross country spike or track shoe. A good shoe will usually set you back between $60 and $120 dollars. Above that range, there are no significant differences (regardless of what might be said about advanced cushioning and so on). A shoe that costs twice the price of a 90-dollar pair is simply not going to be twice as good. Whatever your preference, be sure to search for something you know your feet will love, because they are going to be stuck with them for several hundred miles!