Like with many sports, unisex gear or men’s versions are fine for something that doesn’t require much sizing or fit, but as soon as you’re looking for suitable running gear for women that is designed to fit a woman’s shape and be comfortable to run in for long periods of time whether on the roads or when you’re trail running specifically, you need running gear that has been designed for women, not just smaller sizes of the men’s stuff.
Fortunately, running – and especially trail running – is a progressive sport with many great brands making great running gear for women, including running clothes, trail shoes and accessories.
As I’ve personally tested and reviewed a lot of women’s running gear, I’ve put together this list to provide the ultimate guide to running gear for women, which explains when it matters that you get women’s-specific trail running gear, shoes and clothes (and where it doesn’t), and our picks when it comes to trail running shoes, jackets, hydration packs and more for hitting the trails in.
This page isn’t just for trail runners, if you’re researching running gear for running on roads and pavements then this guide to running gear for women is for you, too.
This post also includes links to more detailed specific lists I’ve put together of the best trail running shoes and running gear for women, which we frequently update when a worthy new product or a newer version of something we already love comes along.
Click here to jump straight down into our guide to the best running gear for women or read on for more advice when it comes to choosing suitable women’s running shoes, clothes and accessories.
Guide to finding the best running gear for women
The gear listed in this guide to running gear is specifically intended to cover the women’s running gear you may need for running – where our needs may differ from men, or specific products designed to fit women are relevant.
Being trail running specialists, the majority of the information and advice on women’s running gear is designed with the needs of people wanting to run trails in mind, however most of the advice on women’s running gear is not specific to trail running also applies to what gear you may need for regular pavement running.
Here are the key questions we get asked about women’s running clothes, underwear, jackets and more – – you can click on each to jump down to that section where I’ve answered the questions and included links to related content and important women’s running gear to consider investing in:
- How to choose a women’s-specific hydration pack for running
- What sports bras are best for trail running?
- Do I need specific running underwear?
- What are the best women’s waterproof running jackets?
- What GPS running watches are best for smaller wrists?
- What women’s trail running gear do I need?
- What are the best women’s trail running shoes?
- What emergency gear should you carry with you when trail running?
Do I need a women’s-specific running hydration pack?
As you begin to run further and end up being on the trails for longer periods of time, you’ll need to take more accessories with you, like your phone, some snacks, water, jacket, keys, emergency gear, etc.
A running hydration pack (aka a ‘hydration running vest’ or ‘race vest’ depending on where you live in the world) is the best way to carry all these items and more in the most comfortable and efficient manner, and pretty much all of the best hydration packs for running are designed with women’s-specific versions.
In this case, I find that having a women’s-specific fitting hydration vest is really important because a poorly-fitting hydration vest that is designed for a man’s shoulders and a ‘flat chest’ is going to be uncomfortable, move around, and chafe if I try to wear it.
I wear a running hydration pack on pretty much all of my trail runs, as I find it a much more comfortable and easy-to-access way to carry the other essential gear I need when heading out for a trail run – so while it seems like a bit of an investment if you’re new to the sport, a good one will last you many years and you should get a lot of use out of it.
NOT SURE WHERE TO START? Don’t worry, we have done all the research for you and have a complete running hydration pack guide that is regularly updated with the best hydration vests for trail and ultra running.
What is the best sports bra for running?
The best sports bra for running is going to very much depend on you, your preferences, size, and body shape – and it’s an important piece of womens running gear to get right!
The features that most people should look for in a good high-impact sports bra that is suitable for running on all terrain, including trail running and ultra marathons, are that the sports bra needs to be:
- Super supportive but not restrictive for breathing
- Soft seams (to minimize potential for chafing)
- Breathable, quick-drying fabric (for this reason, I prefer to avoid sports bras with padding as this can prolong the bra’s drying time when it gets wet with rain or sweat).
I also personally prefer high-impact sports bras with NO clips or underwire for running in. This is because I want to minimize the potential for my sports bra to rub or dig in to my body when running, especially when I am trail running and wearing a potentially fairly heavy running hydration pack which sits on my back and fastens around my chest.
As a good starting point, I suggest checking out Brooks Running’s range; I have had many great running bras from Brooks Running, as many of their high-impact sports bras meet the criteria outlined above.
Two of my current favorite Brooks Running bras are the Dare Crossback Run Bra – which is super supportive but with no clips or underwire, and the Dare Criss Cross Run Bra, which is equally comfortable to run in, with a different shape and thinner shoulder straps.
If you’ve had specific experiences with other brands of sports bras when it comes to running, and especially trail running, we’d love to hear from you in the comments – particularly if there are specific bras you swear by and would recommend to other women in search of a great sports bra!
Do I need to wear specific running underwear?
Whether or not you need to wear specific running underwear (meaning, panties) underneath your running pants, tights or shorts, is partly down to personal preference as well as how your running shorts or pants have been constructed.
It’s important to be aware that some women’s running shorts already come with a built-in liner, and are designed to NOT be worn with running underwear. Some running tights are also intended to be worn without running underwear underneath.
If you wear underwear under these shorts or pants when running then it can mean there are too many layers down there and this can lead to issues such as chafing if you run for longer periods of time.
There’s an element of needing to use trial-and-error when it comes to working out the best running tights or shorts combination with or without running underwear.
However, one thing is for sure, if you do need to wear underwear when running, make sure it is designed to be comfortable and breathable when you’re active – features to look for include minimal seams, and lightweight, technical quick-drying fabric.
If you’re looking for specific womens running underwear recommendations for wearing underneath appropriate running tights and shorts, the following are those that I personally recommend:
- Under Armour Women’s Stretch underwear
- Runderwear Women’s Running Underwear
- Branwyn Women’s Performance Underwear – specifically the Essential Bikini and Hipster styles
What are the best women’s running jackets?
In certain countries and climates, this is one item of women’s running clothes that is definitely important to invest in! It’s important to understand that many running jackets are in fact only ‘water-resistant’, and not fully waterPROOF.
This means that they can handle a bit of rain, and are often windproof, but for any heavy rain or prolonged exposure, the jacket will start to soak through and you end up thoroughly wet, running around in a wet jacket with wet clothes underneath – not great, especially in the cold!
A great womens waterproof running jacket should be fully waterproof, lightweight, have some level of breathability and ideally be ‘form-fitting’.
It also helps if they pack down small, so when you are on long trail runs you can keep it in your hydration vest when it’s not needed without it taking up too much space. To ensure you find a good womens running jacket that is comfortable, I highly recommend getting a women-specific fit as this minimizes the amount of fabric that can flap (and act as a sail on windy days!), and is generally lighter and more comfortable.
Here’s our list of the best waterproof running jackets for women that meet these important criteria.
What are the best GPS running watches for smaller wrists?
We recommend that you track your runs with a GPS watch.
Wearing a GPS watch can be very helpful for tracking your training, including heart rate, mileage, and elevation gain/descent, and the best will also have some good navigation features which can help you follow routes or retrace your steps if you take the wrong turn.
Our Best GPS Running Watch Guide will help you find the right one for you. GPS watches, especially the more rugged ones with the biggest range of features, can however be pretty bulky and heavy – and that can be pretty uncomfortable to wear when running (although may result in a stronger arm on your watch side!). I know many smaller trail runners feel the same, so I suggest checking out the GPS watches on our list where we specifically state they’re better for people with smaller wrists as they’re typically smaller and lighter than other options.
What trail-running-specific women’s running clothes do I need?
Many women looking to get into trail running wonder if you need to wear specific trail running gear for women or if regular running gear will do, and whether it should be specific running gear for women rather than men’s/unisex versions.
My advice for women looking to start running is always to start with a good pair of women’s running shoes and make sure you have a good quality, comfortable sports bra designed for high-impact activities and therefore suitable for running. These are the most important items of running gear for women to invest in when starting to run, whether on pavement or on trails.
If you’re here because you want to get into trail running, then make sure the running shoes you buy are women’s trail running shoes, to help ensure you are comfortable and have the right support and grip on the trails that regular running shoes can’t offer. I explain more about women’s trail running shoes in the next section.
In terms of what clothes to wear for regular trail runs, keep it simple.
Any decent running clothes for women (or men) should be made of technical sweat-wicking, breathable fabric, to help keep you comfortable, cool and minimize any risk of chafing.
If you only buy two items of women’s running clothes, make them a technical running t-shirt and a pair of cropped (‘capri’) women’s running tights. If you’re somewhere especially hot, then you may be able to get away with switching out the running tights for running shorts.
If it gets very cold in the winter months where you live and will be running, then there are more running clothes you’ll need to add to ensure you don’t get too cold or exposed on those winter runs. Those include warm winter running tights and warm long-sleeve layers for your top half, as well as running gloves and a windproof or waterproof jacket.
In terms of whether or not you need to buy specific women’s running clothes rather than wearing men’s versions, that really depends on your personal preference, as well as your build and physique.
If you’re shorter, like me, or petite, I would always choose women’s running clothes (for which there are plenty of choices out there) over generic men’s or unisex options, however the most important thing to look for in your running clothes is that it’s designed for moving and sweating in – that is, it’s made from technical, sweat-wicking and breathable fabric, whether it’s designed for men or women.
Keep in mind that not all women’s running gear is created equally and especially because trail running is more demanding than road running, it’s worth reading up on the most durable and comfortable running gear for women that will make your trail running experience as enjoyable as it can be (and that’s VERY enjoyable, by the way).
As trail runners ourselves, we carry out endless testing and research to bring you the most informative, authentic and reliable trail running gear advice on the internet. This article is regularly updated, so consider bookmarking it so you can easily check back in the next time you’re looking to buy some trail running gear – or even better, subscribing to our newsletter to get more gear guides and inspiration to your inbox.
What are the best women’s trail running shoes?
Our Best Trail Running Shoes Ultimate Buyers Guide will help you learn more about which trail running shoes are best for certain types of terrain, events, and styles of running. It’s the best trail running gear guide for trail running shoes on the web – curated by dedicated, passionate trail runners who live and breathe the sport.
While many brands of popular trail running shoes are actually unisex and in some cases it doesn’t seem to matter whether you have women’s trail shoes (especially if you have relatively wide feet), if you’re looking to make a quick selection and know that you’ve bought a great pair, head over to this post, which lists five of the best all-round trail running shoes for women.
If you have any specific questions about a trail shoe, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. If you’re reading this in Fall or Winter, we also have a Best Waterproof Trail Running Shoes Guide that will help you choose your next pair of waterproof trail shoes. Right now, we recommend the Salomon S-Lab Ultra 3, for reasons mentioned in our best trail running shoes for women buyer’s guide.
What emergency gear should I take with me trail running?
The amount of emergency gear you should take with you trail running very much depends on where and when you are going, how well you know the area and how extreme the terrain and climate is – as well as if you’re going alone or with other people.
As a minimum, I usually take a lightweight running jacket, water, and my phone trail running (with a protective case, just in case!) – and on other occasions, I take a lot more. Generally, trail running is not dangerous – however, if you need more convincing and some advice on how to stay safe on the trails, head over to this post, which addresses many FAQ about trail running and the possible dangers you may encounter, and also how to stay safe.
For a list of the emergency gear you should consider taking with you trail running (which should all fit in most race vests / hydration packs), click the link below to head to our post on the subject:
For More On Women’s Trail Running Gear…
Don’t stress when starting out trail running, especially if you’re not planning anything too adventurous in extreme heat/cold or mountain environments – you’ll be ok in your normal running gear and a good pair of trail shoes while getting started.
For more on non-gender-specific trail running gear, including the best accessories such as sunglasses, hats and poles, as well as nutrition options, click the button below to head over to our ultimate trail running gear guide:
I hope that this guide to running gear for women has helped you have a think about the key pieces of women’s running clothes, shoes, and accessories you should consider when deciding what to wear and take running, whether you’ll be on the pavements or going off-road.
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