Everything You Need To Know About Running Gear For Women [Running Shoes, Jackets, Bras + More]

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Over the years and miles I’ve personally tested and reviewed a TON of women’s running gear and have created this list to provide the ultimate guide to running gear for women.

As well as specific recommendations, I explain when it matters that you get women’s-specific running gear, shoes and clothes (and where it doesn’t) – because in some cases, unisex running gear is great.. and in others, it’s something women will want to avoid!

This post also includes links to more detailed specific running gear buyer’s guides here on Trail & Kale, 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

Here are the key questions we get asked about women’s running clothes, underwear, jackets and more. Click on each to jump down to that section where I’ve answered the questions and included links to related buyer’s guides:


Do I need a women’s-specific running hydration pack?

As you begin to run further and end up being out 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, many female runners 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.

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.

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.

Visit our guide to the best running hydration packs for a comparison of the latest, highest-rated packs.


What is the best sports bra for running?

Brooks Running Dare Crossback Sports Bra - the best Women's Trail Running Gear - Women's specific trail running gear - Trail and Kale
Brooks makes some great high-impact running bras

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).

For specific recommendations when it comes to running bras, visit our buyer’s guide to the best sports bras for running.


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 tights 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 women’s running underwear recommendations for wearing underneath appropriate running tights and shorts, the following are those that I personally recommend:


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 jackets marketed to runners 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 women’s 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 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 women’s 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 guide to the best waterproof running jackets 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 not just tracking mileage, time and pace, but also tracking your training progress and other metrics, including heart rate 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 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 running-specific women’s running clothes do I need?

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 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.

In terms of what clothes to wear for regular 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 – here are our currently highest-rated women’s running shorts.

You’ll also need some suitable running socks, and definitely consider running-appropriate sunglasses and a good running hat to keep the sweat, sun and even rain out of your eyes.

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 or curvy, 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.

As runners, we carry out endless testing and research to bring you the most informative, authentic and reliable 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:

RELATED READING: Emergency gear for trail running / A complete guide to running at night


I hope that this guide to running gear for women has helped you feel well-informed about the key pieces of women’s running clothes, shoes, and accessories you should consider when deciding what to wear and take running.

Helen
Helenhttps://www.trailandkale.com/
One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great honest post! Thanks for the advice! Usually a road runner but training for trail running in Switzerland and didn’t know how much of my usual outfit I needed to change; feeling confident in my choices after reading this!

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