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Four steps to finding the perfect running gear

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Trail Run

I’ve logged many an asphalt mile since the long-ago day I first stumbled through my first 10K race in rural Illinois.

And by race, I mean “run-walk” for 6.2 miles with a determined grimace on my face. By the time the finish line came into view, I was limping from one telephone pole to the next, hobbled by blisters and longing for the shade of a nearby cornfield.

Back then, my go-to running gear was a primitive pair of polyester shorts topped by a cotton tee. Socks were 100% cotton, and shoes were all-purpose “tennis shoes.” For warm-ups, I’d pull on a bulky blue sweatshirt.

Ta-dah!

No wonder the only runners I outpaced that race day were two pre-pubescent kids—the sole competition in my under-represented age group.

Running clothes and shoes have also come a long way. Wondering where to start? If you’re new to the sport, learn from my mistakes. Or, if you’re a seasoned veteran, take note and see if you agree (feel free to add your own tips in the comments below).

Without further ado, here are four tips to find the best running shoes and clothing:

  1. Cotton = misery. Cotton socks, with their tendency to soak up sweat and turn soggy, are almost guaranteed to breed blisters. Give yourself a break and choose socks with a high synthetic or wool content. I’m a fan of  Wigwam brand—and not just because it’s made in Wisconsin (though I do love Wisconsin). A good friend won’t wear anything but Icebreaker. It really doesn’t matter what sock you wear so long as it isn’t cotton..
  2. Plant your feet in reality. Minimalist running shoes aren’t for everyone. Look past the labels and get to know your feet before you make a purchase. Over-pronator? Supinator? Get educated about your gait with help from a running shop. Or, use this fun online tool from Mizuno.
  3. Consider a compromise. Found the supportive, workaday shoe you need, but still pining for a sleeker, sportier model? Try this tip: Train in a shoe with medium-to-high cushion, such as the venerable Asics GT-2000 or its cousin, the Brooks Adrenaline. On race day, switch to a lighter shoe for an extra burst of speed.
  4. Layers, layers, layers. Leave the hoodie at home and choose synthetic running clothing that wicks away sweat. Underwear is optional. (Really.) And don’t over-dress: you’ll heat up faster than you think, even in winter. Then, when those layers start stinking, reach for Nikwax BaseWash® or BaseFresh®.

Trust me—these tips will put you on the road to happier runs and better performance. (And fewer blisters.) Now take this advice and run with it!  —Kelly Huffman

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