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Essential Items Recommended By The 50 Best Running Stores

Besides shoes, what else do runners need most?

Top retailers offer suggestions for essential items for runners.

Besides running shoes, what is the most essential item that every runner should have? We asked the owners of the 50 Best Running Stores in America to weigh in. You might be surprised at some of the answers.

Kris Hartner, Naperville Running Company, Naperville, Ill.
“A goal. Shoes are the key piece of equipment, other items like socks and insoles are tech shorts make things more enjoyable, but having a goal is what will get people out the door every day. There is nothing like the fear of being unprepared for an event that gets me out of bed and on the road.”

Eric Bartlett, The Run Around in Joplin, Mo.
“Nutrition advice. A lot of people are unaware that the things they are eating can affect the way they are running. We always ask about current diet planning and where they want their running to go. We are very careful with this subject, but try to offer key nutrition advice.”

Blaine Lewis, Fleet Feet Roanoke, Va.
“In our opinion, there is not just one essential item besides shoes that every runner should have. In our fit process we recommend good moisture-wicking socks and many times a premium insole which together with the shoes is the entire footwear solution. Beyond that it becomes a very individual situation based on our initial interview. If they are female, a properly fitted sports bra is an essential item. If they have injuries or specific problems, a massage tool or compression item can be an essential item to that runner. If they are a distance runner, hydration and nutrition products will be essential items.”

Matt Helbig, Big River Running, St. Louis, Mo.
“A support group. Whether it’s a friend, spouse, running or walking group, or a more formal training team, having an individual or group that shares your fitness goals and act as motivators are essential to being a successful runner regardless of when you started running or how fast you are.”

Brian Nasuta, Charm City Run, Timonium, Md.
“Aside from the obvious right shoes and socks, the next critical item is the perfect running shorts. Finding your favorite brand short and length can keep you feeling comfortable for miles. Swapping out those old lacrosse, soccer, or gym shorts can make a difference during your run.”


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David Eenigenburg, Fleet Feet Sports, Schererville, Ind.
“A properly fitting sports bra for women and moisture-wicking apparel for everyone.”

Mike Shuman, Shu’s Idaho Running Co., Boise, Idaho
“A good pair of wicking socks. Our feet like to breath just like the rest of our body does. We feel socks are more essential than other items because our feet can get so sweaty inside of our shoes.  As a beginner runner, good shoes and good socks are a great start and you build from there when you can.”

Mike Cosentino, Big Peach Running, Atlanta
“Great socks are essential. Putting on the perfect sock-shoe combination is foreplay to a wonderful run.”

Garry Gribble, Garry Gribble Running Sports, Kansas City, Mo.
“For women a properly fitting sports bra and for men good support in their running shorts.”

Eric Johnson, UltraMax, Columbia, Mo.
“We feel the right apparel (top, bottom and socks) are the next most important item that an athlete needs. Running should be fun, and it’s no fun if you are hot, cold, wet or chafed.”

Nick Pigg, Go Outside and Play Running Co., Galesburg, Ill.
“Socks that have extreme moisture wicking capabilities and a good fit in the midfoot, toe and heel. It’s important to explain all of the benefits to the customer and to let them try on samples to get a fit. We also recommend a hydration device, such as a handheld, belt or hydration pack. This is often overlooked by people because they say, ‘I don’t run more than 5 miles. I don’t need to carry a drink.’ The average person sweats out 1.8 liters per hour of activity. Hydrating properly is a very real and an important part of running and walking.”

Owen Shott, Jacksonville Running Co., Jacksonville, Fla.
“Trigger Point Therapy products are the most essential item we carry. It enables us to tell the whole story and work with the guest and explain shoes don’t fix everything. Just as new tires doesn’t always make your car run smoothly, shoes are not the complete answer. Sometime you need to get the alignment checked too and TP helps with that.”

Rich Wills, FITNiche, Lakeland, Fla.
“It’s the item we can’t sell, but that we can build: encouragement and belief.  As for tangible items, sports bras for the ladies and Nip Guards for the guys once it gets cold.”

Burke Beck, Red Coyote Running, Oklahoma City, Okla.
“A Red Coyote running shirt.”

Nathan Hohenstein, Tortoise and Hare, Glendale, Ariz.
“After footwear, we feel that socks are probably the single most-overlooked opportunity to positively impact our customers. We want our customers to truly differentiate and appreciate the difference between cotton and technical fibers. So now no matter what socks the customer brings with him to try on shoes, we have them test a minimum of three different styles of technical running socks to help them focus on better feeling and better performing products.”

Mel Diab, Running for Kicks, Palos Heights, Ill.
“After shoes comes a meaningful training program. Training goals are always discussed with runners who come to our store for shoes. Not only do we provide a variety of programs free of charge, we also advise on adjustments to programs, nutrition and hydration. We pride ourselves in helping our runners gain confidence, endurance, strength, speed and whatever else their training needs may be.”

Josh Levinson, Charm City Run, Timonium, Md.
“Chafing can ruin anyone’s good day. Assuming you have performance apparel the next most important thing is an anti-chafing plan. Bodyglide, Sportshield and NiPGuards for men only. Chafing can make you miserable and put all that good planning to waste. Anti-chafing sticks are also great for your feet for long runs and running in humidity.”