Being new to any sport can be intimidating. There is typically a lot to learn, from the new lingo (what is a Fartlek and can I say that word in public?) to the proper way to train (wait, what does LSD stand for?--oh phew, Long Slow Distance...), to the new gear. While acquiring proper terminology and training comes after spending time in the sport, you can't even begin to engage in any new sport without the proper gear. You can't get into swimming without goggles and a bathing suit, cycling without a bike or helmet, and running without a number of essential items. Read below to learn how to be a “runner”.
I'm sure it goes without saying that you cannot start running without shoes, however, it's not that simple. The key to long term, injury free running is the proper running shoe. As a runner, it is no longer a matter of picking out the prettiest or coolest running shoe. To be a full-fledged runner you need to go to a specialty running store and get properly fitted for shoes based on your running gait, foot type, pronation, etc. The salesperson at the store will either watch you walk in the store or videotape you running on a treadmill and then determine what type of shoe is right for you. They will also look at the wear pattern on your current pair of running shoes, so make sure to bring in your old shoes when you go shopping. After they figure out the type of shoe you will need, they'll bring out several shoes that are appropriate for you. Not necessarily the one with the coolest color. Not necessarily the one that matches your outfit. However, you will get the shoe that will keep you injury free.
Running in the right clothing is also important. Gone are the days of cotton t-shirts and socks. Luckily the running community has advanced to dry-fit shirts and socks that help prevent blisters rather than causing them. When I really got in to running and triathlons about 10 years ago, I discovered Feetures running socks and have not tried another pair since then. They are seam free with just the right amount of cushioning that I can wear them for short runs or long runs, in the heat of summer or the chilly temps of winter. I absolutely love them.
Other clothing to consider as you get in to running, is comfortable running shorts, tights, or running skirts. Not everyone will like the same brands but definitely get recommendations from fellow runners. I recently discovered Skirt Sports running skirts and have fallen in love. They are comfy, don't cause chafing, and have a bunch of hidden pockets for my nutrition. And finally, if you are a woman, the right running bra is absolutely essential. Many running stores will help fit you for the right running bra. Choose one that provides support, without cutting off your ability to breathe! You also want to find one that doesn't chafe you. I had a really hard time finding the right one, but have recently discovered Under Armour HeatGear bras.
Carrying some type of identification on any run is definitely an essential running item. Unfortunately we never know when something bad might happen to us. It's a rather sobering and depressing thought, but it's better to be safe than sorry. I use RoadID as my go to identification. This company provides wristbands, shoe pods, and ankle bands and the information on the bands includes your name, emergency contact, insurance information, etc. It's pretty self explanatory why this is important.
Some people might argue that a running watch is not 'essential' running gear, and you can certainly run without a watch. However, at the very basic level of knowing how long you were out running to the more advanced, how far and how fast you were running, a running watch can be necessary item. A simple Timex watch or any brand with a stop watch function can help measure time, while a GPS watch such as Garmin will tell you pace and distance. If you don't want to buy a watch, there are many apps available for smartphones that will also track pace and distance, such as RunKeeper, MapMyRun, and Strava.
If you are going to get into long distance running there are several more essential items to consider, especially as summer approaches. A hydration belt or handheld water bottle is key to staying properly hydrated. I have a Nathan hydration belt that holds two 10 oz water bottles in addition to a pocket for nutrition, keys, or whatever else you might want to carry. However, don't weigh yourself down carrying too much....remember it's running 'essentials' not running with 'everything I might want on my run'. I also have a handheld water bottle for those times I don't feel like wearing a belt. Even on my shorter runs or during a race I typically use a SPIBelt (stand for “small personal item”) to hold my phone, money, or a gel or two.
Phew, it seems like there is a lot of 'essential' gear for running, but remember running is fun! Start with shoes, then move to clothing and then decide what you will need for your running. Most of all enjoy the freedom and sense of accomplishment you get from running.