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Editors’ Choice: This is Our Favorite Running Gear of 2021

Superlight split shorts, fan-favorite shoes, leggings made for your period, and more: this is the best gear of the season.


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Look good, feel good, run good—right? We know that good gear matters. We also know it can be pricey. That’s why we tested the latest shoes, apparel, and accessories to find the most worthwhile investments on the market right now. Here are our top choices for the best running gear this year.

 

Photo: Photo Illustration by Erin Douglas

Editors’ Choice: Running Watches

Whether you want to log your long miles over several days or a wearable that tracks a little bit of everything, there’s a watch for every kind of workout. These are the ones worth the money.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music | $350

Garmin Forerunner smartwatch

The perfect sweet spot of tech essentials (great display, battery life, and stats), and it stores your music!

Coros Pace 2 | $200

Coros Pace 2 smartwatch

It’s the lightest, smallest exercise watch on the market, with big features and killer battery life.

Suunto 7 | $500

Suunto 7 smartwatch

The large, beautiful touch screen and fantastic offline maps make this a great training partner for off-road runners.

Apple Watch 6 | $400

Series 6 Apple Watch smartwatch

It’s admittedly not our favorite in terms of battery life, but the new ECG and heart-rate features, along with Apple Fitness+, meant we kept putting it back on.

Polar Grit X | $430

Polar Grit X smartwatch

A touchscreen smartwatch with excellent training and recovery functions, like on-wrist running power and sleep tracking.

Fitbit Sense | $300

Fitbit Sense smartwatch

This clutch lifestyle smartwatch has the world’s first EDA sensor to help manage stress, plus on-wrist skin temperature sensor and a six-day-plus battery life (on a 12-minute charge!).

 

Editor’s Choice: Racing Shoes

If you’re eyeing a new PR, these are the five best shoes to consider picking up; they’re the models we’d save for our fast tempo and interval workouts and race day.

Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 | $250

Grey and neon yellow Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 running shoe

Among the many super shoes we’ve tested, the Hyperion Elite 2 felt the most “normal,” but still enables faster times than conventional racers, with what seems like a similar effort. Brooks released the Elite 2, with an improved, more durable foam, in time for Des Linden to wear in the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, where she was 11 seconds away from the final qualifying spot. This new version has a slightly different midsole foam and shape, giving it a noticeably springier feel than the original. Our wear-testers found that the nitrogen-infused DNA Flash cushioning dampens impact forces and smooths the ride without excessive squishing or bouncing. Plus, the shoe’s moderate, unobtrusive rocker speeds stride cadence along without rearranging it. The upper is smooth, simple and effective, ensuring a snug, comfortable, true-to-size fit.

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro | $200

Neon pink Adidas Adizero Adios Pro running shoe

Adidas’ Adizero Adios Pro, a late entry to the super shoe market, got it right for many runners. Although not quite as light as some of its contemporaries, it serves up a well-cushioned, slightly bouncy, efficient ride. With the new, thick and bouncy Lightstrike midsole foam, the Adizero Pro’s far-forward rocker pushes off the big toe, maximizing the rebound property of the foam as a true go-fast shoe that is impressive in its ability to help you turnover your gait for optimal efficiency and lift-off power. It feels best when staying forward-balanced over the foot with a quick cadence, but the Adios Pro is still comfortable (just not as energetic) at slower paces. The upper is surprisingly generous for adidas, while holding the foot securely as befits a racer.

HOKA Carbon X2 | $180

Navy blue HOKA Carbon X2 running shoe

If you are super-shoe curious but don’t want to commit to the stiffness of most carbon-fiber-enhanced racers, HOKA’s Carbon X2 is a friendlier alternative that appeals to mid- and rear-foot strikers and is idea for going long. The second round incorporates a lighter, softer foam midsole, evening out the gait cycle with a wider forefoot and modified carbon fiber plate located closer to the ground for a smoother ride. The engineered mesh upper is more supple and breathable with what our testers called a “generous” fit. The ride hits the sweet spot between cushioning and responsive rebound; between “snappy” and “absorbing.”

Skechers Go Run Razor + | $135

Sketchers Go Run Razor+ women's

The Razor+ runs light and low for close-to-the-ground sensation that feels the same on the first step of a run—regardless of distance—as it does the last. That is because the Hyperburst midsole material is indestructible, with just enough deflection to cushion before bouncing back identically over hundreds of miles. And Skechers engineered it with just the right stack height so the energy-returning material smooshes low enough that it comes close to bottoming out before bouncing back, producing a connected, minimalist feel that makes for great push-off and cornering. You can fly comfortably in this shoe and it encourages you to do so. 

The pliable ripstop mesh upper is highly breathable with little support and just enough hold that it didn’t feel flimsy. The material is flexible enough to accommodate wider feet but also allows the foot to move around a bit—so much so that those who feel the need for support or motion control will likely find the Razor+’s hold insecure. The Goodyear rubber overlays in the outsole add a welcome level of durability in an effort to match the longevity of the indefatigable midsole.

Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 | $224

Light green and blue Nike Vaporfly NEXT% 2 running shoe

There’s a reason you’re seeing a ton of the swoosh at start lines: Nike has been leading the development of these super shoes, providing a new way for the shoe and the athlete to share the workload. Originally designed as a marathon-specific racing innovation, this update is now an all-around racing workhorse.

Editor’s Choice: Training Shoes

These are our favorites to rack up the day-in-day-out miles, built with plenty of comfort and durability to help us go the distance.

Asics GEL-Nimbus Lite 2 | $150

Black and blue Asics Gel Nimbus Lite 2 running shoe

This long-distance neutral shoe balances lightness in weight, comfort in fit and seamless performance that helps rack up seemingly effortless miles. The Nimbus Lite stuck with FLYTEFOAM midsole and eco-friendly upper materials, but the shoe was re-engineered to make it leaner and meaner, with the Lite 2 being more flexible and performance-oriented than the original. Asics accomplished that by sculpting the midsole foam to improve the ride and flexibility with a flared rearfoot and reshaped platform, based on biometric testing. The result is excellent cushioning that isn’t overly absorbent, with bounce back-energy return from the Flytefoam and proprioceptive, confidence-building ground feel. Asics also changed the midfoot designs and stack heights to be gender specific, with a focus on lighter weight for the women’s shoe, with a higher heel-toe drop.

Altra Rivera | $130

Turquoise Altra Rivera running shoe

Altra’s new shoe puts a welcome twist to minimalism, blending resilient cushioning with responsive performance and a real feel for the ground without subjecting the foot or body to the drubbing that can be the sharp end of the “natural running” experience. The smooth upper, low profile and soft-yet-highly-elastic AltraEGO midsole foam make for smooth, stable and balanced transitions and roll-through. The Rivera is versatile for efficient runners and serves well for long runs and as a speedy race flat. The simple engineered mesh keeps the upper light and breathable and the expansive forefoot allows for wide feet and toe splay while the heel is engineered to accommodate the natural flexibility of the rearfoot.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 | $130

Multi-colored Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 running shoe

Topo’s update to third Ultrafly was dramatic and worthy of applause. The upper now uses engineered mesh for greater comfort, security and stability, and the new Zip Foam midsole is more energetic, producing a not-too-soft, not-too-firm sweet spot between cushioning and ground feel. Further, the external heel counter and low, long, firmer-density medial post provide a touch of guidance and stability without interfering with the natural ride encouraged by the low drop, flexible forefoot and wide toe box that allows for splay or high-volume feet. Given all those positive changes, the Ultrafly 3 makes for a “go to” trainer for runners of all types.

New Balance 1080v11 | $150

Orange and pink New Balance1080 v11 running shoe

New Balance didn’t alter much of the 1080’s cushy ride from V10 to v11, with mostly a retooled upper that uses laser patterning and engineered Hypoknit fabric for a snug yet flexible stretch-to-fit hold that encompasses the foot without constriction for a comfortable, soft, breathable and supportive fit. This is an excellent shoe for cruiser miles sans pounding thanks to the Fresh Foam cushioning, blown rubber outsole and rockered design. Testers found these shoes provided a plush coax to get you to enjoy running, even when you aren’t feeling it, and attributed that mainly to the immediate “ah” comfort of the step-in feeling, which experienced feet said is one of the best in the industry. 

Saucony Freedom 4 | $150

Neon yellow Saucony Freedom running shoe

The Freedom 4 has an incredible new feel to it, courtesy of PWRRUN PB, Saucony’s lighter, more energy-efficient cushioning midsole compound, the same material the company uses on its high-end racing shoes. With its low profile, the Freedom 4 feels surprisingly stable, enough so that it handles all surfaces with aplomb. The neutral performance connects with the ground in a firm yet comfortable manner, allowing for, even encouraging, dig-deep effort. The overall impression is smooth and simple performance as the transition flows evenly and the upper is clean, flexible, comfortable, and snuggly form-fitting.

Editor’s Choice: Sports Bras

These 10 sports bras ensure that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or convenience, no matter your cup size.

Oiselle Pockito Sports Bra | $58

Purple and yellow Oiselle Pockito Bra

Wait, a super stylish, supportive, AND functional sports bra? With a large center pocket smack in front and two side mesh options under the arms, you’ll want all your sports bras to have such hidden storage gems.

Champion Racerback Compression Bra | $30

Tie-dye blue and green Champion Racerback Compression sports bra

The classic shape with a trendy tie-dye twist. Moderate sleek support with a super-soft band is soft (read: it won’t cause digging or irritation to the skin).

Kari Traa Ness Sports Bra | $40

Neon yellow Kari Traa Ness Sports Bra

A seamless, longer line bra means a smooth and chafe-free feel no matter how many miles you rack up. The minimal construction, with mapped-out ventilation, keeps you cool while supporting you and your natural shape.

Puma Forever Luxe Training Sports Bra | $60

Black Puma Forever Luxe Training Sports Bra

Premium fabrics combine with high-tech features to create a stand-out pull-over sports bra. The wide ribbed band below the breast offers support and flexibility.

All In Motion High Support Zip-front Bra | $24

Orange All In Motion High Support Zip-front Bra

Nothing like the sweet relief of a zip front closure bra after a super sweat-filled run. Another convenience, the price. All the support and wicking capabilities are wrapped up in a high-impact bra with an affordable price tag.

Lululemon Enlite Bra | $98

Light blue Lululemon Enlite Bra Weave

This bra is pretty revolutionary. Rarely do you get to keep your natural shape and get the support you need for a rigorous run, but you can count on both with this bra. Great for A-E with a bond-ed underwire that won’t dig or ride up. (Moms-to-be also names this as one of their favs.)

Reebok Pure Move Bra | $60

Black Reebok Pure Move Bra with bright orange lining

A sports bra shouldn’t have a mind of its own, but many, unfortunately, do. The Pure Move reacts to your body with personalized and technical support, no matter if you are sprinting or stretching.

Wacoal Sports Underwire Bra | $68

Coral pink Wacoal Sports Underwire Bra

Ladies who are larger up top run in something that might surprise ladies who are under a C-cup: an underwire bra. This high-impact bra will last for miles. Movement is at a minimum, and the smooth fabric will make it hard for you not to keep it on all day.

Brooks Drive Convertible Sports Bra | $55

Geometric striped Brooks Drive Convertible Sports Bra

A new style from one of the best sports bra makers absorbs shock without a built-in cup. So you get the help with a minimal shape. With adjustable straps that go from scoop to racer, this is certainly worth adding to your rotation.

Cadenshae Fit2feed Maternity Bra | $55

Black Cadenshae Fit2feed Maternity Bra

New mothers will quickly find that their breasts might need different support post-baby. This bra doesn’t only offer you a discrete way to feed your baby, but it’s comfortable and can withstand intense runs.

Editors’ Choice: Best Tank Tops

Free the underarms with the best of the warm-weather running tops. These are lightweight, limit distractions, and won’t slow you down.

Norrøna Singlet | $49

Yellow Norrona Singlet tank top

This tank top gets its sleek look from laminated seams, racerback shape, and a slightly longer cut. The design also eliminates bulk and chafing, two of the biggest negatives for running tops.

Under Armour Breeze Run Tank | $55

Black camo Under Armour Breeze Run Tank tank top

This halter-cut racerback is tough in all the right ways: a cool print, durable fabric, and a shape that offers a full range of motion. Bonus: Looks great at a post-run brunch.

Craft Pro Hyperent Singlet | $50

Pink Craft Pro Hypervent Singlet tank top

For your most intense workouts on the hottest days, this tank will be your uniform. Exceptional ventilation keeps you cool and dry, while taped and flat seams in all the rub points eliminate chafing and irritation.

Asics Sakura Tank | $30

Mint green Asics Sakura tank top

The look and fit of a muscle T drew us in. The relaxed, roomy feel plus all the moisture management qualities you expect from a high-performance top kept us reaching for this top all spring long.

Headsweats Berries Singlet | $20

Pink to purple gradient Headsweats Berries Singlet tank top

We are pretty excited that one of our favorite hat companies is expanding into activewear. This tank mirrors the brand’s caps in its lightweight design, recycled bottle fabrication, and fun, bright color and print options.

Editors’ Choice: Best Layering Tops

Unpredictable weather is the name of the game during spring. Having the right layers can make a big impact on your comfort, and ultimately, your workout performance.

Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody | $229

Mustard yellow Arc’teryx Atom SL hoodie

When the rain just won’t quit, you need a water-resistant jacket that keeps you dry without weighing you down. This one also delivers a nice touch of insulation for extra warmth when the temps drop.

Nathan Sports Stealth Jacket | $85

White Nathan Sports Stealth jacket

Noisy jackets, peace out. You’ll get minimal swish in this uber-light, packable windbreaker. (Bonus: A ponytail port in the hood!)

Run Rabbit EZ Long Sleeve Tee | $50

rabbit women's long sleeve EZ tee

For those days when there is just a slight chill in the air, this super-soft, quick-drying long sleeve has a tailored look with an unrestrictive fit.

Cadenshae Breastfeeding Hoodie | $70

Sage green Cadenshae Breastfeeding hoodie

A cozy sweatshirt with subtle, yet easy, access for breastfeeding? Talk about genius. No wonder busy runner moms are such a fan of this brand.

Editors’ Choice: Running Shorts

These five shorts are made to move fast.

Saucony Split Second 2.5″ Short | $40

Plum and pink shorts

Minimalist design made for reaching top speed keeps distractions to a minimum. A 2.5-inch inseam and elastic midrise waist offer the coverage you need. Made with recycled poly, so you’ll get extra points for sustainability.

Korsa Embrace 5″ Short | $48

Multicolored shorts

Some activewear sounds too good to be true but, this is the real deal. These shorts have it all; four pockets to store essentials, a slim waistband with hidden elastic to secure your fit, a built-in bikini brief liner, and breathable, stretchy, antimicrobial wicking fabric. Quickly to become one of your new go-to running pieces.

Icebreaker Impulse Running Shorts | $80

Black shorts

These shorts combine merino wool and Tencel to create a lightweight, silky short. Also included, the brand’s Cool-Lite technology to wick moisture and keep you dry in any condition.

The North Face Flight Stridelight Short | $89

Bright orange shorts

This bottom could be the lightest piece of activewear we have ever touched. A compression liner adds some support and coverage, while vents at key heat zones and FlashDry fabric will keep you cool and dry.

Craft PRO Hypervent 2-in-1 Skirt | $45

Black and white skort

Don’t judge this skirt by its appearance: It’s designed for intense summer workouts. An inner mesh liner is cooling, while the outer fabric is soft and made from recycled material that has stretch. Perfect for those who want some additional coverage or to add a bit more style to their activewear wardrobe.

Photo: Photo Illustration by Erin Douglas

Editors’ Choice: Best Leggings and Pants

If you prefer a longer inseam, these five styles are the go-tos in quality.

Brooks Shakeout Pant | $80

Loose black pants

These are rumored to be Linden’s favorite of running pants, and she really might be on to something. This pair was super comfortable during easy miles on brisk mornings. Zippers at the ankle keep these easy to put on and remove.

Lululemon Align Leggings | $98

Blue-gray women's running tights

These buttery soft and stretchy leggings are beloved by expectant mothers. (Our resident runner mom suggests if you size up, these can last you the entire nine months.) Use them postpartum to ease back into your routine with long walks or yoga.

Old Navy Elevate 7/8-Length Leggings | $25

Old Navy black camo leggings

Proving “affordable” doesn’t mean it can’t perform. The wide, high-rise waistband stays put while the super soft, breathable compression stays comfy for miles and miles.

Tracksmith Session Tights | $98

Navy Blue running tights

A new tight from one of our favorite running brands uses Italian fabrics that are soft yet supportive. Its sleek, minimal design is also functional, with snug side and back pockets that limit bouncing and distractions.

Thinx Leggings | $95

Green Thinx leggings

Our time of the month can slow us down in more ways than one. New from the company that created the period panty are leggings with an absorbent gusset that can hold what three regular tampons can withstand. Full length and high-waisted, there’s even a front pocket for heating pads. Read our editor’s in-depth review of what it’s like running in Thinx leggings.

Editors’ Choice: Ultimate Running Socks

If you’re investing in good shoes, your feet will thank you if you choose high-quality socks, too.

Rnnr Marathon Socks | $18

Rainbow-colored sock

These socks have a trendy pattern and length, but they can withstand your grittiest runs: We tested them through mud, water, and sand. A cushioned footbed with arch support and no-slip technology keeps your feet secure and blister-free.

Swiftwick Aspire Four Socks | $18

Neon yellow sock

From the road to the trail, this compression sock supports muscles and decreases fatigue. The thin silhouette and unobtrusive feel, especially on long and hot sweaty runs, will make you want to stay out longer and run faster.

Smartwool Women’s PhD Run Ultra Light Micro Socks | $16.95

Teal and pink low-cut socks

For runners who like barely there socks, these micro anklets are now new and improved. The technology built into the wool makes them more durable, reducing toe tear.

Comrad Knee-High Compression Socks | $29

Beige and white-striped knee socks

For those recovery days, these knee-high, medical-grade compression socks can help increase blood flow and reduce soreness so you can bounce back even stronger in your next workout.

Bombas Women’s Performance Running Ankle Socks | $16

Purple and plum patterned low-cut socks

Is this a fan favorite because of the Hex Tec construction of strategic zone cushioning? Or is it the lightweight composition built for runners? Or is it that with each pair you purchase, they donate a pair to someone in need? We say all three.

Editors’ Choice: Running Accessories You Need

These extras have serious impact on running comfort and performance, with all the perks you need and none you don’t.

Salomon Sense Pro 5  | $160

the salomon women's sense pro 5 hydration pack in black

Trail runners and marathoners will appreciate this upgraded vest now even more comfortable with no friction points and allowing for even faster access to all the pouches and pockets. Specifically made for a woman, with more stretch in the chest, lower pockets, and mesh for sweat release.

Osprey Dyna Handheld with Soft Flask | $30Osprey running flask

For hydrating on the go, this new handheld fits comfortably in your palm (you’ll probably forget you’re even carrying it), but the insulated soft flask ensures your water won’t warm up as you do.

Kane The Revive Shoe | $65

Kane's revive shoe in seafoam green

Not just another recovery shoe, this is a data-driven clog is designed to stimulate muscle recovery and keep fatigue at bay. Deep cushioning and an energy return that reduces stresses on the foot and legs have us sold, as does the pretty sea green shade. The Kickstarter-backed company starts shipping shoes in June.

Buff Pack Run Cap | $30

running cap from Buff in a pink design

The right cap can make the run, and this one is feather-weight and does an excellent job of keeping the sun out of your eyes and your ponytail bouncing. Packs down small so you can take it with you on the go.