So you’ve decided to start doing some running, set your sights on doing your first Parkrun, or you’ve decided to give a Couch to 5K plan a go. Now you’re wondering what you’re going to need (other than throwing on appropriate clothes and shoes and getting out there, or into the gym on one of the best treadmills).
The best advice is to keep things simple. You don’t need to spend loads of money on lots of new kit, but buying the right things can be beneficial when starting that running journey. The best running shoes, or best cheap running watches, and even a few extras like water bottles and running belts can help you commit to, and achieve, your 2024 running goals.
If you’re afraid of feeling like a novice, or you just want to make sure you have the kit to give you the best chances of achieving that goal of running that distance, we’ve compiled a list of things you should consider grabbing for your first 5km run.
Get some good running shoes
If you don’t have running shoes, a good pair of neutral shoes like the Saucony Axon 3 below should be your first port of call. If you really want to find the perfect shoe for you, you should get your gait analyzed in a running store if you can.
However, it's not essential, and a shoe like the Axon 3, Saucony Ride 15 or a cheap, comfortable pair of Asics Gel-Contend 8, which you can pick up for around $50 or £50 on Amazon, will be enough to see you through your first 5k challenge and beyond.
Saucony Axon 3
US: $100.00 at Saucony
UK: £109.99 at Saucony
Saucony makes fantastic running shoes, from carbon plate race shoes to options that go big on comfort and protection. The Axon 3 is the cheapest shoe in its collection and is a standout one that stands up against pricer shoes. It’s one shoe that can cover all of your runs, both slow and quick, gives you good cushioning to protect and offers a good bounce to make sure it’s an enjoyable time out there too.
Asics Gel Contend 8
US: $49.95 on Amazon
UK: £65 at ASICS
Like the Axon 3, you can find the Gel Contend 8 quite cheaply now, and this is another shoe that can handle all types of running paces. It wraps you up in a nice mesh upper and the midsole features GEL technology and AMPLIFOAM cushioning, which is designed for comfort and durability. A good budget pick.
Track your runs
Keeping track of your runs is a good way to mark your progress and while there are plenty of running phone apps that can do that job for you, strapping on a dedicated running watch or fitness tracker can make sure you get the most reliable data while also leaving your phone out of sight.
Garmin Forerunner 55
US: $199.99 at Amazon
UK: £135.74 at Amazon
The Garmin Forerunner 55 is Garmin’s entry-level watch that does now come in at much less than its launch price if you shop around, making it a solid option for new runners. It’s got a nice compact design, built-in GPS with the metrics that matter most, offers weeks of battery life and access to useful features like Garmin’s daily suggested workouts and access to Garmin Coach where Garmin can build you a 5K training plan that adapts based on your progress.
Wear a running belt
You could pack in a lot of the items you want to carry on a run in any spare pockets but investing in a running belt to drop your keys and phone into can reduce the chances of them jumping around and distracting you by placing them much closer to the body.
Running belts with zip pockets
US: SPIbelt large pocket: $26.99 at Amazon
UK: Kiprun running belt: £19.99 at Decathlon
This is a really good option if you want to carry water with you and don’t want it in your hand (more on that below). You can slip in 250ml soft flask-style bottles and there’s also ample room to just opt for one soft flask and stick your phone in and enjoy hands-free running where your essentials aren’t jumping around.
Carry a water bottle
Whether you’re heading out in warmer or cooler conditions, having a water bottle is a worthy addition. You could simply grab any old bottle to join you on those jaunts but it also might be worth investing in one that’s better suited to being on the move
High5 Run Bottle
US: $9.99 at Amazon
UK: £3.99 at Highfive
If you’re happy to carry that bottle in your hand, this 350ml bottle builds in the handle to make it more comfortable to run with than a standard bottle. It features a leak-proof top to make sure it’s not spilling that water and It’s easy to clean and also safe to stick in a dishwasher to get set for your next outing.
Higher State Soft Flask 125ml:
US: $3.99 at DesignRunning
UK: £3.99 at Sportshoes
If you’ve taken the advice above about picking up a running belt and don’t like the idea of having a bottle in hand, a soft flask is a nice alternative because that flexible body means you can stow it away. This is a 125ml capacity option, so it’s not massive, while the nozzle design is built to make sure it’s not leaking when it’s packed in a belt.
Ease up with a recovery tool
Running more regularly will ache. There’s no getting away from that. The more regularly you put in that time on the treadmill or down your local park, the more accustomed your body will be to the feeling of the sensation. It's good to have a foam roller in your armory to help deal with those running aches. For heavier duty muscle work, check out our best massage guns guide.
Grid foam roller
US: Triggerpoint grid roller: $31.44 at Amazon
UK: Megilo Grid Foam Roller: £12.99 at Amazon
Get a foam roller and prepare to put some time in with it. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but rolling over your muscle groups to help relieve knots is one of the simplest and most effective recovery tools to have at your disposal.
Grab some headphones
If you’re using an app like Couch to 5k to chart your progress or you think you’ll need some audio motivation (or distraction), invest in some headphones that are a better fit for being on the move. Sound quality is of course important, but you also want to consider how secure those headphones are going to sit once you start running. Also, look for something that offers some protection against sweat or getting caught in a downpour.
US: $129.95 at Amazon
UK: £129.95 at Amazon
If your fellow running friends haven’t told you about the best bone conduction headphones, then these are headphones built with runners firmly in mind. They use a neckband-style design, so wrap around the head to offer a typically more secure fit than most truly wireless earbuds. They also use bone conduction technology to deliver audio to your ears without blocking them up. This is ideal if you’re going to be running near busy places and if you’re going to be running solo and want a safer way to listen to your audio without entirely blocking out the world around you.
This article is part of TechRadar's Get Fit for '24 week of fitness content.
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Michael is a freelance journalist who has covered consumer technology for over a decade and specializes in wearable and fitness tech. Previously editor of Wareable, he also co-ran the features and reviews sections of T3, and has a long list of bylines in the world of consumer tech sites.
With a focus on fitness trackers, headphones, running wearables, phones, and tablet, he has written for numerous publications including Wired UK, GQ, Men's Fitness, BBC Science Focus, Metro and Stuff, and has appeared on the BBC Travel Show. Michael is a keen swimmer, a runner with a number of marathons under his belt, and is also the co-founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers.