*Original post updated 2019*

Whether you’re running the OrthoCarolina 10k or 5k this August or just interested in upping your personal running routine, the right running gear can shave precious seconds off of your pace. Sure a poor craftsman blames his tools and all that jazz, but those “tools” can make a huge difference in the running world. In this case, the “tools” are socks and headphones, but tools nonetheless. Here are a few of my gym bag essentials and the reasons I love them:

Some great-fitting running shoes – One of the most common questions for running newcomers and veterans alike is “What kind of shoes should I be wearing.” Like many other runners out there, I thoroughly jacked my feet up running in the wrong shoes. Just don’t Do It. An OrthoCarolina PT gets this question from his patients often. “Air pockets. Over pronation. Under pronation. Minimalist, Shock absorption. Midfoot. Heel strike. All of these terms companies use to get you in their product.” His expert advice?: “Find a pair that works. Don’t buy the cheapest. Don’t buy the most expensive.” Every runner is different and finding that Cinderella-fit is elusive but rewarding. I am a Saucony and Brooks loyal, but know that those brands and the styles I prefer aren’t the best choice for everyone. For me, they work great and I buy them two at a time and rotate shoes on alternating run days.

Balega Hidden Comfort Socks – From my days in the dance studio, to sky-high heels, and (of course) distance running, my poor feet have been through the wringer. I use good ol’ paper first aid tape to avoid blisters, but these socks make that practice almost unnecessary. They’re available locally if you’re not an online shopper- I got mine from Run For Your Life on Kings Drive. The importance of thread count and benefits of wearing the right socks for your shoes and distance is driven home by their large selection of this often overlooked piece of gear.

2XU Women’s Compression Performance Run Socks – Not in the least bit attractive- let’s just get that out of the way right out of the gate- but these socks help to keep your legs fresh even deep into your long runs. Although I don’t use compression socks for every run, I have noticed that they do give you extra “oomph” with each strike of the pavement. I love these 2XU socks but also own the Mojo Coolmax Recovery & Performance Sports Compression Socks. Notice the title- these bad boys can be used for recovery as well. Overall, the idea of compression products is to keep your blood flowing during physical activity and prevent swelling in your extremities.

JayBird BBX1MB BlueBuds X Sport Bluetooth Headphones – Bluetooth headphones can get pretty pricey. Ever the deal-hunter, I found this discontinued model of a reputable brand for a steal. They stay secure, have a volume control toggle on the chord, and enough battery life to last me through a half marathon and then some! With all headphones, however, make sure that the seal isn’t so good that you can’t hear your surroundings. Especially running in a busy city like Charlotte, it’s important to be aware of what is around you at all times. Don’t forget a killer playlist! There are great ones ready to go on Spotify and apps like Nike Run Club.

Violet Love Headband – Admittedly, I have a personal allegiance to this brand. Rebecca Michaels left her job as a Civil Engineer to start Violet Love, a vegan headband brand made in LA. Michael’s names her styles after famous ladies (the Natalie is named after Natalie Wood). I love running in these headbands- they keep my hair tame and the sweat out of my eyes.

Cooling Towel – soak these babies in water and prepare to be amazed by their seemingly magical powers. This version comes with a nifty bag/carbineer combo so you can use one now and later.

Fit Spirit Foam Rollers – One of my favorite post-run rituals is to lay out my yoga mat, turn on a vintage episode of The Office, grab a snack and some water and foam roll as I stretch. This model has a nifty smaller roller that easily stores inside of his big brother and helps you to really dig into your tightest muscle groups.

Pro Tec Roller Massager – Foam rolling is amazing, but this little torture device is otherworldly. The ridges give you variation to stretch out your muscles in a way you wouldn’t be able to without an aid. During especially tough training periods, you can find my roller tucked in my work bag, on my passenger seat, or otherwise by my side with no shame to be found.

Kinesiology Tape – This stuff looks a little wacky (especially if you unnecessary over-do it), but fitness folks swear by it. Speak with your doctor or PT about how to best use this project for your unique needs.

What are your training and race day must-haves? Let us know in the comments and remember to tag @ScoopCharlotte in your Instagram running adventures. Happy training!