If you have a spare day, you could sit around a table with a bunch of ultramarathoners to talk about the best kit to use and you would still never reach any conclusions. The debate around shoes, hydration packs and jackets rages on in the forums and Facebook groups of the running world and won’t ever conclude, but it has been a while since I’ve talked about the ultramarathon kit that I’m using these days so I thought it was time to talk about my current favourites. I use a lot of the same stuff as I have for years, as it just WORKS, so here’s a top-to-bottom audit of what I like to wear when I’m going long.
Early disclaimer: all of this kit has been bought off my own dime and chosen on its own merit. No affiliate links or brand partnerships here, as per usual.
I’m not a fan of caps or hats as I find they keep too much heat in, and peaked caps make me feel claustrophobic. I stick with what I’ve used for years and make a selection from my collection of Buffs. If the weather is dreadful I wear one folded around my ears and one around my neck as well – they really are excellent for plugging up gaps where cold air or rain can get in. I also have a polar buff which has a thick fleece section for sub-zero runs. You can get these at all outdoor shops and plenty of races give them away in goody bags
I don’t wear anything special on my upper body, and reply on my ever expanding collection of race t-shirts and vests to see my through my training weeks freshly. In winter, I usually layer up with a combination of vest, t-shirt, and long-sleeve top, with my favourite Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Top on top. This is a thick pullover with thermal fleece on the inside and a high neck to keep the wind out.
I have two jackets to choose from; a basic Ronhill showerproof thing which stuffs into a zipped elasticated pocket which can be worn around the waist or clipped onto a rucksack, or my more heavy duty Montane Minimus. This compacts down to a tiny pouch but offers much more resistance against the rain. These vary in price online up to £160 but I got mine for a deep discount at the ever reliable sportsshoes.com. It was this item that kept me mostly dry at the washout Glenmore 24 12 hour race, until it eventually gave up after hours of rain (unlike me!).
My preference is always to run in shorts or a skirt whenever I can, even if the weather is horrid. My favourite shorts for training in are Nike Rival 4″ shorts. I love the wide waist band and the fabric is really light so dries easily.
I had my reservations about running skirts at first as they seemed rather too stereotypically girly for how I usually like to look and feel whilst running, but when all things are considered they are supremely comfortable and you just cannot argue with that logic. I have two – I usually race in my my black Nike Set Point Tennis Skirt (seen above) as it goes with my club kit, but I also have a fushia/purple Nike Rival Stretch Woven Skirt which is very, very short and more suited to summer running.
In the worst of weather though, I will be persuaded to cover up and stick some running tights on. This winter I have been loving my latest purchase, a pair of Nike Legend 2.0 tights. I’m sorry that this is starting to sound like a Nike commercial, but they make really great products which not only survive ultras themselves, but the 100s of miles of training which go into getting to the start, which says a lot.
You may have noticed my rather ostentatious leg wear in a picture in last week’s training round-up. They may look a little ridiculous to some, but I love them. They are so comfortable and grip the leg lightly from top to bottom – no falling down whilst running and no baggy backside area. They have a high waist which grips well without the need for a drawstring, and the fabric is thick and soft. I’ve never really been a running tight fan, but these have me totally converted.
I’ve long been a fan of calf guards, especially Compressport. I switched to these from 2XU after trying them on at the Paris Marathon Expo and being impressed by their seamless comfort. I make no claims to any belief in the validity of the science claimed behind them, but my legs feel good in them during and after a run. I wear them inside out though, to avoid the big branding.
I started wearing Injinji toe socks last year after more horror between-toe blisters at the D33. I’ve not had any blisters like that since I started wearing them, so I will anxiously tread the start line this year in a pair and hope for the best. These are now the only socks I will run in.
Shoes….the big one! Since my return from Texas I have been doing my long runs in my new Hoka One One Stinson Evos. You all know about my ongoing foot issues, especially in longer ultras, so going down the Hoka route was pretty much my last resort. I was reluctant to get on the bandwagon without trying other things first – minimal trail shoes, Altras etc. but since these were on sale and I had room in my suitcase, they were purchased. I’m very happy with them! I’ve ran on road and trail and found the comfort underfoot to be supreme. 28 miles on Sunday was pain-free in my feet which is remarkable, so maybe I’ve found the answer to my problems. Time will tell of course; if the same thing happens at the Highland Fling then I will be buying shares in the company. I really like the colours of mine as they are a lot more subtle than some of the other designs. It helps that none of the women’s shoes fit me so I am wearing a men’s UK10.5.
I still use the same Camelbak Octane XCT which I got 3 years ago. It serves all my needs and I especially like the side pockets which have very easy access. I know the style these days is for race vests with removable bottles on the front, but I am yet to find a designer which has made one designed for women with a larger chest. I know there are female-specific designs out there, but when anything is designed for women, it is automatically assumed that everyone is the same petite size, both in height and girth. Spoiler alert: we’re not. This one is totally adjustable and has never caused me any problems, so I will use it until it falls apart.
I think that’s just about it – that is my ultra kit from top to toe and what I’ll be wearing out on the trails this Spring. Did I miss anything? What do you think? I’m happy to answer any and all questions – except for suggestions for what you should wear! I got this list together by trial and error and figuring it out for myself, and you should do the same. If anything, it gives you a cracking excuse to buy lots of kit… 🙂