The Ultimate Half Marathon Gear Checklist of 2023

The clothing, shoes, and gear you need to run 13.1 miles.

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Ultimate Half Marathon Gear Checklist of 2023

Shape / Marcus Millan

For many runners, the first big milestone race on their list is a half marathon. It’s just long enough to require a training plan, but not so long as to completely upend your schedule. Signing up for a race (like the Shape + Health Women’s Half Marathon taking place this April in NYC) is step one. Then comes picking a training plan for beginners and maybe even adding in some additional strength training for runners. However, part of the process that’s crucial to your success and often isn’t covered as in-depth is the gear required to train and cross the finish line. 

The joke about running being an inexpensive sport can be true—when you’re just starting out, a good pair of shoes is all you need—but as mileage rises to the double digits, the clothes and gear really matter. A watch that can’t accurately track pace, leggings that slide down with each step, or sneakers that cause blisters swiftly take a run to disaster territory. 

This guide is fully comprehensive—everything from the must-have running apparel to the nice-to-have running tech—that will get you through training and recovery for a half marathon. We also answer your pressing race day questions, such as what to wear and bring to a half marathon, as well as where do you put your phone? 

These are our recommendations for your half marathon gear checklist.

Half Marathon Gear Checklist 

Here’s what you need to train for and run a half marathon with our top pick for each item. Use this list as a guide to make sure you are prepared, then read more about each item below. 

Running Clothes & Shoes 

Running Training Gear

Long Distance Shoes

A long distance race requires a lot of hours on your feet. The running shoes that are right for you can help protect muscles and joints, avoid blisters and chafing, as well as provide comfort and support. Now, the best option to find your long-distance running shoes is to visit a shoe retailer, such as Fleet Feet, where they can complete a customized reading via pressure plate reading and gait analysis to help you find your perfect fit. “Some people’s feet are kind of flat, while others have higher arches. Oftentimes one foot is slightly larger than the other. It’s good to know those things before making a purchase,” says Caroline Bell, Content Marketing Specialist and head shoe reviewer at Fleet Feet. “It's also good to know that no matter the shape of your feet, there is a shoe out there for you.” If a customized experience isn’t in the cards for you, we have recommendations based on some common concerns. 

You may want to also consider having two pairs of running shoes that you can alternate each day of your training. “Different shoes can serve different purposes, for example, a lightweight, responsive trainer can be used for speed workouts and tempo runs, while a softer, more cushioned shoe can be worn for longer, slower runs and recovery days, " explains Bell. “Switching between shoes also gives the foam time to decompress between uses, which can help make your shoes last longer.”

Best Overall Shoes: New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080

Fleet Feet

“Many long distance runners love a highly cushioned shoe to absorb impact and reduce stress on the body,” Bell says. It’s worth noting that all cushioning doesn’t feel the same, though. “Some shoes provide a thick bed of soft, plush cushioning that your feet can sink into, while others provide a firmer, more rigid feel underfoot,” Bell explains. 

New Balance Women's Fresh Foam 1080 were designed for long distances and are a popular pick because of the ultra-cushioned, springy midsole and a heel-hugging fit. They even topped our list of the best long distance running shoes. Similarly, New Balance Fresh Foam X More v4 have a higher stack height and are a bestseller at Fleet Feet. 

Price at time of publish: $160

Best for Bad Knees: Saucony Women’s Guide



Pounding the pavement on runs, especially long distance and high volume runs, can exacerbate knee pain. A supportive pair of shoes can make all the difference in helping you achieve your goals ache-free. The contoured footbed hugs the foot and provides motion control for overpronators, which irritates sensitive knees. The pillowy cushioning is lightweight, while staying incredibly responsive. 

Price at time of publish: $105 (originally $140)

Best for Overpronation: Brooks Adrenaline

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22


If overpronating—when your foot rolls inward more than 15 percent when you land—is your main concern, then a shoe with more stability is your best bet. (Here: You can learn more about your gait and how to choose the right running shoes for you.) The Brooks Adrenaline GTS are designed to keep your ride smooth with the addition of GuideRails® technology and even heel to toe transitions. The brand is even recommended by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). 

Price at time of publish: $140

Best for Plantar Fasciitis: Asics Gel-Nimbus



The Asics Gel-Nimbus was named best for plantar fasciitis due to its extra gel cushioning in the heel that reduces shock absorption. There’s also foam in the mid-sole to propel you through each stride. The combo makes the model great for road and long distance runners who need a comfy pick for longer hours on their feet. The shoe was designed for neutral or underpronation, when the outer part of your heel hits the ground first. Underpronation can lead to plantar fasciitis, so wearing a pair that alleviates this gait is an important step for injury prevention. 

If you prefer a smaller heel drop (8mm vs 13mm) and more cushioning in the underfoot, you may want to opt for the Gel-Nimbus 25, which just launched. 

Price at time of publish: $120 (originally $160)

Best for Flat Feet: Under Armour Women's UA Surge 3 Running Shoes


Under Armour

Runners with flat feet need to be especially cautious in their shoe selection. Flat feet overpronate (when your foot rolls inward) and have a very low arch with a full imprint. An imprint is essentially if you dipped your foot in paint what it would look like—a flat foot would show the heel and ball of the foot, as well as more of the arch than medium-to-high arch people. 

The Under Armour Surge 3 has additional cushioning around the ankle to provide support and a low heel drop to prevent heel striking. These earned our spot for best running shoes for flat feet and are a favorite of Shape commerce editor, Christina Oehler. She says, “Their arch support is some of the best I've tried to date, and they are so comfortable for running.”

Price at time of publish: $65

Half Marathon Clothes 

When you first start a running hobby, it’s common to just wear whatever athletic clothes you already own. By the time the runs get longer and you start thinking of training for a race, you may have identified pain points with your current wardrobes. We identified these categories as the must-haves of running clothing, these options can span the weather gamut to get you across the finish line with clothes that fit and perform.

Best Running Jacket: Lululemon Cross Chill Jacket RepelShell

lululemon Cross Chill Jacket


A running jacket that spans several seasons is your best bet if you don’t want to invest in several options. This one from Lululemon is lightweight yet features a soft, fleece lining for a bit of warmth—best for mild to moderate cold climates—and could fit a long-sleeve base layer if the temps were lower. The jacket is also fully water and windproof with a (non-detachable), cinchable hood. Every detail, down to the sleeves, was considered. The outer layer is the four-way stretch, waterproof shell, but there is an inner, soft knit liner for the thumbholes. Energy gels, a pair of gloves, your phone, and ID—there’s pockets for it all, four zippered ones to be exact. 

Price at time of publish: $198

Best Running Leggings: Sweaty Betty Power 7/8 Workout Leggings


Sweaty Betty

After trying many different pairs of running leggings over the years, my amassed collection of Sweaty Betty Power Leggings is proof enough of how much I love them. I now own five pairs in a variety of colors and lengths and they’ve become my go-to for races—I even wore these for my first marathon. The fabric is just compressive enough to be supportive, but not constricting (read: distance running bloat didn’t cause them to become too tight) and the continuous loop inside the waistband allows you to tighten as needed. There is a side slip pocket, big enough for a phone, plus a back zip pocket for your essentials. 

Price at time of publish: Starting at $88

Best Running Shorts: Sweaty Betty On Your Marks 4" Running Shorts


Sweaty Betty

The British retailer is also our choice for this next category. Their On Your Marks shorts feature a fitted (think bike shorts) lining with a breezier outer layer. This helps avoid shorts riding up, prevents chafing, and offers a bit more coverage.These were picked to be the best running shoes in our Best in Fitness: Activewear Apparel awards where our tester said, “While it's virtually impossible to find athletic shorts that don't ride up at least a little bit while running, these come pretty close.”  The four inch shorts also have two side zippered pockets for small items, like keys or cash. 

Price at time of publish: $78

Best Running Hat: Nike Dri-FIT Aerobill Featherlight

Nike Dri-FIT Aerobill Featherlight Cap


The Nike Featherlight hat is a classic in the running community—spectate a race and you’ll see at least one of these hats in each group. And we also stand by that choice: The ventilated design at the back keeps your head cool and the adjustable band fits most head sizes—men and women. The bill arrives straighter, but is easy to bend into a more curved design if that’s your preference. There’s currently six color options in stock—black, white, teal, cobalt, rose, and rust—with new shades added seasonally. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Running Gloves: TrailHeads Convertible Mittens



With the half marathons racing season kicking off in the early spring, much of your training will occur in the winter. And for many parts of the country, that means contending with frigid temps and snow. The TrailHeads Convertible Mittens are a 2-in-1 product. The mitten flap keeps fingers and hands extra warm with grips on the palm for added dexterity. The flap flips back and tucks into an attached pouch if you need your hands free for texting, taking a photo, or changing a song. Fingerless gloves mean you don’t need to take off your hand covering completely to finish the task. An extended cuff also protects your wrists, leaving no skin exposed to the elements. 

Price at time of publish: $38

Best Supportive Bra: Champion Spot Comfort Full-Support Sport Bra

Champion Spot Comfort Full-Support Sport Bra


Not only is Champion Spot Comfort a great long distance sports bra thanks to its adjustable straps and two clasp back design, but it was also named the best sports bras for large breasts in our lab testing. This no-frills style won’t offer fancy seaming or a strappy back, however it is affordable and sold in a range of sizes from 34C to 42DDD. (B Cups may prefer the Motion Control Zip-Front Sports Bra.) The molded cups minimize the bounce-factor during high impact activities, while providing shape, AKA avoiding the dreaded squashed uniboob. 

Price at time of publish: Starting at $19

Best Tank Top: Athleta Momentum Tank

Athleta Momentum Tank


If you’re ready to upgrade your multipacks of simple tanks for something a bit more stylish in a performance fabric, turn your attention to this one from Athleta. I find the Momentum Tank, while also sold as a seamless tee and long sleeve top, to be the most versatile style—wear it alone in the warmer months or use it as a layering piece when it’s cooler. The neckline is an ideal Goldilocks length—not so high it chokes you and not so low that you feel exposed. The hemline features grips to keep the top in place, plus antimicrobial silver ions knit into the fabric help to prevent odor. 

Price at time of publish: $59

Best Running Socks: TAVI Taylor Cushion Sport Socks

TAVI Taylor Cushion Sport Socks


Socks seem easy, and for the most part they are, however your selection can make a difference in how your feet feel at the end of a 10-miler. The Tavi Taylor socks have cushioning where you need it most—across your sole—with a bit of compression through the arch, and vented tops and sides for additional air flow. The low rise design looks sleek with your running shoes, but stays put and won’t slide into your sneaker once you get moving. 

Price at time of publish: $16

Half Marathon Training Gear

Training gear is the category you turn to when you’re looking to splurge or upgrade your current selections. It’s all here: The running watch our editor swears by, the headphones that allow you to still hear traffic, and the energy gel that might prevent stomach distress mid-race. 

Best Running Watch: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 Running Smartwatch


A watch was one of the first upgrades I made when I first got more serious about running and training for races. The additional specs, such as cadence, mileage, and pace became crucial to track as the weeks and miles added up. Garmin is a heritage activity watch brand and a go-to for many runners. The Forerunner 245 allows you to program workouts and has seven days of battery life. If you want the option of music without using your phone, I’d spring for that add-on. 

Price at time of publish: $270 with music (originally $350)

Best Headphones: Shokz Open Run

Shokz Open Run Headphones


These are hands down the best headphones I have ever used for outdoor runs—and I wrote a full product review for them a few years back. The headphones use bone conduction technology to transfer mini vibrations through your cheekbones to your inner ear. Yep, these bad boys sit outside your ears and the sound quality is impressively clear. Since it isn’t plugging your eardrum, you can still hear your surroundings—cars, fellow runners, or your cheering fan club during a race. The two size options ensure a bounce-free, snug fit and the eight hour battery life lets you run long without stopping for a recharge. 

Price at time of publish: $130

Best Sunglasses: Goodr The OG's

Goodr Sunglasses


As someone in the “buys three pairs of shades, because they’re going to lose (or break) two” camp, discovering Goodr sunglasses was a game changer. At just $25 per pair, I won’t freak if I drop them and the quality is still impressive for the price. With polarized lens, UVA/UVB protection, and a no-slip frame, these specs stand up to their more high-tech competitors. The fun colors and product names, like Sunbathing with Wizards or Lilac It Like That, is the cherry on top. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Best Running Belt: Flipbelt

FlipBelt Classic Running Belt


A running belt is a great option if you have too many items to carry or don’t have leggings with a pocket deep enough for your phone. You typically either step into or clip on the body-hugging belt and it sits flat against your body as you move. The Flipbelt falls into the latter and the name comes from motion that hides your essentials—you flip the fabric to reveal the pockets. There’s a little clip for your keys and the pockets are stretchy enough to fit a large phone, too. For extra security, you can check out the zipper version as well. The Flipbelt comes in sizes XXS to XXL (OO to 24 in women’s sizing). 

Price at time of publish: $34

Best Water Bottle: Nathan Sports SpeedShot Plus Handheld Flask

Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld Flask


Carrying a running water bottle is optional—some runners opt to map out runs near drinking fountains or pop in to buy a disposal bottle along the route. However as your long runs climb into the double digits (and the temps rise at the same rate), it’s worth considering carrying a small amount of your own. The Nathan Speedshot Flask allows you to run with a relaxed grip while holding the bottles thanks to its shape and the chafe-free thumbholes. The mini bottle is deceiving, but it actually holds a full 12 ounces, and the cap is easy to drink from without slowing down. 

Price at time of publish: $21 (originally $25)

Best Energy Gel: Huma Energy Gel

Huma Plus Chia Energy Gel


Many half marathon races will provide energy gels on the course. However, since the mantra goes “nothing new on race day,” you’ll want to practice using gels prior to that day. I made this mistake in my first half marathon—I tried a gel once on a long run, but it was a different brand used on the course and that gel did horrible things to my stomach. After some trial and error, I discovered Huma energy gel is my goo of choice and I’ve brought my own to every race since (and successfully avoided the on-course porta potties). 

If you haven’t used it before, energy gels provide quick energy in the form of carbohydrates and are in a format that is easier to digest to try and prevent bloating or gastric distress. However, the source of that energy can vary gel to gel—and how you react to each formula depends on the person. Huma uses fruit, brown rice syrup, and chia seeds as the base of their gels and the all-natural ingredients are gentler on your stomach. The texture and flavor is similar to a scoopful of jam—raspberry, apples & cinnamon, and mango are my favorite flavors. 

Price at time of publish: $2.50

Best Body Sunscreen: EleVen by Venus Game. Set. Match. Body Lotion SPF 50

EleVen by Venus Williams Skin Game. Set. Match. Body Lotion SPF 50

Credo Beauty

Designed by tennis legend Venus Williams’ brand, EleVen by Venus has a sunscreen that was made for sweat. The zinc-based formula is able to withstand water for up to 80 minutes sans white cast. The addition of allantoin, an emollient, keeps skin hydrated—so salty sweat won’t deplete your skin’s moisture reserves. This sunscreen was also a Beauty Awards winner in 2022 for best body sunscreen. 

Price at time of publish: $38

Best Face Sunscreen: Dr. Dennis Gross All-Physical Wrinkle Defense Sunscreen



The sun exposure from a daily run adds up quickly. Finding a sunscreen formula you actually like is the key to applying it everyday. This formula from Dr. Dennis Gross is a “go-to for sweaty outdoor runs” for one Shape writer. She says the oil-free formula absorbs into the skin with no white cast and it also won’t run into your eyes when sweat starts to drip—a win-win. 

Price at time of publish: $42

Best Anti-Chafe Product: Megababe Thigh Rescue

Megababe Thigh Rescue Anti-Friction Stick


While the right leggings or shorts can help prevent a lot of thigh chafing, it unfortunately is not the only area prone to irritation. Chafing occurs when skin rubs against itself or your clothing and that friction becomes red and irritated. Add some sweat into the mix and that pain-meter just went up a notch. An anti-chafe product, like MegaBabe, gives your skin something to glide against and acts as a barrier against friction. You can apply the stick to any areas where skin or clothing may rub (think: your armpits, inner thighs, or ankles). 

Price at time of publish: $24

Half Marathon Recovery Gear

Gear for recovery is optional—plain ol’ water and simple stretching can also prep your body for muscle repair. It’s not a bad idea to take that downtime a bit more seriously when you sign up for a long-distance race and these picks can take recovery to the next level.

Best Compression Socks: Figs Compression Socks



The impact of wearing compression clothing while you run or workout is inconclusive. The best known effect of compression is during recovery. “"Because compression restricts blood vessels, it can cut down on swelling, which stiffens the muscles and joints, making it harder to work out the next day," Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery, previously told Shape. Since your muscles experience micro-tears during hard workouts, causing inflammation, having the support of compression clothing can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness. Figs Compression Socks were awarded a Best in Fitness badge for recovery tools this year because they are ridiculously soft, and their toe and heel padding makes them extra supportive.

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Electrolytes: Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier

Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier

Liquid IV

For short or easy training runs, an electrolyte drink probably isn’t necessary. However, Liquid IV saved me during long, hot marathon training runs last summer. I put one packet into about 24 ounces of water and drank it post-run during my carcass phase—that time period where I lay on the floor to let my temperature come down and contemplate what just happened. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this cooldown routine.) 

In my opinion, guava, lemon lime, and acai berry are the best flavors I’ve tried, but they have nine total to choose from. The taste is like a slightly salty flavored water and I have found that drinking one helps me get that first full bottle down faster.  

Price at time of publish: $25

Best Foam Roller: TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller



While a foam roller is not a required item for half marathon training, you may see some benefits for soreness. The benefits for foam rolling are impressive: it can ease muscle soreness, increase flexibility, as well as improve posture. The best time to use a foam roller for runners is after a run when your muscles are already warm. 

We picked this TriggerPoint foam roller because it was also a Best in Fitness winner and is relatively affordable. Our expert tester, Anne Reuss, NASM-certified personal trainer and inclusive training expert said, “Its design is smart: a combination of flat and textured/channeled surfaces for tissue work so everyone can each find their 'sweet spot.' It’s affordable, portable, and can withstand quite a bit of weight!" 

Price at time of publish: $37

Race Day Checklist

What to Wear for a Half Marathon

The things you wear on race day is largely dependent on weather. There is one golden rule for running races: nothing new on race day. No matter what the temperature or weather, be sure your picks have been worn on runs in your training, so you know how they fit, chafe, and perform. This infographic can help you decide how many layers you need to wear. A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer outside than the temperature says as your body temperature will still rise, even if it’s cold and rainy outside. 

Generally, the biggest decision is leggings versus shorts (more on that below) and what style of top you need. Start with your supportive sports bra and layer from there. If it’s in the 60s and above, you’ll likely want a short sleeve or tank top, 50s you may want to opt for a long sleeve. If it’s in the 40s or below or raining, you may want to top it all off with a running jacket. Last comes your trusty running socks and shoes.

What to Bring to a Half Marathon

When you’re gathering your items to bring on race day, keep in mind that same running golden rule: these should all be items that you have personally tested before. For many runners, a watch, headphones, and sunglasses or a hat are the essentials. If you have additional gear to store, such as energy gels, your keys, or a phone, you may also want to bring a running belt.  

Most races will provide water, electrolyte drinks, and even energy gels along the course. However, if you have a specific plan for when you want water or gels or trained with a specific brand or flavor (especially if traditional energy gels upset your stomach), then you may want to pack your own. Apply your face sunscreen and body SPF to all exposed skin before you ditch your bag. And be sure to put on an anti-chafe product to any areas that need it—like inner thighs, along your sports bra, and on your toes, heels, and ankles.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Should I wear shorts or leggings to run a half marathon?

    The decision to wear shorts or leggings to run a half marathon comes down almost entirely to personal preference. On a hot day, you may be more comfortable in shorts, like the Sweaty Betty On Your Marks 4" Running Shorts. However, if you struggle with chafing—no matter how much salve you apply to your legs—leggings may be the more comfortable option. Our pick for best leggings, Sweaty Betty Power 7/8 Workout Leggings, are also sold in a cropped version

  • Do I need different shoes for race day?

    The most important thing to look out for in a racing shoe is comfort. Especially if you’re going to be racing a half marathon, a full marathon or even an ultra, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your feet. It’s important to make sure your shoes fit well and have the right amount of support for your unique feet,” Bell says. For many people, that means wearing a running shoe that they wore through training and are comfortable for 13.1 miles. 

    Others may opt for a racing specific shoe. “Most racing shoes feature a carbon-fiber plate embedded in the midsole, like the Nike Vaporfly Next% or the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3,” Bell says. “The carbon-fiber plate flexes while you land and springs you forward as you take off, helping increase efficiency and reduce fatigue. The plate is typically sandwiched between layers of light, springy foam to put an extra pep in your step,” she explains. Since the shoes are designed for swiftness, they should be reserved for racing, and not training.

  • Where do I put my phone on race day?

    Lots of shorts and leggings, including our Sweaty Betty favorites, include large pockets for your phone, keys, and energy gels. If you don’t love carrying your items in your pockets or have too much to fit, a running belt is your next best choice. One of the reasons we did not include a water vest or running backpack is that many race courses do not allow them. Be sure to look up the specific guidelines before bringing one to the starting line. 

Why Trust Shape

Shannon Bauer is a senior commerce editor for the brand and has seven years of experience in the wellness industry. She has also run four half marathons and one full marathon. Shannon is currently in training for the Shape + Health 2023 half marathon. Many of these recommendations come from her own experience with product testing and reviewing running products, with the Best in Fitness Awards, our NYC-based testing lab, and the experts at Fleet Feet, giving insights to round out the list. 

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