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Best running leggings, tops, shoes and accessories for women

It’s time to get your kit sorted, says Bianca Barratt

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By
24 January 2018
C

haffing, blisters, shin splints and knee troubles: just some of the joys you might have to endure if you’re about to start training for the 2018 Virgin Money London Marathon.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right kit, you can enjoy a smooth, injury-free training period and have a great time on the day itself.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s best to try out different kit and find what works for you during your training programme. By the time you get to the starting pen, you want to be so comfortable in your kit that it feels like a second skin.

With everything from underwear to trainers, this guide points you to a few options that will help to get you over that finish line in April.

Bottoms

For running such distances, you need to be wearing something tight. Being streamline will help to correct your posture and stride, as well as reduce the chance of chaffing. Go for ventilated fabrics with sweat wicking technology that will keep you dry.

New Balance Womens Tech Stretch Fleece Thermal Running Tights

Those living in the furthest reaches of the UK can expect to be training in particularly low temperatures. Keeping your leg muscles warm will be vital. This pair of thermal leggings by New Balance is the best out there- they’ve been designed to trap body heat whilst also wicking sweat. They also feature mesh at the back of the knees and ankle zips to add ventilation to typically sweaty areas.

£19.99, M and M Direct, Buy it now

Oysho Teal Green Leggings

If you don’t have a lot of money to spare for new leggings, Oysho offers some great options. Despite the price, they are really well made and will hold up throughout training. Though not as high quality as some of the more expensive fabrics, they're a cheap and cheerful pair that'll get you through your midweek sessions with ease.

£29.99, Oysho, Buy it now

Lululemon Tight Stuff Tight II

Although this may seem like a lot to spend on a bit of spandex, Lululemon takes feedback from customers and brings them the kit that they really want. Tight Stuff tights are, indeed, very tight- but in the best way. The compressive waistband and added Lycra give great support to the legs and tummy, helping you to feel as streamlined as possible when you run. They also have a secret pocket on the leg, perfect for holding your mobile.

£138, Lululemon, Buy it now

Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity Run Leggings

Dubbed the ‘bum sculpting’ leggings of the new collection, these Zero Gravity tights are designed to pull you in and lift you up. The Italian made fabric works to compress the muscles, particularly on the thigh area where the 360 degree support is the most robust. Ventilation behind the knees and a high, thick waistband prove that the brand has really thought about the needs of the runner with this pair, although they hold up just as well in the gym as out on the trail. Both form fitting and functional, we found that they quickly absorbed sweat and stayed in position for the length of our training session – due, in part, to the length (Sweaty Betty is still one of the only brands to offer shorter leggings for girls under 5’5). Technicalities aside, just look at that striping – it’s giving us all the Ziggy Stardust feels.

£95, Sweaty Betty, Buy it now

adidas Alphaskin Sport ¾ Tights

adidas has really gone to town on its new Alphaskin range, which is the first in the world to really adapt to the movement of the body. Designed for athletes, it compresses and reduces muscular movement – almost like a ‘second skin’ - helping to minimise the risk of injury by supporting you as you run.

Don’t just consign these to your winter wardrobe, either – thanks to the signature Climacool fabric, they’re suitable for any weather so you can say goodbye to sweaty crotches and chafing. Kudos to adidas for using recycled polyester, too. Available in both full and mid lengths, this is the pair to get you through race day.

£27.95, adidas, Buy it now

Varley Slauson Navy Leggings

Cool cuts and a soothing colour palette are the name of the game when it comes to Varley, but don’t be fooled by appearances: these pieces are just as functional as they are fashionable. Made using four way stretch fabric that feels thick (read: no more visible underwear) and high quality, these are a great addition to your training wardrobe – particularly on the shorter runs when you perhaps don’t have time, or the inclination, to change after exercising. We especially appreciated the high waistband, which stays in place more steadfastly than most brands.

£85, Varley, Buy it now

Underwear

Getting the right support underneath will help to keep you comfortable and protect you against future damage. The best sports underwear is that which you don’t notice.

Under Armour Pure Stretch Thong

Even if you’re adverse to wearing thongs in daily life, when it comes to running, they are the most hassle-free form of underwear. This pair by Under Armour is lightweight and laser-cut, meaning there are no seams to dig into your thighs as you run.

£10, Under Armour, Buy it now

Lululemon Stuff Your Bra II

For running, you need a high impact sports bra, no matter what size cup you are. This one from Lululemon comes with handy pockets for stashing cards (which you should always take out on a long run), keys and even phones.

£52, Lululemon, Buy it now

Under Armour High Bra

Thank God for sports bras with front zips - whoever came up with the idea deserves a Nobel Prize. Nothing will move in this one - even after several hours of running. This is particularly great for those with a larger bust, as it will minimise the risk of chaffing and long term damage. Offering the ultimate support, it’s lightly padded and super comfortable.

£55, Under Armour, Buy it now

Tops

Once you’ve warmed up, even if it’s freezing, you’ll probably want to just wear a vest. However, as you’ll be training through the winter, it’s really important to dress appropriately to avoid getting chesty coughs and flu symptoms. Invest in lightweight fabrics that will regulate your body temperature.

lululemon Down for a Run Pullover II

One of the most frustrating things about some running jackets is that, after a couple of miles, zips have an annoying tendency to fall down. lululemon’s Pullover offers a solution to this by banishing the full length zip and instead embracing a jumper, rather than jacket, style. Sure, this might seem strange at first - after all, what are you supposed to do when you get too hot? – but after a test run, the Pullover has proven an essential piece of kit in our arsenal.

What with biting winds, sudden downpours and encroaching darkness being the hazards of marathon training in the winter, you’re going to need a long sleeve top that can protect you. Water repellent and stuffed with 800 fill goose down, the material will keep out the cold and wet without weighing you down. Reflective strips will ensure you’re seen in the dark whilst the ventilated four-stretch under arm material will stave off the sweat build-up. Longline and form fitting, the Pullover not only looks good, but feels good too.

£168, lululemon, Buy it now

Varley Avalon Long Sleeve Top

Often the only way to fit in a training session is to run to or from work. Running your commute means wearing a backpack and wearing a backpack means a horrendously sweaty back – unless you’re wearing something to combat that. That’s where the Avalon top comes in. The perfect stylish top layer, it’s equipped with breathable shoulder panels that’ll encourage the through-movement of free flowing air and help minimise the moisture that gathers whilst you run. Form fitting without being figure hugging, it’s a super soft, super stylish long sleeve tee that you’ll be able to wear for sport or leisure.

£62, Varley, Buy it now

adidas Alphaskin 360 Tee

Keep your muscles locked and loaded with this adidas tee, which also features the brand’s new Alphaskin fabric. Thick without feeling suffocating, one of our favourite aspects of this fitted tee is that it doesn’t ride up, meaning you can keep your mind focused on more important things like your splits and pace than the whereabouts of your hemline. Made with Climachill and UPF 50+, this is a great one to consider for race day when, thanks to our unpredictable spring weather, it could either Baltic or boiling.

£89.95, adidas, Buy it now

Odlo Briana Seamless Running Hoody

A great one for transitioning from winter to spring, the Briana Hoody is insulating but not bulky. It uses seamless technology to minimise seam abrasion and body mapping to maximise ventilation and movement. Unlike many other running hoodies, this one is long line, meaning it sits comfortably below the hips and won’t start riding up as soon as you exert some effort. This is a great alternative to standard Lycra, which is often very tight fitting and not to everyone’s taste.

£75, Odlo, Buy it now

Feet

If you can only afford to invest in one piece of decent kit, it has to be the trainers. Finding the correct pair takes time and effort, but is well worth it; it can often make the difference between a great race and an injury-ridden disaster. Good sports shops offer gait, pronation and foot analysis which is definitely worth doing. In the end, though, trust your instincts - if you’ve always worn a particular brand or don’t feel comfortable in the ones they recommend, stick to your guns and choose what’s right for you.

Balega Enduro Socks​

If you’re regularly getting blisters on your runs, you probably need to change your socks. Old, flimsy trainer liners might be alright for a swift 5k, but when it comes to long distance running, having the right support is paramount. These socks offer cushioning on the balls of your feet as well as across the toes, helping to protect your nails (which should be kept as short as possible) from damage.

£12, Amazon, Buy it now

Nike Flex Trainer 7

Choose this Flex trainer for strength training and short runs. It’s light and bendable, giving your feet freedom to move as needed. Plush cushioning in the mid sections provides support, which is particularly good for those with high arches.

£59.95, Nike, Buy it now

Asics Gel-Kayano Trainer

If you over pronate you need a shoe that will offer extra support for the inner foot, as you probably have abnormally high arches. Correcting pronation is important to prevent knee injuries and this Asics shoe is the number one bestseller for such issues. The sole is thick and bouncy and thanks to the reinforced fibres, snaps back to shape no matter how long and hard you run.

£150, Asics, Buy it now

Adidas Ultra Boost Trainer

The plush sole in these trainers returns energy to the foot as you stride out, helping you to keep up the pace even when you’re tiring. Reinforced with the most responsive cushioning yet, they absorb impact incredibly quickly, which reduces your risk of a knee injury. The sock-like top is well-structured and will not only stabilise your feet and help to support your ankles, but also keep them warm in the harsh outdoors. Built specifically for all-weather training, the thick sole has excellent grip and traction, helping to propel the foot forwards and give you a little boost - after all, every little helps, right?

£179.95, adidas, Buy it now

Saucony Triumph ISO 4

One of the oldest running shoe brands in the world, Saucony has an almost singular focus on giving athletes the best running experience. The fourth generation Triumph ISO has advanced cushioning technology, allowing for optimum energy return. Despite the chunky look of the sole, this shoe is ultra-lightweight and easily mouldable to the foot. This is particularly good if you suffer from tendonitis, as the shoe will support your foot movement as you travel.

£140, Saucony, Buy it now