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Although there are plenty of resources of what to wear when you’re going for a run, there isn’t much when it comes to what you shouldn’t wear when going for a run. I believe knowing what to avoid is equally as important as knowing what to wear.
In general, when going for a run, you should stay as light, dry, and visible as possible. Avoiding dark-colored garments, cotton garments, and any other types of shoes other than running shoes helps to achieve these goals.
But there’s more. Ahead, we will look at more things to avoid when running explain the issues you can experience when you wear them. I will also give you alternatives on what you should wear instead. So stick along cause you’re not gonna want to miss this.
#1 Clothes made of cotton
Probably the most common mistake I see people make when choosing their running gear is wearing clothes made of cotton. No matter how nice and stretchable these cotton gym shorts are, anything made of cotton is no good for endurance sports.
Cotton will absorb so much sweat. After a while, it gets heavy, uncomfortable, and unbreathable. Run longer and chafing will shortly follow.
In addition, cotton doesn’t dry fast and it creates moist areas which is a site for bacterial build-up. So if you’re wearing cotton clothes for your runs, don’t be surprised if you suddenly smell awful.
Check out the article I made on how to stop your running clothes from smelling.
What to wear instead: Wear clothes made of technical fabrics. Some running clothes are more breathable while others have better thermoregulation. The former is for warm weather while the latter is used in cold weather.
The most common materials used are polyester, nylon, and wool. These fabrics wick away moisture, dry fast, and are generally light making them the perfect material for endurance sports. One of my favorites is the Under Armour Tech 2.0 for the shirt and the Lixada 2-in-1 running shorts for the bottoms.
#2 Dark-colored clothes
Black and dark blue may look great and appealing, they aren’t the safest color to run in the streets in.
As a general rule, you should avoid wearing dark-colored shirts when running on the road, especially in the dark. Dark clothes are less visible for drivers which makes the risk of getting swept by a car higher.
What to wear instead: In choosing your running clothes, opt for at least one light-colored clothing like neon green, orange, and yellow.
Additionally, you can follow these tips to keep safe when running in different conditions.
#3 Casual underwear
I can’t tell you how many times running in casual underwear gave me problems in my runs.
If I’m not getting chafed by it, it rides up to my butt and I’d have to constantly pull it down awkwardly in the middle of the street. Plus, it moistens and smells awful after a while.
What type of underwear am I referring to? Those regular underwear made of cotton. For the ladies, thongs and laces are a no-no too.
What to wear instead: Opt for seamless underwear made of synthetic fabrics that dry quickly and don’t absorb moisture. My favorite is the 5-inch Runderwear boxer briefs because it’s long enough that it covers my thighs preventing my inner thigh from rubbing against each other.
If you are still unsure if that’s the underwear for you, I made an article on what to wear under running shorts where I gave a few more options including going commando.
#4 Tight clothing
Aside from compression shirts, shorts, and socks, you should never wear tight garments when running. Tight-fitting clothes and shorts may cause discomfort and chafing.
What to wear instead: Wear running apparel that fits you just right. Not too tight that it restricts motion and not too loose that it has a lot of excess fabric.
#5 Low-impact and medium-impact bras
Sports bras aren’t made the same. Sports bras are categorized based on the activity level it supports.
Low-impact sports bras are made for activities where there is less bouncing around. Think of activities like yoga, pilates, and strengthening exercises.
Medium-impact bras are generally made for more intense workouts but aren’t for vigorous high-impact exercises. Think of cycling, hiking, and Zumba.
Although these are considered “sports” bras, they aren’t made for high-impact exercise such as running.
What to wear instead: What you should wear is a high-impact sports bra. It contains underwires, padded cups, and slightly wider straps that give the support you’d need for a high-impact exercise such as running.
An example of this is this one from Under Armour.
#6 Cotton socks
A lot of runners don’t bother getting running-specific socks and just stick cotton socks. They’re soft, comfy, and fine for short-distance runs. But they aren’t made for long endurance activities like a marathon.
Cotton absorbs sweat, so much so that you’d actually feel something squishy underfoot when they’re drenched in sweat.
Wearing cotton socks is also unhygienic. Once wet, they are a source of bacterial build-up that could lead to foot odor. Getting blisters and getting chafed is pretty common too.
What to wear instead: Wear running-specific socks that are made of synthetic materials. It wicks away moisture and dries quickly, keeping your feet fresh and odor-free on those long runs.
These Saucony no-show socks are an example of the socks I’m referring to. Aside from the basic features of running socks—quick-dry and moisture-wicking—they provide extra underfoot cushioning and arch support too. They’re affordable and are sold in packs on Amazon.
#7 Non-running-specific shoes
I cringe whenever I see people running in their casual sneakers is an understatement.
Sneakers and other types of shoes that aren’t running-specific don’t have enough underfoot cushion to support a high-impact like running. Sure, you can run in basketball shoes during a basketball game, but when it’s a continuous long run (5 miles or more), it’ll start to feel uncomfortable and heavy.
Wearing inappropriate shoes could also lead to injuries. Regular shoes have less cushioning than running shoes. With less cushioning, more impact is absorbed by your joints which could be unhealthy in the long run.
If you want to know more, I highlighted 8 reasons why running shoes are important in another article.
What to wear instead: Running shoes that have a good level of cushioning are important for your joint health. Plus, it will allow you to run longer with less fatigue. One of the softest shoes that have a high user rating is the Brooks Glycerin 19. The Glycerin lineup also happens to be popular for new runners.
If you want more options, check out my recommended running shoes on another page.
#8 Running shoes that don’t fit
Wearing a running shoe that fits is equally as important as wearing a running-specific shoe.
Too tight and you risk causing chafe and discomfort in the toes and bunions, too loose and it can cause blisters and chafe underfoot or in the heel.
What to wear instead: As a general rule, your shoes should feel snug around the heel and midfoot. It should have at least a half thumb to a full thumb’s width allowance from your longest toe to the top of the shoe.
I created an article that details how to find the right running shoe fit. You can check it out in another article.
#9 Shorts/pants that aren’t stretchable
Although not too common, some people will run in uncomfortable cargo shorts, board shorts, or non-stretchable jogging pants. Sure, you can force yourself to run in those, but it won’t be as comfortable as running in light, comfortable, and stretchable running shorts.
What to wear instead: I strongly advise that you run in running specific shorts. There are generally 4 types to choose from—split shorts, v-cut shorts, compression shorts, and 2-in-1 shorts. All have their own pros and cons which I explained thoroughly in another article.
I wear 2-in-1 shorts. But after a few runs in compression shorts, I just fell in love with it. My favorite is the Under Armour Heatgear Long Shorts.
#10 Sauna suit
A lot of runners wear sauna suits during their run with a belief that it’ll speed up their weight loss.
“While it’s true that you may lose a certain amount of water weight by increasing your sweat rate when exercising in a sauna suit, it’s not advisable as a long-term weight-loss strategy”, says Dr. John David Abundo who also happens to be a Crossfit coach and enthusiast himself.
“When you wear a sauna suit when you run, your body can’t utilize its natural thermoregulation. Plus, it could lead to dehydration” he added.
According to a study conducted in 2018, performing exercise in a sauna suit can lead to an increase in physiological strain and sweat rate. Without proper hydration, these conditions can lead to dehydration.
In addition, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that wearing a sauna suit can increase your energy expenditure—which can inevitably lead to a decrease in performance.
The same research also said that the increase in energy expenditure may not benefit weight loss. In other words, wearing a sauna suit while running is pointless.
What to wear instead: When you run, wear comfortable clothing that is breathable to allow you to perform better. By doing so, you will be able to increase your work rate, therefore, increase the calories burned.
#11 Accessories (jewelry, necklace, etc.)
Accessories should never be worn when running. They add unnecessary weight, bounce around, and can cause skin irritation. Plus, when you’re wearing expensive jewelry, you expose yourself to being robbed (or you may drop them).
What to do instead: Leave your accessories at home. The only piece of accessory you should have is a GPS running watch to track important metrics. The Coros Pace 2 is my favorite! It’s light, accurate, and packed with several features for a fraction of the price you pay for a high-end Garmin.
#12 Fleece jacket
Although a fleece jacket is a popular choice for staying warm during light outdoor activities like hiking or walking, it isn’t a great choice for running.
Fleece jackets trap heat and sweat inside which could affect the thermoregulation of your body and soak you in sweat on the inside.
What to wear instead: Add a layer of performance long-sleeves this one from Under Armour on top of a compression shirt. It’s light, stretchable, and provides warmth to get you through running in cold weather. It also has a 1/2 zipper in case you need to increase the breathability.
Alternatively, you can check out these other 13 ways to stay warm when running in cold weather.