The Best Gear for Running a Marathon of 2021, According to an Expert

Our picks to help you tackle the 26.2 miles

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks
Best Running Shoes:
Brooks Ghost 14 at Amazon
A versatile shoe that's a popular, well-rounded pick among marathon runners, offering lightweight support and comfort.
This high-performing, durable roller can be used for self-massage and improving flexibility.
Best Handheld Water Bottle:
Nathan Insulated Water Bottle at Amazon
This 18-ounce bottle offers a fully adjustable hand strap with a thumb hole that allows for a comfortable, grip-free hold.
Crafted with synthetic wicking material to keep away moisture and prevent blisters, a common affliction among marathon runners.
Polarized against UVA and UVB rays and scratch-resistant and glare-reducing, all at a wallet-friendly price.
Uses zinc oxide to deliver broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection and is a great option for runners who want a mineral-based sunscreen.
Made from soft, chafe-free Lycra material, this phone holder is completely waterproof to protect your phone from rain and sweat.
Wicks away sweat and moisture while stowing your necessities across three openings and a zippered pocket.
Tracks key stats and lets you take your training to the next level with adaptive workouts from Garmin Coach.
Its rechargeable battery offers up to 20 hours of illumination for maximum visibility during training in low-light hours.

Having the right marathon gear can make a huge difference in your performance and comfort level both during your training and when you’re tackling the 26.2-mile race.

One of the golden rules of marathon running is “nothing new on race day.” So marathoners should be sticking with clothes and gear they used in training to avoid any potential surprises or mishaps.

“Everything from shoes and shorts to socks should be tested over your long runs,” says Nate Helming, Strava strength and running coach and co-founder of The Run Experience. “Same goes with your pre-race dinner, breakfast, hydration, and snacks of choice. In short, no mysteries on race day, especially when it comes to the variables you can control.” 

We chose the best marathon running gear by consulting marathon runners, marathon coaches, and running store staff about their favorite and tried-and-true marathon clothes and gear. We also researched the features and reviews for dozens of products and also personally tested many of the items on our final list.

From water bottles to post-run massage tools, here is the best gear for running a marathon, according to a running coach.

Best Running Shoes: Brooks Men's Ghost 14

Brooks Men's Ghost 14
Pros
  • Lightweight and breathable

  • Well-cushioned

  • Works for short or long runs

  • Flexible

Cons
  • Limited color choices in wide and narrow sizes

  • May run small

A pair of running shoes is the most important piece of gear you’ll need to train for a marathon. While it’s important to choose the right running shoes for your foot type and gait, the versatile Brooks Ghost 14 is a popular, well-rounded pick among marathon runners.

The shoe’s exceptional comfort, lightweight feel, and ample support make it an ideal shoe for neutral runners. With high-energizing cushioning, it provides responsive bounce back and good shock absorption with each step, so it can go the distance with you.

While it’s a dependable shoe for long runs, the Ghost’s flexibility and grippy outsole also make it an asset when speedwork is on the training schedule. Plus, it has a lightweight and breathable mesh upper, which can help keep your feet comfortable and blister-free. The Ghost shoe comes in narrow, medium, wide, or extra-wide widths in both men’s and women’s sizes.

Materials: Mesh upper, rubber outsole | Cushioning: DNA Loft foam |  Closure: Lace-up

Best Foam Roller: TriggerPoint CORE Foam Roller

TriggerPoint CORE Foam Roller
Pros
  • Versatile

  • Good for self-massage

  • Durable

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Not very portable

  • More expensive than basic foam rollers

A foam roller is a very effective recovery tool that marathoners can use to massage and stretch post-run. Marathoners love the performance and durability of TriggerPoint's CORE foam roller, which can be used for self-massage and improving flexibility. Made with a solid core and EVA foam, it’s more durable than basic foam rollers that can quickly break down and become soft.

The CORE foam roller also features TriggerPoint’s Grid pattern technology that’s designed to provide targeted compression to massage tight muscles, knots, and kinks. At 12 inches long, the roller is the perfect length to work most muscle groups, especially the IT band, calves, quads, and hamstrings, which can be problem areas for marathon runners.

Best Handheld Water Bottle: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Water Bottle

Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask
Pros
  • Insulated

  • Comfortable to hold

  • Quick and easy to use

  • Reflective elements

Cons
  • Some may prefer larger capacity

Known for their well-made, high-performance bottles for running, Nathan provides marathoners with a great option for training and racing with their SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask. The fully adjustable hand strap with a thumb hole allows for a comfortable, grip-free hold, even when you’re hitting double-digit miles on your long run. And marathoners will appreciate that the double-wall insulated flask keeps fluids cool for longer in the warm weather and prevents them from freezing during winter runs.

At 18 ounces, this BPA-free bottle won’t weigh you down, but it also holds enough fluid that you don’t have to frequently stop and refill. With an easy-to-use cap, you can quickly sip your fluids by just squeezing the bottle.

Designed for running, the bottle features some reflective materials for increased visibility. There’s also plenty of room for your phone, keys, and other essentials in the expandable, zippered pocket.

Materials: BPA-free plastic, Polyethylene | Type: Handheld | Storage: Zippered pocket

Best Socks: Feetures High Performance Cushion Running Socks

Feetures High Performance Cushion Running Socks
Pros
  • Excellent moisture-wicking capability

  • Seamless toe

  • Targeted compression

  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons
  • On the expensive side

  • Not warm enough for very cold weather

One of the best ways to avoid blisters, a common affliction among marathoners, is to have the right pair of running socks. “Having a layer of absorbent and wicking material between your skin and your shoe can lower friction and help to avoid hot spots,” says Paul Ronto, ultra-runner, gear expert, and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat.com. Cotton socks hold in moisture, which can lead to blisters and chafing, so you should look for socks made of synthetic wicking materials.

These Feetures High Performance Cushion running socks are constructed from a blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex, so they keep your feet cool and blister-free. The lightweight fabric and seamless toe also prevent uncomfortable bunching and rubbing. The tab in the back protects your skin from shoe irritation, while targeted compression in the arch area delivers support where you need it the most. Feetures stands behind the quality and durability of their socks with a lifetime replacement pair guarantee.

Materials: Polyester, nylon, spandex | Length: No-show  Quantity: One pair | Care: Wash gentle cycle cold, tumble dry low

Best Sunglasses: Goodr OG Sunglasses

Pros
  • Sturdy and bounce-free

  • Affordable

  • Stylish

  • Durable

Cons
  • Lenses are not extremely dark

  • May not be a good fit for wide faces

Most marathoners have at least one, more likely two or three, pairs of running sunglasses to shield their eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays on the run, as well as provide protection from wind, debris, and glare. Stylish, durable, and extremely affordable, the goodr OG sunglasses are perfect for stocking up to make sure you always have a pair of shades in case you misplace one. Despite their low price, these sunglasses are polarized, scratch-resistant, and glare-reducing.

Goodr sunglasses are also well-known for their outstanding fit and feature a snug, lightweight frame that’s designed to prevent bouncing. They also have silicone inserts with a special grip coating to prevent slippage when sweating. Plus, these sunnies look chic enough to take you straight from your Saturday morning miles to a post-run, outdoor brunch.

Coating: Polarized, UV protection, scratch-resistant | Materials: Copolyester | Shape: Full-frame

Best Sunscreen: Thinksport Safe Sunscreen SPF 50+

Thinksport Safe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
Pros
  • Excellent SPF protection

  • All-natural

  • Lightweight and fast-absorbing

Cons
  • Water-resistant up to 80 minutes

Not only is sunscreen one of the most important marathon essentials, but it’s easily one of the most forgotten. Wearing sunscreen provides protection from harmful UV rays and running without it even for a short run can lead to a sunburn.

Made with natural ingredients, this sunscreen from Thinksport uses zinc oxide to deliver broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection and is a great option for runners who want a mineral-based sunscreen. The formula doesn’t have an unpleasant chemical scent and contains no PABA, parabens, phthalates, BPA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, petroleum, or toxic chemicals.

Lightweight and fast-absorbing, the sunscreen doesn’t leave skin feeling oily or sticky, which is a common complaint about some sunscreens intended for athletes. However, it’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. That's better than nothing, but considering many long runs go two hours or more, you might want to carry the bottle for reapplication on sunnier outings.

Sunscreen Type: Physical | SPF: 50+ | Water-resistant: Yes

Best Arm Band: RevereSport Waterproof Running Armband

RevereSport Waterproof Running Armband
Pros
  • Fully waterproof

  • Secure, comfortable fit

  • Lifetime replacement guarantee

  • Touchscreen compatible cover

Cons
  • A little bulky

  • Not a lot of additional storage

While many marathon runners like to carry their phone during runs and races, it can be a safety hazard to hold it in your hand. “Being able to focus on the run and not on the object in your hand is important,” Ronto says.

An armband is a great option to keep your phone safe and secure, so you don’t get distracted or damage your phone by dropping it or soaking it with sweat. Made from soft, chafe-free Lycra material with a waterproof coating, this phone holder from RevereSport will protect your phone from rain and sweat. It features a zip-seal and a snap-lock closure to provide a dependable barrier between your phone and water.

A touchscreen plastic cover allows you to take calls, change your playlist, and use your apps without taking your phone out, while the adjustable strap allows for a comfortable, secure fit. Additionally, a small key pocket is ideal for storing cash, credit cards, and an ID.

Storage: Waterproof phone pocket, key pocket, slot for cash, and credit cards | Fastener: Velcro | Care: Machine wash and air dry

Best Running Belt: FlipBelt Zipper Running Belt

FlipBelt Zipper Running Belt
Pros
  • Comfortable and lightweight

  • Plenty of storage

  • Doesn’t bounce or chafe

  • Fits under clothing

Cons
  • Not water-resistant

  • May not work for very large waists

A popular training accessory for marathoners, the FlipBelt is an easy and comfortable way to carry long run essentials. It has a continuous main compartment, with three openings in which you can stash your phone, nutrition and fuel, or other items for easy access on the run. Plus, it has a zippered pocket that can securely hold money, keys, or other valuables.

Sleek and streamlined, the FlipBelt doesn't ride up or bounce as you’re running. It’s constructed from a high-quality, breathable micropoly and Lycra fabric, so it quickly wicks away sweat and moisture, helping keep you dry and chafe-free.

The belt stretches and pulls on like a pair of pants, so you can wear it wherever it feels comfortable on your waist. It’s available in various neutral and fun colors and seven different sizes that fit waists from 18 to 48 inches.

Storage: Four pockets, one with zipper | Care: Machine wash and tumble or hang dry | Fit: Fits waist sizes from 18 to 48 inches

Best GPS Running Watch: Garmin Forerunner 245 Running Smartwatch

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Smartwatch
Pros
  • Syncs with Spotify

  • Offers performance monitoring

  • Tracks health data

  • Safety and tracking features

Cons
  • Short battery life when using GPS and playing music

  • Expensive

For marathoners who like lots of feedback about their training and racing, the Garmin Forerunner 245 is a sturdy, reliable, and high-performance option. The watch lets runners track the traditional metrics, such as pace and distance, but also offers more precise data, such as stride length, calories, ground contact time, and vertical ratio. Marathoners can analyze their stride patterns and make small adjustments for more efficient running.  

Beyond tracking key stats, the Forerunner can also help you take your training to the next level with the Garmin Coach feature, which creates adaptive workout plans. Whether you want to train by heart rate or pace, there’s a training plan for you. You can also use it to sync your favorite music apps like Spotify to boost your motivation while running.

From heart rate alerts to sleep tracking, the watch provides important health data that could affect your marathon training. It also helps keep you safe with the incident detection feature, which sends your real-time location to pre-selected contacts if an accident occurs. Plus, the watch connects to your smartphone, so you won’t miss any text alerts.

Battery Life: Up to seven days as a smartwatch, six hours with GPS and music | GPS: Yes | Waterproof: Up to 164 feet | Other Features: Syncs with Spotify, advanced training data, incident detection, connects to smartphones

Best Reflective: Illumiseen LED Reflective Belt

Illumiseen LED Reflective Built
Pros
  • Offers 360 degrees of visibility

  • Inexpensive

  • Comfortable

  • Adjustable

Cons
  • May not work for very small or very large waists

  • No storage

With so many miles on their training schedule, most marathoners end up running some miles in the early morning or evening, in low-light conditions.

Visibility products, such as this reflective belt, can help keep you safe and seen by drivers, bicyclists, and other runners on the road. Lightweight and durable, this belt has both reflectivity and LED lights, so it can greatly increase your visibility to oncoming traffic. The lights can be used in steady or flashing mode and you can switch back and forth with a click of a button. The belt also comes with a rechargeable battery that gives up to 20 hours of illumination in flashing mode.

Designed to be worn comfortably around the waist or over the shoulder, it has an easy-to-use buckle and adjustable straps that can accommodate waist sizes from 31 to 43 inches.

Visibility: Reflectivity and LED illumination | Fastener: Buckle | Storage: None | Battery Life: Up to 20 hours in flashing mode

Best Headphones: Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones

Beats Pro Wireless Headphones
Pros
  • Sweat- and water-resistant

  • Totally wireless

  • Good battery life

  • Powerful, balanced sound

Cons
  • Expensive

  • Some have trouble charging them

Designed with athletes in mind, these high-quality, totally wireless earbuds from Beats can handle all the sweaty miles and lengthy workouts that marathon runners throw at them. Lightweight and extremely comfortable, the ear hooks are customizable with multiple ear tip options for extended comfort and are designed to stay securely in place.

They produce high-quality, powerful, and balanced sound, while also offering the right amount of noise isolation to keep you focused. Each earbud has full volume and track controls, as well as voice capability, so you don't need to slow down or have access to your device to adjust your music. 

The Powerbeats’ battery life is also exceptional, with up to nine hours of listening time from a single charge, and the Fast Fuel feature gives the headphones 1.5 hours of playback with just a five-minute charge when the battery is low.

Battery Life: 9 hours | Bluetooth: Yes | Water-Resistant: Yes

Best Hat: Athleta Ultra Light Run Cap

Athleta Ultra Light Run Cap
Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Very breathable

  • Well-ventilated

  • Stylish

Cons
  • Limited color options

A running hat with a brim is a must-have item for any marathoner-in-training. “Wearing a hat while running will keep the sun out of your eyes or keep you from getting as wet when it’s raining,” says Lisa Selby, RRCA- and VDOT-certified running coach. This lightweight, breathable, and comfortable hat from Athleta makes an ideal pick for sunny or rainy runs. The brim can protect you from the sun’s rays and glare, as well as keep raindrops off your face. The durable and breathable nylon fabric also wicks away moisture from sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable.

Whether you wear it for your long run or throw it on for a day at the beach, this stylish hat is a nice accessory to any outfit. It’s available in white or black, and the adjustable strap means it can accommodate all size heads.

Material: Ripstop nylon | Closure: Adjustable back strap | Care: Hand wash and hang dry

Best for Electrolyte Replacement: Nuun Sport Electrolyte Drink Tablets

Nuun sport electrolyte drink tablets
Pros
  • Easy and convenient electrolyte replacement

  • Low in calories and sugar

  • Very portable and good for travel

  • Non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan

Cons
  • Tablets take a couple of minutes to dissolve

  • Some don’t like all the flavors

When running for more than two hours, marathoners need to replace electrolytes lost through sweat to maintain their electrolyte levels, optimize performance, and facilitate their recovery. These popular and convenient Nuun tablets mix easily with water in your sports bottle to create a tasty beverage that supplies the sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium that marathoners need for balanced hydration and nutrition. With just one gram of sugar and only 15 calories, they provide an electrolyte boost without a lot of extra calories.

Sweetened with Stevia and made with no artificial colors or flavoring, Nuun tablets are also certified non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, kosher, and vegan. Every box comes with one tube of four fruity flavors, including lemon-lime, tri-berry, citrus fruit, and orange. The tubes contain ten tablets, which are easy to stash in a running shorts pocket or running belt for on-the-run electrolyte replenishment.

Electrolytes: Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium | Flavors: Lemon Lime, Tri-Berry, Citrus Fruit, Orange | Calories per serving: 15 | Sugar per serving: 1 gram

Best Long Run Nutrition: GU Energy Original Sports Nutrition Energy Gel

GU Energy Gels
Pros
  • Portable and convenient

  • Lots of flavor choices

  • Vegan and gluten-free

  • Affordable

Cons
  • Some flavors are not as tasty as others

  • Not organic

Marathoners need fuel during their long training runs and the race itself to help keep from the dreaded bonk. A long-time favorite in the sports nutrition market, GU energy gels offer quick and convenient energy that marathoners can consume on the run.

They contain carbs in the form of maltodextrin and fructose, offering a very fast-acting, easily digestible source of energy. Each packet, which can be easily stashed in a pocket or running belt, contains 100 calories and essential electrolytes. With more than 25 flavors to choose from, there’s an option to please every runner’s taste buds. Like everything else related to marathon running, you shouldn’t try anything new on race day, so it’s a good idea to experiment with different gels and flavors to avoid potential digestive issues.

Calories Per Serving: 100 | Carbs Per Serving: 21 to 23 grams

Best Anti-Chafing: BodyGlide Original Anti-Chafe Balm

Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm
Pros
  • Prevents blisters and chafing

  • Not messy or greasy

  • Goes on clear

  • Sweat- and water-resistant

Cons
  • Will melt if left in the sun or a hot car

  • Dries out eventually if not in use

Chafing can happen when your skin rubs against your clothes as you’re running, so marathon runners definitely need to have a dependable anti-chafing product in their arsenal. A tried-and-true favorite among distance runners, Body Glide is an allergen-free, no-petroleum stick that can be used on areas that are prone to chafing or irritation.

BodyGlide is not greasy or sticky and it goes on like a deodorant stick, so it’s less messy and easier to apply than creams, gels, and powders. It’s also resistant to sweat and water, so you can be confident that it will keep working when you’re soaked from sweat or rain.

“You should apply it to any area that will receive friction from your clothing such as feet, armpits, around your sports bra, and waistline,” says Whitney Heins, founder, and VDOT certified running coach at The Mother Runners.

BodyGlide comes in a few different sizes, including a small 0.8-ounce stick that can easily fit in your pocket or running belt for mid-run or race applications.

Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ozokerite Wax, Glyceryl Behenate, Stearyl Alcohol, Allantoin, Tocopherol (Vitamin E) | Scent: None

Best Shorts: Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Short

Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Short
Pros
  • Lightweight and stretchy

  • Comfortable

  • Lots of storage

  • Great fit and function

Cons
  • May run small

  • Limited color options

Lightweight and comfortable, these Lululemon shorts are ideal for marathon training and racing. Designed with runners in mind, they feature a secure waistband and continuous drawstring so they’ll stay in place, so you’re not tugging at them as you’re running. They’re made from Lululemon’s fast-drying, lightweight Nulux material, which is breathable and moisture-wicking, keeping you dry and cool. The four-way stretch fabric also allows for an excellent range of motion, while also helping to reduce your risk of painful chafing.

With deep, drop-in pockets on both sides, these shorts have plenty of room for your phone and other items you may need easy access to during long runs. Five small waistband pockets provide even more storage options for other essentials such as your money, keys, or credit cards. They’re available in sizes 0 to 14 and come in 6-, 8-, or 10-inch lengths, so you can choose the amount of coverage that works best for you.

Materials: Nulux and Lycra | Storage: Two side pockets and five waistband pockets | Care: Machine wash, tumble dry low

Final Verdict

When training for a marathon, your most important gear item is a comfortable, supportive pair of running shoes. The Brooks Ghost 14 Running Shoes (view on Zappos) is an exceptional, well-rounded shoe for neutral runners that are lightweight and flexible enough for speedwork, but also provides support and comfort for long runs.


To prevent chafing, one of the most common running ailments, BodyGlide (view on Amazon) is an inexpensive, reliable product that every marathon runner should have in their arsenal.

What to Look for in Gear for Running a Marathon

Fit and Comfort

Using the wrong type of gear or ill-fitting clothes is one of the most common marathon mistakes and it could turn your race into a painful, miserable experience. Look for marathon gear that fits properly and will keep you comfortable.

“The best way to choose marathon gear is to test as much gear as possible and find what works for you, and is comfortable,” says Mike Wardian, Nathan Sports athlete and professional runner. “Comfort is king as the distances get longer.”

And, remember, what works for one marathoner may not necessarily work for another, so it’s crucial to consider your own preferences and needs when choosing your gear. Only you can determine what gear works best and will make you feel most comfortable during training and on race day.

Materials

Look for clothes and socks made with materials that are breathable and wick away moisture, such as technical fabrics or synthetic blends including polyester, Lycra, spandex, and nylon. Avoid wearing any clothes, socks, or running shoes made with cotton, since it holds water and can irritate skin and cause chafing.

Quality

Your marathon gear gets a lot of use and can really take a beating during training, so it’s worth it to spend a little extra for high-quality, durable products. Look for items from trusted, tried-and-true brands, like ones that you would find in a running specialty store.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should I wear for a marathon?

    The best outfit for running a marathon really depends on a number of factors, including the weather and what you feel comfortable running in. During your training runs, you should figure out what shoes and clothes work best for you. You shouldn’t be trying out any new clothes or gear on race day.


    “Take weather into consideration and plan to test out weather-appropriate clothing, especially if you’re training in a cold climate for a hot race or vice versa,” says Nate Helming.

  • Do you have to wear a shirt during a marathon?

    Marathons don’t usually require that runners wear a shirt. However, most runners do wear one so they can pin their race bib to it, rather than pinning it to their shorts.

  • How long is a marathon?

    A marathon is always the same distance: 26.2 miles (or 42.2 kilometers). Races that are shorter or longer in distance are not called marathons. Other popular distances for races include the 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6 .2 miles),half-marathon (13.1 miles), or ultra-marathon (anything over 26.2 miles).

  • How long should runners train for a marathon?

    Most marathon training programs are 12 to 16 weeks long. However, all programs require a moderate training base, so you shouldn’t just get off the couch and start training for a marathon.


    “You need to be in shape before starting a marathon cycle, ideally six months of consistent running and strength training that somewhat mirrors your intended plan, just at lower volumes,” says Nate Helming. “The longer your build up, the greater chance for injury and serious fatigue. To counteract those risks, your training week should make room for some fairly robust strength sessions and daily mobility sessions.”

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a marathon runner and running coach, Christine Luff has researched and tested lots of marathon gear and attire. She knows that the right clothes, shoes, and other essentials can make the difference between a mediocre marathon and a fantastic one.

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