How to Stop Feeling Self-Conscious About Running

Woman running on sidewalk in a city
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Starting a running program can be intimidating. Very few people feel like a runner from the first moment they hit the pavement. Some people wonder if they look the part. Others assume that they look silly. It's completely normal to feel self-conscious about running.

You don't have to let these short-term concerns deter you from reaching your running goals. Manage newbie nervousness and gain confidence as a runner with a few achievable steps.

Dress Like a Runner

Wearing the right attire for working out might help you feel more comfortable when running in public. Sports-specific clothing sends a message to others and yourself that you know what you're doing—whether you do or don't.

Running Shoes

Wearing running shoes rather than generic gym shoes or tennis sneakers will not only help you look the part, but they may give you a stronger, more confident gait. The right running shoes will also help you feel better so that you can run with a self-assured smile on your face.

Running Clothes

Wearing high-tech fibers can help reduce your overall weight for a lighter, faster run. Check out running tops, jackets, and pants made out of CoolMax and other moisture-wicking fibers to lighten your load and make your runs more comfortable. If you're feeling frustrated about finding clothes that fit you, try activewear from size-inclusive brands.

When you wear running-specific clothing, you'll also reduce the risk of chafing. This simple change will help you move more comfortably—and confidently—during and after your run.

You don't need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe just for running, but having a few key pieces will keep you comfortable and can boost your confidence. You might find it motivating to look in your closet and see a good pair of running shorts or pants, a sharp-looking running shirt, and the right running shoes.

Sports Bra

For people with breasts, it's especially important to wear the right sports bra. Bras that only offer a little structure and support might work well when you're just walking around the house but might not be enough to prevent discomfort when running.

It may take a few tries to find the right running bra for you. Experiment with different styles until you find the best fit. You can visit a running store or website that offers guidance about cup size and activity level, then choose a style that fits your needs.

Adjust Your Attitude

It is not uncommon to wonder if it looks weird to run around the neighborhood when your neighbors don't know you as a runner. Fear of being seen running on the roads or even on a treadmill at the gym keeps many people from starting (or continuing) a running habit. Recognize that you're not alone and that other runners—from experienced runners to beginners—have felt self-conscious about running.

Knowing that you shouldn't worry about what others think doesn't mean that you won't worry. But the reality is that most people aren't really paying attention to you. And if they do notice you, assume the best—maybe they're impressed by your running ability.

What Runners Think

It's not helpful to be concerned about what others think. As a runner, you deserve respect from other runners. Whether you realize it or not, you're probably getting it. Runners love seeing others out on the roads or trails. Runners get enjoyment out of their sport, so why wouldn't they want to see others doing the same?

Remember that all runners were new to the sport at some point. They can relate to the struggles that you face as a beginner.

If you feel self-conscious around other runners, remember that they had to start from somewhere too. Ask them about their experience, and you're likely to get some great advice.

What Non-Runners Think

Try not to get hung up about what non-runners think. Remind yourself of the great benefits that you're getting from running (which others are missing out on).

The people who really matter to you are very likely supportive of your efforts. After all, you're taking noticeable steps to improve your health and fitness. Be proud that you're doing something good for your physical and mental well-being.

Look for Role Models

Next time you're on a run, look around you and try to take stock of other runners. Finding runners you can relate to can help boost your confidence. If you're self-conscious about how sweaty you get during a run, look for other runners who sweat just as much. They're out there! If you feel self-conscious about your body size, look for runners with similar body types.

Studying photos from races, you can see runners from all age groups, fitness levels, and body sizes. If you visit online running forums, you'll find that many people have the same concerns you do. Whether you find relatable runners in real life or on the internet, try to use them as positive role models in your running journey.

Learn Proper Form

Knowing—and using—proper running form can also help you feel more confident as a new runner. Following a few basic tips, you can learn the proper gait and upper body posture to project confidence and excel in your runs.

To look and feel more at ease, look forward (not down) while you run. Relax your arms into a bent position with your hands at waist level.

You'll also want to consider your stride. There are differing opinions about whether you should strike with your forefoot or your heel—many distance runners tend to be forefoot runners. Most experts recommend a mid-foot strike.

You can also count the number of times that your feet hit the pavement in one minute. A comfortable stride pace is often around 180 steps per minute.

If your stride is slightly off, don't worry. These are just guidelines. Even if your form isn't where you want it to be, you'll feel better knowing that you're working on it.

Find a Running Buddy

You may also feel less self-conscious if you get a friend or family member to come along on a run with you. A bonus of running with a buddy is that you can keep each other motivated before, during, and after the workout.

You could also join a running group. Check with your gym, local running store, or the recreation department in your town or city to find beginner programs. Running with others who are also new to the sport might make it easier to show up on a regular basis.

Distract Yourself

Stop overthinking during your run by mentally distracting yourself. Repeat running mantras in your head that motivate you. Play mental games like calculating what percentage of your run you've finished and how much you have left. Count how many trees or cars you pass until you get to a certain number.

As long as you feel safe and pay attention to your surroundings, listen to a podcast or music to get out of your head. Distraction tactics can help you worry less about running in public, beat boredom, and make running more fun.

Be Safe

If you plan to run by yourself, there are some basic safety rules to follow. On the plus side, learning how to stay safe can help you feel more confident, too. Even veteran runners practice these rules regularly.

For example, if you're out for a run on your own, try talking to yourself (like you are wearing an earpiece for your phone). This strategy will make it look like you have someone who knows where you are, making you less likely to be a target.

If you experience street harassment, keep running and don't respond. Yelling back, using profanity, or making obscene gestures may exacerbate the situation. Running in public areas such as a park, bike path, or trail will reduce the chances of random people harassing you as they drive past.

A Word From Verywell

The first time that you go out for a run is likely to be the hardest. After you've had a good run out in public a few times, you'll feel more confident, comfortable, and be less concerned about others watching you. Remember to hold your head high: You are taking bold steps to increase your fitness and well-being and that is something to celebrate.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hespanhol Junior LC, Pillay JD, van Mechelen W, Verhagen E. Meta-analyses of the effects of habitual running on indices of health in physically inactive adultsSports Med. 2015;45(10):1455–1468. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0359-y

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.