What Not to Wear When Running

When it comes to running attire and gear, what you avoid wearing is just as important as what you wear.  Most experienced runners have at least one story of a wardrobe malfunction that led to chafing or some other uncomfortable or embarrassing problem. To avoid such mishaps, here are some rules for what not to wear while to running.


Avoid Wearing 100 Percent Cotton

Sweaty male runner running on sunny urban footbridge at sunrise
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Cotton is a big no-no for runners because once it gets wet, it stays wet, which can be uncomfortable in warmer weather and dangerous in cold weather. Your skin is also more likely to chafe if you're wearing cotton. Your feet are especially prone to blisters if you’re wearing cotton socks.  Runners should stick to technical fabrics such as DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax, ​polypropylene, or silk. Those types of materials will wick the sweat away from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable.


Don't Wear Sweatpants

Two female runner friends looking out from warehouse platform
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Yes, this re-emphasizes the “no cotton” rule, but it's worth repeating. Sweatpants and sweatshirts were once popular cold weather running attire. But with the advent of running clothes made from technical fabrics, sweats are really considered "old school" among runners. Running clothes made from technical fabrics, such as DriFit, are much more comfortable because they wick away sweat and keep you dry. If you wear cotton sweats for a cold outdoors run, you're going to get wet, stay wet, and then get chilled. Not only could this be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, but your running performance will likely suffer as well.

Sweats are great for lounging around the house after a run, but if you want to feel comfortable and look sharp for your cold outdoor runs, stick to running tights, pants, and shirts made from technical fabrics.


Don't Wear a Thick, Heavy Layer on Winter Runs

Man exercising outdoors
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When running in cold weather, don’t wear a thick coat or shirt. If the layer is too thick, you’ll overheat, sweat too much, and then get chilled when you take it off. You’re much better off dressing in thin, wicking layer so you won’t sweat excessively and you can easily remove a layer and tie it around your waist ​when you start to get warm.


Avoid Thick Running Socks in the Summer

Thorlo Lite Running Sock
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Your feet swell when you run, especially during hot, summer runs. If you wear thick running socks, your toes will rub up against the front of your shoes and you’ll be at risk for black toenails. Your feet will also sweat more, which will make them more prone to blisters. Instead, the best summer running socks will be thinner and less padded.


Don't Wear Worn-Out Running Shoes

Dirty sneakers
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Running in old or worn-out running shoes can lead to running injuries. Over time, your running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability. Running in worn-out shoes increases the stress and impact on your legs and joints, which can cause overuse injuries. Be aware of the signs your running shoes need to be replaced. One of the best things you can do to prevent running injuries is to replace your shoes every 300 to 400 miles. You may also consider using two pairs of running shoes, rotating in a new pair when your old pair is about half-way through its lifespan. That way, you will recognize when the older pair is wearing out.


Don't Wear Anything New on Race Day

Race spectators cheering
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Race day is not the time to experiment with a new pair of running shoes, running shorts, or a new sports bra. You should be trying out new clothes and shoes during your training runs and then stick with your tried-and-true favorites that you know are comfortable. Just keep repeating to yourself, "Nothing new on race day."  It's tempting to wear that new race T-shirt you get in your race goody bag before the race, but you never know if it's going to be uncomfortable or chafe you in place you've never chafed before. Wait until after you've successfully crossed the finish line and then put it on.

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