All you need to start running is some dedication, perseverance, and self-discipline. But even if it is a low-tech sport, high-tech gear and apparel can make covering all those miles a little easier — and safer. If you’re training for a marathon, or just starting a new fitness routine, proper gear can help you get more out of your workout. Calorie counters, heart-rate monitors, and pace trackers will keep you on track to get more fit and healthier. Reflective, waterproof outerwear will keep you visible and dry, even if you’re running on a dark, rainy night. And well-designed shoes will protect your joints. Here are some of the most technically advanced outwear, shoes and accessories on the market.
New Balance 2Step Short is a two-in-one short, featuring a Lightning Dry™ textured knit shell, which breathes and dries quickly. An inner compression short, made of snug-fitting Lycra, works to reduce muscle fatigue by keeping muscles warm and reduces inner-thigh chafing, which is a significant benefit for long-distance runners.
Reflective vestUnlike other protective safety clothing with a few strips of straight reflective tape, illumiNITE’s Neon Marathon Vest style 91001V has thousands of tiny, mirror-shaped reflective nodules applied all over the exterior fabric. As a result, when light hits the vest, it reflects back in the shape of a human being, not a strip of tape. The Marathon Vest, which is lightweight, breathable, and Teflon-coated for water resistance, reflects light back at cars from almost any angle.$64.99;
Integrated into the sleeve of the Nike Nike plus-ready jacket is a flexible, moisture-free pouch to hold your iPod Nano. And sewn into the outside arm and shoulder of the jacket is an ingenious cord management system that keeps your earphone cords tucked in while you run and keeps them from flopping around with each stride. The result: you can run with your tunes. The jacket’s contrasting reflective trim also makes you visible, and the dri-fit fabric wicks away perspiration.$140;
For runners biggest challenge of any waterproof/breathable fabric is moisture management — getting perspiration off the body (to avoid cold) and outside the jacket or outer layer. Most Gore-Tex fabrics were great at keeping moisture out, but they were dense, they were easy to reach or stretch in. Outdoor Research’s running jackets, made with Gore-Tex paclite fabric, are still waterproof and breathable, but they’re also easy to move in. Simply put, Gore-Tex Paclite best fabric in the business.$199;
Most high-tech fabrics manage moisture by getting it off the skin so the skin stays dry. Mizuno’s “Breath Thermo” takes it one step further. The revolutionary polymer wicks perspiration and moisture off the body, absorbs it, converts it to dry heat, and then reflects it back to your body. Perhaps the ultimate cold-weather, next-to-skin layer. In addition, strands of anti-microbial and anti-bacterial fabric woven into the design keeps the stink away. Available in tops, bottoms and caps.$15 to $125;
Running shoesIn a 24-hour period in 2004, runners wearing New Balance RC 550 running shoes won the London and Chicago marathons. Two years before, Moroccan marathon star Khalid Khannouchi set a world marathon record in the same shoe. Considered the ideal racing shoe by many of the Kenya’s elite runners, the RC 550 has AbZorb technology that reduces impact on the joints. It also has a so-called medial post, made of higher-density plastic, that is placed under the inside of the heel, stabilizing the heel as it rolls inward. But the shoe’s primary attraction is that it is incredibly light, so for racers and competition runners, there’s less weight to lift over 26.2 miles. Unlike any other shoe makers, New Balance offers the RC 550 comes in a full range of widths from AA to EEEE.$59;
The Adidas 1.1 running shoe contains a microprocessor makes 5 million calculations per second, so it can adjust the cushioning in the shoe, almost instantly. Take four steps, and the shoes have already analyzed your weight, speed, and terrain. A motor-driven cable system automatically tightens or loosens the cushioning cylinder area depending on your running characteristics.$250;
Reebok Trinity KFS (Kinetic Fit System) is a competitive long-distance training shoe with technical features meant for strong runners. A Runner’s World Editor’s Choice, the shoe is designed to mimic (and therefore not hinder) the foot’s natural movement during a foot strike. The KFS shoe is divided into three sections that, thanks to the flexible joints, move interdependently, like a foot. Reebok uses what it calls “expansion joints” in the shoe’s upper. A stiff “transition bridge” in the shoe connects the forefoot to the heel to keep the KFS from allowing excessive flex. And the tiny port holes under the heel, called DMX Shear, let the heel padding flex forward, releasing (and therefore reducing) the braking forces of a runner’s heel strike.$114.99; Training device
The Nike + iPod Sport Kit lets you hear your workout progress through the earphones in your iPod Nano. A custom-made transmitter fits in a cavity in any Nike+-ready shoe (all Nikes will be +-ready by spring 2007) and sends information wirelessly to your Nano. The software records pace, calories expended, and speed. The best thing about the device (other than not having to look down at your watch to track your progress) is that it lets you can upload daily workout information to your own personal Nike Plus Web page to track your progress or to work out “with” a training partner in another city.Shoes prices vary;
Garmin Forerunner 205 is a wrist-mounted GPS device that helps runners track their training progress, as well as track out an accurate, training regimen if they travel for business, but want to keep their routine intact. You can even analyze your workouts with Garmi’'s MotionBased.com software, which tracks your workouts, and TrainingPeaks.com software to help you taper your workouts for the big day.$268;
Tech4OT Running Speedometer accurately measures actual, average and maximum speed, distance and heart rate, and includes a lap counter function. The Running Speedometer is accurate for both running (up to 98.5 percent) and walking/hiking (up to 90 percent), significantly more accurate than a typical pedometer. The system uses accelerometer technology, which is integrated into the rheart-rate strap, so the runner doesn’t need to wear a foot pod. Data from the accelerometer and heart monitor is sent to the receiver, which can be worn on a watch-style band or hung from a lanyard (included). Battery life is an industry best — 200 or more hours.$179; www.tech40.com
If you are a runner, cyclist, triathlete or just a person who doesn't sit on the couch all day, Road ID is for you. This awesome piece of gear not only looks good, but it could save your life. In the event of an accident, if you can’t speak for yourself, your Road ID will. Available in five different styles, it’s not just a piece of gear — it’s peace of mind.Apparel prices vary; For more information on high-tech gear and accessories, check out Paul Hochman’s Web site,