Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn money if you buy from a link. How we test gear.
We’ve put hundreds of pieces of equipment through their paces this year, and the 21 you see here rose to the top.
Our test team at Runner’s World has one job—pile miles onto the newest gear and tell you whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash. This year, we found that truly wireless headphones have matured and have batteries with enough juice to last through your longest runs. We also appreciate the foam war that’s happening in footwear, providing us lightweight, cushioned training shoes that add pep to our daily runs. And this is the year we didn’t have to sacrifice performance for stylish wear. After careful evaluation and discussion among our team of test editors, these 21 exceptional Gear of the Year products are the best you can get right now.
Apple’s first true wireless earbuds for sport, the Beats Powerbeats Pro, pair excellent sound quality with a powerful battery. Unlike other totally wireless models, the Powerbeats will keep rocking long after you cross your next marathon’s finish line, thanks to a nine-hour run time. If you somehow manage to find your buds dead before a morning jog, a five-minute quick charge gives you 90 minutes of playback. Smartly designed and comfortable ear hooks keep the Beats in your ears—no worries about losing one of these pricey buds—and their slim profile means you can still wear sunglasses.
Salomon’s ADV Skin 8 Set W is the best-fitting women’s backpack we’ve tried. All our female testers raved about it, no matter their size. The pack has two soft flasks that sit lower than on many other options, out of the way of your breasts, so you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for fuel. The pack contours your body and is made to fit narrower shoulders and shorter torso lengths. It has loads of storage options for stashing all your gear, bungee-cord loops to carry trekking poles, and a bladder-compatible insulated sleeve so you can run through the winter.
A ton of synthetic socks promise to keep your feet happy on long runs, but the new Balega UltraGlide boasts some serious blister protection in a thin, lightweight sock. The company uses something it calls “friction-free yarn” in the lightly padded areas under the metatarsal heads and heel that makes the whole thing feel comfy and cool on long road runs. To further boost protection, the UltraGlide has a tab in the back, like many other socks, and another in the front for a slip-free fit.
This might just be the best $100 you can spend on running gear. Sure, there are pricey shoes getting loads of buzz right now, but for a daily trainer that still feels zippy, look to the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy. It benefits from a new midsole compound similar to Adidas’s Boost, called Floatride Energy. The foam is extremely lightweight and soft, yet responsive if you want to run fast. Sandwiching the midsole is a breathable upper and lots of rubber for hot-weather comfort and durability. There’s nothing terribly flashy here, but all the parts work exceptionally well together.
To create a shoe that’s lighter than the competition without sacrificing cushioning, Skechers developed a new midsole that’s manufactured using plasma. The Skechers GOrun Razor 3 Hyper uses this new foam, which is made when a solid block of plastic is exposed to a supercritical fluid. Basically, Skechers heats CO2 gas under pressure until it returns to a liquid state and penetrates the plastic mold, turning the solid block into a compressible midsole. There’s a lot of science to it, but the result is a midsole foam that’s lighter than typical EVA, yet surprisingly well-cushioned.
Waterproof or breathable, pick one. That was typically the choice you were forced to make with foul-weather running jackets—you were going to get soaked either from rain or from your own sweat trapped inside a waterproof shell that wouldn’t let enough hot air escape. But new jackets like The North Face Futurelight Flight change that. It’s a stretchy, lightweight shell with a waterproof membrane laminated inside. The fibers allow heat to escape through the tiny gaps in the weave, but water molecules won’t fit. Even on warm days, it keeps you more comfortably dry than old seam-sealed shells. $280
The Garmin Forerunner 945 has all the training tools a runner or triathlete could want. It tracks your every step on the run and your heartbeat as you sleep to give you a complete profile of your life as an athlete. And the newest model supports music playback—it stores up to 1,000 songs, whether they’re your own MP3s or synced from a music service like Spotify. The color maps are a handy feature, too. Displayed on the watch, they allow you to find your way around new cities without getting lost, and generate round-trip courses on the fly.
We test a lot of sunscreens on our daily lunch runs from Runner’s World HQ, and we’ve been impressed with Skinnies Sun Gel. The New Zealand brand made a sunscreen that isn’t water-based, so it’s more concentrated, won’t sweat off, and lasts longer. A pea-sized drop is all you need to cover your face and neck—slather it on your forehead because it won’t sting your eyes—and there’s only a slightly waxy feeling on your fingers afterward. It dries in just two minutes and forms a thin layer that adheres to your skin throughout a long run. Plus, it’s designated reef-safe.
A year ago, the Hyperice Hypervolt appeared on our Gear of the Year list because the handheld massager was far quieter and more affordable than its competition. This new version is even quieter—it went unnoticed when we used it during a staff meeting. It also gets one small but meaningful improvement: a pressure sensor. Three small, white LEDs near the power button tell you how much force you’re applying so you can dial in the right intensity, which is especially helpful if you’re working a sensitive area or if you have somebody else helping you get hard-to-reach trouble spots.
Gore makes more than waterproof jackets and puddle-proof boots. The Gore R5 Women’s Light Shorts are fantastic bottoms if you don’t want to wear a waist belt on your run. The hidden pockets on the interior liner’s legs are big enough for a car’s heavy remote key fob—and there’s no bouncing when you run. Plus, the drawstring-less waistband is broad and snug, and sits so high that you can run with something as big as an iPhone in the pockets without tugging the shorts down. Best of all, the longer liner almost completely eliminates thigh chafing on long runs.
We love how this new workout shirt stands out without making you look like a neon maniac. The New Balance Q Speed Breathe Short Sleeve has subtle styling details that add up: The dipped hem brings a sports jersey vibe, the athletic cut complements the average runner’s build, and then there’s the tiger camo. You either love it or you don’t, but come on, tiger camo! The Q Speed’s lightweight mesh fabric breathes so well it feels like you’re practically shirtless, and it dries as quickly as any tee we’ve tested. As a feel-good bonus, it’s made from 34 percent recycled polyester. And reflective seams provide 360-degree visibility.
When we’re on the road with cars, we like to hear them coming. That’s why we’re digging the new AfterShokz Aeropex, which use bone-conduction technology to send sound waves through our cheekbones without blocking our ear canals. This new version of one of our favorite pair of headphones has a slimmer design and doesn’t vibrate annoyingly at loud volume. The Aeropex sounds better, too—tunes are richer and slightly clearer when running along city streets. The headphones are IP67-rated, too, so they’ll survive a heavy sweat or a rainstorm, and the battery lasts up to eight hours—enough for a week of heavy running.
Do your trails regularly have you bombing down steep, hair-raising descents? If so, the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 is for you. It sits between the lightweight EVO Mafate and the heavy-duty tank, the Stinson, and delivers the best of both shoes. On our local trails in Pennsylvania, it excelled in wet, rocky conditions, but the Vibram Megagrip lugs also bite into slippery mud and stick to slabs of rock. During one wet set of hill repeats, the outsole offered almost too much grip. Despite its lightweight build, there’s plenty of cushioning. It’s not Hoka’s lightest trail shoe, and it doesn’t have a rock plate, but the thick EVA midsole absorbs rocks, roots, and impact when you’re flying down steep trails. And the shoe’s wide toebox and snug-but-not-constricting fit around the midfoot keep you heading downhill in a straight line.
We test dozens of sports bras each year, but none have impressed as much as the Brooks Hot Shot. With each update (the bra is on its third iteration), the Hot Shot sticks with a simple formula: no clasps, no hooks, no zippers. It’s simply a pullover, with a crossback and brushed band, that fits snugly under your breasts without causing chafing or itchy indentations across your torso. It works for everything from an easy lunch run to a marathon. And don’t let the low-impact designation fool you: This one is as secure as many others that claim more support.
Krewe’s Laborde Sunglasses showed us just how perfect sunglasses can be. In all honesty, we only tried them because they looked cooler than our usual shades. The thin, matte-finish frames were an appealing alternative to our chunkier Wayfarer silhouettes and wraparound styles. But then they stayed glued to our faces, and the inevitable slide down our nose never happened—Krewe’s “Fall-Off-Your-Face-Proof” grip, which we chalked up to marketing jargon, lives up to the name. The lenses also stood up to prodigious sweating, with anti-fog and anti-smudge coatings that kept moisture rolling off instead of marring our vision. Stop settling for whatever subpar shades you think are good. They’re not.
These inflatable boots—a favorite of some pro racers—use five compression zones, starting at your feet, to help move fluids through your leg muscles so you recover faster. The problem was, the old system was big and expensive. The NormaTec Pulse 2.0 is more compact and more affordable. The compressor is 27 percent smaller, without losing any power, and the system is still powered by a lithium-ion battery so you can take it on the road. The new unit also connects to a smartphone app so you can customize your sessions and save them for repeated use—use different time and intensity settings for warming up your muscles than for recovery.
When the Tracksmith NDO Waffle Shirt arrived at our office, we initially thought it was cotton because it felt so impossibly soft and comfy. But, desperate for an extra layer, we slipped it on and headed out for a short lunch run. That’s when the 100 percent Merino wool revealed itself, keeping us warm although the thermometer registered temps in the single digits. It’s one of the most versatile pieces of gear you’ll own, thanks to the waffle-knit construction that creates pockets of warm air against your skin—wear it by itself or under a windproof jacket on exceptionally cold mornings.
When power matters, grab the Coros Apex. We tried to kill the battery, but like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, it wouldn’t die. A two-hour run knocked only 5 percent off the charge, and it can go all week without having to give it juice. Further proof: Camille Herron wore the 46mm Apex when she set the world record for distance covered in 24 hours and claimed to have 32 percent battery remaining at the finish. (The smaller 42mm version doesn’t have quite as much stamina, but it will last through an entire marathon.) Both models have GPS tracking as consistent as other premium watches we’ve tested, plus multisport modes.
Finding a comfortable race-day singlet isn’t as easy as it should be; many singlets we’ve tested recently feel too lightweight and stick to your body like Cling Wrap when soaked with sweat. The District Vision Air-Wear Singlet is different: It’s marginally heavier than other tops, but its laser-cut mesh fabric has thousands of vertical slits that allow the polyester- spandex to breathe extremely well and even let some wind pass through. When the shirt is on, the slits are barely visible from afar, so there’s no risk of indecent exposure. But stretch the material sideways and you’ll see it’s full of holes. And its performance doesn’t change as you sweat. The singlet gets a bit heavier but it doesn’t stick, giving you a loose-but-not-flappy feeling that stays comfortable even when you’re drenched.
The fitness tracker to buy this year isn’t a GPS watch. It’s this one, which measures everything you’re doing when you’re not running. The Whoop Strap 3.0 monitors your heart rate and movement all day and night to quantify how much strain your body has absorbed. Combining that data with input about your evening and sleep habits, the app generates a recovery score that’s easy to understand so you know how hard to push. The charts and in-app coaching help you make other subtle, meaningful changes to your daily routine, like going to bed earlier and cutting back on booze at night to help you feel primed for your next track workout. This latest version has a five-day battery.
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Finally there’s a GoPro that does what we always needed an action cam to do: capture shake-free video without an additional stabilizer. The GoPro Hero 7 Black has a new stabilization algorithm that digitally enhances footage so you get decently smooth shots almost every time. It also packs in 5.8k resolution and 240 frames per second slow-mo, plus it’s lightweight, waterproof, and, crucially, sweatproof, so you can toss it in a pocket or hydration pack and take it on all your adventures.
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