What to wear running - from chafe-free sports bras to comfy leggings

A woman jogging and demonstrating what to wear running
(Image credit: Inti St Clair/Blend Images)

Got the idea but none of the running gear?

Whether you’re a seasoned jogger or are taking your first tentative steps towards a 5K, we’ve broken down what to wear running into one, handy guide.

Comfort, of course, is key. Anything that restricts your movement, digs in, or needs to be pulled down every couple of paces just won’t do.

Remember - whatever you're wearing, running is a great thing to do. It's been proven to help people beat depression, and can even lower the risk of an early death.

What to wear running

A supportive sports bra

There are two key terms that crop up when shopping for sports bras - compression and encapsulation. Referring to the way in which the bra supports your bust, compression styles draw your breasts close to your body, while encapsulation holds them in two separate cups. The former normally looks more like a crop top, and the latter like a higher coverage take on your day-to-day bras.

Compression bras should be enough for smaller busts to enjoy running bounce-free, but if you’ve been blessed with a bigger bust you’ll need one that boasts encapsulation. Some styles mix both together, for even better support.

Still not sure where to start? Give our guide to the best sports bras a read.

Reliable trainers

Not all trainers were created equal, and the type you need will depend on your running gait. In layman's terms, that’s how you move and land your feet as you run.

There are three different categories: normal pronation, under pronation or over pronation. Too much under or over pronation and you run the risk of injury, so it’s worth taking the time to get this analysed for your perfect pair of trainers. Shops like Runner’s Need offer this as an in store service.

The experts recommend you change your trainers after every 400 miles, to make sure you’re still getting the level of cushioning and support you need. A word of warning though - make sure you wear in any new trainers before a long run - your toe nails will thank you for it.

Technical fabrics

Figure-hugging lycra is the runner’s fabric of choice for a reason. Sitting close to the body, it works like a second skin to keep you cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cold. Sweat-wicking fabrics take this to the next level, helping to draw moisture away from the body, so you stay nice and dry.

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What to wear running in the summer

Running in the summer tends to be a balancing act of wearing as little clothing as possible, while steering clear of a wardrobe malfunction or pesky chafing.

It’s in warmer weather that sweat-wicking fabrics really come into their own. Working to draw moisture away from the body, they keep you cool instead of uncomfortably clammy. Not forgetting they make light work of sweat patches too.

For a simple summer running get-up, start with a form-fitting vest top and lycra shorts that end just below above the knee. If that’s showing more skin than you're comfortable with, you can always layer an oversized t-shirt or a pair of baggy running shorts on top.

What to wear running in the winter

The weather tends to become more unpredictable during the winter months, so even if your app promises glorious sunshine, it’s good to think ahead.

Layers are key here. The one closest to your body should fit nice and snug, trapping heat and keeping your chest warm.

If you’re worried about catching a chill, add a jacket into the mix. A waterproof one with taped seams will prepare you for all eventualities. Your hood might not stay up while you're running, but you’ll be grateful for it as you wander back from your cool down.

Winter is not the time for shorts, unless you want to end up with wind-whipped legs, of course. Opt for full-length leggings tucked neatly into snuggly running socks.

It’s much darker during the winter months, so make sure you stay both safe and seen with a light reflective kit. Most running jackets and trainers feature glow-in-the-dark strips as standard, but you can always add more if need be.

How do you carry your phone while running?

While there’s no reason why you can’t simply run with your phone in your hand, it does increase the risk of a smashed screen should you take a tumble. To keep your device safe, look for a pair of sporty bottoms with a handy pocket. The side pocket on Sweaty Betty’s Power Leggings is roomy enough for even the biggest models of phones.

Alternatively, look for a phone holder that straps onto your upper arm or waist. If you find these tend to slip and slide when you’re pounding the pavements, a specialist, elasticated vest could be the solution for you.

Go-to brands when buying running attire for beginners

H&M

Often overlooked in favour of more sports-focused brands, H&M is our go-to for affordable activewear. You might expect it to sag and bag after a couple of wears, but we can report that they not only wash well, but stand the test of time too.The collection isn’t currently available in all of their stores, so for the full range, you’re best to browse online.

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Nike

With performance at the heart of everything they do, you can rely on Nike for high-tech fabrics and thoughtful details. Take their best-selling 7/8 running leggings for example. Not content with simply using a sweat-wicking fabric, the hardworking yarns have been carefully crafted to deliver maximum breathability and airflow. The secure zip-pocket and adjustable waistband are the cherries on top.

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Sweaty Betty

For activewear that’s as fashionable as it is functional, Sweaty Betty won’t let you down. The only bad news is that because the brand is so in demand, some of their most popular patterns and prints sell out quickly. Shop everything from insulated jackets to running gloves, high-impact sports bras to stylish running skorts.

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What to wear running - buys to shop now:

Power 7/8 Gym Leggings, £75, Sweaty Betty

Power 7/8 Gym Leggings, £75, Sweaty Betty

A best-seller for a reason, these leggings are seriously comfy. 4-way stretch means the fabric moves as you do for full flexibility.

VIEW NOW: Power 7/8 Gym Leggings, £75, Sweaty Betty

Women's 1/2 Zip Wool Running Top, £89.95, Nike

Women's 1/2 Zip Wool Running Top, £89.95, Nike

Best known for it's insulating talents, this top uses wool to keep you warm but never too hot.

VIEW NOW: Women's 1/2 Zip Wool Running Top, £89.95, Nike

Women's Fresh Foam 860v11 Trainers, £120, New Balance

Women's Fresh Foam 860v11 Trainers, £120, New Balance

Great for road running, the foam midsole cushioning provides plenty of bounce for minimal impact.

VIEW NOW: Women's Fresh Foam 860v11 Trainers, £120, New Balance

V1 Vest, £29.99, Freetrain

V1 Vest, £29.99, Freetrain

Especially handy for longer runs, this phone holder lets you track your progress, listen to music and even ring home hands free. There's room for your keys and an energy gel too.

VIEW NOW: V1 Vest, £29.99, Freetrain

Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve SS 2.0, £49, Luluemon

Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve SS 2.0, £49, Luluemon

Made with sweaty sessions in mind, this anti-stink top won't bag, sag or pull as you wear it.

VIEW NOW: Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve SS 2.0, £49, Luluemon

SLIM Boost High Waist Leggings, £64.95, Proskins

SLIM Boost High Waist Leggings, £64.95, Proskins

If you're looking for leggings with serious stomach support, then call off the search. The high-waist and silky soft compression fabric work together to smooth your shape.

VIEW NOW: SLIM Boost High Waist Leggings, £64.95, Proskins

Seamless Performance Sports Bra, £29, Cos

Seamless Performance Sports Bra, £29, Cos

Proof that sportswear can still be stylish, this colour-block bra uses compression to support your bust.

VIEW NOW: Seamless Performance Sports Bra, £29, Cos

Ronhill Smartphone Armband, £22, John Lewis

Ronhill Smartphone Armband, £22, John Lewis

Keep your phone at arms length with the help of this holder. The adjustable strap guarantees a comfortable fit.

VIEW NOW: Ronhill Smartphone Armband, £22, John Lewis

Women's Knockout Tank, £30, Under Armour

Women's Knockout Tank, £30, Under Armour

Super lightweight and breathable, this vest will keep you cool on even the warmest of days. It dries quickly too.

VIEW NOW: Women's Knockout Tank, £30, Under Armour

Sports Moulded Underwired Bra, £42, Panache at Figleaves

Sports Moulded Underwired Bra, £42, Panache at Figleaves

Proven to reduce breast bounce during exercise by 83%, this is a must-try for small and big busts alike.

VIEW NOW: Sports Moulded Underwired Bra, £42, Panache at Figleaves

Gel-Cumulus 22 Trainers, £120, Asics

Gel-Cumulus 22 Trainers, £120, Asics

Kind to your joints, this gel-soled trainer is best suited for neutrals runners in search of a softer landing.

VIEW NOW: Gel-Cumulus 22 Trainers, £120, Asics

How We Do 1/2 Leggings, £49.95, Adidas

How We Do 1/2 Leggings, £49.95, Adidas

Find full length leggings restrictive? This cropped style is the perfect compromise.

VIEW NOW: How We Do 1/2 Leggings, £49.95, Adidas