The role running plays in our lives now is starkly different from the one it played up until early 2020.
While today, everyone will be familiar with the think-pieces talking of a Coronavirus “running boom” or a “Runnaissance,” it wasn’t long ago that race and event participation was steadily declining. In fact, RunRepeat statistics found that event participation had declined 13 percent from 2016 to 2019.
But then the pandemic hit and now it’s impossible to flip through Instagram stories without seeing someone posting a screenshot of their run, let alone walk through your local park without having to dodge incoming runners. Such has been the effect of the pandemic.
While statistics for 2020 and 2021 are not widely available just yet, Strava’s 2020 report showed that 55 percent of all runners on the app hit a personal best, suggesting that people are running more regularly than before. Similarly, a RunRepeat survey from November 2020 found that two-thirds of all gym users chose not to return to their gyms. While some that stayed away might have done so because they don’t work out anymore, it’s also fair to assume that a solid amount of those people are instead working out at home and outside, perhaps even running.
In 2020, 15 percent of the US population (or 50 million people) participated in some form of jogging or running as exercise, per the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. A lot of people are putting that down to the fact that running — or any form of movement or exercise — is vital for good mental health.
Our collective mental health has been under attack for 14 months and counting now, unable to go outside and do the things we love, see the people we love, or indulge in the things we love. According to the US Census Bureau, more than 42% of people taking part in a survey reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December 2020. That is an 11 percent increase from the previous year.
It’s clear that people are struggling with the changes the pandemic has brought. Some are struggling more than others, a sad fact that was magnified by the varying effects the pandemic has had across the world. But even if there is always someone worse off than you, your anxiety and mental struggles are totally normal. Especially when your life is changed so drastically because of something out of your control. It’s bound to have an effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing, and it’s how you deal with it that is important.
That’s where running can and — according to the statistics above — has helped many people over the past year. Exercising regularly, even in normal times, is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your emotional outlook. So much so, in fact, that the Center for Disease Control in the US lists it as one of the best ways to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, alongside meditating, eating well, and making sure you get plenty of sleep.
Additionally, a study conducted by ASICS in the UK that questioned 14,000 people across 12 countries found that 78 percent of runners said that running made them feel more “sane and in control” during the pandemic.
It’s clear that running has played a major role for many people in getting through the pandemic unscathed. But it’s also worth noting that running and frequent exercise always helps reduce stress — pandemic or not — and so keeping up those habits beyond coronavirus are just as important. The path to better mental health is a marathon, not a sprint and there is no finish line.
With light at the end of the tunnel in many parts of the world, thanks to the vaccine — and hopefully in more and more countries as time goes on — running appears to be one of those “good habits” we’ve picked up over the past 12 months, similar to a more flexible work-life balance and home office policy. It’s those good habits that will serve us well going forward, so we should put effort into maintaining any routines that have been established over the past 12 months.
If you’re one of the few that hasn’t dusted off the old running kicks at least once during the pandemic, it’s not too late to start now. Below, we’ve outlined some of the best sneakers, apparel, gear, and accessories to kickstart your running career so that you can take advantage of all of running’s benefits.
We’ve chosen our products with the average runner in mind, so you won’t be seeing $400, marathon-level running shoes but rather versatile and wallet-friendly sneakers that will help you get up and off your couch. You might be asking yourself what else you need apart from a pair of shoes and your old gym clothes and, while at its core that’s true, you’ll find some useful pieces in our selection that might just make running a little more fun.
Considering the GEL-Nimbus has been around long enough to have 23 editions, it’s safe to say the sneaker is a trustworthy runner. This pair, which was released for Earth Day this year, arrives in a largely beige colorway and makes for an incredibly stylish performance shoe. The GEL cushioning is supremely comfortable, so don’t be surprised if you put these on and don’t want to take them off.
New Balance and running. Name a more dynamic duo. I’ll wait. If you’re more of an outdoors, cross-country type of runner, you’ll appreciate the New Balance Fresh Foam More Trail V1’s ultra-cushioned and super grippy sole unit. The mesh upper makes sure you’re light on your feet as you’re leaping over logs and trucking through muddy trails.
Swiss running brand On has made waves in the running world, quickly climbing the rankings since its inception just over 10 years ago. Today, it’s considered one of the best niche running brands out there, with an ever-expanding portfolio of sneakers and gear. This CloudFlow sneaker is about as classic as it gets. If nothing else, the CloudTec™ cushioning is a real neck-breaker.
We couldn’t leave Salomon off of this list. The trail-running brand has proven time after time that it’s a force to be reckoned with — both on the streets and on the trails. The XA Pro 1 ADV is not its most stylish sneaker, but it’s a durable beast that will get you to where you want to go. And isn’t that the point of running?
A clean, white top that is breathable, fits right and wicks away sweat is essential when putting in the work during your runs. There‘s nothing worse than a heavy, sweaty T-shirt bogging you down while you run.
Nike running shorts are some of the best on the market because they work as advertised, and they look damn good while doing it. This pair is made specifically for trail running and is a little brighter than some of our usual go-to options. Pair these with a black t-shirt and you’ll be the most stylish runner on the track (or trail).
If you’re running in cooler weather or just like the compactness of tights, Satisfy has you covered with this bronze “Coffee” option. Satisfy is one of a few running specialty stores that has made it their mission to outfit runners in the coolest gear around. If you care just a little about how you look while you workout, Satisfy is the place to hit up.
Everyone needs a good windbreaker for running in inclement weather and Arc’teryx makes some of the best. The ripstop material is ultra-durable and designed to be breathable while simultaneously protecting you from the elements.
Some people like running with sunglasses and others can’t get over the feeling of something on their faces. If you’re the former, we’ve picked out a pair that isn’t too extra and can even be worn casually thanks to its grey tint.
Sometimes the right shoes aren’t enough. Sometimes, because of the natural shape of your feet, you need a little help to maximize your running potential. That’s where these New Balance high-impact soles come in. Slip them into your shoes and you’ll feel like you’re running on clouds, while the parts of your feet that need support are supported.
You’ve just gone for a run. It was cold and wet or brutally hot and dry. Your body is aching. You’ve got another run penned in for tomorrow but you have no idea how you’ll bring yourself to run it when all your muscles are sore. Enter the TheraGun. This machine will literally punch out any soreness and make sure you get professional athlete-level treatment at home. And also they’re amazing for slow-motion videos.
If you’re anything like some of the runers at Highsnobiety, you probably hate having your keys, wallet, or phone in your pocket while you run. Your shorts immediately feel heavy and the way the stuff slaps against your thighs stops being enjoyable after the first 100 meters. A running belt frees up your pockets and makes the run much more comfortable.
A running hat can replace the sunglasses above if you want protection from the sun’s glare but don’t want something sitting on your face. Basically, all running brands make lightweight packable hats, so it’s up to you which you end up choosing. The above all-black New Balance is one we’ve really been vibing with.
Don’t underestimate how important the right socks are for your run. There’s little worse than getting blisters at the beginning of your run and either having to stop your run or coming home with bloody socks and sneakers.
Keeping your extremities warm is important when the weather is a little colder. Have you ever had to run while your fingers were freezing? It’s not fun.
If the belt above doesn’t carry enough stuff, you might want to opt for a trail running vest. You can usually fit a nice bladder of water into the vest, as well as any keys, wallets, cards, or phones you’re carrying with you.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.
To stay updated on everything happening in the sneaker world, follow @highsnobietysneakers on Instagram, check out the best sneakers to add to your rotation this week, and sign up to our newsletter for the latest sneaker news sent straight to your inbox.