The Best Spring Running Gear and Tips

At the risk of angering Ullr, the god of snow, I’ll admit this: Yesterday, I ran in shorts. Likewise, I proudly exposed my thighs on the majority of my runs last week, too.

In a historically bad winter for the Sierra, I’ve already stashed my skis and snow pants in exchange for trail runners. This seasonal shift is nothing new for me but usually coincides with Memorial Day, not the middle of March. Environmental doom and gloom aside, this weirdly warm spring has inspired a flurry of research into the best new running gear out this season.

trail running water shoes shorts
Cavan Images

What I found is astounding. From waterproof trail shoes to lightweight and breathable shells, the rapid growth of trail running is evident across a litany of outdoor brands, proudly displaying their new suite of trail gear. Sorting through the marketing jargon can take time, but is crucial if you want the best deals and top-tier equipment. Below is a list of our favorites in each category.

Traction

When the trails are likely covered in ice (typically when temps hover around 32 and a couple of freeze-thaw cycles happen), consider adding traction to your shoes by wearing micro-spikes. These spikes slip on over your shoes and provide more grip and purchase on slick trails.

Best Shoes: Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 GTX. Spring running inevitably means mud, rain, and wet feet – unless you get a Gore-Tex shoe. Our favorite is the Speedgoat adaptation, a shoe that has long proved it’s one of the best on nearly any trail. With great grip in mixed slop and a sturdy and stable ride, you’re ready to run in the elements.

Layering

Be bold, start cold. It’s OK to feel chilled at the start of your run – this is pretty normal, actually. I bring light gloves and a light hat on most of my runs as insurance, but rarely any thick insulation other than a water-resistant windbreaker, so that I don’t overheat a quarter-mile in. And, as with any sweat-filled activity in potentially cold conditions, always avoid cotton.

Best outerwear: Patagonia Airshed Pullover and Strider Pro Pants. The best part of both of these layers? They can easily fit into a pocket. The Airshed is an ultra-lightweight windbreaker that’s comfortable and warm enough for most runs, provided you keep moving. The Strider pants are similar – I barely notice that I’m wearing them. I wear this combo the majority of the time, in lieu of a dozen other options.

Best base layers: Arc’teryx Motus Shorts and Motus Long- Sleeve Shirt. Sometimes (often?) less is more. That’s the formula Arc’teryx has long taken to make some of the premier outdoor apparel, making them a perfect fit for trail running. The Motus shorts have simple pockets on the sides and the shirt breaths and wicks moisture well, without adding superfluous features and weight.

trail running dogs snow spring
Derek Sears

Pack

There is a fine balance between secure and strangling yourself. Try to figure it out before you go on a run. Packs are great for longer runs when you’ll want extra nutrition, water, and an extra layer, but if cinched too tight, you can restrict breathing. As someone who has made this mistake more than once, try jogging around your living room before you head out on an epic with the wrong size pack

Best pack: Camelback Zephyr Vest. A minimal and light pack, the newly launched Zephyr comes with the necessary whiz-bangs – secure cell phone pocket, pole carry, hydration pockets – without overcomplicating the system. The mesh is comfortable and relatively breathable, making it great for warmer runs, too. With ample front pockets and a secure fit, it’s great for beginners and elites alike.

Safety

You’ll never regret a spare battery. Even if the headlight manufacture says it’ll last for XX hours and you just charged it last night, just bring a spare. Cold and moisture have a bad habit of slowly wrecking headlamps and no one wants to be that guy stuck five miles from the trailhead, without a light.

Best headlamp: BioLite HeadLamp 200. BioLite’s key intent was to make a headlamp so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing it. The side effect of a comfort-centric focus is almost no bounce or stress on your noggin. Two-hundred lumens is ample light for a dark trail or 3-4 hour run and the headlamp is easy to recharge with a USB. For most of my early morning and late runs, I make sure to bring it along, just in case.

Best safety device: Nathan Personal Alarm. A small, thumb-size device that you’ll hopefully never use, but might still consider bringing along. The SaferRun Ripcord Siren operates with a simple pull tab to emit an alarm as loud as an ambulance siren and audible over 600 feet. At a reasonable price, it’s a good addition to any running kit.

Tracking

Some of the best runners I know – elite ultra racers and marathoners – do some of their workouts without a watch. In our data-heavy world, don’t be afraid to just go for a run for the simple joy of running and be OK with not knowing the pace and distance.

Best watch:  Garmin Fenix 6. Our favorite running watch just got even better, adding a better mapping system, pacing guidance, longer battery life and, if you decide to upgrade, a solar charger in the watch face itself. Of course, the basic tools like heart rate and performance metrics are still best in class, too.

Editors' Recommendations