Running is one of the easiest ways to exercise. It can be done alone or in groups, almost anywhere, and requires almost no special gear or equipment. That being said, it does take some preparation to run safely and effectively, especially when you are training for a race. If done wrong, running can be uncomfortable, and even dangerous. Here are a few of the most important things you’ll need to have on hand if you want to get the most out of your running, and avoid getting hurt.

  1. Good Running Shoes

There’s a reason that this is number one on the list. Old, broken down, or badly fitting shoes can wreak havoc on your feet. If you’re going to start running, invest in a new pair of running shoes, and make sure that they fit well. Some runners even have two or more separate pairs of shoes that they use for different types of running (short distance vs. long distance for example). If you have particularly bad feet, you might want to consider purchasing inserts as well.

  1. Socks Made from Synthetic Material

Regular old cotton socks just won’t cut it. If you want top performance with minimal risk of blistering, synthetic socks are the way to go. With cotton socks, moisture is absorbed into the material and if your feet sweat, they will stay wet. This can get particularly uncomfortable in extremely hot or cold temperatures, and put your feet at risk of fungal infection.

  1. Sunscreen

Running long distances without protecting yourself from the sun can result in uncomfortable and dangerous skin damage from sunburns. A sunscreen with a high SPF is a must for runners, particularly in the summer when skin is exposed and the sun is at its hottest.

  1. Proper Clothes

As with socks, synthetic materials in clothes are important for keeping cool/warm and dry in extreme temperatures. Keeping sweat off can prevent chafing and make for a much more comfortable run. For women, proper clothing also includes a good sports bra.

  1. A Roller for Stiff Muscles

Particularly for those new to running, a good run can result in stiff and painful muscles for days afterward. While warming up and cooling down before runs and not pushing yourself too hard can be good ways to prevent this, it is also important to be able to massage yourself to work out stiffness. Foam muscle rollers, available in most sporting stores, can be a lifesaver when your muscles are cramped and swollen

  1. Water

This may seem like a no-brainer, but dehydration is no joke. On a hot day, water is vital to prevent heat stroke and replenish moisture lost through perspiration. In the cold, staying hydrated is important because it helps you retain heat and prevents chapped lips from low humidity. While a plain old bottle of water works fine, some people prefer camelbaks or other alternative methods of carrying water that does not require you to hold water in your hands the whole run.