Running is one of the most accessible sports; all you need is a pair of shoes and a route. Whether you walk, jog or run, as long as you keep moving, it is a sport that can quickly change your life. Even though it requires minimal gear, there are a few things to add to your collection that will keep you protected and running injury-free.
We rounded up five of the most important pieces of gear that every runner should invest in:

According to The Vision Council, only 21.2% of adults report that they always wear sunglasses outside. With three types of rays emitted by the sun — UVA, UVB and UVC — The Vision Council explains that the most dangerous for your eyes are UVA and UVB because these aren’t absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. The American Academy of Ophthalmology adds that if you don’t wear sunglasses, you can develop cataracts or even cancer of the eyes. To avoid damage, sunglasses are a staple no runner should take to the roads or trails without. When choosing sunglasses, make sure they defend your eyes against all three types of rays, such as the UA Igniter 2.0 Storm Sunglasses. A  pair of running-specific sunglasses like these are the best choice, as the lenses have a long, full diameter to protect your eyes from all angles.

After you throw sunglasses on, head protection should be your next step. Whether this is a hat, visor or beanie — depending on the season, of course — it provides added protection for your eyes and for your skin. One specific study on UV rays and skin cancer noted that the lifetime risk for an individual to develop a skin cancer is approximately 20%. Of course, wearing head protection comes with many options. No matter the style, make sure it has sweat-wicking properties, such as the UA Shadow 4.0 Run Cap. Even though you want to protect your face and eyes from the sun, you don’t want to overheat with another layer of gear. Choosing a breathable, sweat-wicking fabric keeps this from happening.

Your feet are one of your biggest assets as a runner, so investing in quality running socks is key to keeping them protected. According to a piece in Podiatry Today, “over 5.2 million people suffer blisters every year” and they are among the most common injuries for athletes. Blisters can be prevented, however, by keeping feet dry and padded. Choosing running-specific socks, such as the UA Run Fast Double Tab, keeps your feet dry thanks to sweat-wicking properties and proper cushioning in the areas that need it most. Make sure you choose the correct size so your socks are snug and don’t slide in your shoe, but take into account the fact your feet may swell a bit as they get hot, so avoid anything too constricting.

It has been reported that 3/4 of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Not properly hydrating before, during and after a run can cause even greater dehydration, which can lead to serious medical issues if not treated. Because of this, running with hydration is key. Whether you choose a hydration belt with easy-to-access water bottles, a handheld model or even a hydration backpack, keeping water or other fluids — such as electrolytes — within reach helps keep you running strong. Of course, running with water doesn’t mean you should neglect continued hydration after your run to replenish any fluids lost.

This final recommendation isn’t something you need to carry with you on the run, however, you will want it within close reach when you return home. Taking time to cool down your muscles is an important part of recovery. Investing in gear, such as a foam roller, helps target specific muscles that need additional attention and relief. Taking time to stretch and roll your muscles helps you avoid injury and keep your training on track.

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