Favorite Clothing and Gear for Marathons and Ultra Walks

Advice from Long Distance Walkers

Race Outfit for Half Marathon
Race Outfit. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Endurance walkers need the right gear and clothing. Our panel of marathon and long distance walkers and trekkers tell what they wear and use in training and on marathon day

Marathon and Ultra Walkers


  • Wear soft stuff, with few seams or seamless to prevent chafing.
  • Dress in accordance to speed and weather conditions.
  • Don't walk around with a huge rucksack with items you will never need. Travel light.


  • Outerwear: Start out on race day with an old sweatshirt that is candidate for a rummage sale. When you warm up, just discard it.
  • Pockets: I just walk in shorts with pockets and a tee shirt. I find pockets and a fanny pack hold most of the junk I need.
  • Blisters: The double layer socks that I bought at the marathon are wonderful--they really do prevent blisters. And Compeed--a free sample was in one of the marathon packs one time--is wonderful for those blisters that do show up. It's a type of bandaid, and seems to be hard to find.

Sharon: Walked the San Diego Half Marathon

  • Tops: I wore a tee shirt made out of Cool Max. (The Leukemia Society provided it, but you can find them elsewhere.) Find one long enough and you will be fine. (It covered what I wanted to hide)
  • Raingear: Walgreens and dollar stores have $1.99 raincoats/ponchos that you can always throw on before the race and at the beginning if it is cold, then throw away!
  • Shorts: I wore Lycra/Cool Max Bike shorts, but thought they were a little constricting. There are some shorts that have a Cool Max liner and are are looser. The best place to buy this stuff seems to be before or after the marathon at the EXPO's they have.
  • Socks: I wore two pairs of socks, one very thin and Cool Max and one thicker Cool Max padded socks and didn't get blisters.
  • Essentials: Don't forget a hat, sunglasses, moleskin, food, bandaids, candy (but only after mile 18 or so).
  • Another thing I can tell you is: Forget about Fashion and just be comfortable and have fun!!


  • Depending on the time of year for the marathon - we could go in cold weather or warm weather attire. But, here are some essentials that apply to any time of the year:
  • Know your gear: Something comfortable that you've done very long training walks in. This is to assure no friction areas. The worst mistake we can make is getting a new outfit the day before the race.
  • Wicking: I like wicking fabrics (no cotton) that pull the moisture away from your body.
  • Shorts: If wearing shorts, bike style aerobic shorts are good so that your shorts don't ride up. Don't use the real bike shorts with the pad, of course.
  • Moving Comfort: Moving Comfort makes wonderful women's wear with wicking fabrics. They fit women's shapes better than most companies I've tried. They have running/walking shorts in 5 different lengths to accomodate all preferences. They have fabulous colors and patterns so you look good while staying dry and comfortable. Their tights fit women's bodies better too - a little wider in the hips and slimmer in the waist than the typical athletic companies.
  • Dress to prevent stress: Lastly, whatever the temperature, plan on dressing as if it was 20 degrees warmer than the real temperature. If it's 40 degrees, dress like it's 60. You'll be a little chilly at the start, but must more comfortable 10 minutes into the marathon.
  • Essentials: I would carry a waist pack with snacks like Power Bars or Power Gel, Runner's Lube for friction areas, chapstick, Compeed blister pack (the best I've ever used), and maybe a throwaway camera if you're not racing, but just having fun. I carried a throwaway in the Disney Half Marathon this year, and had a blast.

Distance Walkers and Trekkers

Regina: Volkssport Walking 20K and More

Layering is always good.

  • On top: t-shirt, sweatshirt and windbreaker/raincoat.
  • Below: I like convertible pants, ones from Sportif seem styled well and fairly light-weight. Although a woman, I tend to wear men's pants. These convertible pants have zippers in the legs so that as it gets warm, they can be changed to shorts. Make sure the zipper is covered by cloth on the inside, underneath the zipper, so you don't get zipper-burn on your legs over the long distances.
  • Spare socks: I carry a spare pair of socks to change about half way.


Warm Climate Suggestions for Distance Walkers

  • Dress in layers and use Cool Max, polypropylene, etc. to the extent you can afford it.
  • I would wear bike shorts (to protect against thigh chafing) - with a longer shirt that covers the belly and buttocks, sleeveless or short sleeve.
  • Packs: I would use and carry with me in a small waist pack.
  • Runners lube or Body Glide (or vaseline as a last resort - if neither of the other products is available) to lubricate the insides of my arms to keep them from chaffing.
  • Hat and sunglasses to protect from sun and heat.
  • Gloves: I would carry lightweight gloves (polypro if possible, some synthetic otherwise)
  • Jackets: A Tyvec or similar lightweight jacket rolled up in my fanny pack or if the race has a cool early morning start - I would wear them to begin and remove as necessary.
  • Most important - and if budget can afford only one wicking polypro item - I would make it socks.
  • Trials: You must try the whole outfit including fanny/waist pack out on long training walk or several long training walks before the actual marathon - to make sure nothing rubs or irritates in any way.
  • Bargains: By the way T.J. Max and Marshalls often have wicking - polypro or cool max etc- at less costly prices that the running/sporting goods stores. On clearance racks at Sports Authority, I have found polypro shirts for between $2.50 and $7.00 - but at the time I was dropping by there at least once a week and combing the clearance racks - mens and womens.
  • Shorts: If women's bike shorts are a problem - I did my first half marathon in Miami in 80 degree heat at 250 lbs wearing men's extra large bike shorts. Since then I've lost 90lbs and graduated to a marathon - I'm in training for my second one now.

Cold Climate Suggestions for Distance Walkers

  • If doing a marathon in cold, the formula is the same layers - but long sleeves.
  • Lubricating not so crucial, although I still use runners lube around the rim of my sports bra and heart monitor band to avoid chafing but not on arms since I'm in long sleeves.
  • Tops: I suggest a lightweight polar fleece shirt with long sleeves so you can tie around your waist when you heat up. I wore one in the NY Marathon and it came in handy. Don't get one that's real bulky - too awkward and doesn't tie well. If that's not in the budget I would get a second Cool Max shirt and wear it over the first one when cold - maybe a men's polypro undershirt in a good color - so it's bigger and fits over other clothes. Avoid cotton if at all possible.
  • Make sure you feel good about yourself in your marathon clothes. It important to feel good inside and out on Marathon Day.

Mary: Long Distance Hiking Clothing

Preparing for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Dogwood Half Hundred Hike

  • Tops: In the winter I wear a biker's tank top (with built-in bra) made of Cool Max.
  • If the weather is hot, I may just wear a sports bra.
  • I also usually wear a very thin fleece shirt, depending on the season.
  • Bottoms: I am now wearing either a pair of nylon trousers or polypro tights (depending on the weather), though I imagine that I will wear nylon shorts in April.
  • Boots: I've been hiking very comfortably in various pairs of lightweight hiking boots, though I'm going to try regular running shoes.
  • Outerwear: I've been carrying a lightweight Gore-tex jacket and nylon pants as rain gear/wind protection -- but these weigh over two pounds and seem like overkill, so I plan to trade it in for a very light coated nylon poncho


  • Normally I wear some light clothing, i.e. shorts and T-shirt as well as a windbreaker set.
  • Mini rucksack: I used to have a mini rucksack with me with my rain clothes. This is also good for the windbreaker set when it gets warmer throughout the day.
  • Shoes: I prefer a pair of rugged walking shoes - rather too big than too small.
  • Socks: I wear two pairs of socks, namely a pair of white cotton socks inner and a pair of wool socks outer, even in the hot summer.
  • If the socks are made of *pure* wool with no synthetic, they give one a comfortable warmth.
  • The cotton socks must be made of 100 % cotton. The reason why I prefer white socks is that colored socks give many people problems when worn for a long time (allergic reactions).


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