It’s no surprise to anyone that Nike is having a moment right now. From the Vaporfly 4% to the Epic React and new iterations of the Pegasus, it seems that all eyes (and feet) were on Nike for 2018. Of course, running shoes and technologies come in waves, and while Nike dominates the headlines (and the price points) at the moment, there are plenty of other shoes—right here and right now— that should not be ignored. Aside from shoes, 2018 had some great gear that helped us on our runs through the cold, wind, rain, and humidity, through city sidewalks and mountain trails. While this is by no means an exhaustive list (I mean, come on, we’re six people with full-time jobs), these are some of our favorite things we’ve worn and worn out in the past twelve months.
Built on the well-deserved hype of the Vaporfly 4%, Nike rolled into 2018 with an epic launch of the Epic React. Billed as a shoe to span the spectrum of all runners, it also showcased their React technology in a simple design with advanced technologies. The React midsole provides an excellent return for miles on end, from tempos to long runs, while the knit upper provides a snug wrap of the entire foot. Some of us have done well over 500 miles in them without fail, while others have PR-ed in the marathon. Also, you can wear it in public and actually look cool.
Thomas: The simplicity of the Beacon is its beauty. An uncomplicated knit upper, attached tongue that locks down the arch, and a one-piece midsole are the ingredients that compose this trainer, and they work together marvelously well. At 8.1 oz., they feel light on the feet and fit well enough to feel secure at higher speeds.
Meaghan: The Beacon checks all the daily trainer boxes for me: lightweight, comfortable, breathable, well-cushioned, and good to look at. From aesthetics to performance, the Beacon is a winner. I love these shoes like I love the Pegasus 35 and HOKA Napali… but maybe a smidge more. If these shoes aren’t in your closet, you’re missing out.Shop New Balance Beacon
Thomas: Once again Nike has the best running shoe on the market for race day. The Vaporfly runs like a cushioned shoe, but with its light weight and pop, you run faster with less fatigue. Nike has created a shoe that is a joy to run in. I have heard some runners claim they are not fast enough to be running in the Vaporfly, that is bullshit. None of us can run a marathon as speedy as Eliud Kipchoge, but everyone can benefit from a lighter more responsive running shoe.
Meaghan: Nike has created the best underfoot construction of any shoe out there – plenty of cushioning for long distances, with just the right amount of stiffness to propel you forward. I just love this shoe.
Meaghan: The re-release of the much celebrated OG of Hoka One One did not disappoint. The shoe is super light (my W7.5 weighed in at 6.55 oz.) and the cushion-to-weight ratio is insane. The upper is constructed with minimal material and it’s extremely breathable. From the top of the arch to the toe, the mesh is basically see-through. The ride of this shoe is what I really fell in love with. So much soft, bouncy cushioning underfoot… from landing to toe-off. And on top of it all? They’re fast.Shop Hoka Clifton
Austin: The Altra Duo ride feels less like a typical zero-drop Altra and more like a shoe with a 4-5 millimeter drop. It’s an ideal blend of softness and firmness, the forefoot exhibiting a little more of the former quality and the heel the latter. At first glance, the Duo appears bulky based on the hefty midsole, but it delivers a smooth ride at various paces. The Duo delivers a handful of exceptional characteristics at a modest $130 price point: substantial cushioning, low weight, a light mesh upper, and a surprisingly flexible midsole.
Jarrett: The New Balance Vongo V3s are a wide foot runner’s dream shoe. The 2E width is spot on and the 3D screen printed cage over the upper mesh provides a breathable yet secure fit. Add to that the super cushioned and responsive ride from the fresh foam midsole and you’ve got a winner. My go-to shoe for almost any occasion.Shop New Balance Vongo v3
Jarrett: Brooks hit a home run with their newest iteration of the Cascadia trail shoe. They took what worked with 12 and built upon its success. New to the Cascadia 13 are a 3D Rubber Print Mud Guard, a new Ariaprene tongue, and even more cushioning. Plus, Brooks decided to make the new Cascadia 13 with an option for 2E wide.
Austin: The S-Lab Speed 2 is an excellent contender for runners looking to improve their times at trail races. The lower weight from the original Speed, aggressive lug configuration, and snug upper, complete with a compressed EVA midsole, give it a distinct edge uphill and down dale.
Robbe and Meaghan: The name doesn’t lie, The North Face Better Than Naked are, well… they really are. We are both in love with these shorts, despite the fact that they’re oddly difficult to find (especially in 3″, which I snagged off a clearance rack at my local running store). The shorts have six(!) mesh easy-access pockets that are essentially holsters for energy gels, in addition to the common larger pocket on the back of the shorts. They are light, airy, super quick-drying, and an absolute pleasure to run in. They’re the first pair of running shorts I wish I never had to take off.Shop TNF Better Than Naked Shorts
Thomas: For three years in a row, the Tracksmith Van Cortlandt is the reigning champ. The material works in almost any running condition including the super muggy mid-Atlantic humidity. The cut works perfectly for my preference.Shop Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Short
Meaghan: Tracksmith’s merino-nylon blend is not only super soft and comfortable, but it does an awesome job of wicking away sweat and staying fresh. It’s the perfect long sleeve for the transition months between fall / winter and winter / spring.
Robbe: The Janji Runpaca has become one of my go-to shirts, not just for running, but for everyday wear. It’s super soft, all natural, and made from pima cotton blended with alpaca fleece. The materials are sustainably sourced from Peru and part of Janji’s proceeds go towards clean water initiatives around the globe. The best part? The Runpaca is free for those who purchase a Janji Collective membership (catch it when it’s open).Shop Run Janji Runpaca Long Sleeve
Thomas: If the Pyrenees hoody is clean I’m wearing it. The Path Project Pyrenees hooded shirt has features like a watch cut-out, tuckable extended sleeves and super soft anti-microbial fabric. The shirt looks good and performs even better.
For short sleeves, I love my ashmei merino t-shirt. Typically wool merino wool shirts don’t feel as soft as their synthetic rivals, but ashmei has made one that is soft and fits well. Simple by design, the ashmei t-shirt works well on its own or layered under warmer gear.Shop ashmei Short Sleeve T-Shirt
Thomas: Every once in a while you come across a piece of gear that becomes essential. Simple in design, the Arc’teryx Norvan SL is a very thin waterproof zip-up hoody. Incredibly light at 120 grams, the 4.2 oz. jacket is made from GORE-TEX® with SHAKEDRY™ material that makes the material even more breathable and featherweight while maintaining a waterproof and windproof barrier. This is a year-round piece of equipment to protect from wind and rain.
Robbe: For those runners on a budget, I suggest snagging the Outdoor Research Tantrum (both versions are great) as a go-to piece of equipment. A windproof shell is an essential part of my running gear, and this is the perfect shell. It comes in at 4.9 oz. but offers great warmth and protection from the wind and light rain. It features 20-denier mechanical stretch ripstop nylon, internal thumb holds, and drawcord hem to provide ultimate protection. And its packability (it packs into its own pocket) allows you to take it anywhere, at any time.Shop OR Tantrum Hooded Jacket
Meaghan: The simplicity of this sports bra makes it a winner. The pull over design comes with a 4-way stretch fabric that keeps you nicely supported but allows for a free range of movement. The super soft jacquard elastic band stretches to fit snugly, but comfortably.
Erin: The Nike Swoosh Pocket comes with six hidden pockets along the band and body, allowing for multiple storage options when running trails. The bra also utilizes moisture-wicking fabric and a compressive fit to keep everything in place.Shop Nike Pocket Sports Bra
Meaghan: I love all UA tights, so it’s tough to pick just one style. But, I’m a fan of these particularly for their run-to-grocery store capabilities. The material wicks sweat and dries really fast so I can go straight from a run to the store, comfortably.
Robbe: Better than any other tight I own, the Nike Shield Tech Tight keeps me warm and comfortable in all my runs under 35 degrees. Its hip pocket is enough to store a few gels (I ran my last marathon in these tights). Plus, there’s just the right amount of room in the crotch so my junk isn’t on full display, unlike other tights I own. That alone is worth the price.Shop Nike Shield Tights
Our reviewers were split on two models of Tifosi and two models of Goodr. Neither break the bank, but for those who can be trusted with nicer things, Tifosi offers a wider range of frame styles with better durability. Goodr, while cheaper in cost and quality, has nearly limitless color and lens options to fit your personality; most are offered in the classic Wayfarer style. And if you leave them at the bar after a post-run binge, your loss will likely be less than what you dropped on your tab.
Shop Goodr Sunglasses
Thomas: I love the Jaybird Tarah for the 6-hour battery and the superior sound quality, but they also make it easy to get a good fit with their soft silicone ear gels that come in three sizes. The earphones fit nicely and block out a lot of ambient noise. I run with my Apple Airpods sometimes, living in the city they can let in so much noise you can’t hear your music. The Tarah block out enough that you can enjoy your pop-punk songs without making you deaf to your surroundings. For all this, the $99 price tag seems like a bargain.
Meaghan: The Jaybird RUN are true wireless headphones; nothing connecting the two earbuds, just two pieces of soft plastic you tuck away in your ears. They come with several ear tips and fins, so they’ll fit just about any ear shape and size. Sweat-proof and water-resistant, these are my favorite headphones to date. These suckers will run you $179.99, but they’re worth it if you run with music often, as I do.
Thomas: This low cost chafe defense goes with me on nearly every run no matter the distance.Shop Gold Bond Anti-Friction Chafing Defense
Don: Run Rabbit Run 100-Mile was one best-organized races I’ve ever run. The pre-race communication was incredible and the on-site athlete experience was smooth. The race has a 100-mile option and a 50-mile option, so you get a ton of athletes in town between the two. The course is by far the most beautiful 100-mile course I’ve ever seen. The aid stations are stacked with goodies and the hundreds of volunteers are well-trained and knowledgeable. Plus, you just can’t beat a weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado!
Matt: Manitou’s Revenge is a 54-mile ultramarathon through the Catskills in New York. It covers incredibly technical terrain by any standard, and features roughly 15,000 feet of climbing and descending for a total elevation change of over 30,000 feet. It’s one of the hardest 50 milers in the U.S., with overall winners finishing right around 11 hours, to give you an idea of the difficulty. That being said, it has a 24-hour cutoff which means if you’re crazy enough to enter you at least have a chance of finishing. It has some of the friendliest and most thoughtful race directors and volunteers, a great post-race vibe, and is a truly old school event.