gear of the year


The Microsoft Band (update: it has been discontinued)

Microsoft Band for Running

This year I finally decided to ditch Nike completely, their customer service is just NOT what it used to be and when you combine only okay products with terrible customer service, I’m out!

So instead, I decided to try the Microsoft Band as my new GPS running watch. The fun thing about this band is that it combined 3 products into one; a daily activity tracker, a GPS running watch, and a smartwatch. All of which work fantastic and overall I love the product. There is a lot of room for customization within the watch, there are a number of apps available to the watch, and the GPS is quick and I have never had a problem linking to it. The band itself is small and sleek enough that I wear it all day without feeling like I’m carrying around an extra 4 pounds on my wrist. It also has a built in heart rate monitor so it is far more accurate in activity tracking than many others on the market are.

My only downsides are that the hardware itself in the original band was not perfect, corrosion happens on the charging port, and the band itself wears down quite a bit over the months. The nice side of that is that it is all under warranty so you can get a new band whenever you want. Now, I haven’t tried the new Microsoft band yet, and I am hesitant to because of the hardware changes that turned a small sleek band into a monstrosity on your wrist :/ booooo. But, maybe it’s better?

pro compression socks in yellow and pink

I tried the calf sleeves and the arm sleeves last year and I wasn’t a huge fan, the arm sleeves didn’t do much of anything for me other than keep my arms a bit warmer on cold runs, and the calf sleeves were too tight next to my ankles so it bothered them. However, I ended up giving Pro Compression a second chance when they held a great sale on their marathon socks. I LOVED the full socks so much more!

I have been known to use these socks as an extra layer of warmth on my legs during runs 😉 but what I really like to use them for is recovery. After a long or hard run, I like to put my marathon socks on and feel the comfort. Some people prefer to wear the socks the entire run, but I find I feel more of a relief if I put the marathon socks on post run or race. Either way, it was surprising to me how much I could feel a difference when I wore the socks to when I didn’t.

Nuun - hydration drink tablets

Nuun is a hydration drink tablet you can drop in any glass of water; it fizzes and dissolves into a slightly carbonated flavored drink. I found nuun when I was training for my marathon last year, I needed a source of electrolytes that wouldn’t upset my stomach during a run. I battled a number of upsets during my runs trying things like gatorade, cytomax, (and of course other items like GU, but that’s a whole other story).

Once I found nuun my training was much easier; the little bit of carbonation nuun has helped settle my stomach rather than upset it, and I was able to find a number of different subtle flavors that worked well in that regard as well.

winter running with laura

I have not tried the LuLu Lemon brand previous to this year because their prices scare me away. But I ended up with a few different LuLu Lemon products given as a gift this year…I’ve been converted.

Products I have tried:

  • Cold weather technical fleece long sleeve – this shirt is obviously made with a runner in mind, the fit is great from the neck to the sleeves. The one I have is a half-zip that zips up into a mock turtleneck. The turtleneck however is not too tight that it’s annoying but close enough to keep the neck warm, essentially….very comfortable.

The sleeves are long, which is great whether you have long arms or not. The bottom the sleeves include the typical thumb hole but they also include a not so typical “cuffin.” Cuffins are a pocket-like piece that can be pulled over the hands like mittens. They are awesome!

Lastly, the technical fleece itself is wonderful; it is soft, stretchy, and warm. However, while it keeps you nice and warm during cold winter runs it also has a moisture wicking effect that keeps the sweat from sitting on your skin and turning you into a drenched wet cat.

  • Technical fleece running tights – The pants have all the essentials, a large band around the top that make them comfortable, long length, multiple pockets, waist ties. On top of all the great features is the same stretchy, soft, warm technical fleece.
  • Long tights for everyday wear/yoga/light exercise – These tights are great because of two things; their wide waistband that makes them incredibly comfortable, and the abnormally long length. I am 5’11” and these pants still do a little bunch at the ankles, it is fantastic! I’ve used the tights as an under-layer during cold runs, as a comfortable around the house outfit, and during light fitness activities, all of which they were great.

Now in case you’re like me and the price on these items is much too much to swallow, have it be known that LuLu Lemon has a sale rack! And the sale rack has decent prices…I have also heard that each store has different items on the sale racks at different times,so if you are not ready to fork out a couple hundred on your running clothes, take a gander at the various sale racks in LuLu Lemon stores. It really is a quality product.

oiselle brand spandex in red and white

I’m not even sure how I got introduced to this company, but I do know I decided to make a few purchases because they were having a sale. In many ways Oiselle is similar to LuLu Lemon because their clothes are made for runners and with high quality. The real product I feel in love with though were their stride shorts.

Why you ask? I struggle running in spandex shorts because they ALL try to ride up (and by try I mean succeed over and over again throughout my run so that I am continuously doing a squat pull down out of my crotch). For some reason companies have not figured out how to make shorts just a little bit longer so that they don’t completely ride up into your crotch……enter Oiselle, a company that has figured out he length spandex need to be to stay in place during the entire run. Thus the reason I have fallen in love with the stride shorts.

altra running shoes in the color blue

If you follow my blog, any of my social platforms, or simply have talked to me about running you already know how obsessed I am with the company Altra. I found Altra running shoes after I had been told by doctors it was time to stop running; I had 3 stress fractures in just one year, taking my total to 5 stress fractures ever. I hate being in a boot! But, instead of giving up completely I looked around at the running market, many people online and other runner friends had mentioned the zero drop shoes Altra makes and how they help reduce injury….so I checked it out.

I have not been running in Altras for almost 2 years without any serious injuries. I LOVE them. They are a zero drop shoe with a large toe box which makes running as natural as possible without being barefoot.

Mentioned last year, but still in love:

I mentioned the flipbelt in last year’s gear of the year post and just wanted to make a note in this year’s that I still use it and LOVE it! It is the best way to carry keys, a phone, an MP3 player, anything.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

Post Author

Nicole Hillstead-Jones

Head Coach + Owner