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Fall running guide: The socks, the shoes, the tops & the bottoms

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The change in season oftentimes brings widely variable temperatures. Some days September can feel like July. Other days, the chilly winds of October and November make you wish for the heat and humidity of July and August.

While you can't buy your way to speed and endurance, adding a new piece of running gear that makes running more enjoyable may inspire you to train and run more consistently and further into the colder months.

Lightweight, breathable and wicking clothing in a variety of weights and cuts, as well as good shoes and socks are still a must. And brands like The North Face, Pearl Izumi and Darn Tough Vermont have done their part to keep terry cloth headbands and Rocky sweatpants and hoodies a thing of our (tragic) pasts.

Darn Tough Vermont Tab No-Show ultra-light running sock ($14)
Darn Tough Vermont Tab No-Show ultra-light running sock ($14) darntough.com

Darn Tough Vermont Tab No-Show ultra-light running sock ($14)

Socks aren’t something that a lot of people care about. And yet they’re arguably your most important piece of gear.

Like the Darn Tough Vermont Tab No-Show ultra-light running sock, whose intelligent design can actually help to prevent the dreaded blister.

A blister starts when you combine moisture, heat (friction) and cheap, poor-fitting socks that slip and slide on your foot. DTV’s True Seamless construction, high-knit density, form-fitting toe boxes, sculpted heel pockets and knit-in elastic arch support all help to alleviate the bad fit that causes friction and, ultimately, a blister.

The fine gauge Merino wool (52%), which is naturally antimicrobial and breathable, prevents the moisture build-up. If you do happen to get a blister, get yourself some GlacierGel. It really works.

Review notes: I liken the Tab thingy to my still-intact appendix: a quirky, retro embellishment that is there, but only for decorative purposes. And you know what? That’s okay.  

Cheap socks tend to need the tab because they are prone to slipping and bunching. You will have no use for the Tab on the Tab No-Show ultra-light running sock because in all the miles that I’ve run in these socks—and in all DTV socks—I have yet to encounter the need to stop and unbunch or unslip a bunched or slipping sock.

On the contrary, DTV socks fit like second skin. That’s why I swear by them.

You also have to love that they’re 100% made in the U.S.A. and come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee.

North Face Better Than Naked jacket ($130)
North Face Better Than Naked jacket ($130) thenorthface.com

North Face Better Than Naked jacket ($130)

The North Face Better Than Naked jacket is a lightweight running jacket that is perfect for the chilly or windy fall runs. Body-mapped ventilation under the arms, down the forearms, across the upper chest and down the center are there to help manage moisture.

Review notes: The fit is superb and the stitch-free seams down the back doesn’t feel bunchy or cause chafing when running with a hydration pack or belt.

Pearl Izumi Fly ¾ tight ($55)
Pearl Izumi Fly ¾ tight ($55) pearlizumi.com

Pearl Izumi Fly ¾ tight ($55)

Made of Transfer Dry fabric, the Pearl Izumi Fly ¾ tight provides mild compression and good moisture transfer. They also have a scalloped hem just below the knee, a comfortable wide waistband and a zippered back pocket to hold a key or iPod.

Review notes: If you live in Minnesota, or any other northern clime, you will want these in your running wardrobe. I like the compression fit but it does take some muscle to put these on. Especially if your legs happen to be moist with humidity.

If the Farmer's Almanac is correct, I suspect I'll be putting in a lot of gym time with these tights this winter.

Pearl Izumi EM Road H3 ($130)
Pearl Izumi EM Road H3 ($130) pearlizumi.com

Pearl Izumi EM Road H3 ($130)

Designed for runners with low arches who tend to pronate, the Pearl Izumi EM Road H3 is a sweet lightweight 4mm drop road shoe with a stable platform and seamless uppers.

Review notes: Like Pearl Izumi says, running in the EM Road H3’s is “smooth and flexible". In the grand tradition of Pearl Izumi running shoes, they don’t have superfluous features that drive up the cost and add weight to the shoe.

I was most appreciative of this during the Women Rock MN half-marathon. I had actually signed up for the 10k. At the spot where the 10k runners were to turn off, I opted at the last minute to keep going and do the half-marathon with my running buddy.

It was one of those (rare) moments where I felt strong, both physically and spiritually.

Physically, I felt light and airy. I was running in shoes that were supportive and responsive. Spiritually, I felt that another nine miles was no biggie.

At mile 10, I pondered the significance of my decision. Had I done the 10k as I had planned, I could have been on my 4th glass of champagne at the finisher's party.

Still, I'm a mid-foot striker so I love the 4mm drop.

Caution: I found that these shoes run a tad on the small size so order the next half-size up or risk a toenail or three.

North Face Eat My Dust running skirt ($55)
North Face Eat My Dust running skirt ($55) thenorthface.com

North Face Eat My Dust running skirt ($55)

A running skirt won’t make you run faster and with less effort but it will make you look like you can. The North Face Eat My Dust running skirt has a 14.5-inch skirt with a pleated hem—truly for fashion and appearances sake.

The integrated mesh liner shorts have a little zippered stow pocket on the waistband and a pocket in the shorties to hold your iPod. A media port in the skirt accepts the cord.

Review notes: The wide-mesh waistband is soft and helps wick sweat. When damp it doesn’t chafe or rub. The fabric has a very light and flowy feel and drapes nicely. The integrated shorts, however, tend to creep up and become spankies. They a bit of elastic on the legs.

I wore these in the Women Rock MN half-marathon. They portrayed the image that I was a runner who deserved to be there, even though I was yanking the shorties down every 1.5 miles.

North Face Eat My Dust mesh tank ($40)
North Face Eat My Dust mesh tank ($40) thenorthface.com

North Face Eat My Dust mesh tank ($40)

The North Face Eat My Dust mesh tank is a light, highly breathable mesh tank made with uber-wicking FlashDry™ fibers. The drawstring hem allows you to tailor the fit at the hip. A nice top for yoga or gym workouts, as well.

Review notes: Very shear and pretty much the best breathable fabric I’ve worn for running. This has been one of my favorite running shirts this summer and will be useful into September as well. It handles sweat and humidity a heck of a lot better than I did.

I have mixed feelings about the (epic) keyhole back. It’s there to ventilate your lower back—of which it does a remarkable job. But you either have to make sure that you wear a running bra that has plenty of back coverage, or, simply not care that cars or passers-by will think, “Huh. That running bra has an interesting shape and color…”

The North Face Better Than Naked split shorts ($55)
The North Face Better Than Naked split shorts ($55) thenorthface.com

The North Face Better Than Naked split shorts ($55)

The North Face Better Than Naked split shorts are made with The North Face’s FlashDry™ technology, which helps speed the drying time. It also won’t wash out or wear out. An integrated seamless/stitchless liner brief provides light coverage without chafing.

Review notes: These are the first running shorts I’ve had since I became a skirt connoisseur. I really like them. The waistband is comfortable even when soaked in my sweat and on humid days.

The length at first made me cautious but since the legs never bunch up, it isn’t a problem. I also like the little zippered pocked in the back for holding my key or iPod.

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