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What to Wear For a Half Marathon: A Gear Checklist

Amanda Wendorff

One of the most common concerns for beginner runners is what to wear for a half marathon race. This topic is important, as good clothing choices can make or break your race. In this article, we'll discuss the basics of dressing for a half marathon to ensure you are both comfortable in your running gear and ready to run fast.

This article will cover everything you need to know about the right gear for a half marathon, including:

  • The rules of thumb to apply when dressing for a half marathon
  • Sock and shoe choices for a marathon race
  • What to wear on your legs and upper body during a half marathon
  • Half marathon gear and accessories
  • How to dress if your half marathon is in the rain
MOTTIV app user Steve Evers participates in a race in the Netherlands!

The Golden Rules of Dressing for a Half Marathon

When selecting your running clothes for a half marathon race, remember two essential things: nothing new on race day, and dress as if it's warmer than it is. We'll discuss these in greater detail below.

Decide What to Wear Early - Nothing New on Race Day

Whether you are racing a 5k, 10k, marathon, or triathlon, one rule applies to every clothing and gear selection: don't wear anything new on race day. You should test your equipment and clothing in training at least once and ideally a couple of times.

Testing gear in training is important because many pieces of clothing or equipment can cause issues during your race that you may not anticipate, like blister formation, chafing, or even the clothing item not fitting well.

These issues will likely lead to some annoyance during training that can be fixed quickly if you stop for a moment. But if they occur during your half marathon race, they may become so distracting or uncomfortable that they affect your race. So, do some testing, ideally at your half marathon race intensity and in the same weather conditions where your race is likely to occur.

Dress As If it is About 20 Degrees Warmer

One of the toughest decisions for half marathon racers is what to wear, given the outdoor temperature.

A good rule of thumb for this is to choose the amount of clothing you would wear when out and about if it were about 20 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10 degrees Celsius) warmer than it actually is.

For example, if it's forecast to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 10 degrees Celsius) at race time, dress as if it were 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 degrees Celsius. That may mean something like a short-sleeved shirt with capri-length running tights or shorts and a light long-sleeve shirt.

If this sounds like too few layers, remember that during a half marathon race, your core temperature will quickly heat up as you increase the pace. Lighter, more breathable clothes will keep you comfortable. In other words, you'll warm up as you run. If you're a bit chilly while standing at the start line, that indicates that you're dressed appropriately for the race.

The Importance of Running Socks

Your socks and shoes are the most important clothing and equipment for a half marathon race. If you can keep your feet happy, you'll be much more likely to reach your potential in a half marathon.

When it comes to investments in apparel, running-specific socks are among the best. The last thing you want during a half marathon is to have blisters keep you from your best running. The right socks can be the difference between a good race and an uncomfortable battle to the finish line.

Generally, any sock length is appropriate to run a half marathon, so long as the socks are designed for runners. Running-specific socks are made to support the foot and fit in a way that prevents bunching (which may cause blisters) or chafing. Almost all running-specific socks are moisture-wicking, meaning they are made of a material that will keep moisture away from your skin.

Many runners like to wear compression socks, which are usually knee-high and a bit tighter than normal socks. These may make your legs feel a bit fresher.

It's a good idea to try a few pairs of running socks to determine which works best for you. Of course, test your socks in a few training runs before using them in the race.

The Best Types of Running Shoes to Wear for a Half Marathon Race

A half marathon race is a fairly fast effort, so many athletes opt to wear race-specific shoes. Two main types of racing shoes are popular for half marathon races: super shoes and racing flats.

Super Shoes

Super shoes are a relatively new phenomenon in the running world. They are very popular race shoes for runners of all speeds in race distances from the 5k to the marathon.

These shoes typically contain a carbon fiber plate that runs the entire shoe length and are constructed of extremely light and high-tech foam cushioning. The combination of the carbon fiber plate and the lightweight foam improves running economy and the energy return of each run stride. This makes a big difference and results in significantly faster times for most runners.

A few examples of popular supershoes are:

The downsides of super shoes are their cost and lack of durability. You should save these shoes for races and a couple of short workouts in advance for testing.

Racing Flats

The running flat is a more traditional type of racing shoe for the half marathon.

Racing flats are lightweight, flexible shoes with less cushioning than traditional running shoes. Some racers prefer to compete in racing flats because they are light, responsive, and allow the runner to really feel the ground.

A few examples of popular racing flats are:

Because racing flats don't provide much support or cushioning, limiting your miles in these shoes is important. If you tend to have frequent injuries, particularly bone injuries, racing flats may not be your best choice.

Training Shoes

It is also fine to race a half marathon in your normal running shoes rather than using specific race shoes. Remember, comfort is key. If your training shoes are broken in and feel good, you should feel confident using them.

MOTTIV app user Dr. Chad Hanson heads for the finish line in a race.

Building the Best Half Marathon Outfit

The Best Running Gear For Your Upper Body

There are lots of options for what to wear on your upper body, and the choices will depend on your comfort and the weather. Generally, we suggest dressing in layers.

As a base layer, choose one or more of the following:

  • Running t-shirt
  • Tank top
  • Sports bra (for more on women-specific apparel, check out our "What To Wear for Women" article) Link

It's best to wear tighter clothing for your race, as loose or baggy tops can create a lot of drag in the wind and slow you down.

If your race takes place on a cold day, you can add additional layers such as:

  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Running jacket
  • Running vest
  • Arm warmers

Again, with these items, aim for a tighter fit; remember, your body temperature will rise quickly in a half marathon. If you feel chilly while standing on the start line, you've dressed well for the temperature.

It's best to select technical fabrics designed for running for all of these items. Technical running shirts are typically made of polyester or nylon blends and are lightweight, can wick sweat away from your skin and dry quickly. These technical fabrics help with temperature regulation, are less likely to cause chafing, and are generally much better choices than cotton.

Know What To Wear on Your Legs

When it comes to what to wear on your legs during a half marathon race, the only rule is to wear what's comfortable. Some runners prefer baggy running shorts, while others like spandex shorts, running tights or pants, or capri pants. A running skirt is just fine, too!

During half marathon training, make sure you experiment with which pieces of clothing feel best, depending on the weather. On a cold day, many athletes want long, compressive running tights to keep them warm. Some athletes, however, will still prefer to wear a pair of shorts, even when it's as cold as 30 degrees Fahrenheit. If you've tried several options in training, you can feel confident that you know what will work for you, whatever the race day weather.

As with all racing apparel, test all your shorts or pants out during a training run or two to ensure you won't experience uncomfortable chafing during your big race.

A Checklist of Essential Accessories for Your Half Marathon

In addition to the basic apparel and footwear selections, a few running accessories are popular amongst runners. A good half marathon gear checklist includes:

Race belt

In most half marathon races, runners must wear a race number, also called a race bib. You can pin your race bib on your clothing or use a race belt. A race belt is a small elastic band that goes around your waist and displays your race number. Some runners find running belts more comfortable than a race bib pinned on clothing.


Particularly if your race is taking place on a sunny day, you may wish to wear sunglasses. If you choose to do so, it's best to select a pair of sunglasses designed for running. Running-specific sunglasses will generally fit better on your head without bouncing and are less likely to fog.

Running hat or visor

Your comfort over 13.1 miles will improve if you can avoid sweat running onto your face or your eyes. A running hat or visor is effective in keeping the sweat out of your eyes and is also good for keeping the sun off your face. Running-specific hats and visors are lightweight and particularly effective at absorbing sweat. And if it happens to rain, it will keep the rain out of your eyes.


Like a hat or visor, a moisture-wicking headband can be very useful in preventing sweat from running into your eyes.

Nutrition and hydration systems

Many runners use fuel belts, hydration vests, or handheld bottles in training and racing to carry race nutrition, like energy gels, and to hydrate effectively.

While your half marathon will likely have aid stations where you can pick up water, sports drink, or even gels or food, many athletes prefer to bring along and carry their own fluids and nutrition.

There are several benefits to carrying your own fluids. For example, carrying a handheld bottle that doesn't need to be refilled often allows you to move quickly through crowded aid stations. Carrying your food and drink throughout the race also allows you to use products that you know work best for you, which may be different from those served on the course.

However you plan to carry your fuel and nutrition, make sure you get out and test it in training. Every runner is different - some like the feeling of a hydration vest that gives you enough hydration for the whole race, for example, while others feel they run better with a lighter option, like a small handheld bottle that can be refilled every few miles.

MOTTIV app user Rebecca Foat uses a hydration vest during a long training run on a hot summer day.

Outfit and Gear for a Half Marathon in the Rain

Your clothing choices for a half marathon don't need to change much if your race occurs in the rain.

Even in the rain, your body will heat up quickly, and extra layers, particularly if waterproof, may cause you to overheat.

If you want to stay warmer before the race, consider wearing a raincoat or more layers before the race, but take them off before the race starts.

Keep in mind that rainy conditions can also cause you to chafe a bit more than when it's dry. For these days, it's even more important to incorporate moisture-wicking materials, ideally seamless, that fit close to the body.


When it comes to clothing and apparel choices for a half marathon race, dress for comfort. And whatever you wear, always remember: nothing new on race day.

In this article, we've touched on:

  • Rules of thumb for your clothing selection for the half marathon
  • The best socks and shoes to wear in a half marathon to ensure you don't experience blisters
  • What to wear on your torso and legs
  • Other accessories to consider for your half marathon
  • How to dress in the rain

Having the right clothes and shoes for a half marathon can make or break your day. So, plan ahead and get your outfit tested and dialed in - knowing exactly what to wear will go a long way towards making your race a success!

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Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

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