Plenty of running gear passes through our office each year, but when heading out on a run we often find ourselves reaching for a few select items, time and again. With the holidays approaching, we'd like to tip our running cap to the new products in 2010 that stood out from the pack. Consider this Gear-of-the-Year list our gift to you. Use it to shop for others--or, even better, for yourself.
Brooks HVAC Synergy Shorts ($44) became a staple in our running repertoire because they refuse to get bogged down with sweat midrun. They're made of a quick-drying fabric and have mesh panels that increase airflow for long runs or steamy treadmill sessions. And the shorts' soft liner uses silver fibers to regulate temperature and fight odor. brooksrunning.com
Also, don't miss 10 Bottoms Made to Fit Your Style as Well as Your Stride.
Saucony's track-inspired Kilkenny Zip Jacket II ($85) is a stylish throwback to the bygone days of the first running boom. It looks and feels good enough to wear casually (it's great with a cotton tee on a lazy Sunday). And when we actually ran in the jacket, it didn't let us down: The interior wicked sweat like a champ. Note: Men's version is named Retro Track Jacket. saucony.com
Sure, with all the fuss over minimalist footwear, the Vibram FiveFingers grabbed the headlines in 2010. But it was the Mizuno Wave Universe ($120) that got our pulses racing. Its wispy weight (3.8 ounces) and extreme flexibility made us want to go crazy-fast. For one staffer, the shoe's barely-there feel all but returned him to his track days. mizunousa.com
We're blown away by how much flashy technology fits into the 1.54" frame of the latest Apple iPod Nano ($149, 8GB; $179, 16GB). It has a touch screen, like an iPhone, which is great for navigating playlists midrun. For one contributor who tracks all her runs using Nike Plus, the lightweight Nano is a godsend. It's petite, yet still displays (and offers audio prompts for) vital details, like pace and distance, onscreen. apple.com
The jury may still be out on the benefits of compression socks, but the mesh venting and squeezy feel of the CW-X Ventilator Compression Socks ($45) are highly addictive. Not only did we find the socks comfortable during workouts, we almost always wanted to wear them after a run (one of our writers gets downright frantic if she can't slip into her pair postrun). What's the attraction? Just wait till you see how much support the socks give your calves as well as the arches of your feet. cw-x.com
More? Check out 7 Best Running Compression Socks.
Running sunglasses need to be lightweight and nonfogging yet substantial enough to stay on during fast and furious speedwork. Native Eyewear Vigor ($139) do just that--and they look sharp, too. The polarized lenses cut down on surface glare (like long stretches of pavement) to keep your eyes fresh on the run when the rest of your body may not be. nativeeyewear.com
Paired with a short-sleeve tee (or a singlet, for the bold), Smartwool Arm Warmers ($25) offer adjustable warmth. Once you heat up, simply push them down or whip them off. The fabric blends temperature-regulating wool with stretchy elastic and nylon to maintain its shape. We loved how these arm warmers felt against our skin, and we wore them for everything from training runs to marathons. smartwool.com
Sunblock may seem a rather mundane item to include in a list of the year's best products. But Scape's Athlete Sunblock ($14.95) is a fully waterproof, SPF 50+ lotion that bonds so completely, it lets your skin breathe and sweat freely without gunking it up. Plus, we were so pleased to discover a lotion that didn't run into our eyes when sweating, we thought everyone should know about it. scapelabs.com
Some hats are just too dang hot, causing us to rip them off our sweaty heads 10 minutes into a run. But the Brooks Infiniti Beanie ($24) proved just the right thickness to take the chill out of a cold day--while not trapping heat like a sleeping bag. The hat's soft fabric blend works just like the most technical running shirts to wick away sweat. Note: The ponytail-set liked the dedicated opening in the back. brooksrunning.com
The New Balance NBX Welded Half-Zip ($75) is our go-to top on cool days. It layers over a thin shirt to trap warm air close to the body and keep the cold out when the weather turns nasty. But it's the details that made us really love this half-zip. It has welded seams that reduce chafing and extra material at the cuffs that pulls over your hands for cozy warmth, allowing you to leave your gloves at home. newbalance.com