Running is an undeniably great form of exercise. There isn't much in the way of requirements to partake; just some shoes, apparel — maybe a comfortable hat — and you’re off. And because running is for everybody, there’s a lot of brands out there catering to the sport.
When searching for new running gear, however, you don’t need to limit yourself to the typical big brands that fill the shelves of most sporting goods stores. There’s plenty of boutique running shops offering innovative technology, forward-thinking fabrics and stylish picks that fit right in whether logging miles or grabbing a post-run snack.
So, look beyond the sporting goods department and suit up with some of the following boutique running brands that are sure to give your miles the personality they deserve.
Miler is based in New York City and isn't shy about acknowledging it. Nevertheless, it sources its super-premium fabrics from European makers (though it sews its patterns back in the Big Apple) to make lightweight duds for running short distances with speed and ease.
This boutique running brand is based on the question, “What if in doing the ordinary, we find the extraordinary?” Friends Matt Whyatt and Charlie Webster set up Ordinary Athlete to answer just that, offering affordable technical gear and leisurewear with purpose. Their designs take pride in the inspiration running offers, no matter the distance or miles logged. Because the best accomplishment… is acceptance.
Trust. Empathy. Excellence. These are the three pillars that Bandit Running lives by as it strikes to fuel an authentic, inclusive landscape of runners from all walks. The NYC-based brand boasts an impressive collection of apparel and accessories designed for both performance and style. Bandits typically get a bad rep in society, but when you’re wearing this garb, the only thing you’ll be stealing is the spotlight from blander running brands.
Dr. Ron Hill M.B.E. was the second man to break 2:10 in the marathon, competed in both the Tokyo and Munich Olympic marathons and was the first Brit to win the Boston Marathon in 1970. That same year, the speedy runner started his namesake company. The brand hits all the basics in-stride, with short models ranging from a split short to a 7-inch short.
Face it, trail running is tough. You need gear that’s up to the task. And at Norda, the cold, wet, challenging terrain of Quebec’s Eastern Townships has provided the perfect testing grounds. The results? An absolute workhorse of a trail running shoe that offers the perfect combination of fit, cushion, grip, weight, breathability and material innovation you won’t find anywhere else.
A fractal can be defined as an infinite pattern, and is often used to describe natural features such as trees, rivers and mountains. This is where the Australian-based Fractel takes its inspiration as they produce premium running headwear for like-minded athletes forever chasing that outdoor-inspired sense of adventure. With plenty of styles and colorways to choose from, it’s hard not to set your wardrobe off with one of these vibrant top pieces.
Satisfy is definitely one of the more fashion-forward brands on this list, but their clothing has the performance chops to back up the bold designs. Expect extra-long short liners, camo prints, "moth-eaten" ventilation and premium fabrics, but not low prices. Don't miss the brand's thoughtful online magazine, either.
Mash together performance apparel design with 80s hair metal aesthetics and you’ll get something close to Doxa. Its entire line bucks the neon-infused convention typified by the big brands and is highly technical, purely by nature of its origins in the ever-changing climate of Scandinavia.
Another pick from across the pond, Soar is a running line designed by the U.K.’s Tim Soar. Soar uses advanced fabrics from Japan and Europe, taking a modernist approach to creating pieces that live up to expectations in the performance and style categories. Every product aims to give justice to the commitment and passion that runners showcase every time they lace up and head out.
Born in Swiss alps and forever lost in the clouds, On offers a plethora of quality footwear, apparel and accessories with one goal: revolutionize the sensation of running. Their mix of off-the-wall designs are purposefully crafted to make running as effortless as possible. This is one instance where cloud coverage is a bonafide positive to your running environment.
Tracksmith's aesthetic is decidedly retro, but when paired with technical fabrics and smart features, the clothing itself is anything but dated. The company is based out of running-obsessed New England — and Tracksmith fits into that culture well without being kitschy.
Janji is another New England-based running brand, located in Boston. As part of a social initiative, Janji donates a portion of its sales to provide clean drinking water for people in less developed countries like Kenya, Peru, Nepal and Uganda. These places also inspire its designs, with bold colors and the occasional pattern.
Your socks should be a piece of running kit that propels your jogging enjoyment, not hinder it. Some socks can offer great comfort and support but take away from the underfoot sensation of premium running shoes. Near Earth’s lineup of running socks creates a great connection between body and gear thanks to simple, lightweight silhouettes designed to help you get the most out of your sneakers.
While you may think merino wool is a performance fabric solely for those wintertime activities, the natural textile is very much at home in warmer conditions, too. Ibex is one of the brands at the forefront of flaunting wool’s capabilities, showcasing a wide range of quality products built for outdoor excursions, daily tasks and (of course) running. All wool is harvested from Australia and New Zealand, too, ensuring the farms are regularly checked and monitored to ensure proper, sustainable practices.
The minds behind District Vision pride themselves on prioritizing function and performance first, but you wouldn’t be wrong to note the high level of eye appeal in each and every product brought forth by the New York–based team. DV started with a collection of eyewear that includes hypoallergenic rubber nose pads and D+ lens technology, but now makes fleeces, half tights and more for a well-rounded running kit.
Based in Montreal, Ciele has made a name for itself in tight-knit running circles for producing some of the best running caps available. They’re constructed from ultra-wicking COOLwick fabric and offer UPF +40 sun protection. They also feature reflective hits on the front and back to keep you safe when running at night. To go along with their stylish lids, Ciele has expanded their eye-catching lineup to include running apparel, sunglasses and more.
There’s a reason we included Ten Thousand on our list of the best men’s workout clothes. The brand is in the business of designing workhorse shorts and apparel that’ll help you achieve your goals in the weight room and in the timed mile. We’ve gone on about how much we enjoy the brand’s gym shorts, but their run-specific lineup of apparel is just as ready to deliver the performance you need, and nothing more.
Like Ciele and Fractel, Rnnr prides itself on upgrading your running hat ensemble. Fun styles, vibrant colors and plenty of convenience come together in this stable keeping things light and in-motion. Plus, the brand does plenty of collaborations with other lesser-known brands from time to time, giving you a prime opportunity to combine your other passions with your training-centric endeavors.
We should all make an effort to live more sustainable lives, and brands are no different. Unfortunately, though, some companies promote their “sustainable” practices without taking a true look at their actions outside of just one marketable product. Unsanctioned is greenwashing’s worst nightmare, dedicated to performance-driven innovation and doing better, acting better and producing better. Their mantra of, “If you can’t make it more sustainably, you shouldn’t make it at all,” rings true in every piece that dawns their logo, which is commendable — and damn-good looking, too.
The name, “Saysky,” comes from the phrase "Look up at the sky and be a star," meaning to be brave and take risks to achieve your dreams. Thanks to lightweight materials, impeccable build quality and a dash of Scandinavian urban styling, this under-the-radar brand lives up to that notion in streamlined fashion. It’s hard for us to ignore any piece in the brand’s lineup, each popping with subtle design notes and loads of performance features.
As another Australian-born running shop, Erniold’s performance range combines technical fabrics and functional details to elevate your running experience. Simplistic silhouettes across a variety of cuts keep stylings subtle,which flows nicely with the brand’s emphasis on community over individuality. You may have just learned of them, but slowly and surely, these “down under” runners are rising to the top without question.
Inov-8 makes some of our favorite in-gym gear and sneakers, but the brand is also respected in the road and trail running scenes, too. Its profiles bring a heightened sense of quality and durability to each landscape, perfect for pushing yourself to new PRs. If you run in Inov-8 apparel and running shoes, you’ll likely fail before your gear does.