What to wear for a stair race

Posted: February 2, 2015 in Training
Tags: , , ,

Stair running is an extremely demanding activity, and so it really pays to be wearing the right gear so you’re as comfortable as possible during your race.

Dressing for a stair race doesn’t differ much from any running event, but there are a couple of things unique to the sport that are worth considering.

Read on for a quick rundown of the key clothing decisions you should be thinking about ahead of your stair race.


A lot of this would seem to be just plain common sense but you would be surprised what some people wear during stair running events. We have seen people labouring up the stairs in hoodies, jeans and boots. While these participants would obviously not be looking to win, or even compete, their clothing choices make for an altogether more uncomfortable experience than is necessary.

Keep things light and aim for comfort. Shorts and either a vest/singlet or a technical t-shirt made from some sort of wicking material will be best. Some stairwells can be a little chilly, but once you’re a few floors into your race, and whether you are walking or running, you are going to be heating up real quickly. Less is definitely best.


Your regular running shoes will be just fine for a stair race. If you check out photos of elite runners at events around the world, most of them tend to have on pretty standard footwear. That being said, the recent upsurge in the popularity of minimalist footwear has found its way into the tower running scene too, and quite a few runners do favour light weight, zero drop shoes such as Vibram’s Five Finger range or the Merrell Trail Glove.

Some successful runners even race barefoot, with Americans Henry Wigglesworth and Paul Curley both preferring to run unshod.

Read our full in-depth guide on what shoes to wear for a tower race for more advice.


Sorry, what are those things you’ve got on your feet?

Some athletes will also wear compression socks, with the aim of saving their calves a little bit in the longer climbs.


Quite often one of the first bits of advice novice stair climbers tend to hear from ‘experts’ is to wear cycling or weightlifting gloves, or more commonly, to wear one glove depending on which way the stairs turn. The suggestion being that they will allow competitors to grip the railing better and help produce a faster time.

The fact is the vast majority of elite stair climbers do not wear gloves and it’s really just a matter of preference. For example, Piotr Lobodzinksi, the reigning men’s tower running champion doesn’t wear gloves, but, Suzy Walsham the reigning women’s tower running champion does.

A set of gloves isn’t going to make the difference between winning and losing. If you have a pair already and you feel they are working for you in your training runs, and it gives you a bit more confidence then of course wear them on the day. But there’s no need to buy a pair especially for your first stair run.

Music and headphones

In global stair races, these are often allowed and used by competitors. They are more popular in the longer stair climbs, which last upwards of nine minutes, where the blast of some of your favourite psych up tunes can really help when you’re battling fatigue.

However, for health and safety reasons, most UK race organisers will not let you bring anything at all into the stairwell, so to bring or not to bring is not even a consideration.

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