Runners Get Up to Speed on Gear to Improve Performance, Reduce Injury

For years, runners and running coaches talked about only three things: training, training and training. But as more and more of them see their 10K and marathon careers cut decades short by an endless parade of injuries, the emphasis and interest on technique and products that protect joints and connective tissue have skyrocketed. Here are four that will help keep you going for the long run.

Cadence-keeper beeper

Seiko DM-50 metronome: Not an athletic product per se, but a musical instrument aid seen in orchestras, this clip-on beeper provides an audible marker for runners aiming for an ideal cadence.

Likes: It works. A favorite tool of top Los Angeles-area coach Steve Mackel and other adherents of the popular ChiRunning method, the metronome has a high-pitched squeak that trains runners to increase their cadence to an ideal rate of 180 steps per minute. The higher the cadence, the lower the fatigue and injury rate, because time on the ground with each foot strike is minimized. Weighs 1 ounce and clips on the waistband of running shorts.

Dislikes: None

Price: $22.75-$34.95; 800-586-3876;

Arm swing straighteners

e3 Fitness Grips: Shaped plastic hand forms that encourage a vertical arm-swing, which is said to reduce the excessive side-to-side hip and shoulder swaying that can lead to injury over the long term

Likes: Instantly effective. Running on a treadmill facing a mirror, I could see that my hands immediately swung more vertically and less across the chest. Here's how it works: Sacramento inventor and coach Stephen Tamaribuchi discovered that flexing the thumb tightens ligaments all the way up the arm, pulling the elbow into the ribs, enhancing balance by stabilizing the shoulders, back and hips. Well-known in the Sacramento area, the grips are associated with many anecdotal stories of injury reduction, including 2001 World 100k silver medalist Rich Hanna, who told me that they saved his running career.

Dislikes: You have to hold something in your hand as you run. But they are only 2.5 ounces each, and you quickly get used to it.

Price: $39.99; 888-590-GRIP; 916-483-2686;

Hyponatremia stoppers

Amphipod RunLite 4-bottle belt: Elastic, Velcro-closure belt that holds four 8-ounce bottles and a pocket

Likes: The 8-ounce bottles are held in metal frames on the belt via a tongue and groove system, are disengaged with a quick squeeze, then re-secured with an audible snap. Having four allows you to carry enough different fluids -- water, energy drink, etc. -- to ensure that you get the nutritional variety you need for long runs and to avoid common problems such as hyponatremia, which occurs from drinking only water.

Dislikes: None

Price: $44.50; 800-806-1288;

Arm warmer/cancer stoppers

Moeben Arm Sleeves with pockets: Arm sleeves for ultrarunners that offer protection from the elements and handy access to small items, such as energy gel packets or an iPod

Likes: They lower a major risk of ultrarunning: skin cancer. Ultrarunning star Shannon Farar-Griefer, the first woman to double the Badwater Ultramarathon and owner of a 292-mile run, invented them after she had her third cancerous lesion removed. She added pockets and offers them in a variety of materials, including hemp, bamboo and Lycra.

Dislikes: None

Price: $12-$18; 800-962-6398;