gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Runners, According to Runners and Coaches

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Runners can be picky about their gear — and rightly so. Your friend’s favorite energy gel might make you feel sick, and your tried-and-true sneakers could leave another runner with shin splints. That lands runners firmly in the “hard to shop for” category, but it is still possible to find gifts for the runners in your life that they’re sure to love. (We didn’t include any running shoes on this list, because we think the best kicks are dependent on fit and feel and trying them out in person. And, of course, we’ve got a guide on how to choose the right ones for yourself.)

Drawing on our favorites, plus the input of avid runners, coaches, Strategist staffers, and other experts, we’ve compiled the best gifts for all runners — whether they’re tackling their first miles or collecting medals. To help you shop, we’ve sorted all our gift ideas by price range.

Gifts under $25

These clip-on lights can help them stay safe and visible to cars and others during their early-morning or late-night runs.

Strategist junior writer and former Division I distance runner Brenley Goertzen prefers this Cyclops-looking beanie with a removable light over a traditional headlamp because it’s “less conspicuous, very lightweight, and much more secure,” she writes.

These shades are part of ultramarathoner Emily Halnon’s running kit, and she likes them because they never slip or bounce when she’s running, skiing, or climbing.

Multiple physical therapists at running-focused Finish Line PT in New York City recommended the Squatty Potty, which helps make going to the bathroom a bit easier.

Pro-Tec Spiky Massage Ball

Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard keeps this “spiky pain ball” in his bag at all times and uses it for breaking up tight muscles after long runs.

Author Shalane Flanagan is a four-time Olympian and winner of the 2017 New York City Marathon. Together with runner and nutrition coach Elyse Kopecky, she has written a collection of tasty recipes (like the popular superhero muffins) specifically for runners.

Runners in need of some mental fortitude will find it in the pages of sports journalist Alex Hutchinson’s book Endure. Hutchinson shadows elite athletes pushing the limits of human endurance, discovering that breaking barriers is as much of a psychological challenge as a physical one.

Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s meditative memoir on long-distance running is a love letter to the sport that will resonate with any runner. “This is a book that truly can inspire someone to lace up and take this journey on their own,” says David Siik, the co-founder and creative director of Precision Run.

A runner who’s sidelined by injury may have more time to read, and Rebound, recommended by Running Ruminations blogger Erin Mink Garvey, will teach them how to develop the confidence, focus, and resilience to return to the sport even stronger than before.

Because they’re made from breathable, quick-drying material that doesn’t get soggy, Buffs are useful for staying warm in the winter or wicking away sweat in the summer. Professional endurance runner Susie Chan says a Buff is “great for many things, from keeping your hair out of your face to a sweatband on your wrist.”

Treat the runners in your life to this high-SPF, water-resistant sunscreen stick (a favorite of dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum) to keep their skin looking just as good as their form.

Experienced runners know to invest in moisture-wicking socks made from synthetics or wool, which keep you drier than cotton will and regulates temperature whether it’s hot or cold out. Strategist contributor Steven John likes this pair because, he says, “along with all the compression and support you’d expect from a good running sock, they feature a specifically anatomical design tailored to each foot.”

If the runner in your life complains about toe blisters, gift them a pair of Injinjis, which prevents toe-on-toe rubbing. Farah Visslailli of Finish Line PT says they’re the only socks she can run in.

Gifts under $50

These gels have a Jell-O-like texture, are easy on the stomach, and aren’t syrupy or thick like other gels.

Bandit’s sleek designs geared toward competitive runners have made the brand noticeable among the urban running crowd, especially in New York City, and its mid-weight socks (with its signature “current” logo) are one of its most popular items.

These gloves, which have stashable wind hoods that turn them into mittens, are one of our favorite men’s pairs for winter running.

The Bindi is small enough to fit in the back pocket of my running shorts, but it doesn’t skimp on brightness: It pumps out 200 lumens on its highest setting.


Chris Chavez, founder of the running-commentary website and podcast network Citius Mag, swears by this discreet running belt for carrying his phone and other essentials.

Devoting a few minutes to rolling out your muscles before and after each run is important for staying loose and preventing injuries. This is our top-recommended foam roller and one of my favorites.

For runners who regularly run off-road or on trails where there aren’t any fountains, a handheld water bottle lets them take their hydration on the go. Roche likes that this model, with its simple and ergonomic design, isn’t a hassle to carry while running.

The runner you’re shopping for has likely already read Born to Run, so instead of gifting that title, impress them with the author’s newest book, Running With Sherman. It’s about his experience running with, and ultimately adopting, a donkey. “Honestly, I had no idea I’d ever be rooting for a donkey so much in my life,” says Erin Mink Garvey, a blogger at Running Ruminations.


Figuring out where to stash your phone and keys while running is often a hassle, especially for women whose shorts don’t have much pocket space. As a solution, Garvey likes the waterproof Koala Clip sports bra pouch. “No bounce, no chafe — can’t go wrong,” she says.

Health-conscious runners will likely prefer a gel like Spring that’s all-natural and vegan. Roche says the canaberry flavor (containing banana, strawberry, and maple syrup) is a top pick among the athletes he coaches.

An inexpensive pick for guys, John says, these “lightweight, quick-drying, and secure-fitting shorts are suitable for use in just about any conditions.”

Nike Dry Tempo Running Shorts
From $22
From $22

For a comparable women’s pair, try these affordable Nike shorts. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson has worn them for everything from 5Ks to marathons, and they’ve always been comfortable with no annoying chafing or riding up, she says.

This hands-free leash attaches to your waist so it doesn’t mess with your stride. Annie Grossman — the owner and co-founder of School for the Dogs and co-founder of Store for the Dogs — says that, compared to regular leashes, this has “a little bit more flexibility so that if the dog goes to one side or the other, it’s not going to be pulling you along with him.”

Writer Alison Freer bought these compression socks for her mom when she was recovering from surgery, but they’re just as useful for runners dealing with tight calves.

Gifts under $100

For the running obsessive in your life, consider this hat from Parisian running brand Satisfy, which makes distance apparel with a heavy emphasis on design.

I like how these packs of overnight muesli are super-easy to make (just add milk and mix in a jar) and how one pack keeps me full and satiated (there are 20 grams of protein per pack).

Janji blended cotton with polyester for a shirt that both feels good and regulates your temperature. “I love how soft and lightweight it is, while offering more warmth and coverage than a short-sleeved T-shirt,” says Adelson.

Janji’s Multipass Sling offers a ton of space to carry around your essentials, but thanks to a cross-body strap that locks it into place, you can jog or run without all the jostling. It’s the best thing I bought in 2022.

This long-sleeved shirt has a little hole on the wrist so you can view your GPS watch while still keeping your shirtsleeves pulled down to cover your hands. “I have a few of Oiselle’s tops with watch windows, and they make a huge difference in my cold-weather running,” says Adelson.

For guys, this half-zip from On Running features a watch window.

In our roundup of the best gym shorts for men, we picked the sleek Tracksmith Session shorts as the best pair for running. I’ve used both the five- and seven-inch-inseam versions of the Session and like how buttery-soft they feel against the skin.

With quick-digesting sugar, caffeine for even more energy, and amino acids to promote muscle recovery, this chocolate-flavored gel is Adelson’s favorite for tough efforts.

Gifts under $200

Pro runner Mary Cain tends to run cold, but this merino-wool half-zip from Tracksmith lends her the right amount of insulation and breathability.

I’ve been running in Article One frames since 2018; they’re particularly great because of the wide, grippy, yet soft nose pads, which don’t budge, even as you bob up and down and sweat.

Strategist contributor Rio Viera-Newton loves her portable Theragun Mini. “Of my many purchases this year, my wisest investment has undoubtedly been my Theragun Mini — a massage-therapy tool beloved by physical therapists, trainers, and athletes (including basketball player Kyrie Irving) that helped relieve my back, neck, and shoulder pain after a bad accident,” she says.

Garmin Forerunner 45S

When we asked a few runner friends what gifts they’d like to receive, several mentioned a new GPS watch, and most singled out Garmin by name. Garmin’s entry-level running watch lets runners track their runs and check their pace, heart rate, and distance mid-run and offers the ability to preprogram interval workouts, along with lots of other features.

From $114

Dylan Bowman, a professional ultrarunner and participant in the Wings for Life World Run for spinal-cord-injury research, is hoping to receive a pair of Jaybird Vista earbuds that are actually designed for running since they’re a favorite among his fellow athletes. Even if the runner in your life isn’t competing in 100-mile races, they’ll appreciate that these earbuds are totally waterproof, sweatproof, and super-lightweight, and come with three interchangeable buds for getting a perfect fit.

Even more intense than a standard foam roller (and therefore more effective), the R8 roller wraps around muscles to attack soreness from all sides. Carrie Tollefson, a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and national fitness director for Moms on the Run, likes the R8 because it’s travel-friendly and lets you work all the major running muscles without having to roll on the floor.

For runners going longer distances who need more water than can fit in a handheld, this hydration vest features two soft flasks that hold a total of one liter. Tom Daly, co-founder of the running and yoga lifestyle brand District Vision, says, “Salomon cranks out the best light- and mid-weight vest packs.”

Adelson is a big fan of these stretchy Lululemon tights that come in a ton of colors and have deep pockets on the thigh for her phone, energy gels, and keys.

Gifts over $200

Jabra Elite 85t

We included sweat- and water-resistant Jabra Elite 85t earbuds among the picks in our Best in Class roundup and especially like the button that temporarily pauses the Elite’s noise-canceling features so you can hear traffic around you or chat with your running partner.

This pair of sleeves, which inflate in different chambers to create pressure points in different areas of the leg to increase blood flow, is the best running-related purchase that Queens Distance Runners co-founder Maria Wong made in the last few years. “My legs feel less tired, less sore, and less tight after I use them,” she says.

Polar Grit X Rugged Outdoor Watch
From $400
From $400

This high-end watch is designed for ultrarunners, like professional endurance runner Susie Chan, who regularly compete in races up to 50 or 100 miles long (or longer) on difficult terrain. Besides its military-grade durability, the watch includes a compass and altimeter and keeps track of your speed on both uphill and downhill sections of your runs.

Garmin Forerunner 735XT

For runners who compete in triathlons, this Garmin watch tracks biking and swimming metrics and boasts a 14-hour battery life, which comes in handy during longer events like Ironman races. According to Steph Willett — a triathlete and the team manager of Volée, a global community of female runners created by the apparel brand Oiselle — for a watch with so many features, this one “is light, fairly intuitive, and doesn’t look like a calculator on my wrist.”

Photo: Courtesy of the Vendors

Experts we polled across various fitness disciplines named the Apple Watch the best overall activity tracker, whether you’re running laps on the track or just taking a stroll around town.

Oura Ring
From $299
From $299

One splurge-worthy pick for the data-minded runner is the Oura Ring, which looks like a wedding band but is actually a streamlined wellness tracker that measures resting heart rate, sleep time and quality, body temperature, activity level, and much more.

From $519

“A dedicated running stroller is a luxury but can make a big difference in everyone’s enjoyment of their time on the run,” says Brian Hayes, the head of digital at the running-apparel brand Tracksmith and father of a 1-year-old. He particularly likes this Thule style because it moves smoothly, thanks to a locking front wheel and superior shock absorption.

With additional reporting by Karen Iorio Adelson.

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The Best Gifts for Runners, According to Runners