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
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gifts under $200
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.
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.
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.”
Gifts over $200
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.
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.
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.”
“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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