Gadget gifts for runners
Garmin Forerunner 45S
When I asked a few runner friends what gifts they’d like to receive, several mentioned a new GPS watch, often singling out Garmin by name. Garmin’s entry-level running watch, the Forerunner 45, lets runners track their runs and check their pace, heart rate, and distance mid-run; it also offers the ability to preprogram interval workouts and lots of other features. City Coach co-founder and head coach Jonathan Cane told us that the previous version of this watch would “certainly do the trick for a new runner, and will be adequate even for a more hard-core athlete.” It’s safe to say the new one will do the same.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
For runners who compete in triathlons, this Garmin watch also tracks biking and swimming metrics. It 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.”
Coros Apex Premium Multisport GPS Watch
Although Coros only started selling GPS watches in 2018, the Seattle-based brand has earned lots of buzz in the running community and is quickly becoming a big player in the market. The main reason? Its watches have a crazy-long battery life. This entry-level model will last 25 hours in GPS mode or 30 days for regular use, and its pricier watches go up to 60 hours and 45 days. “They’ve created a great product, for sure,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a USA Track & Field–certified running coach and the founder of Strength Running. “It does everything: tracks sleep, steps, altitude, sunrise and sunset, calories burned, and of course all of the running metrics that runners care about.”
Polar Grit X Rugged Outdoor Watch
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. Chan loves that the Grit X “has a function that reminds you when to drink and eat, monitors sleep patterns, and gives you mobility exercises to keep you strong.”
Apple Watch Series 6
If you like the idea of gifting your favorite runner a GPS watch but maybe want something they’ll wear when they’re not running, consider buying an Apple Watch. It has lots of the same functionality as the GPS watches above, according to Meghan Takacs, a running trainer for the fitness app Aaptiv. “The Apple Watch is a good option to help novices appreciate accountability and structure,” she says. “It offers a daily steps goal to meet, along with reminders to get them in [and] the ability to sync popular apps.” Plus, your recipient will likely enjoy this watch so much that they will keep it on at all times, running or not. (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.)
Bose Sport Earbuds
Sometimes listening to a good playlist or podcast can make all the difference in getting a runner out of bed on a cold day. Strategist deputy editor Maxine Builder tested out an earlier version of these truly wireless earbuds and liked all the workout-friendly features they had to offer. They’re water- and sweat-resistant with simple touch controls for adjusting volume, pausing music, or taking calls on the run. The earbuds come with three sizes of what Bose calls “StayHear tips,” little plastic hooks that help them stay in place when you’re running.
Jaybird Vista True Wireless Earbuds
Dylan Bowman, a professional ultrarunner and participant in the Wings for Life World Run for spinal-cord-injury research, knows that not all headphones are built for the demands of runners. He says he’s had to buy five or six pairs of AirPods over the past few years since they can’t stand up to his intense training. This year, he’s 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 and sweatproof, super-lightweight, and come with three interchangeable buds for getting a perfect fit.
Nathan StrobeLight, 2-Pack
Among work, other hobbies, and making time for family, busy runners squeeze their runs in either early in the morning or late at night — often when it’s dark outside. To stay safe and visible to cars and other traffic, I use an older version of this clip-on light that’s totally unobtrusive when attached to my waistband.
Clothing gifts for runners
ASICS Men’s Rival II Shorts
Shorts are the foundations of a runner’s wardrobe, with lots of dedicated athletes wearing them well into the fall and winter. An inexpensive pick for guys, writer (and runner) Steven John says, these “lightweight, quick-drying, and secure-fitting shorts are suitable for use in just about any conditions.” He likes that they have a liner that’s supportive but not too snug if you’re wearing tights underneath to stay warm.
Tracksmith Session Shorts — Men’s
In our roundup of the best gym shorts for men, we picked the sleek Tracksmith Session shorts as the best pair for running. “The Session shorts feel most at home during runs, of course, but they work just as well for sweaty, aerobic gym sessions,” says Strategist writer Jeremy Rellosa.
Nike Dry Tempo Running Shorts
For a comparable women’s pair, try these affordable Nike shorts. I’ve worn them for everything from 5Ks to marathons, and they’ve always been comfortable with no annoying chafing or riding up. They last forever and, with a 3.5-inch inseam, they’re neither too long nor too short.
Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Crop II 19”
I’m a big fan of these stretchy Lululemon tights that come in a ton of colors and have deep pockets on the thigh for my phone, energy gels, and keys. And I’m not alone: Dianna Falzarano, the director of TRX programming at Flex Studios, says, “They’re pretty tight so you don’t have to be constantly pulling them up.” And Helaine Knapp, the founder and CEO of the rowing studio CITYROW, adds that “the fit and style make me feel like I can conquer the world.”
Oiselle Flyout Long-Sleeved T-Shirt — Women’s
This long-sleeved shirt looks like your typical winter base layer, but it features such a cool innovation that it’s shocking no one else thought of it first: the watch-window. It’s a little hole on the wrist so you can view your GPS watch while still keeping your shirtsleeves pulled down to cover your hands. If you’ve ever spent a cold run with one hand exposed so you can check your pace, you’ll realize how ingenious this is. I have a few of Oiselle’s tops with watch-windows, and they make a huge difference in my cold-weather running.
On Running Weather Shirt
For guys, this half-zip from On Running also features a watch-window.
Janji Runterra Shirt — Women’s
Janji Runterra Long-Sleeved T-Shirt – Men’s
The running brand Janji makes some of the most unique pieces (it works with local artists from different regions each season — like the current South Africa collection) that are also highly functional. Janji sent me this shirt, and I’ve been wearing it on cooler days this fall because I love how soft and lightweight it is, while also offering more warmth and coverage than a short-sleeved T-shirt. It actually gets its smooth feeling from Supima cotton. Cotton clothing is generally taboo in the running world, since it holds on to moisture and takes longer to dry than wool or synthetic materials, but Janji blended it with polyester for a shirt that both feels good and regulates your temperature.
Footwear gifts for runners
Women’s Asics Gel-Nimbus 22
Men’s Asics Gel-Nimbus 22
Runners have been loving the ultra-cushioned Asics Nimbus for more than 20 years now, with many loyalists picking up the new version each year and never straying. Personal trainer and fitness editor Emily Abbate owns 72 pairs of sneakers, but will run marathons (she’s finished six) only in the Nimbus. She says “the forefoot gel-cushioning system … keeps my foot comfortable mile after mile. With these, I never have to worry about uncomfortable foot cramps or pain in my arches.” As for the men’s version, John calls them the best all-around pair. “I wear these more than any other running shoe,” he says, “and I tend to wear them out by the time the new pair shows up.”
On Running Cloudstratus Running Shoe
The On Running Cloudstratus was voted the status gym sneaker for men when we asked stylish gym-going guys. According to Rhys Athayde, the chief experience officer and founding trainer at Dogpound, they’re not only great for trail and road running — they’re also good for hiking, running-based workout classes, and even walking around town, because they exist at the intersection of “function, comfort, and style.”
Hoka Clifton 8 Running Shoes – Women’s
Hoka One One Clifton 8 Running Shoes – Men’s
Feetures Merino 10 Ultra Light No Show Tab
A wet cotton sock rubbing against the foot can cause painful blisters that may stop new runners in their tracks, which is why experienced runners know to invest in moisture-wicking socks made from synthetics or wool. Merino wool is an all-natural fabric that keeps you dry and regulates temperature whether it’s hot or cold out. John likes this pair because, he says, “along with all the compression and support you’d expect from a good running sock, they also feature a specifically anatomical design tailored to each foot.”
Stance Men’s Run Crew St Sock
“Having socks you trust is so key for wanting to get out the door each day,” says David Roche, the coach and founder of the SWAP running team and the co-author of The Happy Runner. A fun print helps, too, which is why he likes Stance socks. They have style and substance.
Vim & Vigr Women’s Solid Black Moisture-Wick Nylon Compression Socks
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. Compression socks speed up muscle recovery and decrease muscle vibration caused by the high impact of running. Get the moisture-wicking ones to avoid overheating.
Accessory gifts for runners
Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear
Buffs have long been a favorite among runners for many purposes. Because they’re made from breathable, quick-drying material that doesn’t get soggy, they’re useful for staying warm in the winter or wicking away sweat in the summer. Chan says a Buff is “great for many things, from keeping your hair out of your face to a sweatband on your wrist.”
Nike Slim Running Waistpack
New York Magazine features editor Katy Schneider uses this slim waist pack from Nike to turn errands into an aerobic workout. “My weird stop-and-go style of running makes carrying a credit card while I jog necessary,” she says. “And my Nike fanny pack is the object that makes that possible.”
Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Water Bottle – 18oz
For runners who are wisely avoiding public water fountains right now, or those 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 18-ounce handheld is curved to fit in your hand, and I usually forget about it after ten minutes,” he says.
Salomon Active Skin 8 Set Vest
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. It also includes a backpack for stashing essentials, like a windbreaker for when the weather changes. Salomon vests are a favorite of Tom Daly, co-founder of the running and yoga lifestyle brand District Vision, who says, “Salomon cranks out the best light- and mid-weight vest packs.”
The Buddy System Adjustable Hands Free Dog Leash
Dog parents like to bring their pup along on the road or trails, too. 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.”
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. “It’s designed to sit on the back of a sports bra, making it fairly easy to access mid-run if need be, but also with the peace of mind that everything is secure,” she says. “No bounce, no chafe — can’t go wrong.”
Self-care and recovery gifts for runners
Theragun Mini Percussive Therapy Massager
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. “Once I actually powered the thing up, I was taken aback by its might — at three different speeds, it vigorously vibrates to loosen up muscles, while the attachment ball thrusts up and down, massaging deep into those sore spots.”
Supergoop! 100% Mineral Sunscreen Stick
When you’re running outside for several hours each week, you’re going to get a lot of sun exposure, but runners often neglect to wear sunscreen, thinking they’ll either sweat it off or it’ll run into their eyes. Jennifer Stein, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Health, says “a stick is a good way to get a sunscreen that doesn’t run as much.” 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.
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller
While performing self-massage with a foam roller might not be quite as relaxing as a massage in a spa, devoting a few minutes to rolling out your muscles after each run is important for staying loose and preventing injuries. The extra-firm TriggerPoint has raised bumps and lines to get even deeper into muscle tissue. “It’s just the right density to be effective without bruising,” says Radan Sturm, the founder of the Liftonic studio. “It’s the perfect size that allows you to target all major parts of the body, while being compact enough to travel with.”
Roll Recovery R8 Roller
Even more intense than your standard foam roller (and therefore, more effective), the R8 roller wraps around your muscles to attack soreness from all sides. “The spring-loaded rollers dig as deep as I want, with a gripping massage that feels like strong hands,” says Jonathan Beverly, editor-in-chief of PodiumRunner and author of Your Best Stride. “I keep it next to my desk and use it nearly daily.” Carrie Tollefson, a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team and national fitness director for Moms on the Run, also recommends the R8 because it’s travel-friendly and lets you work all the major running muscles without having to roll on the floor.
Nutrition gifts for runners
Naked Nutrition Naked Whey Protein Powder
You may associate giant tubs of protein powder with weightlifters, but Fitzgerald explains that it’s also useful for runners to “help repair muscle damage after hard workouts.” Since runners can benefit from adding strength training to their routines, it’ll help them recover faster between sessions. He recommends this single-ingredient powder because “there are no ingredients that aren’t needed, and it tastes great.”
GU Roctane Sports Gel Sea Salt Chocolate, 24-Pack
With quick-digesting sugar, caffeine for even more energy, and amino acids to promote muscle recovery, this chocolate-flavored gel is my favorite for tough efforts. Plus it just tastes really good. I find it reminiscent of chocolate frosting but with a pinch of salt to keep it from being way sweet. A box of 24 should get a runner through a training cycle and, if you aren’t sure what flavor the runner likes, there’s always the variety pack.
Spring Energy Gel – Canaberry, 10-Pack
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. With a box of 20 gels, runners won’t be caught before a run without their fuel.
NUUN Sport Conservation Alliance Hydration Tablets, 4-Pack
When you’re sweating a lot on a run, hydration means more than just chugging water. Nuun tablets pack in all the electrolytes you lose through sweat, kind of like a low-calorie Gatorade alternative. This four-pack lets runners try out some of the most popular flavors (including my personal favorite, Lemon Lime), and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Conservation Alliance, an organization that protects and restores North America’s wild places. As I’ve written about before, it’s also an open secret among runners that Nuun helps with hangovers.
Book gifts for runners
Endure by Alex Hutchinson
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. Roche says it’s “a must-read for any runner looking to understand how their brain interacts with performance.”
Rebound by Carrie Jackson Cheadle and Cindy Kuzma
A runner who’s sidelined by injury might have more time to read, and Rebound, recommended by Garvey, will teach them how to develop the confidence, focus, and resilience to return to the sport even stronger than before. “A lot of books in running lit right now are talking about mental strength and resilience during workouts and races,” says Garvey, “but very few talk about how to develop that skill when you’re injured and on the mend.”
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
While it’s not going to teach you how to structure an interval workout or what to eat before a marathon, 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.
Running With Sherman by Christopher McDougall
The runner you’re shopping for has likely already read Born to Run (which David Spandorfer, a co-founder of running-apparel brand Janji, calls “the preeminent running book of all time”). 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. “I’m almost through this right now, and 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.
Splurge-worthy gifts for runners
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. Bowman says it’s “the best gift I’ve received recently that’s supported my life as an athlete,” telling us, “I use it mostly to gauge my recovery and sleep quality, which has a tremendous impact on my training and performance. It gives me an amazing visual into how my body is responding to different inputs, from my level of exercise to the foods and beverages I consume.”
For a runner who’s been exceptionally good this year, Peloton’s treadmill is the smoothest I’ve ever run on. The slatted belt feels bouncy and responsive, and the speed and incline knobs on the arms of the treadmill allow for smooth adjustments while you’re running. Amanda Tress, CEO and founder of FASTer Way to Fat Loss, says it’s one of her favorite treadmills as well, because of the live classes and other features that make it useful for all types of running: “It can be used in combination with the Peloton app and technology for incline walks, HIIT runs, intervals, hills, or any number of additional floor workouts they have programmed in the app,” she says. Peloton is coming out with a lower-priced treadmill in early 2021. It won’t have the slatted belt, but you can still take classes with the company’s all-star instructors.
Thule Urban Glide 2 Stroller
“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.
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