When you aren’t a runner, you may think that a good pair of shoes is all you need to make running enjoyable. But aside from shoes, there are a lot of products that make running more fun, challenging, enjoyable, and safer. Tech, clothes, accessories – running is a lot more than just shoes.
Running as a sport has surged in popularity in the past decade. For a long time, shoe companies were the only ones responding to that surge. But now, sports, tech, nutrition, and clothing companies all have something to offer, from basic necessities to items that provide that much-deserved post-run pampering.
We’ve compiled the best gifts for your runner, and we’re giving you the lowdown on why they will love your choice. Stuck on gift ideas for your favorite runner? Choose from this list and be the hero at the next holiday or birthday.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Best for Music Lovers
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones
1. Garmin Forerunner 35
Talk about tech made for a runner! The Garmin Forerunner 35 calls itself a “running watch,” but it doesn’t just tell time. It monitors your heart rate, and tracks your pace, distance, and route with GPS. It automatically tracks your steps, calories, and intensity minutes of your workouts to make it a complete fitness watch.
Garmin makes syncing easy, with built-in wifi, Bluetooth, and an app, GarminConnect, that connects you to your running friends for challenges, progress updates, and insights into your run. Beyond the basics of what makes a good fitness tracker, the Garmin Forerunner also tracks sleep, an essential (if not favorite) part of being a running enthusiast. This running watch also notifies you of incoming messages and controls music from your wrist.
While the Forerunner 35 is a favorite among reviewers, there have been some runners that quickly got frustrated over the Garmin’s ability to track interval workouts (changes of pace in running or other activity). If your runner often does circuit training, this could frustrate them. If they like to run at a more even pace and could appreciate the sleep tracking and GPS features, though, the Garmin Forerunner 35 is a great value.
- Automatically Tracks steps, calories
- Wireless and smartphone compatible
- Priced at around $170
- Has issues tracking interval training
2. Feetures Max Cushion Running Socks
Not your everyday sock, Feetures has developed a high-tech sock exclusively for runners. When your passion depends on healthy feet, a quality shoe and quality sock are paramount to your endurance.
These socks are built anatomically, with left feet and right feet, so they conform to each foot and provide an enhanced fit. The “seamless” toe (which they call The Perfect Toe) and the anatomical design mean no blisters. They also created a proprietary knitted fabric for these socks, so the high-density knitting provides complete comfort and durability.
Feetures makes actual compression socks, but their running socks benefit from their compression technology, too. Called “zone-specific compression,” the socks themselves provide an almost-custom fit with the stretchiness and soft support. They’ve also created a Y-heel design, which ensures the socks do not slip, preventing blisters. Plus, their iWick technology means your feet stay dry, a specific requirement for runners.
- Y-Heel design prevents slippage
- Anatomic fit
- The Perfect Toe
- Lifetime guarantee
- The Perfect Toe still has a seam, technically
- Some runners don’t like the “Left/Right” sock design
3. Body Glide
If there is a single word that makes runners squirm, it just might be “chafing.” If you have to ask, chances are you are not a runner. When you move as much as runners do, taking measures to prevent this excruciating skin irritation is worth every penny. Arms…legs…the entire body moves when running. And if there is any chafing, running (and the post-run shower) isn’t enjoyable. Worse, it can lead to infection.
Body Glide was made to prevent chafing. It is a protective balm that prevents rubbing and friction, both of which cause rashes, blisters, and raw skin. By repelling moisture as well as avoiding chafing, Body Glide keeps runners’ skin free of irritation and rawness, no matter how long they are out there.
It is recommended to apply Body Glide to the arms, thighs, neck…anywhere there is contact with clothing or that could encounter friction. Body Glide is designed not to leave any marks on clothing, and washes off easily with mild soap and water.
Some reviewers were not thrilled with the original scent, but switched to another product in the Body Glide line and found that the effectiveness was just as good with a different scent. It’s worth it to try a couple of scents so your runner will be able to decide which scent or product works best for them.
Invisible and hypoallergenic, Body Glide is made from plant waxes, and attaches to the skin while it repels water and moisture. Your skin can breathe, sweat escapes, and you can keep running. Body Glide carries a complete line of anti-chafing products, from balm and cream to products with sun protection–and some developed just for women.
- Non-marking on clothing
- If you have an aversion to scent, some Body Glide products may be too heavy
- Reviewers said some of the balms rub off too easily
4. GU Energy Gels
Athletes have been using sport-specific foods to hydrate and get ready energy for years. Gels are relatively new on the scene, and, since they are easy to consume when you are literally on the run, have become a popular choice among runners.
GU Energy Gels were created more than two decades ago, specifically for use by runners. Each gel provides about 100 calories of quick-to-access energy, B-vitamins, and electrolytes; some flavors also provide a kick of caffeine. Developed by a doctor focused on fitness energy, GU Energy Gels are energy-dense calories packed into a pouch small enough to stash in a pocket or handheld water bottle carrier.
Energy gels can be taken on a run for quick energy during long races or training sessions. Each gel provides a particular combination of carbohydrates, electrolyte replacements, and amino acids that can be easily absorbed with no mess.
The gel packets come in a variety of flavor choices. Reviewers were positive about the taste overall, and most noticed that they did gain extra endurance during long runs and marathons. Some reviewers were put off by the texture but noted that the texture varied from flavor to flavor, so trying a variety to find the perfect one is a good idea.
You can buy packets individually if you want, but if you are getting a gift for a serious runner, bulk is the way to go. Bulk pricing includes 12 to 60 packets in each box. GU Energy Gels are vegan, gluten-free, and kosher.
- Caffeinated and non-caffeinated choices available
- Easy way to get your electrolytes in while running
- Texture can take some getting used to
- If you buy them online, there have been issues with the gels popping during shipping
5. CW-X Compression Calf Sleeves
Calf sleeves, designed specifically to support the calf muscles while running, are a proven performance-enhancing tool for runners. CW-X quality compression calf sleeves feature CW-X Support Web technology, which assists in reducing fatigue and aids in recovery time. The sleeves also provide stability during a run–particularly helpful for marathoners.
Graduated compression reduces lactic acid build-up, a common cause of cramps and shin splints for runners. Compression also helps the ligaments and muscles band together to support the entire calf, including ankles and the shin muscles.
Reviewers overall enjoyed the ease of use, and said recovery time was shorter after using the CW-X Compression Calf Sleeves. A few weren’t fans of the material, because they felt it resembled nylon pantyhose instead of a compression sleeve. Other reviewers liked how light the material was, and preferred these sleeves, especially in the winter.
Measure and choose your size carefully, as several reviewers had to return for a different size. It’s recommended to choose a size down, so there is no slippage.
- Great for winter use, even over tights
- Overall calf support
- Material is thin in places
- Sizing has to be exact
6. Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest
A must-have for runners who like running at night or who just want an added safety feature, the Amphipod Xinglet is a simply-designed reflective vest.
These minimalist vests have airy construction designed to not trap moisture, and boast 40% more reflective area than other products. They’re soft and chafe-free, offering ease of movement, and are fully adjustable for both waist size and height. The Xinglet comes in a variety of colors and features a quick on/off front clip.
The Amphipod Xinglet Reflective Vest is not a favorite for being fashionable (most reviewers didn’t like having to wear the vest). But as a safety tool, not one reviewer was unhappy with the vest for its visibility and for being so lightweight that they forgot they were wearing it.
- High visibility
- Soft, chafe-free, adjustable
- Very tall runners said the vest was too small
- Not fashionable
7. Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones
Any runner would be thrilled with a new set of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones. Sweatproof, secure, and designed so you can still hear your surroundings, Aftershokz is the safe and comfortable alternative to earbuds and headphones.
Aftershokz feature an open-ear design and bone conduction technology. These headphones sit just forward of the ear. The band wraps around the back of the head, close to the neck. While the ears are uncovered to hear your surroundings, the sound is delivered directly through the bones of your skull (sounds odd, but really…give it a try). Being able to hear cars or people approaching while safely listening to music is the most significant advantage of using this technology.
Reviewers noted the bone conduction technology had a definite learning curve, but once they adjusted, the benefits of being able to hear their surroundings while still hearing their music clearly was the best way to listen to music while running. There were a few reviewers that did not like the band wrapping around the back of their neck, but they also noted that they were not using these headphones for running.
These wireless headphones repel sweat and feature a sturdy and lightweight titanium headband. Aftershokz Trekz comes in a variety of colors and have garnered positive reviews across the board for their PremiumPitch+ sound and comfort.
- Safe way to listen to music while running
- Moisture repelling
- Learning curve involved in the bone-conduction technology
- Wraparound headband isn’t comfortable for some
8. Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller
Maybe a post-workout recovery tool seems like a luxury, but if you’re buying a gift for a runner (especially a daily runner or a marathoner), this roller is a necessity they may not think about buying for themselves.
Compact and easy to bring anywhere, the Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller rolls through tight muscles, kinks, and knots to leave the muscles smooth and relaxed. Using a foam roller after running helps improve oxygen flow, heal tissue, and channel blood for a post-run recovery routine that helps prepare you for the next run.
Your purchase of this roller includes free access to an online instructional video library, where Triggerpoint experts illustrate the best techniques to apply. If you are buying specifically for these add-ons, make sure you are buying an actual Triggerpoint brand roller, as copycats are prolific online; the copycats also won’t have access to instructional videos, so when ordering, ensure you’re buying the real deal.
Designed with their patented Distrodensity zones, the three-dimensional surface has several widths built in across it, so the feeling of rolling it along your muscles mimics a therapists hands. The Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller has a weight limit of 500 pounds and cleans easily with soap and water.
Backed by a one year warranty, the Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller is made from heavy duty materials. Most reviewers noted that the price for one roller was much more cost efficient than a daily or weekly massage.
- Helps muscles recover
- Improves oxygen flow
- Purchase includes instructional online videos
- Too big, lengthwise, for some
- Slightly pricey
9. OOFOS Recovery Sandal
After logging your daily miles, slipping out of your running shoes is nice. Slipping into a pair of recovery sandals is luxuriously nice. OOFOS designed their recovery sandals with patented technology to generously support your tired arches and take pressure off your knees, ankles, hips, and lower back.
OOfoam absorbs 37% more shock than traditional foam, so the sandals cushion instead of bounce. Bio-mechanically designed, OOFOS flex with both the ground and your foot. The OOfoam helps your foot move in a much more natural way (while cushioning the entire foot) than regular footwear can.
They’ve designed these recovery sandals to never chafe, and since they’re moisture-resistant, they are shower-ready and machine washable. OOFOS are offered in a variety of styles and colors.
- Machine washable
- Cushions the entire foot
- Speeds recovery, post-workout
- Be specific when sizing–they run true to size
- A few reviewers said the material smelled odd at first
10. Nathan Zipster Running Belt
Unless you’re a serious runner, this one isn’t one you’d know about. But if you’re buying a gift for a runner, you’re going to be a hero for finding a practical and useful gift like the Zipster Running Belt!
Nathan has been producing running belts for decades, so they’re in tune with what a runner needs. Your favorite marathoner-in-training will find these belts tremendously useful: a place to hold keys, ID, phone, gels, and more. The Zipster added weather-resistant and secure, zippered pockets to the company’s already favorite product.
Reviewers all said the belt was very comfortable and changed their running game, as running clothes rarely have a way to carry keys or phones securely. If you have wireless headphones, a convenient (and secure) way to carry your phone is a must. The fit on the Nathan Zipster Running belt was comfortable enough that most reviewers said they forgot they had it on almost as soon as they put it on.
The Zipster offers a variety of colors, a money back guarantee, and free returns.
- Zippered pockets
- Comfortable fit
- Some larger, newer phones would not fit
- Weather-resistant, not waterproof
11. Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 600
Handheld bottles are a great, low-cost gift for any runner, and they are going to wonder how you found the perfect gift when you get them the Fastdraw 600. Built around a 20oz. bottle, the FastDraw 600 features a stretch mesh pocket for those ever-important energy gels, and a soft, thin binding that won’t chafe. The Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 600 weighs in at a mere 3 and a half ounces, is ergonomically-shaped, and has a new, wider, slip-free hand strap.
Cool wick air mesh and a 100D baby ripstop keep this handheld snug yet comfortable, and the nylon pocket is iPhone 7-compatible.
- Holds a drink easily
- Compatible bottle included
- Mesh construction
- Does not fit all water bottles
- Phones larger than iPhone 7 won’t fit
12. NUUN Energy Electrolyte Tabs
Electrolytes are an essential part of running, and NUUN Energy Electrolyte Tabs quickly and effectively replenish what is lost when running strenuously. NUUN uses clean, gluten-free, vegan ingredients that are portable and tasty. Each tube contains ten tablets, and each tablet makes one 16 ounce drink. Just mix with water and go, even in the middle of a marathon.
For the runner with a picky palette, there are 13 flavors: orange, lemon lime, strawberry lemonade, fruit punch, tri-berry, grape, tropical, citrus fruit, and watermelon. The cherry limeade, mango orange, fresh lime, and wild berry flavors contain caffeine, for an extra energy boost.
The electrolytes found in these tabs alleviate cramps, help you burn energy efficiently, and assist in muscle function. Each tablet contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin C. Starting around $7 per tube of ten, NUUN Energy Electrolyte Tabs can be found online or in retailers nationwide.
- Easy way to hydrate
- Variety of flavors
- Designed to be taken on a run
- Tabs come in a tube, which marathoners said was awkward to carry
- Not everyone will immediately feel the results of taking electrolytes
13. Brooks Fiona Sports Bra
How about a gift just for the lady runners? There are certain things a sports bra must have to make for a great running tool. It must be comfortable and have adjustable straps. It must have breathable material. And it has to look good as well as feel good.
The Brooks Fiona Sports Bra fits all these requirements. Plus, it has an open-back design, which is a unique feature for a sports bra. The open back design makes it easier to get in and out of, and helps you customize the fit.
The molded cups are minimal, with a moderate stretch, so the Fiona provides a natural-looking shape while keeping everything ready to run. Brooks offers a True Blue Guarantee, so if the Fiona Sports Bra isn’t a perfect fit, return it within 90 days for free. The Fiona comes in a variety of colors.
- Open-back design
- More rigid cups than some other sports bras
- Sizing needs to be exact