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Gifts for athletes can be tricky, particularly for runners. Who'd have thought that a sport that basically only requires sneakers could have so many different accessories to go with it? But fear not—you don’t need to have your favorite runner’s shoe size memorized to buy the perfect runner gift this holiday season.
We’ve come up with a list of amazing presents—chosen by our on-staff runners, including a certified running coach—for anyone who enjoys logging a few miles on foot, from the couch-to-5Ker to the multiple marathoner. These are the best gifts for runners of 2020, according to Reviewed.
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1. For the one whose muscles are always tight: The best foam roller
If you live with a runner, you've probably gotten more of a lesson in muscle anatomy than you expected after high school biology class. Instead of listening to one more complaint about tight hamstrings, IT bands or piriformis muscles, give our top-pick foam roller for easing out those niggling aches. For those with limited space, wrap up the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller—same outcome for their muscles, but easier to store.
2. For the one who runs to music or podcasts: Sweat-proof workout headphones
Two (hyphenated) words come to mind when considering headphones for running: "sweat-proof" and "stay-put." The Jabra Elite Active 65t are some of the best true-wireless headphones we've tested, with the bonus feature of being water resistant. And even better, they earned our Best Value accolades for costing $100 less than the (not designed for running) AirPods Pro.
Still, if you're looking for a less-spendy gift alternative, the MPow Flame earbuds cost less than $20 and have tons of great reviews. We put them to the test in our labs and found they could play music while submerged under water for 30 minutes. They have a wire that connects the two earbuds together, so they're not truly wireless, but they're an awesome value and a proven performer.
3. For the one who want to record stats: A GPS watch
Any runner who graduates from "occasional jogs" to "regular runs" will appreciate a GPS watch, which puts mileage, pace and time stats on the wrist in real time and keeps a record of all miles run to allow improvement analysis.
The Garmin Forerunners are the best out there, as our test of the best running watches. Our runners deemed the sporty-look Forerunner 245 tops for its easy-to-use buttons, large readable screen and feature-packed tracking. There's also a version that stores music, including offline Spotify playlists, which play over any pair of Bluetooth headphones.
4. For the one who's prone to blisters: A good pair of running socks
Sneakers are only one part of the equation when it comes to comfortable (ahem, blister-free) running. Balega Hidden Comfort socks are faves among runners for great reasons: They're cushioned yet not bulky and they wick sweat quickly, which adds up to a no-chafing experience, no matter how long a run. Plus, they come in all sorts of colors and unisex adult sizes small to XL.
5. For the one who doesn’t leave home without a smartphone: A no-bounce belt
Though running phone-free is appealing, sometimes it pays to bring along a smartphone, whether to use it with a tracking app like Strava, to check directions or to make a call in case of emergency. The SPIbelt Performance Series Running Belt stretches to fit extra-large phones plus keys and is made of water-resistance material to keep contents from getting damp from rain (or from body sweat). Double loops in the band hold gels for easy access during long runs. The best part: It will not bounce. The companion water bottles are a nice, secure addition for hydration on the go, too.
6. For the one who's always squinting: Slip-proof sunnies
Unlike regular sunglasses, sports shades have more than one job. They have to dim the sun, reduce glare and not slide down the nose once things get sweaty. Goodr OG sunglasses do it all, for a great price, in funky colors with even funkier names (pictured here: Sunset "squishee" Brain Freeze). Just check with your giftee first to see which ones they already own. (Trust us: You can never have too many Goodrs.)
7. For the one who craves shade: A secure visor
In case you're not yet sensing a theme: Runners like gear that will annoy them the least while they're running. For that reason, hats aren't everyone's must-have, but for those of us who appreciate a good brim for keeping sun at bay, security is almost as important as comfort. The Headsweats Supervisor Sun Visor ticks both boxes and comes in a ton of solid colors (ripe for printing with a logo), plus entertaining designs such as cactus and Baja stripes.
8. For the one who needs a little TLC: Targeted massagers
Being a runner comes with that glorious runner’s high, but it also comes with plenty of aches and pains. Instead of shelling out cash for a one-time massage, get the runner in your life a massage tool that keeps on giving. We reviewed the Theragun and found that it, indeed, is all it's cracked up to be, in terms of delivering the deep-tissue stimulation you'd expect for the $349 price. (We also found that the less-expensive Sportneer Percussion Massage Gun is another worthwhile option, though it's not as powerful or as adept at reaching hard-to-attack spots on the back.)
If your runner complains of sore feet, especially those plagued by plantar fasciitis, they may benefit from the TheraFlow Foot Massager, which is as gentle or intense as the pressure placed upon it. It's a great gift at a stocking-stuffer price.
9. For the one who runs cold: Winter weather accessories
As the hashtag goes, #runnersgottarun, even as temps fall. While the blood is pumping to keep arms and legs flying and the core temperature up, the extremities—particularly the hands and ears—often suffer most. Enter the Smartwool Headband, made of super-soft, sweat-wicking merino wool, which keeps ears toasty without causing the head to overheat, and The REI Co-op Liner Gloves, which are slim-fitting and sweat-wicking—and tech-compatible for checking a smartphone mid-run.
10. For the one who also needs some zen: The best yoga mat
Runners usually like one thing and one thing only ... running. But to reduce the risk of injury and give muscles a much-needed break between runs, yoga is exactly the change of pace needed. Your favorite runner can find a flow on our favorite yoga mat. Whether turning on some YouTube yoga in the living room or doing their own thing, this mat will ensure zero slippage and plenty of cushion.
11. For the one who strength-trains: A resistance band set
Surprise: To get stronger (and faster) as a runner, it's essential to build muscle, not just pound pavement. There's only so much to gain with small lightweight dumbbells (that is, not much), but investing in a full set of weights is costly and takes up a ton of room. A space- (and budget-)friendly option: A set of resistance bands.
12. For the one whose flexibility could use a tune-up: A stretching strap
Facts: When you can't touch your toes, it's really tough to stretch out the hamstrings, the large muscles that comprise the backs of the thighs that get especially short and kinked up from—you guessed it—running. (Ask your favorite runner to try, but plan to stifle your giggles when there's a foot or more distance from the fingertips to the floor.) This stretch strap fills the gap of, er, too-short arms and creates traction to deepen the stretch. It also comes with a how-to guide for the newbie to flexibility training.
13. For the one who appreciates multifunctional gear: A headband-slash-neck gaiter
In warmer weather, a runner needs a sweatband to keep beads of perspiration from flooding into their eyes. Sometimes, a wide headband is handy for keeping hair off the face. And when it's really cold out, a neck gaiter does wonders for retaining warmth, and even covering the lower half of the face to protect against windburn—and, in a pinch, as a stand-in for a face mask to run into a store for some Gatorade. By giving the Buff Multifunctional Headwear, your runner recipient gains all four, in any of about a zillion colors and patterns.
14. For the one who runs in crowded areas: Champion face mask
While a Buff or other gaiter is an OK face covering when you have nothing else handy, a well-made, vent-free face mask is what scientists recommend. That’s why any runner whose normal routes go along crowded streets or trails should have a comfortable, sweat-wicking mask with them. One of Reviewed’s dedicated gym rats swears by the Lay Flat Wicking Mask by Champion for her sweaty workouts—it absorbs moisture off the face and isn’t as uncomfortable as some masks when breathing gets heavy.
15. For the one who goes out at odd hours: Reflective accessories
When daylight hours are short and filled with annoying time-sucks like, ya know, jobs, dedicated runners must head out before and after the sun does its thing. The Amphipod reflective vest makes runners highly visible to traffic (and looks less dorky than many), while clip-on lights make a flashy show of every footfall. If it's really dark out, a simple headlamp can light the way.
16. For the one whose calves complain: Compression legwear
In case you haven't caught on, there are basically two things runners hold most dear: Getting better at running and not getting injured in the process. The scientific jury is out on whether wearing compression sleeves, like the ones made by 2XU, during a workout aids in performance, but if it feels good, why question it?
Compression for recovery, however, is well researched, as the gentle pressure can improve blood flow, flushing the byproducts of training and bringing oxygen to worn-out muscles. In our test of compression socks, our top pick from Figs provided the right amount of tension—they're designed for health professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet—and a smile, thanks to their quirky medical-themed prints.
17. For the one who get cold post-run: A cozy fleece
Another runner theme worth noting while shopping for gifts: We're very temperature-sensitive. It's cold out, we work up a sweat. Then we finish and are suddenly very, very cold. When you present the Patagonia Better Sweater, suggest your recipient stash it in the car for post-run warmth. You'll get brownie points for paying attention and all the love when you meet up for brunch later.
18. For the one who is a new parent: A running stroller
An addition to the family doesn't need to spell the end to the new parents' little hobby. Nay, they can raise 'em up right by plopping the baby into a jogging stroller as soon as the pediatrician says the little one has good enough head control (at about eight months old). This stroller from BOB gets great reviews for pavement running, and is a bargain compared to many out there (yes, really).
19. For the one whose only post-run joy is a bath: Relaxing epsom salts
Epsom salts is the layperson's term for magnesium sulfate, a mineral compound known for its soothing and healing effect on muscles. This formula, from Dr. Teal's, adds in arnica, a homeopathic pain reliever, and fragrant eucalyptus and menthol, which will assure your giftee that it's working from first whiff.
20. For the one who knows that torture can aid recovery: Ice packs for cold soaks
For some runners, sore muscles are par for the course—and even a badge of honor—once running has become a way of life. After a tough workout, an unpleasant-but-effective way to stave off future discomfort is to take an inflammation-reducing ice bath. If your cohabitating runner ravages the freezer’s stock after every speedwork day, give them this set of four Thrive Ice Packs to float in the bathtub instead. These colorful packs keep the water plenty cold during that hurt-so-good dip and are reusable. (Just remind them to wash 'em between baths.)
21. For the one who thinks running is an art form: A print of a favorite race
Yes, running can be an art form in itself—especially if you take course maps and frame them on the wall. Run Ink reimagines popular race routes in the US and around the world as colorful graphics. So the next time your runner friend is reminiscing about a race (trust us, we miss them), he or she will have a compelling visual aid. Run Ink sells cute coordinating coffee mugs, too.
22. For the one who wants to go it solo safely: Road iD
Not all runners want to bring along a phone or even their license when they pound the pavement. If you have such a free spirit on your shopping list, give yourself some peace of mind by giving them a Road iD. These shoe tags attach to the laces and list the wearer’s name and any medical conditions and a contact to call in case of emergency. After all, no one thinks it will happen to them, but it does happen to someone—let that be your argument when you present this present.
23. For the one who run-walks: A Gymboss timer
Not every runner is tech-obsessed … and not every runner runs consistently throughout their workouts. For the dedicated walk-runner, who alternates time spent running with bouts of recovery walking, the Gymboss timer is ideal to keep them on task. They can set two (or more) timers to go off at any interval desired, and this little clip-on device beeps to indicate when to pick up the pace and when to take a breather.
24. For the one who has a good sense of humor about their hobby: A running-themed t-shirt
Runners first favorite thing is to run. Their second favorite thing: to talk about running. But we know that not everyone wants to hear it, so any runner will appreciate a funny tee that speaks for them. Etsy has about a million options, but these two tees resonated with us: "Did I mention I ran a freaking marathon?" and "If I collapse please pause my watch" (lack of comma notwithstanding).
25. For the one who can’t get enough running data: A Strava Premium subscription
Pretty much all runners are already on Strava, the social network-slash-stats database for endurance athletes. (Ask any of us: We live for those “kudos” garnered from our Strava followers on our uploaded workouts.) But not all of them have coughed up the $59.99 per year for a Premium subscription, which unlocks a vault of personal stats, including past efforts on frequent routes and power data based on heart rate. Any stats-obsessed runner will love you for your thoughtfulness … at least until the subscription comes due and they realize they can’t live without it.
26. For the one who doesn’t let a little snow stop them: Yaktrax
Most die-hard runners will go out in any weather condition. The one that’s the most challenging, though, is snow and ice. For surer footing on slippery streets, get your favorite (crazy) runner some Yaktrax. These external treads clip over the soles of any running shoes, adding spiky traction that digs into crusty snow and slick ice alike.
27. For the one who wants to share their passion with their best friend: A hands-free running leash
Hitting the roads or trails with a trusty pooch is a joy for both owner and dog. But off-leash running is generally frowned upon (if not illegal), and holding a leash by hand is less than ideal for the running mechanics of the human. The TaoTronics hand-free leash clips around the runner’s waist and has several grab handles plus bungee sections that provide some give for those moments when Fido gets overeager about his pace or, say, spots a squirrel.
28. For the one who always needs new shoes: A gift card to Road Runner Sports
Buying actual running shoes is a very individual thing. So unless you know exactly the brand, model and size your runner giftee likes, your best course is not to pick out kicks for them, and offer up a gift certificate from Road Runner Sports instead. The retailer carries all of the major brands and with a $2.99 VIP membership has free shipping and returns (even after being worn!) for 90 days if the shoes don’t work out—and as the runner will be doing their own shopping, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.
29. For the one who wants to keep running clothes smelling fresh: Sports wash for clothes
This many not be the sexiest gift, but you know what’s even less sexy? Running clothes that reek even before the runner’s left the house. Those great performance fabrics that wick sweat also have a nasty tendency of harboring odor-causing bacteria. The more that builds up, the more stick wafts out the moment the clothes hit a warm body, even if they’re fresh from the laundry. To reduce the inevitable, get them Hex Performance Laundry Detergent. It leaves laundry smelling clean and won't build up on performance fabrics like regular detergent can, prolonging the odor-free life of the clothing.
30. For the one who goes the distance: A hydration backpack
Now that park drinking fountains are often turned off, carrying water along for longer runs especially has become even more necessary. The REI Coop Swiftland vests hold up to five liters of water, with a 1.5-liter bladder included that’s easy to sip through the bite-activated straw tube. The pack straps snugly to the body to reduce uncomfortable bouncing and chafing. And it comes in a men's cut in three sizes and a women's cut in four sizes for more customized comfort.
31. For the one who wants to show their blingier side: A motivational bracelet
Runners don't always wear spandex. For those times when they're in regular clothes, too, a simple, silver motivational bracelet jazzes up any outfit and lets your runner know they're on your mind and you're rooting for them. This one from Etsy is can be custom engraved on the inside, too, with a name, special motto or words of support to keep them going even if they hit the dreaded wall. And this cuff is simple enough in design that they won't need to ever take it off, not even (or especially) when they run.
32. For the one you know a bit too well: Anti-chafing balm
There's something to be said about your relationship to a runner if you know that he or she would benefit from Body Glide. While running isn’t a contact sport with other people, it can be one with your own two legs, or between your shirt and your skin (if you don't know, don't ask). With a deodorant-shaped stick of Body Glide, your favorite runner can say farewell to chafing, and you can say goodbye to listening to them complain about it.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed.com: 32 best gifts for runners 2020: Gift ideas runners actually want