The Ultimate Gift Guide for Runners

by Melissa Chichester

Runners: we’re a quirky bunch.

We pay to run for hours and receive only a medal and a t-shirt as our reward. And we can’t forget about that free banana!

We wear neon with pride. We travel for hundreds of miles for the sole purpose of exhausting ourselves in new scenery. Is a runner tough to shop for? You bet!

Whether the runner in your life is a marathoner, a 5K-er, or someone who simply runs for fun, this guide has something for everyone.

Tech gifts

GPS watch: Take a look at the #igrunners hashtag on Instagram and you’ll see just how much runners love their GPS watches. GPS watches are a valuable aid for training and allow runners to monitor their pace, heart rate, and even route maps. Popular GPS watches include the Apple Watch and Garmin Forerunner.

Headphones: It’s tough to find the perfect pair of headphones that won’t fall out of your ears while running. Earbuds tend to fall out unless they’re specially designed for athletic activity. I prefer headphones because they’re comfortable, they don’t fall out, and I can still hear environmental sounds like approaching cars while I use them. Anker Soundcore Spirit SweatGuard are affordable ear buds, while AfterShokz headphones are a brand many runners swear by.

Wearable gifts

New shoes: Many runners go through 2 or 3 pairs of shoes in a single year; I’m currently on my fourth pair of Saucony Guides. Peek at your runner’s shoes to determine their preferred brand, style, and size, or give them a gift certificate for their favorite local running store.

Throw-away gloves: Runners love those lightweight gloves that you can find for a couple of bucks at convenience stores. Stock up on several pairs, and your runner will have warm hands all winter long! These are perfect for wearing while waiting in the cold for a race to start, and then tossing to the side after you warm up.

Don’t worry about being wasteful—clothing items tossed at races are typically donated to charity.

Plus, runners who live in rural areas usually shed layers along their route by stashing their jackets, hats, and gloves behind trees or on side of the road, then hop in the car after their run to pick them up.

Headbands: This may sound a little silly, but one of my favorite things to wear while running is a cute and stylish headband. Headbands are not only a fun fashion statement, but they are also a necessity for both men and women who need to keep their hair off of their faces. A lot of headbands have humorous sayings on them, like “Will run for wine,” “Cheaper than therapy,” and “Sweat is my fat crying.” My favorite headbands are from a Cincinnati-based company called Sweaty Bands. They’ll even customize the headband for you – perfect for gift giving!

Edibles and nutritional support gifts

Protein bars: Walk into just about any running store and you’re sure to find a large selection of energy bars. Protein bars, like the ones from Pure Protein, are a favorite as a light pre-race or pre-run meal, post-run snack, or even as fuel in the middle of a long run. Greek Yogurt Blueberry, S’mores, and Chewy Chocolate Chip are flavor favorites among runners.

Energy support: Runners, especially distance runners, are always concerned with maximizing and maintaining their energy levels during their runs. A pre-workout supplement like Nitro Pump is always appreciated, while a stocking stuffer-sized bottle of time-released caffeine will be put to good use. Gummy bears are another favorite that many runners use as a mid-run snack. Perhaps the most loved energy supplement among runners are Gu packets, which come in a variety of flavors. My favorites are Cherry Lime Roctane, and Salted Watermelon.

Other supplements: Peek inside of your runner’s supplement stash to see what they use to stay in tip-top shape. If you find things like Beet Root Extract, Magnesium, L-Glutamine, Glucosamine, and Potassium, treat them to a re-stock!

Comfort, recovery and safety gifts

Chafing and blister protection

  • Nip Guards and Body Glide to avoid chafing
  • Skin-on-Skin squares (for blisters)

Cramp Prevention

Green tea: After any long run, you can find me drinking a hot cup of this delicious blend of antioxidant-rich green tea.

Hylands Leg Cramps: After half marathons, my legs are pretty sore. I usually take one of these before bed.

Salt tablets: Endurance sports result in a lot of sweating, which leads to the loss of valuable electrolytes.

Some runners use salt tablets to replace sodium lost through sweat, which is especially helpful when sports drinks aren’t available.

Compression wear

Compression socks: Many runners – especially marathoners — take advantage of post-run recovery aids like compression socks. These socks fit snugly to help support circulation and reduce swelling and soreness after a tough workout. Some runners even wear compression socks during their runs.

Compression sleeves: Compression sleeves are available for arms, legs, and other parts of the body. I prefer calf compression support sleeves to compression socks for post-run recovery. These are just like compression socks, only without the feet.

Woman running through the woods

Stretching tools

Foam rollers are used to perform self-massage on sore muscles, which is especially useful after a long run. The TriggerPoint GRID foam roller is the BFF that I look for first thing after crossing the finish line or after a long run. I like it because it’s sturdy and doesn’t lose its shape with extensive use.

While some people love foam rollers, others prefer stick-style muscle massagers. Stick massagers are easier to travel with and easier to use for beginners compared to foam rollers. Foam rollers require a lot of core strength since you are balancing your body on it. With a stick massager, you only have to use your arms to apply the pressure.

Safety tools

RoadID Bracelet: RoadID bracelets have identification badges that can be personalized with medical information, emergency contacts, and even a special quote that your runner may like. Available for men, women, children, and even pets, these bracelets are lightweight and come in a variety of colors and styles.

Pepper spray: Surprised? While I hope to never actually have to use it, I never leave home for a run without my pepper spray. If you run at night, or run in a rural, isolated area like I do, this is especially important for protection. Not only can it help protect you from potential assailants, but it may come in handy if a dog or another animal tries to attack.

Visibility gear: During the winter months, as the days get shorter, it can be challenging to squeeze in a run during daylight hours.

Reflective jackets, vests, gloves, and hats are a great way to be seen on the road after the sun goes down.

Other options include headlamps, knuckle lights, and even small flashlights.

A few more ideas

Car stickers: Runners love showing off their race accomplishments and often adorn their cars with distance stickers, like 5K, 10K, 13.1, 26.2, and even higher in the case of ultramarathoners. A distance sticker or magnet is a fun stocking stuffer, or you can even find a holiday ornament adorned with the distance.

Race registration: There are two ways to do this: if you know that his or her calendar is clear and you have their personal information (like their date of birth and home address), you can complete the registration on his or her behalf. If not, you can always give a monetary gift with a nice card that states the intent of your gift.

Race registration costs start around $25 for local 5Ks and 10Ks, while half marathons and marathons are normally priced around $50-$100. This is an especially great gift idea for someone who is working toward their next running goal but might need a little push to get there.

Right now, most in-person races are on pause, but you can still gift someone with a virtual race event that supports a charitable organization.

And now for the ULTIMATE gift: A runcation!

If you really want to splurge something special that will be remembered for years to come, a destination race is a fabulous option. This is a wonderful way to explore a new city and chase a shiny new medal that you may not get on your home turf.

And although right now in-person races are limited, registration has opened for future races, perfect for ensuring there is time to train!

If you’re worried that your favorite runner may already have something on this list, there’s good news! Runners wear things out quickly. Backups are very much appreciated!