Gifts for Runners

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If you're looking for the perfect gift for a runner, here is my list of ideas.

  • The Stick. No runner should be without The Stick. This is the best Massage device I've found and a key way of staying injury free. I use mine every day as a core part of my training. [1]. I've tried quite a few of the clones, but the only one that I've found that comes close to The Stick is the Tiger Tail which uses a single roller. [2].
  • Foam Roller. If your runner already has The Sick, then the Foam Roller is the other great tool for keeping their legs working. Get a good quality version that will last; I'd recommend [3].
  • Stryd. The most accurate way of measuring pace and distance, the Stryd footpod will also estimate running power. It works with a wide variety of running watches. It's more expensive than other footpods, but it's accuracy makes it great value for money.
  • MilestonePod. The MilestonePod is a cheap and effective way of tracking the number of miles your runner has put on their shoes, something that can help them avoid an injury. If your runner doesn't have a Good Running Watch it will also track their runs. As if that weren't enough, the MilestonePod will give some fascinating insight into their running form. MilestonePod $29.95 USD at Amazon.com
  • Massage. While I use the Stick and Foam Roller on a daily basis, they're not as good as a human massage therapist, so give a gift certificate for a massage. A good therapist can work wonders, but make sure you get recommendations from experienced runners. You need a therapist who is used to working with athletes and who has a good reputation. For instance, I go to Nicole at University Neuromuscular Massage in Charlotte, who prepares me for races and helps me recover. If you're in Moore County, NC, you have Denise Martin, who is extremely experienced with runners as she volunteers at many local ultramarathons.
  • Halo Hat. This is by far the best running hat I've found, and I wear mine for every run, regardless of the weather. [4].
  • Foot rubz. While it's not as critical as The Stick or a Foam Roller, massaging your feet with this little ball feels great and is only [5].
  • Gloves. I've come to love gloves that have a finger cover to make them 'convertible mittens', as they work in a wider range of temperatures. Saucony Ulti-Mitts .
  • Sugoi Helium Jacket. This jacket weighs less than 3oz, is windproof and is my favorite jacket when I don't need something waterproof. Men's Helium is and the Women's Helium .
  • Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket. This jacket is remarkably waterproof given it only weighs about 6oz/170g. They claim it has a waterproof rating of 12,000mm, and it's breathable to 22,000g/m2, but those ratings are often taken in optimal conditions, and sadly a wet jacket does not breathe as well as a dry one. In practice, if you're running you're likely to be wet regardless of the waterproof rating as your sweat will soak your clothing. The idea of a jacket like this is to keep the water from making you cold, and the Ultra can seem much warmer than the Helium jacket in cold, heavy rain. See Running in the Rain for more details. Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket at Zappos.
  • Socks. While socks are unexciting, they make a good fallback. Buy the type of socks your runner normally wears, as a different sock can change the way their shoes fit. If you runner is not using good socks, then consider giving them a modern technical sock. See Blister Prevention and Socks.
  • Safety Vest. If your runner is likely to be running after dark, then the Amphipod Xinglet will keep them visible. It's reasonably comfortable and highly visible from all directions. [6]
  • Buff. A Buff is a cylinder of fabric that can be used as a neck warmer, hat, and many other combinations. [7]
  • Offer to crew. A different gift is to offer to crew your runner through a race or training run. Crewing an ultra is a big undertaking, so don't make this offer lightly. Another option is to offer to drive so the runner can do a long point to point run.
  • RunScribe. I'm impressed with RunScribe's ability to measure all sorts of useful data about a runner's form. $240 for a pair of Footpods from http://runscribe.com.
  • Hydration. Check out my reviews of the Best Hydration Systems for options to keep your runner hydrated.
  • Coaching. The advice and support of a professional coach can make a huge difference to a runner. You can find in person or online coaching, and both can work well. The in person training can vary from a low cost running program, such as the Run For You coaching offered by my local store, to more expensive one-on-one coaching. Online coaching can provide various levels of support, from customized training plans to intensive one-on-one support. Check out my friend Shannon McGinn's Creating Momentum coaching service. She is an accomplished ultrarunner and a certified coach.

1 Books

My book suggestions focus more on entertainment than technical running advice.

  • Born to Run. The recent bestseller 'Born to Run' is well written and entertaining, as well as thought provoking. [8].
  • The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. This is a comic book on running by The Oatmeal, and it's a great read. Of course, humor is a personal thing, so check out the online comic] to get a taste of the book. [9].
  • Once A Runner, by John L. Parker. Often considered the best book on running, and a worthy read. [10]. There's also the sequel "Again to Carthage" ([11]), and the prequel "Racing the Rain" ([12]).
  • Running on Empty, by Marshall Ulrich. An ultrarunning classic by one of the greatest ultrarunners. [13].
  • Eat and Run, by Scott Jerek. This is part autobiography and part recipe book from the elite ultrarunner Scott Jurek. I found it fascinating to read about Scott's life, and why he runs ultras. While Scott includes several bits of ultrarunning advice, it's mostly his life story.[14].
  • Feet in the Clouds, by Richard Askwith. A book more about British fell running, but still worth the time. [15].
  • Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, by Kenny Moore. The story of the Oregon coach and founder of Nike. [16].
  • The Silence of Great Distance, by Frank Murphy. The story of competitive women's endurance running. It's hard to believe how difficult it was for women to compete in the not so distant past. [17].
  • Ultramarathon Man, by Dean Karnazes. Dean seems to be loved and hated by an equal number of people, but I enjoyed this book. I think it's the best thing he's written by far.[18].
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. A somewhat rambling tale of running which many people love. [19].
  • Running Through the Wall. Each chapter is by a different author, so it's a collection of individual runners experiences in ultrarunning. Not a huge source of information, but an entertaining read in places. [20].
  • The Old Man and the Sea. This may seem like an odd entry in the list of running books running, but I believe that "The Old Man and The Sea" provides greater inspiration and insight into the ultrarunning psyche than most books dedicated to the topic. [21].

2 Other ideas

These are great gifts, but I'd suggest you ask your runner to find out what they'd like.

  • ID Bracelet. Hopefully they'll never need an ID bracelet, but it's an important safety measure just in case. There are a number of options available, such as Road ID for $20. However, if they have any medical conditions, I'd recommend going with MedicAlert.
  • Music. Sadly I don't have a great recommendation for a small MP3 players now the SanDisk Clip Zip is discontinued.
  • Headphones. For better sound quality, the most important factor is the headphones, so give a pair of Koss SportaPro. [22].
  • Running light. You need to talk to your runner about their preferences for running lights. Have a read of my running light guide for more details.
  • GPS Watch. I recommend the Garmin 310XT for any runner, but there are cheaper options and smaller options, so read Best Running Watch before buying.
  • Compression Sleeves. These sleeves are all the rage, and for a good reason. They make a nice gift, but they have to be sized correctly, especially the calf circumference, which makes it tricky for them to be a surprise gift. Of the many calf sleeves on the market, I'd recommend the 2XU Sleeves. [23].
  • Pedicure. Running can be tough on the feet, so a pedicure can help restore them. (A Pedicure before a race can help prevent blisters by making sure the toe nails are trimmed and rounded.)
  • Race Entry. Races can be pricy, so buying your runner a race entry is a nice gift, but make sure it's a race they want to do!