Best presents for the runner in your life

Looking for something to buy the runner in your life? Not as easy as you first think it is, but here are a few suggestions a non-runner can purchase that most runners will appreciate at a variety of price ranges

Pocket Kleenex packs ($1-$5)

If I am doing a long run with a pack, I throw one of these in a pocket. In winter I keep one in my jacket pocket, and year round I keep Kleenex in my car in case I need it after my run. It’s not the most exciting thing to buy the runner in your life, but they will use it!

Road Id ($20-$40)

You need to order these online but they are something every runner should have. This is a metal tag you wear on your shoe or watch strap with your name and contact information just in case something happens during your run. If your favorite runner has any medical conditions you can also pay to register the Road Id so it acts as a Medic alert bracelet. I prefer the version you slide over your watch strap vs the one that goes on your shoes because as a runner I have multiple pairs of shoes and its a pain to move the Road Id between shoes, but I never run without my Garmin, so by keeping it on my Garmin strap it’s always with me when I run.

Reflective Vest $40-$140

These do come in different sizes and styles, so you will need to have some idea of sizing to order it, but still easier than trying to figure out the size for a jacket or shirt. I bought one because it was required for a Ragnar type relay race which included overnight runs, but since I bought it, I have found myself wearing it constantly for low light and night runs. The Noxgear light up vests are very popular at the moment as well. Here’s a very good article by Trail and Kale sharing some of the best reflective vest options.

Reflective gear

We all want to be safe running at night, and there are a fair number of options to help ensure you are seen running at night, including but not limited to

I’ve seen reflective stickers as well, but never used them, Most runners I know prefer the reflective accessories or clothing. I also saw reflective iron ons which is pretty cool but I was totally paranoid about trying to put an iron on on my expensive high tech running gear, so that didn’t work out for me.

Dry bags ($10-$40)

Many of us run with a phone and want to keep our phone dry as we sweat or run through the rain. Yes, you can use a Ziploc bag, but they aren’t as durable and waterproof as Dry bags like this e-case from MEC or this waterproof Phone pouch from Joto. Find one big enough to hold the cell phone, but don’t get one so big it won’t fit in any pockets or belts, it’s not helpful if you can’t carry it on your run.

New shoelaces

No seriously, it’s not a must have, but can be nice to have elastic laces that don’t require tying, generally called Bungee or Lock laces. These are particularly great for triathletes or duathletes because it allows them to improve their transition time when they put on their running shoes. But you don’t have to be a triathlete to appreciate them, they are also popular with those of us who are just lazy and hate untying and retying laces. I actually like them for travelling by air in the US because they are easy to slip on and off at airport security. Another excuse to buy running laces is maybe the runner in your life got stuck buying boring black running shoes and would like some colorful regular laces just to give their runners a little more color. I have more than one runner friend who is disappointed when their go to running shoe only comes in black or grey.

Running gloves/Mittens $30-$80

When it’s cooler out it’s nice to have a pair of running gloves or mittens. Like running shoes, many runners have multiple pairs of running gloves for different conditions. Even if your runner has a pair of running gloves, if they are anything like me (and I know I am), they lose at least one glove a season because you take them off mid-run and shove them in a pocket, when you get to your car or back home you discover one glove fell out somewhere during your run. You do need some idea of sizing, so hold on to the receipt in case they need to get a different size. Be warned that if you buy them around Christmas, the size they need may not be in stock come January if they go back to exchange them, most running stores don’t bother restocking items like winter running gloves in January and you won’t be the only one buying someone a pair as a gift. I could probably write an entire blog post about all the different running glove options out there (hmmm mentally filing that idea away for the future). Here I’ll limit myself to listing the basic options for different weather.

  • Lightweight gloves for those days when it’s just a touch cool out at the start of your run, these are usually listed as “liner gloves” look for a pair that says touchscreen compatible so you don’t have to take off your gloves to use your phone.
  • Hybrid gloves – These are gloves with a flip over top (usually reflective as an added bonus) so when it’s a touch windy or rainy you can flip the top over your fingers to keep them a bit warmer, or you can tuck the cover part into the built in pocket on the back of the glove as your hands warm up or when you are running with the wind and don’t have the added temperature drop of windchill.
  • Windproof running gloves – You can get windproof more insulated gloves for those days that aren’t just cool but are downright cold. These are popular with cross country skiers but are great for runners as well.
  • Overmittens – For serious cold weather running, mittens keep your fingers warmer than gloves. Big downhill ski mitts are too warm for running. Cold weather runners already know how to layer, so we just apply that same idea to our hands. Use a pair of liner gloves with a pair of overmittens. As you warm up you can take off one of the two layers as needed. This concept is popular with downhill skiiers and snowboarders and works for running as well.

I actually own all of the glove/mitten styles described above! (Hey, I live in Ottawa we get ALL the weather up here!) I use liner gloves for those late fall runs. I use hybrid gloves for those rainy spring runs, and I use liner gloves with overmittens for the January February. I don’t use my windproof running gloves very often because I prefer liner gloves with overmittens as it gives me the option to switch to just gloves or just mittens during my run.

Race Bib Belt ($15-$30)

If your runner likes to enter races, this is one of those items they may not know they want but will likely appreciate. When you are handed a bib at a race you get safety pins so you can pin it to your shirt or shorts. This means puncturing holes in our favorite race gear. You can buy these nice simple belts which come with tabs you can use to attach your race bib. If they race with a favorite water or gel belt, you could get bib attachments which can be connected to their existing belt (tip: don’t assume if they train with a water or gel holder belt that they race with one, a long way of saying, you should ask your runner if they wear a belt when they race, if they do then these attachments are an interesting idea, they are are loops you put over your existing belt which to hold your bib. If they hate wearing any belt at all, the other option is running bib buckles. These are clips that allow you to snap the bib on through your shirt without putting a hole in your shirt. You buy them in packs of 20 or so, they come in multiple colors, I’ve never had chafing issues with them and I definitely prefer them to safety pins!

Arm Sleeves ($25-$50)

This is another of those items, the runner in your life may not know they need. Arm sleeves are perfect for those runs when you start out trying to decide whether you need a jacket or long sleeves because you suspect you will warm up once you get going. They do come in different sizes though so might be good to hold onto the receipt because I’m not sure how you subtly check the bicep size of your favorite runner to figure out the correct size. They are really great because it’s a lot more comfortable to just roll down a pair of arm sleeves and leave them on your wrists if you warm up than it is to roll up the sleeves on a long sleeved shirt or to run with a jacket tied around your waist. There are versions with and without thumb holes. I prefer wearing them without so they don’t interfere in any way with my gloves, but if your runner loves long sleeve running shirts with thumb holes they would likely prefer the sleeves with the thumb holes.

Medal hanger $40-$80

Is there a pile of running medals sitting in a box or drawer? Have they recently completed their first marathon and that marathon medal deserves a place of honor? You can get quite creative providing them with something they can use to display their medals. There are pre-made one you can order, a quick search on Etsy will give you lots of options, or if you are creative and crafty you can make one yourself. My twitter handle is HockeyGeekGirl so my husband gave me a hockey stick and told me it was a medal holder. It’s now mounted on the wall above my desk.

Socks $20-$40

I know some of you were waiting for this item, yes you can buy someone else running socks if you know their shoe size but it’s harder than you think! First and foremost you need to know if you are buying socks for warm weather or cold weather. Socks that advertise themselves as ‘wicking’ are generally the best (e.g. wool). Wicking is desirable because it will wick away moisture from your feet, specifically sweat, but it does help a bit if you step in a puddle or slush too. There are few things more miserable on a run than wet feet! Try to find a sock with a ‘seamless toe’ because that means we don’t have a seam rubbing against our toes (we get enough blisters as it is). Then you need to find out what height of sock they prefer or sneak into their sock drawer and to try to deduce it from their current sock inventory. Your basic choices are ankle/no-show/micro, ankle/1/4 cut/mini, crew and knee high. Popular brands include Icebreaker, Smartwool, and Feetures, your local running store should have a decent selection as well. The knee high socks are usually ‘compression socks’. I put compression socks on the what *not* to buy for someone else list. I love compression socks, but to buy the correct size you need to know the size of their calf, kind of hard to subtly grab a tape measure and wrap it around someone’s calf without making them suspicious! By the way, don’t panic if the smaller socks you find say they are compression, that’s fine, it’s the knee high compression socks that are really hard to buy without exact sizing.

A good paid of toenail clippers $5

Not the most awesome present to unwrap, but, any runner doing serious distances is going to be clipping their toenails regularly to avoid losing toenails, so they might look at you funny, but I promise you they will be used.

Lube ($5-$20)

Yes, lube. If you are running 2+ hours and in particular if you are running that in any sort of heat and humidity you will want lube. There are degrees of lube for different needs. The best known product is BodyGlide. If you do purchase BodyGlide, don’t stress over pink vs blue vs foot glide, vs outdoor. most of us just buy the blue and put it where we need it. Bodyglide goes on like a stick deodorant, rolling it on any body part (including feet and nether regions) that is prone to chafing. For guys, a stronger product like Squirrels nut butter may be required for the nether regions. Want to avoid the fancy products? many runners just use Vaseline (hey not everything has to be made for runners), unwraping a tub of Vaseline under the Christmas tree could result in some interesting reactions. But I guess the same could be said of Squirrel nut butter!

Nip Guards $20-$30 per pack

Not required for anyone who wears a running bra, but for those who do not and run any serious distances in a lot of heat or humidity, this prevents bleeding nipples. You can order them on Amazon.

Nip Guards

Pull on Wind blocker skirt $70-$150

For the runners who are happy to wear a skirt, this is a very handy layer you put over your running tights to keep your butt and quads a little warmer, it’s less restrictive than wearing two pairs of tights. There are different sizes, so you will need some idea of what size they need. They do ride up a little bi while you run, but they do not restrict your stride, and they still keep the glutes and upper hamstrings protected. I bought one at a sale three years ago and once the cold weather hits I wear it all the time. It doesn’t make me toasty warm, but it’s just an easy layer to add to give me a big of protection from cold wind. Your running shop may have them, if not check out sites like Smartwool. Some runners do just wear a pair of mid length shorts over their tights instead, so this is definitely a what to buy the runner who has everything sort of gift, or a oh look it’s half price, I’ve always wanted to try these out sort of gift.

I’ll just add a note here on what NOT to buy until I get around to making a separate blog post on this. If there are other good gifts for runners I have missed, please post to the comments and I can add them to the post!

What not to buy your runner without exact details

With the best intentions buying the items below may just result in a trip to the running store for an exchange. Not because they don’t need or want the item, but because they probably need to pick it out themselves or try it on to ensure a proper fit. So unless you have been told the exact brand and size, just give them a gift card and send them to the store to pick it out themselves.

Running shoes

you need to know the size, brand, and model, ideally you also want a picture of the shoe in case the model changed from one year to the next so you can cofirm with the salesperson that any changes are only cosmetic

Compression socks

You should have not only a foot size but also a calf measurement to purchase the correct size of compression socks

Running tights

Sure you know they told you small, medium or large, but are they looking for lightweather tights for cooler days? compression tights for racing? windproof tights for cold wind, tights that fit over their existing tights for colder weather, tights to go under their existing tights for cold weather, insulated tights for cold weather.

Running jacket

Running jacket you thought the list of tights to choose from was long, it gets even more complicated with jackets! windproof, lightweight, breathable, lightweight, water resistant, cold weather but breathable, something you can crumple up and shove in your hydration backpack mid ru if you get warm

Garmin/Smart Watch

If they don’t have one, they probably want one, but there are a lot of different features that affect prize, there are also different sizes and styles. What battery life do you need? Do you want one which allows you to store music so you can listen to music without a phone? Do you want one that you can use when cycling or swimming? If for swimming lap or outdoor swimming? Do you want one that will sync to your phone so you can get notifications while you run. If you are spending $200-$1000 on a Garmin you want to make sure you get the right one! If they already have a Garmin, they might appreciate an extra charger though 🙂


One response to this post.

  1. Some good ideas here. Thanks, Sue.


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