Runners are picky about their gear, which is understandable. My favorite Gu flavor could make you sick, while my tried-and-true shoes could cause me to have shin splints. That lands runners firmly in the hard-to-shop-for category, but it is still clearly possible to find gifts for the runners in your life that they’re sure to love. Drawing on my own favorites (I’ve been running for a decade now and have completed five marathons and dozens of shorter races) plus the input of avid runners, coaches, and other experts, I’ve narrowed down the best gifts for all runners, whether they’re tackling their first miles or collecting medals.
Garmin Forerunner 45S
When I asked a few runner friends what gifts they’d like to receive, several mentioned a new GPS watch, often singling out Garmin by name. The Forerunner 45 is Garmin’s entry level running watch. It allows runners to track their runs, check their heart rate and distance, as well as allowing them to program interval workouts. City Coach co-founder and head coach Jonathan Cane told us that the previous version of this watch would “certainly do the trick for a new runner, and will be adequate even for a more hard-core athlete.” It’s safe to say the new one will do the same.
Garmin Forerunner 735XT
This Garmin watch is ideal for triathletes who are interested in tracking their swimming and biking metrics. The watch has a 14-hour battery, which is useful for longer events such as Ironman races. Steph Willett, a triathlete who is also the team manager for Volee (an international community of female runners founded by Oiselle apparel), said that this watch has many great features and “is lightweight, intuitive, and doesn’t look like a calculator on my arm.”
Coros Apex Premium Multisport GPS Watch
Coros started selling GPS watches in 2018 but has quickly become a major player in the market. Why? The main reason is its insanely long battery life. This entry-level model will last 25 hours in GPS mode or 30 days for regular use, and its pricier watches go up to 60 hours and 45 days. “They’ve created a great product, for sure,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a USA Track & Field-certified running coach and the founder of Strength Running. It tracks everything, including steps, elevation, calories burned, sleep, sunrise and sunset and all the other metrics runners care about.
Polar Grit X Rugged Outdoor Watch
This high-end watch is designed for ultrarunners like professional endurance runner Susie Chan, who regularly compete in races up to 50 or 100 miles long (or longer) on difficult terrain. The watch is ruggedly built and has an altimeter and compass. It also keeps track of your speed up and down hills. Chan says that GritX has a function that reminds him when to drink and eat and monitors his sleep patterns. It also gives mobility exercises to help keep him strong.
Apple Watch Series 6
An Apple Watch is a great gift idea for runners who don’t run but want to be able to use it as a watch. It has lots of the same functionality as the GPS watches above, according to Meghan Takacs, a running trainer for the fitness app Aaptiv. She says that the Apple Watch is a great option for helping novices appreciate structure and accountability. She says that the Apple Watch is a good option to help novices appreciate structure and accountability. (Experts we polled across various fitness disciplines named the Apple Watch the best overall activity tracker, whether you’re running laps on the track or just taking a stroll around town.)
Bose Sport Earbuds
Listening to the right playlist or podcast can be all that is needed to get a runner up and out of bed in the middle of a cold morning. Strategist deputy editor Maxine Builder tested out an earlier version of these truly wireless earbuds and liked all the workout-friendly features they had to offer. These earbuds are water- and sweat-resistant, with simple touch controls that allow you to adjust volume, pause music, and take calls while running. Bose offers three sizes of “StayHear tips”, which are little plastic hooks that keep the earbuds in place while running.
AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphones
A little bit more affordable, these open-ear headphones are especially safe for runners because they don’t actually go inside the ear but rather transmit sound through the bones in your ear. Professional runner Katie Mackey told us she was initially skeptical about the technology, but was quickly won over: “After using them a few times, I was totally in love because I could hear the music just as well as with other headphones, but I can also hear all the noise around me.”
Jaybird Vista True Wireless Earbuds
Dylan Bowman A professional ultrarunner, and participant in The Wings for Life World Run For research into spinal-cord injury, it is known that not all headphones can be used by runners.He claims that he has had to purchase five to six pairs of AirPods in the past year because they aren’t strong enough to withstand his intense training. Jaybird Vista earbuds are a favourite among fellow runners. He hopes to get a pair this year. Even if your runner friend isn’t running 100-mile races, they will appreciate these earbuds. They are completely waterproof, sweatproof, lightweight, and have three interchangeable buds that can be adjusted for a perfect fit.
Nathan StrobeLight 2-Pack
Between work and other interests, busy runners find time to run, often in the dark. To stay safe and visible to cars and other traffic, I use an older version of this clip-on light that’s totally unobtrusive when attached to my waistband.