You might not quite understand that friend who would rather spend the early morning hours out for a run than catching extra Zzzs. Doubly so if that friend is the type to spend as much time analyzing each run as they do actually running it. But even if you don’t really get them, you still want to get them something thoughtful this holiday season. Show you care by giving them the apparel and equipment that helps get their numbers and splits-obsessed selves to the finish line. Here are some of my favorites.
Aftershokz Trekz Air
Headphones made for urban (and suburban) running. Amazon
Many runners log their miles with upbeat music or a podcast. But that poses a challenge for road warriors who must also keep an ear out for passing cars and cyclists. Headphone company Aftershokz makes headphones that let your friend bop to Top 40 while also avoid getting hit by a car. The device sits on the outside of the wearer’s ears and sends sound via bone conduction. Sound waves travel directly to the inner ear by vibrating the bones on the outside of your face. This leaves the outer and middle ear free and ready to pick up the sounds of a nearby car, bike, or anything else in the runner’s path. $150.
Vyper 2 Vibrating Foam Roller
Next level rolling. Amazon
Racking up miles means your muscles are working overtime, often leading to tightness and fatigue. Foam rolling, essentially pressing your muscles forcefully against a hard foam tube, initiate myofascial release. The idea is that pressure against contracted muscles encourages them to relax. This is thought to improve blood circulation, muscle mobility, and reduce pain. Scientists have not come to many sweeping positive conclusions about foam rolling, but many runners swear by it. If your friend is one such athlete, the Vyper 2 from Hyperice takes this idea to the next level with three speeds of intense vibration. $200.
Nike Pegasus 35 Turbo
For a bouncy, energy-returning run. Amazon
It’s very hard to have a sluggish run in these kicks. This year, Nike put its most responsive, energy-returning foam (the one in its innovative racing shoe, the Vaporfly 4%) in a training shoe that works for both sprints and loping runs. $156-$370.
Garmin Fenix 5S Plus
All the numbers. All the data. Amazon
There are those who gauge their run based on nebulous things like overall effort. But most running nerds rely on a wearable to track pace, distance, and time. The Garmin Fenix 5 series is one of the company’s newest products. It provides color topographic maps that help you create, find, and follow running paths in your area. It’s not cheap, and if that’s not in the holiday budget, Garmin’s Forerunner series is another good option. $650.
The new PureMove sports bra from Reebok contains tiny beads of a gel-like substance called Shear Thickening Fluid (STF). The stuff remains liquid at rest but becomes solid with movement or support. That means the right amount of support only when you need it. It’s so innovative, we included it in 2018’s Best of What’s New list. $58-$126.
Smartwool PhD Running socks
For comfort and sweat absorption. Amazon
For runners, socks can be as important as shoes. Wearing less-than-ideal footwear, including socks that can’t handle your sweat beyond mile 2, can cause discomfort and blisters. Smartwool socks are made of 100 percent Merino wool, so they move sweat away from the wearer’s feet. They are also lightweight and durable. $18.
District Vision Sunglasses
Sunnies made for running. Amazon
Not all sunglasses work for runners. Some slide down our noses, some can’t adequately prevent our squinting, and are simply uncomfortable. District Vision sunglasses are designed specifically with runners in mind. Their sunnies are designed to reduce eye strain from physical exertion. They are also shatterproof, water and oil repellent, and contain an anti-reflective coating. $200.
Gore Tex Shakedry jacket
Stay (sorta) dry while running in the rain. Amazon
Science in Sport Isotonic Energy Gels
Gels that are easy on the stomach. Amazon
For longer runs (ones lasting at least an hour), studies show that taking in carbohydrates will prevent what’s known as bonking. This is where the muscles become completely depleted of glycogen, its main fuel source. Energy gels contain simple sugars and easy-to-absorb carbohydrates. But here’s the catch: For many people, running is hard on the digestive tract because exercise draws blood flow away from the organs that digest food and toward the heart and muscles. As a result, runners, myself included, tend to have a hard time keeping those energy gels down. U.K.-based Science in Sports’ energy gels are easy-to-digest and isotonic, meaning that they can be taken alone, without water, and still get properly absorbed. $11.
Lights for your feet
Safety first. Amazon
Running in the winter means your friend’s a lot more likely to be running in the dark. Make sure they are staying safe on those dark roads with these lights that clip on to your shoes. This helps cars see them and also allows runners to see more clearly where they’re stepping. $60.
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