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Whether they wake at dawn for a long run before work or skip the workout and wear “athleisure” to the office, everyone has at least one sporty person in their lives. No matter what experience level they are at, finding a gift that they can actually use while they work out can be tough. So here are our recommendations for all the athletes in your life—whether they are running a six minute mile or an eleven minute one, these gifts will help them get the job done right.
Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Fitness Watch
A good running watch will provide accurate measures of distance, time, and pace—everything else is just a bonus. The Garmin Forerunner 235 fits in the middle of this spectrum. It has all the essentials, plus a few fancy features such as a wrist-based heart rate monitor, a pace alert to tell you if you are wavering, and an estimate for VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete has at their disposal during intense activity, and an indicator of sustained endurance). This puts the watch at a nice middle ground for runners of all levels. $330
Wilson X Connected Football
The tiny accelerometers located inside this high-tech football from Wilson can help players of any skill level up their game. When a player throws the football, these sensors measure the ball’s peak velocity, how far it travels, the spin rate, and the spiral efficiency. This is all sent via Bluetooth to an app on your phone. Friends can share each other’s scores and compare stats through the app—and make the holidays as competitive as they see fit. $200
Sensoria Fitness Smart Socks
Socks are usually the least high tech component of an athlete’s wardrobe. Not these smart socks, though: Sensoria Fitness smart socks can sense the cadence and speed of your stride, as well as the area of your foot you are putting the most pressure on. That info will help you glide right into a better stride on your next run. $200
R8 Roll Recovery
Massage sticks are an important part of any athlete’s recovery regimen, as they are able to really dig into and soothe the muscles you’ve been working. But the process takes effort, which is why many athletes skip this recovery step. Despite its odd shape, the R8 makes it a little easier to work your sore muscles. The device uses a series of powerful springs to do all the work, giving you little excuse to head straight for the showers after your workout. $120
Jabra Sport Pace Wireless Headphones
Many athletes prefer listening to music as they train. But when it comes to vigorous exercise, some headphones just hold up better than others. The Jabra Sport Pace earbuds, for example, have a secure fit to keep them in place without wires for joggers to get tangled up in. And they also have a few more features your athletic friend will love: A 3-year warranty against sweat, pace guidance with an integrated training app, and a rapid charge feature that promises one hour of use after just 15 minutes of plug time. $70
Hoka One One Running Shoes
Yes, these shoes look a little ridiculous – and a bit like they should have roller blades coming out of them. But there’s been a lot of talk about the positive benefits these ultra-cushioned shoes provide for runners. With two to three time as much padding as typical running kicks, the Hoka brand running shoe could be a great gift for a long distance runner who’s too afraid to break away from her go-to shoe on her own dime. Pictured above are the Hoka Clifton 3 Men’s for $130.
Helium H2O Belt
Yes this is basically a fanny-pack, but runners love them for holding the water necessary for long run. The Helium H20 from Fuel Belt is one of the lightest water belts around. It holds two 7-ounce bottles, plus a special section for snacks or goo. $34
GRID STK Foam Roller
Foam rollers are another crucial part of an athlete’s recovery process, and can relieve aches and pains follow a hard workout. Unlike many foam rollers, the GRID STK is hand-held and small enough to fit inside a gym bag or cary-on luggae. It features a bumpy surface designed to replicate the movement of a message, relaxing muscles as it rolls along. $28
was the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.