Runners can be a tough group to buy gifts for. Most are very particular about the shoes, shirts, and shorts they choose to don while stacking miles. But fear not! We’ve put together a gift-buying guide with test-proven items even the pickiest of runners will love.
The items below are ones the iRunFar team has thoroughly tested and highly recommends. They feature items that topped our guides in their respective gear categories and are worthy of the runner in your life. Be sure to check out all the different things as they represent a range of running-specific gear, from shoes to GPS watches. And check out our buying advice at the bottom.
Be sure to check out our other gift guides, too:
The REI Co-op Swiftland 5 Hydration Vest has a men’s version, and a women’s version and is a solid way to carry hydration, fuel, your phone, or other essentials on a run. The compression fit, adjustable torso and sternum straps, and shoulder compression cords all help dial the fit and avoid annoying sloshing and bouncing while running. There are over five exterior pockets, and the vest has the capability of hauling about 1.5 liters of liquid.
The back and shoulder straps feature a breathable mesh material, which helps keep runners cool during warmer runs. Bonus: We love the recycled materials and that this vest is bluesign-certified for planet-friendly construction.
The placement of this product has been sponsored by REI. That said, the iRunFar team chose the specific product and has run in it.
The Hoka Clifton 9 is one of the best all-around running shoes available. It’s an everyday trainer with a plush ride that works on pavement, gravel, or hard-packed trails. Simply put, if the runner in your life is looking for a new all-around shoe that will work on a variety of runs and surfaces, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Clifton 9. We love this shoe for its soft cushion that’s responsive and firm enough to pick up the pace. Its versatility helps it work well for long runs, tempo runs, and everyday training runs.
Part of that versatility comes from its weight of less than nine ounces per shoe in a U.S. men’s size 9. That certainly doesn’t make it an extremely lightweight shoe, but does put it on the lighter side of the road running shoe spectrum. The stack height of 32 millimeters at the heel and 27 millimeters at the forefoot also makes for a cushioned ride without being overly cushioned. And that 5-millimeter heel-to-toe drop is ideal for most runners.
Perhaps your running loved one likes minimalist shoes. In that case, we recommend the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2. It’s also a shoe that is excellent for speed workouts or races, weighing just under seven ounces. We also found this shoe to be incredibly responsive thanks to Topo’s Pebax foam in the midsole as well as the shoe’s rocker shape, which helps propel runners forward.
The upper section of the shoe is super comfortable, soft, and breathable, which we liked quite a bit. Be sure to take the time to dial in the fit of these shoes as the upper around the heels can be a bit loose depending on your foot shape. But with a little extra time tightening the laces and tying the shoes tightly, we didn’t have any trouble locking in our heels in for dozens of fun and surprisingly effortless miles in these shoes.
Also, check out our guide to the best road running shoes.
The Nike Pegasus 40 is a classic — and for good reason. It is an excellent neutral and moderately cushioned running shoe that works for many people. We found this shoe requires a bit more break-in time than the Hoka Clifton 9 and Topo Cyclone 2 discussed above, but once they are broken in, they continue to feel and perform better and better.
One of the things we love most about this shoe is that despite being a road running shoe, the outsole grips better than most road running shoes on gravel and dirt, and even unexpected snow and mud, as found out by one of our Colorado-based testers.
Nothing about this shoe will blow your mind. But this is a very safe bet of a gift as it’s just a solid, everyday trainer that is consistently good. Plus, at $140, it’s one of the more affordable and practical running shoes currently available.
Yeah, we get it; runners can be very particular and demanding about their gear. And running shorts might be the piece of gear most runners are picky about. But the men’s Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ are some of the best all-around shorts for most runners. Let’s start with one of the most basic — and sometimes divisive — points: the length of shorts. With a five-inch inseam, the Strider Pro shorts hit a nice balance where they won’t be too long for the three-inch split shorty shorts lovers. Likewise, they shouldn’t be too short for those trying to graduate from basketball shorts.
The inner liner is comfy, breathable, and good at wicking sweat. The lightweight outer fabric is quick-drying and features a DWR coating that helps shed light moisture. The Strider Pro shorts feature an anti-odor treatment, meaning you can wear these shorts a few times between washes. All of this, and because it’s Patagonia, you know you’re getting a pair of running shorts with recycled materials that were constructed with the planet in mind. These were some of the best men’s running shorts we tested this year.Shop the Men's Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5’’
The women’s Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief running shorts have two features that are absolutely clutch in a pair of running shorts, according to our tester who put hundreds of miles on these shorts training for the Western States 100: they’re lightweight and breathable. That’s thanks to some proprietary lightweight, woven recycled fabric that our tester took in some mid-run alpine lake dips with no chafing or heaviness issues. These shorts, which have a five-inch inseam, rest above the hips but below the belly button and have a soft waistband.
The inner liner is comfortable and not restrictive. A zippered outer and internal pockets help you carry small items like a car key or gel packet. These are some of the best women’s shorts we’ve tested and hit the right balance of having plenty of coverage with the ability to move with your full range of motion instead of restricting it. Like the men’s Patagonia Strider Pro shorts above, these were some of the best women’s shorts tested this year.Shop the Women's Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief
Our testers call the men’s Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee and women’s version the “perfect chameleon of running shirts.” That’s primarily a nod toward the Polartec Delta fabric, first used a few years ago in an Outdoor Research running shirt. The fabric provides outstanding breathability and comfort across a wide range of temperatures. On hot days, we found it to wick moisture well, not cling, and stay surprisingly cool. On cooler days, it was an excellent base layer, again, thanks to its superb ability to wick away moisture and not cling. And on those perfect temperature days, it remained, well, perfect.
Again, that’s thanks to the shirt’s construction, which checks all the boxes in a running shirt. Hydrophilic fibers on the inside of the shirt pull sweat away from the body, and hydrophobic fibers on the shirt’s outer collect and dissipate the moisture. Proprietary anti-chafe and antimicrobial odor control technology helps boost comfort while masking stink. And the shirt is sustainably made with recycled and bluesign-approved materials. It’s among our favorite men’s running shirts and women’s running shirts.
Much like the Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee above, the Women’s Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt is ultralight, extremely breathable, excellent at wicking moisture, and what we turn to on the hottest days. This has been one of our long-run shirts throughout the summer (the shirt we save for long-run days) because we know it will stay light as it collects and wicks sweat and will remain comfortable for runs stretching two to three hours long.
The shirt’s double-knit, fully recycled polyester creates that comfort. Some proprietary plant seed-based fabric softener boosts wicking speeds and improves long-term softness. More proprietary odor control keeps the stink away. And it’s built with recycled and bluesign-approved materials and is Fair Trade Sewn certified. All of this, and it is quite a bit more affordable than the Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee above. We named this one of our best women’s running shirts.Shop the Women's Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt
After months of testing, our testers believe that the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest have earned their place at the top of the best low-volume pack pile. (And, yes, there are a lot of low-volume hydration vests and packs.) This vest simply checks all the boxes. It sits high on the torso, which we like. It comes with two 500-milliliter soft flasks that sit balanced on both sides of your chest. And there are plenty of pockets and storage space, allowing you to carry up to five liters of gear. There is also another internal reservoir sleeve capable of holding a 1.5-liter bladder, which does not come with the vest.
The vest is secured to the body with an elastic sternum strap with multiple attachment points, making it easy to dial and personalize the fit. More than six pockets allow you to get creative with what you take and how you carry it on your runs — all this, and the pack weighs just about half a pound. That’s why we named this our favorite low-volume hydration pack this year.
To learn more, read our in-depth Salomon Adv Skin 5 review.
The Polar H10 heart rate sensor is an easy-to-use and reliable monitor that is a favorite among many. And, at under $100, it’s one of the more affordable options available, making it a more accessible gift for the runner in your life. We found the ECG monitor to be very accurate and the entire unit to be slim and comfortable. The included strap was among the most comfortable tested in our best heart rate monitors guide. The material is stretchy and soft and didn’t chafe or dig in throughout our testing.
Beyond comfort, we also love the tech features of this heart rate monitor. It connects to devices using ANT+ or Bluetooth, which we found incredibly easy to pair with a GPS watch and smartphone. And while the monitor will store data to download later, the memory was less than some others we tested. Still, bang for your buck; we don’t think there’s a better heart rate monitor to purchase for the runner in your life.Shop the Polar H10 Heart Rate Sensor
A near-perfect GPS watch got even better with the new Garmin fēnix 7 – Solar Edition. Yes, that is a lofty claim, but we stand by it. There are many reasons we love this GPS watch. Its above-average battery life, for one, going up to 73 hours in normal GPS mode. The construction of the watch is also incredibly durable as it features titanium, metal button guards, and reinforced lugs. We also love the mapping capabilities of the previous versions of this watch, and now it’s even better with those same top-shelf mapping capabilities paired with a new touchscreen which makes those great maps so much more accessible. Speaking of pairing, we also love this watch’s unique app connectivity. Example: It’s super easy to synchronize music and podcasts via the Spotify app.
The bottom line is that if you’re looking to splurge for the runner in your life and spend a good amount, we don’t see a better option than the Garmin fenix 7 – Solar Edition.
Be sure to read our full Garmin fēnix 7 – Solar Edition review.Shop the Garmin fēnix 7 - Solar Edition
How to Choose a Gift for a Runner
Price is always a good starting point when deciding on a gift for the runner in your life. We tried to provide a range of price options in this guide, from the Patagonia Capilene Cool Lightweight Shirt ($49) to the Garmin fēnix 7 – Solar Edition ($800). But you’ll probably notice most items on this list fall in the $75 to $150 range, which is pretty typical these days for a solid piece of running gear. Spend what your budget allows, and know you’ll be getting the runner in your life an excellent — and useful — gift, no matter if you’re spending at the bottom or top of the range.
We recommended the products above because they all function excellently. Whether it’s the Hoka Clifton 9 running shoes, some of the most functional and best everyday running shoes available, or the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest, which is a great everyday running vest, we’ve put all of these products to the test, ensuring their functionality and capability.
Ok, sure, gifts aren’t necessarily supposed to be practical. But with running gear, you do want it to be at least useful and practical. The Polar H10 heart rate sensor, for example, is a highly practical piece of gear that the runner in your life perhaps didn’t realize they could benefit from. The same goes with the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest, one of the best running hydration vests we’ve tested.
Why Trust iRunFar
At iRunFar, we’re runners. We collectively log tens of thousands of miles each year, testing all sorts of gear along the way. We see and try a ton of gear and know what is good and what is not. The items we recommend are very good, and we’d consider purchasing them for our family and friends interested in running.