Everyone with a feminine figure knows the woes of trying to find the right fitting pants. You wear a size six in one, four in a second brand, and an eight in another. No fun at all!
Thankfully, buying trail running gear isn’t quite so frustrating, thanks to gear that is specifically designed for female bodies; it’s 2021, no longer the era of “pink it and shrink it,” thank goodness. From shoes to clothing, from running sunglasses to running packs, we bring you some of the best gear to gift women who like to trail run.
Be sure to check out our other gift guides, too:
- Trail running gift guide;
- Ultrarunning gift guide;
- Fastpacking and adventure running gift guide; and
- Gifts for car camping.
The Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0 is a great, lightweight running hydration pack specifically engineered for the female form. Female bodies tend to have a more specific silhouette compared to their male counterparts; it’s important to account for more variable chest sizes, smaller rib cages, and narrower shoulders. Choosing a gender-specific pack should help to make it feel more comfortable as well as preventing chafing and bounce.
The Race Vesta 5.0 is the most pared-down version of the Ultimate Direction Signature Series. But we’ve tested this vest on all kinds of outings, and we’ve found that for most people on most runs, this sleek pack should do just fine. It has room for bottles, a bladder, a large phone, and even poles.
Ultimate Direction’s Comfort Cinch version 2.0 — how you adjust the overall fit of the pack around your torso — takes some getting used to, but once you do it allows for a more precise fit than you can get on other packs. Finally, we like the included Body Bottle II 500-milliliter soft flasks as their flattish shape rides against your chest comfortably.
Last, this pack is extremely light at only 5 ounces without bottles, breathable, and quick-drying, meaning your fastest days will also be your most comfortable, at least when it comes to your pack.Shop the Ultimate Direction Race Vesta 5.0
UltrAspire makes some really interesting vests, innovating and designing in ways other brands might not think of — check out the Nucleus, Basham, and Momentum 2.o Race Vests to see what I mean. While the UltrAspire Astral 4.0 Race Vest is a bit more traditionally shaped, the company’s thoughtfulness and innovation are still very present.
The Astral 4.0 is designed around what UltrAspire calls the “HerFit Harness,” with a pack and strap shape taking women’s shoulders, chests, and rib cages into account, ensuring your lady-crusher friend’s lungs are not crushed from compression where it’s unwanted.
Designed to hold a bladder for longer days or either soft flasks or hard bottles in the front, the Astral has a huge amount of storage in the back for jackets, maps, and whatever else you might need. However, you can also cinch it down tight in multiple areas to prevent bounce.
I can attest to the comfort of the lightweight shoulder material UltrAspire use: I have never chafed, even on my longest runs. The Astral 4.0 is a great gift for someone who likes innovative designs and needs a bit more storage.Shop the UltrAspire Astral 4.0 Race Vest
Sometimes a run is short enough, or a race has enough aid stations to allow you to forgo a vest altogether. While the UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0 isn’t women’s specific, we’ve found that its curved-bottom back edge fits the shape of women’s hips much better than any other tube-style waistbelt on the market today.
The belt is nice and stretchy, made of quick-drying material so you won’t be carrying sweat around your hips.
As you may know, you can store all kinds of goodies in these kinds of waistbelts, and this one offers plenty of room for your phone, a soft flask, a couple of bars, and a wind jacket and gloves. One of the pockets zips for secure storage. There are also low-profile loops on the back to which you can attach running poles.Shop the UltrAspire Fitted Race Belt 2.0
Earlier this year, iRunFar’s Kristin Zosel reviewed the Merrell Antora 2. She found it to be an excellent out-of-the-box shoe, meaning that you put them on, and you can just go, very little break-in period required. It is a female-fit-specific shoe — the men’s version is called the Merrell Nova 2 ($110) — and comes in both standard and Gore-Tex versions, so you can switch out your shoes for wet and snowy conditions if need be.
What’s different in a women’s-specific shoe? In the case of the Antora 2, it means that the last is shaped to match the female foot, the midsole is updated to support women’s weights specifically, and the upper is designed to better fit women’s foot volumes.
We’ve found this to be an excellent multifunctional shoe, great for trail running on most terrain, but normal enough to wear for other activities: hiking, disc golfing, mountain biking, and more. Another bonus feature is that Merrell makes this shoe in both standard and wide versions, so if you have wide feet, or struggle with things like bunions, these could be a great option.Shop the Merrell Antora 2
Many have said that ultrarunning is 80% mental. While we have no scientific way of proving this, harnessing the mind to push through difficult times and overcome physical pain is a huge element in being successful in races beyond marathon distance.
Addie Bracy, who is a three-time USATF national champion and a mental performance consultant, wrote Mental Training for Ultrarunning: Your Psychological Skills Guidebook for Ultra Success to help guide you in your mental training for running practice.
Being in shape is important, of course, to avoid injury and run to the best of your ability. But more often than not, we see at least one case in each major ultramarathon of a runner who has the physical ability, but breaks down mentally for one reason or another. Bracy gives examples of ultrarunners who seem to be masters of their mental capacity, and offers 35 practical exercises to help you improve your mental toughness to match your grit.
For women in particular, who are often socialized with negative self-talk and not as encouraged to think of themselves as amazing, this book is an amazing resource. And yeah, buying this book supports Bracy, one of our sport’s top women, both on the trails and as a professional consultant.Shop the Mental Training for Ultrarunning Book by Addie Bracy
At first glance, one wouldn’t think Mirna Valerio is an ultrarunner, largely in part because we are socialized to believe all runners have a certain body type. But Valerio is not only an ultrarunner, but also a motivational speaker, former teacher, and now author of A Beautiful Work in Progress.
In her first book, Valerio — also known as The Mirnivator — details what got her into running, chasing a DNQ (or Did Not Quit), and proves that no matter your body type or background, you can be a successful ultrarunner, especially if you’re the one who defines your own success. Throughout the book, Valerio busts through stereotypes and shows that you can too.
Through this book, we learn that everyone is a work in progress, and your life is what you make of it.Shop A Beautiful Work in Progress Book by Mirna Valerio
Racin’ Grayson Murphy has put out an extremely popular training log and planner for a few years now.
In the age of recording every detail of our lives electronically and online, from our resting heart rate, our daily training, and the food we eat, it is refreshing to return to good old pen and paper.
This book isn’t any old training log. The Grayson Murphy 2022 Training Log and Planner has a 13-month calendar that leaves space for training and life, has weekly inspirational quotes and mental health prompts, monthly and yearly habit trackers, and more.
It’s a pretty book, too — spiral bound for easy access, and good for the environment as well, printed on Forest Stewardship Council paper using 100% recycled materials.Shop Grayson Murphy's 2022 Training Log and Planner
It’s hard to find a hat that fits if you’re sporting a ponytail, and even harder to find one that fits a ponytail and keeps you warm for your chilly winter runs. Well, the Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap does both.
This multifunctional cap acts as both a warmer, made with merino wool to keep you cozy, has built-in ear warmers, has a perfectly formed brim upfront like a traditional hat, and has a hole in the back to slide your ponytail, braid, or small bun right through.
This is a great gift for the long-haired person in your life, and if you’re looking to do good this year, it’s also a nice purchase: BUFF is partnering with UNICEF to donate 2% of their global yearly profits to COVID-19 relief.Shop the Buff Pack Merino Race Cap
This has got to be one of the coziest, most form-flattering, and warmest long sleeves out there. The Patagonia Capilene Air Hooded Top is nearly seamless, the only perceptible ones being the raglan sleeves and edge seams, making it an extremely comfortable pick to use either as a daily wearer or a midlayer.
Its usefulness is amplified by the hood, which fits like a balaclava over the face if you need it to. The Capilene material is a mix of merino wool and recycled polyester that’s knit in a pattern which traps air around the fibers. For its weight and thickness, it offers an incredible amount of warmth. Do take note for packing purposes that it has a bit more volume due to that knit than other midlayers.
The Capilene material is also made to wick moisture and dry fast for those days where you’re changing speed and altitude on the trail.
The women’s specific fit has a slim, but not tight-fitting silhouette, and it comes in a really wide variety of sizes, so it will fit a variety of wearers. Whether for an uphill ski day, mountain run, or just chilling around the fireplace, this hoodie is a great pick for anyone looking to stay warm.
One last thought — we understand this is a pretty high price tag, but if you launder this hoodie correctly, it’ll give you years of joy. The iRunFar team is going on six years with its original version now.Shop the Patagonia Capilene Air Hooded Top
I was not the original tester for our running shirts guide, and when I first saw the shirt in person, I was skeptical, as I almost always run in tank tops. But after running in it through a variety of weather, I agree: this is the most comfortable shirt imaginable. Smooth as butter, it keeps you warm when it’s a bit chilly, but also wicks away any sweat and dries very rapidly.
It’s modestly priced, more than a typical tee, but less than some other brands. The shirt is technical enough for running and stylish enough to wear around town. It is a bit delicate, so be careful if you wear it with a hydration pack and follow the instructions for laundering.
It is a loose-fitting shirt, so if you like your shirts skin tight like me, size down. From hot-and-humid races to high-and-dry mountain adventures, this is the perfect women’s shirt for just about everything.Shop the Patagonia Cool Capilene Lightweight Shirt
The rabbit High Country tank top is by far one of my favorite shirts in my closet. Not only does it scream, “Welcome to the gun show!” but the material is soft, lightweight, wicking, and good for running or wearing out and about.
rabbit’s clothes trend toward California-casual style, and I like that this shirt is a little bit more country sleek. The snap buttons can be an upside or downside: they’re snaps, so they are easy to fasten quickly, and they are really tight. But like, really tight, and sometimes hard to unsnap. So don’t try and rip this shirt off from the bottom like a beach bro — take the time to unsnap the buttons individually.
This year’s version is “Salsa Red” plaid and it’s flattering on so many body types. While this is a loose-fitting shirt, if you’re bigger chested or have broad shoulders, size up, as this shirt does have traditional seams that don’t necessarily stretch to your lat size.Shop the rabbit High Country Tank Top
Listed as the best overall short in our Best Women’s Running Shorts guide, the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts are heavenly to run in, and have a number of thoughtful details that make these a perfect gift for any woman of any body shape or running persuasion.
They’re stretchy but don’t stretch out, have a wide waistband to avoid a muffin top, and keep items solidly packed away. They have an interesting v-shaped inseam that I haven’t seen in any other shorts, but it’s nice: the shorts ride higher on the outside of the leg to encourage movement, but the inseam runs longer to prevent inner-thigh chafing. Genius!
These shorts are great because they’re light enough to wear on hot runs, but somehow also durable enough to slide down a patch of snow or fall on scree without becoming damaged.
They come in a few nice colors: teal, garnet (a sort of pinkish-orange), and black for those of us who like to keep it simple. Oiselle is also a female-founded company, so you’ll be supporting a great team by buying these shorts.Shop the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts
Named after Amanda “Smashem” Basham, the rabbit Smashems 4″ Pro Shorts are amazing for the trail if you’re someone who likes waistband storage. This pro model comes in the purple tie-dye color designed by Basham. If you want plain black, you can purchase the rabbit Smashems 4″ Shorts for $5 less.
Speaking of price, these shorts are not cheap. However, they’re an investment worth making, considering how functional they are. With a four-inch inseam, these trail-specific shorts have an amazing amount of storage, and even the ability to carry poles in the back.
They’re made of a super-lightweight polyester/nylon blend that dries quickly and feels oh-so-soft. Do take care to launder according to the instructions for years of good use of these and all rabbit products.Shop the rabbit Smashems 4-Inch Pro Shorts
The Brooks Dare Sports Bra Collection is extensive, with nine different styles, designed to fit every body type from flat up top to blessed-with-chest. We’ve previously reviewed three of our favorites in this collection.
All of them are nearly seamless, so very soft, and many have innovative and thoughtful designs. There’s one that zips up the front, one that has a high neck so it looks more like a racing crop, a thin-strapped racerback, and even one with underwire.
I am a utilitarian and someone who traditionally likes Target sports bras and tears out the padding. I like to smush the ladies down as much as possible but have room to breathe, so it’s hard for me to find a bra that’s small on my chest but loose on my ribcage. But these Brooks bras control all the right areas.
Depending on the design, they either come in XS to XXL, or band size/cup size, from 30 to 40 and AB to DDE, respectively. I have all three colors of the high-neck style, because I like to look and feel like I belong in “Star Trek.”Shop the Brooks Dare Sports Bra
Even more, out of all the watches we’ve tested in the last few years, the Apex 42mm is the smallest, and that’s great news for many women whose smaller wrists are often dwarfed by GPS watches. Also, its low profile and more simple style trend closer to a track watch, which we can’t get enough of. We like to wear our watches everywhere, and it’s nice to have a watch that looks as good in regular clothes as it does on the trail.
But what about its features? It has excellent battery life — 25 hours tracking GPS and 24 days in regular use — can snap to your route to measure your runs as accurately as possible. And you can sync a number of third-party apps for health tracking as well. The single dial is a bit of a learning curve, but convenient once you get the hang of it.Shop the Coros Apex 42mm
The Julbo Spark Sunglasses are marketed as being for “elegance and performance” and I would have to agree. Coming in colors like deep purple, white with blue lenses, and brown with black lenses, these sunnies look and function great on and off the trail.
While they’re on the higher price end for performance sunglasses, the polycarbonate glass, reactive photochromic technology, and polarized lenses make the glasses worth the price. We love the versions with the photochromatic lenses so you can keep the glasses on even in the shade while being completely protected in full sun.
Of note that the Julbo Spark Sunglasses are smaller framed, making them appropriate for women’s faces. Not only do they have curved temples and grip on the nose to ensure they’ll stay put, but the Julbo Spark also looks good with a cute outfit for going out after a run too.Shop the Julbo Spark Sunglasses
The MyBevi Napa Tumblers are cute, 12-ounce cups that are made of stainless steel and a BPA-free lid. Their overall size and eight-panel design not only look great but make them easy to handle, especially for those of us with smaller hands — no trying to grasp an extra-wide cup like a football.
We’ve found they do great for keeping hot things hot and cold things cold, and thus we appreciate them for morning coffee at the trailheads and the post-run après on the back porch.
Though MyBevi says the lids aren’t spillproof, we have found them to be splashproof. You can briefly knock them over and hardly lose a drop of that precious cocktail. Also, they sit fine in your car’s cupholder and won’t splash coffee everywhere, even when you’re bumping down a dirt road to the trailhead.
They come in both neutral black and white colors, as well as nice soft baby pink and baby blue as well.Shop the MyBevi Napa Tumblers
Call for Comments
- What gifts would you give to the trail running women in your life?
- For the ladies, are there any types of gear that you prefer to buy unisex rather than gender-specific?