The Long Game: Holiday Gifts for Ultrarunners

So many miles, so much time. We’ve pulled together the best gifts for the ultrarunner in your life: the person who gets up early and stays out late cranking out double-digit training days up steep slopes and through the desert while training for their next 100-mile race. These products are aimed at making your loved one’s next long run or ultramarathon more comfortable and convenient.

Be sure to check out our other gift guides, too:

Salomon ADV Skin 12 Running Vest ($160)

Holiday Gift Guide - Salomon ADV Skin Vest 12

The Salomon ADV Skin 12. Photo: Salomon

Salomon has some of the sleekest running vests with huge amounts of storage for ultras. The Salomon ADV Skin 12 Running Vest seems to have it all. A high and tight fit on your back to prevent bounce, quick-drying non-chafing fabric, and enough storage to last you for an all-day adventure, this pack is one of the best out there.

It has a cord in front to quickly tighten or loosen the pack, so you don’t have to mess around with individual straps and buckles, pockets pretty much anywhere you look, space for your trekking poles, and all the other bells and whistles. All that said, the vest is lightweight and cinches down flat on your back when you tug the compression cords on the main compartment, so that it can be easily worn when you’re traveling light as well.

We absolutely love the kangaroo-style pocket which extends in between stretchy mesh openings around the side ribs. You do need at least some shoulder mobility to access this pocket on the run, but it’s huge and seems to swallow up whatever we need it to, making it so efficient for using when you’re supposed to be making relentless forward progress in your ultra.

The one thing we don’t love is that the soft flask pockets on the front of the pack are tall and thin, shaped for Salomon’s unique soft flasks. This means that you basically have to use a Salomon soft flask.

Shop the Salomon ADV Skin 12 Running Vest

The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight Jacket ($300)

Holiday Gift Guide - The North Face Futurelight Lightriser

The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight Jacket. Photo: The North Face

This minimalist jacket is relatively light for one that is also windproof and waterproof. The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight Jacket is a simple and sturdy solution to your running-in-snow/rain/sleet/wind needs.

The Futurelight line has a number of jackets; however, we’ve found that the Lightriser is the perfect weight for running long in any weather — lightweight enough, but having ample protection from the elements with a DWR finish.

There’s a small internal pocket for storage, and the whole jacket actually packs down into its own back pocket, making it convenient enough to stash in a running vest when it’s no longer needed.

The men’s version (the one we tested) comes in black and a bright green for those who want or need to be seen from miles away, and the women’s, with a female-specific fit, in a dark eggplant purple.

Shop the Women's North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight JacketShop the Men's North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight Jacket

Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ for Men ($69)

Holiday Gift Guide - Patagonia Strider Pro 5 Shorts

The Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″. Photo: Patagonia

The Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ is the number-one pick for several men on the iRunFar team, including Editor-in-Chief Bryon Powell, two of our men’s gear reviewers, and a weekly columnist.

Also listed as the number-one pick in our Best Men’s Running Shorts buyer’s guide, these shorts have it all: a reasonable price, built-in odor control, numerous pockets, and a solid waistband that doesn’t bounce when loaded down with your phone or other goodies.

The material is great as well: substantial enough to keep you protected, airy enough to keep you cool, and thick enough that it doesn’t ride up between your legs.

It has a brief liner and comes in a variety of earthy colors. The only potential downside is that sizing is a bit on the small side, so if you trend between sizes in other brands, try the larger size first. If you’re not keen on showing so much thigh, the shorts come in a seven-inch option as well.

Shop the Men's Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts

Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts 6″ for Women ($69)

Best Women's Running Shorts - Patagonia Nine Trails Short - Product

The Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts 6″. Photo: Patagonia

For our primary tester who tried the six-inch version in our Best Women’s Running Shorts buyer’s guide, the Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts 6″ received the best long inseam vote. The extremely comfortable and wide waistband is solid — no bouncing if there’s stuff in your pockets, the butter-soft recycled material prevents chafing, and the lower-rise inseam means you don’t have to pull your shorts up to your belly button if you don’t want.

Once you try these shorts, you’ll see they’re the perfect weight, material, and style for both ultrarunning and long hiking days.

For those who prefer a shorter inseam, there is a four-inch option.

Shop the Women's Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 Trail Running Shoes ($145)

Holiday Gift Guide - Hoka Speedgoat 4

The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4. Photo: Hoka One One

I remember when Hoka One One was founded, and I first started seeing what I thought were fat, clunky, odd-looking shoes. At the time, I was not a trail runner, sticking to the thinnest outsole possible for fast road times. Well, here we are 12 years later and I am a convert. The Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever run in, and a great gift for someone who likes more than a little cush in their step.

While they’re by no means sleek, the Speedgoat 4 is the only shoe that has prevented my toenails from turning black during races with lots of downhill (despite trying multiple sizes in multiple brands), and when you first try them on, it feels like bouncing on a cloud.

These shoes are great for technical, rolling, and moderate trails, and don’t feel bad transitioning from the road either. These shoes might take a bit of getting used to for those who’ve never gone the maximalist route, but they are absolutely worth trying out for their potential to make long ultramarathon training and racing comfortable.

If you’d like to learn more before you buy, check out our in-depth Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 review. It’s also no coincidence that we listed the Speedgoat 4 first in our best trail running shoes buyer’s guide.

Shop the Men's Hoka One One Speedgoat 4Shop the Women's Hoka One One Speedgoat 4

Salomon Ultra Glide Trail Running Shoes ($140)

Holiday Gift Guide - Salomon UltraGlide

The Salomon Ultra Glide. Photo: Salomon

The Salomon Ultra Glide just hit the market in August 2021. Designed by ultrarunner Mike Ambrose, the Ultra Glide has a cushy midsole, rockered bottom, a breathable upper, and a road-running style last. This is built to be a fast yet comfortable trail shoe appropriate for ultramarathons of any length. Including a Salomon shoe here should come as no surprise as the company topped our list of best trail trail running shoe brands.

It has a six-millimeter drop, and while it’s not the lightest shoe, it is sleek, agile, and responsive as compared to other shoes in its category.

It has moderate lugs on the bottom for gripping wet surfaces, and the single pull string-like lace system that you’ll love, hate, or simply get used to.

Coming in a variety of fun colorways, this is a great all-around comfy gift for someone who wants to try something a little bit new but who has comfort in mind.

Shop the Men's Salomon Ultra GlideShop the Women's Salomon Ultra Glide

Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks ($36)

Holiday Gift Guide - Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Runner Crew

The Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running 1/4 Crew. Photo: Drymax

The Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running 1/4 Crew socks might be the most expensive pair of socks you’ll ever buy, but they’ll also be the most comfortable. These socks are maximally cushioned in all the right places to prevent blisters on the longest days.

According to Drymax, Ellie Greenwood wore these socks during her record-breaking day at the 2012 Western States 100 and, apparently, she suffered zero blisters.

As with most Drymax socks, the material combination of olefin, polyester, elastane, nylon, and polytetrafluoroethylene literally pulls the sweat away from your feet to keep away stink, hot spots, and dreaded blisters. The 1/4 crew height protects your ankles from scrapes when you inevitably kick them when your form starts to break down from fatigue. If you or your ultrarunning loved one is a minimalist, then these socks aren’t for you, but if you like cushy socks to go with your cushy shoes, check these out.

Shop the Drymax Maximum Protection Trail Running 1/4 Crew Socks

Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove ($50)

Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove

The Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove. Photo: Ultimate Direction

Chosen as the best convertible glove in our Best Running Gloves buyer’s guide, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove is fun and functional. They’ve evolved a bit over the years since they came out to be warmer, more durable, and better for warding off the weather.

Besides riding pretty high up your wrist to keep out the cold, one of the best elements of these gloves is that the mitten actually tucks back into the wristband — no more floppy tops like grandma’s knit mittens, though we do love those, too!

The outside mitten is pretty waterproof for most conditions. And while the inner glove could use the addition of a bit more grip to be a touch more durable, these convertible gloves are some of the best out there for a wide variety of weather and long days on the trail.

Shop the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove

UnTapped Maple Syrup Packets ($10 for 5 packets)

Holiday Gift Guide - Untapped Maple Syrup

UnTapped Maple Syrup Packets. Photo: UnTapped

I have yet to find someone who truly enjoys the gels we choke down to fuel our longest runs and races. While many come in delicious flavors, trying to swallow the thick texture when palate fatigue sets in is not really enjoyable.

Not so with UnTapped Maple syrup packets. These tiny packets, at least the original flavor, are full of exactly what they say — pure Vermont maple syrup.

The change in texture, consistency, and flavor as compared to regular gels is welcome. These tiny energy bombs are the perfect gift for someone who isn’t averse to trying a new, more natural source of energy.

They do come in a variety of flavors, but even those have minimal ingredients.

Shop UnTapped Maple Syrup

 

Squirrel’s Nut Butter ($3 to $20)

Holiday Gift Guide - Squirrels Nut Butter

Squirrel’s Nut Butter. Photo: Squirrel’s Nut Butter

Chafing is one of the worst things to happen during an ultramarathon or long day out on the trail. Probably even worse than blisters because chafing can happen anywhere there is friction, particularly on a hot day: under the arms, between the thighs, and in your nether regions.

Luckily, Squirrel’s Nut Butter comes in multiple formulations to help you prevent chafing and blisters. You can buy this awesome stuff in deodorant-like sticks for on the go, and in tubs for a bit more all-around coverage.

They have specific formulations for trying to fix dry and cracked toes between your long runs — Happie Toes — and one blend that is completely vegan.

Squirrel’s Nut Butter is a small company based in Flagstaff, Arizona, so it’s nice to know your dedication to chafe prevention doesn’t go to a massive multinational corporation. The formula was originally created to help soothe the founder’s daughter’s eczema — a condition that makes patches of the skin red and itchy — so if you or your loved one struggles with skin conditions, Squirrel’s Nut Butter could help with this as well.

Shop Squirrel's Nut Butter

Petzl Nao+ Headlamp ($200)

Holiday Gift Guide - Petzl Nao+

The Petzl Nao+ Headlamp. Photo: Petzl

Petzl has been making headlamps for decades, and while their more economical models — like the Actik and Tikka — have a dedicated following, if you’re looking for something to power you through one or more nights of ultrarunning, the Petzl Nao+ is for you.

The headlamp has some crazy cool features, like the ability to sync the light and program it through an app on your phone, reactive lighting where the beam’s brightness changes based on available ambient light, and a 15-hour burn time on a lower setting.

The strap is a combination of traditional elastic up front and a sort of cord that goes around the side and back of your head. While it is not ultralight at 6.5 ounces, if you care more about burn time and not having to switch batteries midway through your night on the trail than the lack of weight on your head, the Nao+ is an excellent choice.

Shop the Petzl Nao+ Headlamp

Coros Vertix 2 GPS Watch ($700)

Coros Vertix 2 Watch

The Coros Vertix 2. Photo: Coros

Rated as having the best battery life in our Best GPS Running Watches guide, the Coros Vertix 2 should have plenty of battery power for your longest run-ventures. Expect the battery to last 140 hours in regular GPS mode, 240 hours in reduced tracking, and 50 hours in dual GNSS mode, the last of which provides the most accurate tracking available in the GPS watch market right now.

This Coros watch is a bit big, there’s no getting around it, and it can sometimes dwarf a smaller wrist (i.e., that of most women). But there is a huge amount of technology packed into the watch, so the tradeoff is worth it.

The Vertix 2 has onboard mapping in multiple formats, can hold music you can connect to via Bluetooth headphones, and has a bright and easy-to-read screen as well as insane durability. This watch feels like you could run it over with a truck and survive, à la the Nokia brick phones of the early 2000s.

If you’re an adventurer who wants a durable watch that has enough battery power for as long as you want to run and great mapping technology, then the Coros Vertix 2 is for you.

Shop the Coros Vertix 2 GPS Watch

iPhone 13 Pro ($1,000 to $1,500)

Holiday Gift Guide - iPhone 13 Pro

The iPhone 13 Pro. Photo: Apple

Ah, the iPhone. The eternal divider between those who love Apple products, those who hate them, and those who tolerate them because of their cross-product compatibility.

Apple comes out with a new model every year, and the iPhone 13 Pro is the newest and most technologically advanced. The iPhone 13 Pro is the first model to have one terabyte of storage, pretty extraordinary when you consider only a few years ago it was rare to find an external hard drive that large.

With increased pixel density, dual SIM card capability, OLED display, better low-light photos, and the now ubiquitous triple-lens camera, this phone is pretty much a high-tech computer in the palm of your hand. The picture-taking technology has come so far since the first generation that there have in fact been entire feature films shot solely on the iPhone.

How does all this tech play into your adventure capabilities, you might ask? From tracking other runners or yourself; incredible photography; storage for thousands of photos, songs, and podcasts; enhanced glass (remember how the earlier iPhones would absolutely shatter the first time you dropped them?); and a long battery life make it one of the best tools to have with you out on the trail for a very long day.

Shop the iPhone 13 Pro

 

Addaday BioZoom Edge Percussion Massager ($150)

Holiday Gift Guide - Addaday Edge

The Addaday BioZoom Edge. Photo: Addaday

The Addaday BioZoom Edge is one of the many percussion massagers on the market now, and while it’s not as technologically advanced as some others, it does the job for a much more affordable price.

Like other percussion massagers, the Addaday includes multiple heads to target a variety of muscles, from broad to pinpoint. One point of innovation for the Addaday is its ability to connect to Bluetooth and the Addaday app, where you can program your metrics, activity level, what hurts, and if your session is pre- or post-workout.

We really love how quiet and unobtrusive its quiet hum is. Tell me we’re not the only ones who catch up with loved ones on the phone while we use our recovery tools at night? Mom won’t ever know you’re multitasking. (Hi, Mom!)

To learn more, check out our in-depth Addaday BioZoom Edge review. It’s definitely worth trying out if you’re gifting it to someone new to the percussion game and don’t want to break the bank.

Shop the Addaday BioZoom Edge Percussion Massager

Leki Micro Trail Race Poles ($200)

Holiday Gift Guide - Leki Micro Trail Race Running Poles

The Leki Micro Trail Race Poles. Photo: Leki

Leki poles are spendy. They are also extremely popular in the ultra world. Look at any number of elite runners in races like the Hardrock 100 and they’re likely using the Leki Micro Trail Race poles. (Just in the U.S., Leki’s athlete roster includes Abby Hall, Sabrina Stanley, Katelyn Gerbin, Taylor Nowlin, Dylan Bowman, and Tim Tollefson.)

The Micro Trail Race poles are ultralight at a little over six ounces per pole, agile, and fold up in an instant. Part of what makes them so light is the fact that they’re a fixed length, the cork grip at the top is thinner than other poles, and they have a highly modular carbon makeup.

Leki pole users wear wrist straps that click into the grips using what Leki calls their Trigger Shark 2.0 technology.

We have found one downside to these poles, in that the strap system can make it hard to use your hands to grab a snack or snap a photo. However, this downside can be managed with lots of practice, and the poles have far more upsides that make them great for ultramarathons.

Shop the Leki Micro Trail Race Poles

Katadyn BeFree Water Filter ($38 for the filter and 600-milliliter bottle, $25 for the filter only)

Holiday Gift Guide - Katadyn BeFree

The Katadyn BeFree Filter with 600ml Bottle. Photo: Katadyn

Be free of being tied to your kitchen sink and other filtered water sources, says the Katadyn BeFree water filter. This lightweight filter, especially when combined with its 600-milliliter soft flask, is a game-changer on backcountry adventures where tap water sources aren’t readily available.

The nice thing is, you can buy this filter with or without the attachable flask, meaning if you already have a soft flask with the same threads, it will fit just fine on that. We’ve found that the BeFree water filter and 600ml soft flask fit in the front pockets of most hydration packs on the market today.

The filter readily cleans water of the nasties (otherwise known as microorganisms) that are just fine living in the wild, but would wreak havoc if introduced to your gut.

With all this in mind, the BeFree system offers us ultrarunners the best kind of freedom.

Shop the Katadyn BeFree Water Filter

Call for Comments

  • What would you like to receive as a gift, as an ultrarunner?
  • What are some other gifts you’ve given to an ultrarunner in your life that we might have missed?
Alex Potter

is an Editor at iRunFar. Following a nearly decade-long hiatus from running after college, she has found a new love in trail running. As a photojournalist, Alex has reported throughout the Middle East and East Africa for publications like 'National Geographic,' 'The New York Times,' and 'The Washington Post.' She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her partner Pete and her two cats.