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Gifts for Runners: Advice for Suffering Spouses, Friends, and Significant Others

IMG_1965Every year around this time my wife and I have the same discussion. It’s a week or so from Christmas and she asks me what what I want “Santa” to bring me on the big day. She vents her frustration that all I like are running gear and expensive electronic devices (she’s got me pegged), and tells me that she can never come up with anything to get me because “You just buy everything yourself!” (guilty as charged). My response is usually that I don’t need anything (true), but as we all know that answer gets nobody anywhere in this type of discussion. I’m sure many of you can relate, perhaps many of you have in fact engaged in this same conversation within the past few weeks.

Let’s face reality – If you’re reading this post you either are a runner or are connected in some way to one (my condolences). What’s more, you have either been asked by a loved one what you’d like for your Birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah etc., or you are looking to get that perfect surprise something for the runner in your life. Rather than do what most running websites do for gift posts this time of year (a list of specific items that may or may not be of interest), I’m going to take a different tactic and let you into the mind of a runner. My mind. My disturbed, running obsessed mind. I’m going to let you know what I as a runner want for Christmas (feel free to substitute your favorite holiday or occasion here).

Let’s start with the most fundamental question. Do I want running gear for Christmas? Answer: yes! An emphatic yes! But here’s the the thing – I’m very picky. Some things are safe buys, others are not. Let’s go through some options.


Even though I have about a billion pairs of running shoes, receiving another pair under the tree on Christmas morning would be a source of great joy. I’d probably put them on in the morning, run a few laps up and down the street to test them out (hey honey, look how fast I can run in these new shoes!), and keep them on my feet for the rest of the day (including when I’m tuckered out and snoozing on the couch while kids jump on my head). Unless your runner is a devout barefooter, shoes will always be appreciated. Always.

Now, here’s the kicker. Don’t ever buy your loved one running shoes without doing careful research! That is, don’t buy shoes unless you know your runner’s preferences really well. You see, we runners are incredibly picky when it comes to our footwear. My initial adrenaline rush upon seeing a shoebox after ripping off the wrapping paper on Christmas morning could easily morph into unfettered rage if I were to find a pair of Brooks Beasts inside the box.

So, either ask your runner if there are any shoes they’re interested in, or snoop their collection and figure out the exact make and model that they prefer (some of us will only wear one model and will buy up as many pairs of that model as possible). Better yet, find an old shoebox and fill it with a gift card to Zappos,Amazon or some other shoe retailer (local or on-line) – no runner would ever be disappointed with a gift card that would allow them to engage in a footwear transaction! As my 8 year old son has recently discovered, and as Zappos advertises, gift cards = “the gift of happiness.” I don’t care if they “lack thought,” gift cards are good.

Nutrition Products

Stocking stuffers anyone? I’d be happy to receive a sampling of gels, drink packets, etc. in my stocking. However, just like with shoes, don’t buy anything without doing your homework. Some runners are really picky about and sensitive to what they take in on the run. The wrong product could just as easily leave your runner squatting in the woods with a handful of leaves as it would allow them to plow through mile 20 of a long run. Proceed with caution, ask for ideas, or once again snoop their fuel stash.


I’m going to go with this as the safest bet for a surprise gift. I love tech gear, and I especially love running vests and jackets (almost as much as I love shoes…). I always need new shorts.

Runners can never have to many tech shirts, running vest/jackets, pairs of shorts, or socks (well, I suppose they can, but they will all get used). Of the three, socks are the ones we tend to be most picky about, so tread lightly there. Also, with regard to shorts, be careful of split shorts if your runner is modest and doesn’t like to show off a bit of leg. However, I’m confident that my wife could pick out running attire for me without much trouble, and I’d most likely be happy with anything she got me.

Additional word of warning here: AVOID COTTON unless you want your runner to bleed!!!!

Custom Orthotics

Hey, how’d that get on my list??? Must’ve been hacked by a podiatrist.

Winter Gear

If you live in a place that makes running a challenge for 4-5 months a year due to cold temperatures (as I do here in NH), small ticket items like gloves, mittens, hats, etc. make great stocking stuffers. Like most other gear, multiple pairs are not a problem since these are items that need to be frequently washed due to repeated soaking with sweat and nasal fluids.

Electronic Gadgets

Garmin, that’s all I have to say here. If you have the means and buy your runner the latest GPS watch on the market, you will be a hero! Your runner will be a blubbering pile of mush on the floor when they open this gift, especially if it comes as a surprise. You will be worshipped. In fact, my only gift this year will be a Garmin Forerunner 610 watch, though I suppose technically I’m not supposed to know that even though I did buy it myself and give it to my wife to give to me (I blame Cyber Monday). I will be a very happy runner on Christmas day!

ITunes Gift Cards

I make frequent use of Itunes to download music to listen to on the run, and there are a number of running apps out there that your runner might be interested in trying. I get a few ITunes cards from relatives each year and they always get put to good use. This is probably one of my favorite gifts. As I said above, you can’t go wrong with gift cards!

So there you have my running Christmas list. I’m sure there are plenty of other options out there (e.g., books), but these are my top picks.  If you have any other thoughts, please leave a suggestion in the comments!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. I received a skeptical look from my wife on this one, but I think it’s a valid option: race fees.

    Ask your spouse/significant other to pay your fees for a race you want to do, and then make it an event (a marathon weekend) or bring them along to cheer if it’s a local race!

  2. Dicks sporting goods and the sale rack at your local running store often have very simple, cheap technical short and long sleeve shirts that are great as presents for runners.

  3. I think having a well stocked Amazon wish list to point people to is a good idea in general, and exponentially so for the picky runner (redundant?)

  4. “Custom Orthotics

    Hey, how’d that get on my list??? Must’ve been hacked by a podiatrist.”

    Lol, good one.

  5. Nicole Lacoste says:

    Running books! Yours for instance! I’d be super happy to find that under the tree! Otherwise I’m going to have to buy it for muself after xmas. I also love ‘Born to Run’ (of course!) and ‘Why we Run’. I’ve wanted to read ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ for a long time. Plus it’s reasonably easy to figure out if your runner has these already

    For music, WARNING self promotion coming, if you don’t get an iTunes gift card, or are just a cheap skate, and have very strange taste in music :-), you might want to check out my blog. I have quite a number of posts about freely downloadable music that is the right BPM for running (around 180 or 90), its here http://runtothebeat.blogspot.f

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