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2023 holiday gift guide for runners

The 2023 gift guide for runners offers dozens of ideas.

By Henry Howard

When it comes to finding the best running gear for runners, it is an individual preference for sure. What running shoes work for one person, may not be the best option for another.

As an experienced runner and gear tester, I have a good handle on what works best for me and I’m happy to offer ideas to others. To serve as my holiday gift guide for runners, I put together a list based on my personal experiences and feedback from other runners. For brands that I have an affiliation with, I have noted that in the text.

Here are my recommendations of running gear, accessories, food and drink, and miscellaneous items for my 2023 holiday gift guide for runners.

Running gear

The Hoka Speedgoats are among my favorite trail shoes.

Trail shoes: I’ve tested dozens of different running shoes (mostly trail) over the years for an independent review website. My favorites include the Hoka Challenger, which can handle pretty much any surface; the Hoka Speedgoat, which is best for gnarly and highly technical terrain; and the Nike Terra Kiger, which is great for speed on relatively fast and flat trails.

Road shoes: My Hoka fandom extends to paved surfaces, where I prefer the Hoka Cliftons for most of my training and the Hoka Arahi for recovery days. Before I ventured into Hokas for their cushioning, I had success in the Saucony Kinvara models.

Socks: The more I run in Darn Tough socks, the more I like them. I was a big proponent of Drymax socks for years and still like them too. Both are great for running in various conditions and keep blisters away.

Shorts: There are so many variations of shorts, it’s challenging to narrow them down for a gift guide like this. However, I’m going with my top three here: Janji, which are super comfortable and stylish; Nathan, also very comfortable and the phone pocket is the best I’ve tried; and Patagonia, which perform well and I appreciate their commitment to sustainability.

Shirts: For me, selecting one recommendation for a running shirt was easy. I’ve been a huge fan of rabbit for quite a long time. Nothing else comes close for rabbit’s comfort, fit and performance.

Winter jackets: My go-to outer layer for running in winter is an Odlo jacket. Unfortunately, the European-based company has scaled back U.S. operations. You can still find Odlo products at online retailers like REI that ship within the United States, or use this handy tool to find a place near you.

Rain jackets: My Patagonia Houdini has kept me dry during many a rainstorm. It is super light, performs well and even dries quickly.

Nothing beats my Coros watch.


Watch: I converted to Coros as they first burst on to the scene several years ago with their promise of incredible battery life. While other brands have improved their battery life, I’m completely satisfied with my Coros watches for their durability, data and ease of use.

Sunglasses: I have two pairs of Tifosi Optics sunglasses, the Tyrant and Seek 2.0, both of which are outstanding. They are comfortable, keep the glare away and evoke style.

Hats: Most of my running hats are made by Boco Gear, a small Colorado-based company. They work well whether I am traversing a trail in the heat of the summer, or needing to keep my head warm as cooler temperatures settle in. Boco produces a wide variety of hat styles, visors and accessories.

Gloves: My favorite pair of gloves are from REI, which work well until temperatures sink below 20 degrees. I really wish I had an answer for gloves for really cold temperatures as my hands constantly freeze. (For more on the best running gloves, check out this review from the team at iRunFar.)

Packs and vests: I’ve bought and/or tested probably 20 different packs, vests and waistbelts that are designed to carry gear during runs. Without a doubt my favorite is the UltrAspire Plexus 2.0 waist pack. I also like their Alpha 5.0 race vest but the waist pack is perfect for training runs and races where I don’t need to go a long distance between aid. Bottle in the back, light in the front and no extra weight on my shoulders. (For the record, I am an UltrAspire ambassador.)

The UltrAspire waist light and Plexus are a winning combination.

Light source: Speaking of UltrAspire, discovering their Lumen waist light was a game changer. Having a light source at my waist, rather than on my head, makes so much sense to see more of the path ahead of me. It’s ideal, whether running on roads, trails or a hybrid.

Handheld bottles: Three in a row for UltrAspire. The Iso Pocket handheld is what I generally run with when I don’t need the waist belt. It fits securely in my hand, is durable and has a zippered pocket for keys, gels or something similar.

Bottles for cycling: I’m relatively new to Bivo hydration bottles but I really like how well they work. I’ve tried them out on my regular bike and stationary bike and have no issues with the bottles, which are stainless steel.

Food and drink

Coffee: For many runners, coffee is a great way to start the morning before a run. But they also need electrolytes so they don’t get depleted. A runner created a simple concept: combine caffeine with electrolytes for runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes who need both. I regularly use Long Run Coffee before my weekend runs.

Gluten-free Honey Stinger waffles taste great, give me the carb boost I need and digest easily.

Fueling: I am a big fan of gluten-free Honey Stinger waffles, which taste great, give me the carb boost I need and digest easily. (For the record, I am a Honey Stinger ambassador. Feel free to use my unique referral link when you order.) I recently discovered Science in Sport gels that do not have the gross consistency of most gels. They are liquidy, packed with carbs and give me the boost I need on the go.

Hydration: Each morning I drink about 16 ounces of water, then mix a second serving with either Gnarly Nutrition Pre or BCAAs. Depending on my workout, I may use Pre before a run or the BCAAs, which I start as I warm up and then sip on during my run. Pre has 180mg of caffeine from green tea leaf. The BCAAs offer 5 grams of vegan essential branched chain amino acids, which promote muscle synthesis, decrease fatigue and damage, and alleviate soreness. (For the record, I am a Gnarly ambassador.)

Protein powder: When it comes to post-run recovery, I turn to Gnarly Nutrition Vegan Protein Powder. The plant-based protein blend has 20g of protein, is NSF-sport certified and tastes great — unlike most powders.

Recovery food: Bee Free gluten-free granola is great for post-run recovery meals like a bowl of yogurt and fruit, or topping off a smoothie. Even better: every purchase helps fund autism research and creates jobs for hard-working individuals with autism. Use this special link to save 10% on your order.


Recovery tools: There is no shortage of massage guns available to athletes. I’ve tried a bunch and the one that rates the best is the Bob and Brad C2 massage gun. It provides relief, is easy to take on a trip and is incredibly quiet. If you are looking for even more recovery or are looking for a bigger gift, consider the Leg Massager With Heat and Compression from Bob and Brad. The adjustable wraps are secured with Velcro. Once set, you can choose from multiple settings to get relief to your quads, calves, etc.

I’ve literally never had blisters or chafing when using Squirrel’s Nut Butter.

Lube: Squirrel’s Nut Butter, based in Flagstaff, Ariz., produces all-natural salves for endurance athletes that prevent chafing. I’ve literally never had blisters or chafing when using Squirrel’s Nut Butter, whether I’ve run in the rain, heat, snow or any other conditions. (For the record, I am a Squirrel’s Nut Butter ambassador.)

InsideTracker: I have been using InsideTracker for years to get a better gauge on my health and fitness. A simple blood draw leads to an easy-to-understand report of how more than 40 biomarkers are faring, plus customized recommendations for improvement. I’m an InsideTracker Pro and happy to pass along my special discount code. Get 20 percent off any InsideTracker test with my code: HENRYHOWARD.

Post-workout lounge wear: I really love the flair and feel of Roark shorts. I sometimes also run or cycle in these but I find them to be better for just lounging around and recovering on the couch. Their fun designs are an added bonus.


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