Holiday gift guide for runners
By Henry Howard
With roughly two weeks before the Christmas holiday, it’s time for that final push for shopping. For the runner in your life I have assembled a quick reference guide for some products to consider.
Unlike some other online gift guides, none of these have companies have paid for or provided samples to be included in this guide. Additionally, I have used each of these products and believe they are a great fit for runners. In some cases, I serve as an ambassador with the company and have noted that designation.
Have questions about anything on the list? Feel free to reach out.
Shoes and clothing
• Trail shoes: There are so many options for trail shoes, and plenty of different types of technical or not-so-technical terrain. I have had the opportunity to test and review at least 50 trail shoes over the years. My two favorites are the Hoka Speedgoat 5s for more challenging terrain and the Hoka Challenger 7s for more moderate trails.
• Road shoes: I have yet to try a carbon-plated shoe, though I have one ready to go when I enter that phase of training in 2023. In the meantime, my top two recommendations for road shoes are the Saucony Kinvara, which I have generally used for marathons, and the Hoka Clifton 8, which I use regularly when running roads.
• Rain jacket: The Patagonia Houdini is an outstanding garment that I have worn during all sorts of rain. It has kept me dry and warm even when the temperatures are in the 40s, with other layers of course.
• Winter jacket: I was previously an ambassador for Odlo, before they made a business decision to scale back U.S. operations. During the winter, the Odlo Zeroweight Pro Warm Reflect running jacket is my go-to outer layer for the vast majority of my runs. It keeps me warm, offers reflectivity and has awesome sleeve holes that allow to see your watch without exposing your skin. Genuis.
• Shorts: The Patagonia Men’s Strider Pro Running Shorts are my absolute favorites. They only weigh 3.7 ounces and are made of 100% recycled polyester stretch ripstop fabric with a durable water-repellent coating. The five pockets, including one zippered for secure storage, make it a breeze to carry a phone, nutrition and other necessities.
• Shirts: While I actually don’t have very many rabbit shirts, they perform the best out of all the ones I have tried out. I especially like the rabbit EZ Tee Perf SS. I’m not sure what SS stands for but it might as well be “so soft.” I’ve worn a version of this shirt at my 100-mile races and it held up well. I especially liked its comfort and fit during those races.
• Drymax socks: I wear Drymax socks nearly daily. They are comfortable and wear very well. Best of all, they are great at protecting my feet from blisters and chafing during all sorts of runs including those in the rain, heat, cold and more. I’ve never experienced a blister when wearing Drymax socks and using another product in this guide referenced down below.
Gear and more for the run
• UltrAspire waist pack: First, it should be noted that I am an ambassador for UltrAspire. That said I have tested at least 10 different models of various packs used for hauling hydration, nutrition and other necessities. The UltrAspire Plexus is a terrific option that I have just started using. It sits around your waist but does not interfere with running. In fact, I didn’t even notice it when I was doing my 16-miler just yesterday. It does not have the storage capacity of even the smallest vests but it does allow for a water bottle in the back. And, you can combine the Plexus (or others in the UltrAspire Lumen Series) with a waist light to get the full package.
• UltrAspire waist light: I can’t believe it took me so long to transition to a waist light, instead of a headlamp. The UltrAspire Lumen 800 Multisport Waist Light has provided me plenty of illumination, safety and guidance as I knock out zero dark thirty runs. It works terrific, lighting up the roads, trails or other surfaces directly ahead of you, a significant improvement over headlamps which project further ahead.
• Watch: As with Odlo, I was previously an ambassador for Coros. But that does not stop my support for this game-changer of a brand. Previous to representing Coros, I wore Garmins and tested a few other brands that did not measure up. I prefer Coros by a long shot because its battery life is best in class, it syncs flawlessly and is easy to operate. Right now I wear the Coros Pace 2 but there are other options depending on your usage. (Visit their website and use code CAP-Howard for a free swag gift from the accessories page with any watch. You must add both into the cart and apply the code at checkout to redeem the promotion. www.coros.com)
• Squirrel’s Nut Butter: To the uninitiated, this is not a nut butter as you might assume on first glance. (Here’s how the product and name came to be.) It is, however, the best option for runners to use to prevent blisters and chafing. I have literally never gotten a blister when using SNB (along with the Drymax socks mentioned earlier). That includes runs that have taken me through 100-degree weather (or conversely subzero temperatures), rain showers and various other conditions that threaten to cause blisters. I’m an ambassador for SNB because of my 100% positive experience with their products.
• AfterShokz: A common question in running communities online revolves around the best headphones for runners. Like other selections on this list, earbuds are among those that I have had the opportunity to test multiple versions of and compare various options. For me, the AfterShokz stand out because they allow the user to still hear their nearby surroundings, while providing great sound quality and comfort. I currently have a couple of pairs of the Aeropex that I rotate between.
• Health data: As a masters athlete, it’s important to me to know how all my training, nutrition and recovery are affecting my overall health. That’s why I regularly get InsideTracker’s simple blood draws, thorough data for more than 40 key biomarkers and customized recommendations. I am an ambassador for InsideTracker, which offers several different plans to choose from. To get a 20% discount off any of them, use my special code by clicking this link: HENRYHOWARD.
• Massage gun: While I have been a longtime consumer of InsideTracker, I have only recently discovered the massage gun from Ekrin Athletics. I’ve started using the Ekrin 365 and traveled with it recently. It really worked well on the trip, from getting through TSA without an issue to performing well when I needed it during my travels. Here’s a snapshot of why I really like the Ekrin 365.
• Prevail: Another product I use for my recovery is the CBD salve from Prevail Botanicals. I am an ambassador for Prevail, which I have chosen to support over competitors. I chose Prevail because I believe their CBD works to help heal my sore spots from running and promote a faster recovery.
• Beer: I’ve recently been turned on to Athletic Brewing, a non-alcoholic beer. I haven’t had much alcohol in recent years and I don’t miss it. Still, I do like the taste of a beer every once in a while. I believe I have found a match with Athletic Brewing’s gluten-removed option, Upside Dawn.
Food and drink
• Nutrition: The first time I saw a Honey Stinger waffle was when another marathon runner was having one literally on the start line, moments before the start. Now, I know that these waffles are easy to digest before or during a run. I regularly use the gluten-free waffles, gels, chews and protein bars. They help fuel my runs and guide my recovery. As an ambassador, I don’t have a discount code, however if you use this unique referral link, I'll earn points on any purchases made.
• Hydration: I’ve written a few times about Gnarly Nutrition after I discovered it during a trip to its home state in Utah. And I am so thankful I learned about it and grateful for being an ambassador now. Gnarly is created for athletes by athletes and does not use fake stuff. I use its Vegan Protein Powder for recovery, its Pre or BCAAs before workout, its Hydrate mix during runs and its creatine mix regularly in my coffee after an early workout.
• Caffeine: Long Run Coffee put together a simple concept: combine caffeine with electrolytes for runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes who need both. I have been using Long Run Coffee before my weekend runs and have already noticed a difference in my electrolyte levels. If interested, you can even try out the RunSpirited version of Long Run Coffee here.
• Recovery meal: After a run, race or workout, this gluten-free granola is great for snacking, adding to 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.