Thoughtful Christmas gifts for runners under $50 – picked by a run leader

Person lacing up running shoes beside Christmas tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You don't need to splash out a lot of cash to get a thoughtful gift for the runner in your life. In fact, it's better if you don't – runners can be quite particular about their more expensive gear like shoes, jackets and backpacks, so unless they've told you they're hoping Santa brings a specific item, it's safer to stick with modestly priced gifts.

I've been a run leader for many years (and I've been running for even longer) so I've got a good idea of the sort of gifts that'll go down well. Generally I'd recommend steering clear of clothing (your running friend of family member probably has enough socks to last several lifetimes) with the exception being gloves, which can all too easily get lost at the end of a training session. An extra pair is never a bad idea.

Some of these gifts may not seem terribly exciting (magnets, really?) but runners are generally a practical bunch, and the most modest gift will go down well if it's carefully chosen. All the items below are under $50, and most are under $20, so there are some good Secret Santa options as well.

Dynafit Upcycled Thermal Gloves

(Image credit: Dynafit)

1. Dynafit Upcycled Thermal Gloves

These snug running gloves are made using waste Polartec fleece left over from making other gear, and will keep your loved one's hands wonderfully warm in winter. Our reviewer found it an ideal material for gloves because it's not only lightweight, it also allows sweat and rainwater to evaporate quickly and easily.

There's a rubberized grip pattern on the palm that makes it easy to hold a phone without dropping it, and conductive material on the index fingers for using a touchscreen.

The gloves are unisex and come in a wide range of sizes, so remember that you might need to go down a size or two if you're buying for a woman. There's a nice choice of colors rather than just the usual black, so you should be able to find something they'll like.

Woman running at dusk wearing Million Mile Light

(Image credit: Million Mile Light)

2. Million Mile Light

I have two of these little lights – one for the front of my running backpack or jacket, and one for the back. They don't provide enough light to see by (for that, you'll need a running headlamp), but they help ensure your loved one is visible to pedestrians, cyclists and divers when training after dark. Best of all, they're powered entirely by movement, so there's no need to buy and replace batteries. Just clip them on, and go.

The Million Mile Light is a bit larger than a typical clip-on running light, but at 136g (4.8oz) it's light enough to easily forget about. 

GU refillable energy gel flask

(Image credit: GU)

3. Refillable Energy Gel Flask

Running gels are a great way to fulfil energy needs on the road, but they have a couple of problems. First of all, there's the waste. Runners training for a marathon will go through heaps of gels on their long training runs, which means a whole lot of plastic wrappers. Second, there's the fact that a runner won't always want to eat a whole gel at once, but only having half means you have to carry around a very sticky pouch that can't be sealed, probably getting it all over your top or running vest in the process.

I switched over to refillable gels this year, and haven't looked back. Once you've got a reusable gel flask, you can buy gel in bulk and fill it up at home (adding as much or as little as you need), or even make your own energy gels if you're that way inclined. Sizes vary, but each pouch typically holds as much as three to five individual gel sachets. Once you've slurped down as much as you need, you can just re-seal the pouch, tuck it into a pocket, and keep on running – no waste and no stickiness.

Ultimate Performance Race Number Magnets

(Image credit: Ultimate Performance)

4. Race Number Magnets

If the runner in your life races regularly, they'll appreciate these little magnets that'll hold their bib in place, avoiding the need to jab safety pins through their favorite running top. You can also find similar fixings that work like big snap fasteners, but I've found that the magnets generally work better and are very unlikely to damage clothing.

They also mean less waste, because you aren't using new safety pins each time (they often get bent when attaching reinforced race bibs). These ones from Ultimate Performance come un pink and blue.

Trainer helping man perform lunge exercise on a wobble board

(Image credit: Getty)

5. Wobble board

This one is too large for a stocking stuffer, but will definitely be a surprise. A wobble (or balance) board is a simple but effective fitness training tool that can help improve strength and balance. 

It's simply a platform to stand on, with a hemisphere underneath that makes it challenging to balance. It can be used to add an extra element of balance to activities like planks and press-ups, and is good for strengthening leg and core muscles.

For more advice, see our guide to the five best wobble board exercises for runners, and how to do then,

Cat Ellis

Cat is Homes Editor at TechRadar and former editor of Advnture. She's been a journalist for 15 years, and cut her teeth on magazines before moving online. She helps readers choose the right tech for their home, get the best deals, and do more with their new devices.