When you’re shopping for the fast-paced special someone in your life, of course you’d love to be able to treat them to a brand new pair of the best trail running shoes around, but that will set you back quite a bit and shopping for athletic shoes is really something that needs to be done by the athlete in question. Runners are, by nature, pretty light on the gear front, while a lot of the gear they use – running sunglasses, running jackets and running backpacks – comes with a big sticker price. What then can you pick out for the road or trail runner in your life that is functional, shows you care and will fit in a stocking without breaking the bank? We’ve got a few great ideas here with the 15 best stocking stuffers for runners that are bound to brighten up their holiday and help their performance on the trails.
1. Running socks
Let’s start with one of the most fundamental pieces of running kit that the runner in your life can never have enough of – running socks. Compared to regular, cotton socks, the best running socks are made using a breathable, moisture wicking fabric and are highly durable, because let’s face it, they take a lot of wear and tear. We love the Darn Tough No Show Tab Ultra-Lightweight Merino Wool socks which are supremely comfortable, high performing, and come with a lifetime guarantee!
2. Running gloves
Since in the northern hemisphere, stocking stuffing season happens during cold weather, you might consider a pair of lightweight running gloves. When an arctic wind is blowing, a decent pair of running gloves might make the difference between getting that training run in or staying home on the couch. We’ve tested loads of great running gloves such as the Columbia Trail Summit which all-run insulation and touchscreen finger and thumb.
Running headwear includes a couple of possibilities that are all functional, affordable and stuffable. For cold weather, there’s the Montane Iridium Beanie Hat which provides lightweight warmth while for bright days, a running hat like the Salomon XA cap keeps the sun off. An in-between option is a running headband such as the Artilect Darkhorse Headband which is made of wool so it keeps cold ears warm in winter and wicks sweat away in summer.
4. Winter traction devices
If you’re buying for someone who gets out there in all weather, make sure they’re prepared for icy roads with some winter traction devices to wear over their running shoes. You can pick up a pair of Yaktrax Run for under $50 and help your loved one train on mixed frozen surfaces and packed snow without breaking stride.
5. Running armband
There are lots of different reasons why someone might want to carry their phone when running, from GPS tracking to safety to listening to a great playlist. The main reason a runner might leave theirs at home is that it’s annoying to carry, but you can help with that by picking up a running armband like the Quad Lock, which holds the phone in place even on fast-paced, bouncy runs.
6. Running headphones
Don't let your special someone hit the trail with the headphones that came free with their phone. If you know they like to listen to tunes, or podcasts, on their runs hook them up with a pair of the best running headphones, which stay put when you’re bounding down the trail, whether they’re earbuds or bone conduction headphones which allow runners to hear ambient noise (such as traffic and incoming mountain bikers). Some of our favorites are the lightweight Shokz OpenRun Pro which don’t sacrifice sound quality for safety.
7. Handheld water bottle
If you’re shopping for a long distance runner, they’re going to need a hydration solution and a super light, easy-to-carry running water bottle will come very handy. At a mere $4, the Ultimate Performance Runners Bottle has great grip, is BPA-free and easy to bring on a long run.
For a really nifty piece of safety gear, check out the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter which helps runners stay hydrated in the wild without carrying a water bottle or hydration pack. This really affordable piece of kit is about the size of a Magic Marker, so it can fit easily in a pocket or backpack, and filters out harmful bacteria and viruses if they need to drink directly from a stream in a pinch.
9. Running belt
Running belts are a bit of an acquired taste, but they’re a really affordable solution for carrying items like water, a phone and running gels without wearing a backpack. The ZombaFlo running belt costs under $10, holds everything you need and is water-resistant for rainy days.
10. Running gels
Anyone who is training for longer distances – a half marathon or more – will need to carry fuel sources with them, and running gels can make a practical and fun stocking stuffer. The best running gels are compact, simple to carry, easy to consume, quick to digest and contain carefully considered ingredients to keep you going including glucose, fructose and electrolytes. We gave the TORQ Gels full marks for their performance, and they come in a variety of tasty flavors like raspberry ripple and rhubarb and custard.
11. Running book
Let’s be honest, just because a runner isn’t on the trail, it doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about running. One of the best running books will give any avid runner something to get their teeth into on rest days and during blizzards, whether they’re reading about the inspiring tale of South Sudan Olympian Lopez Lomong, or picking up some performance-enhancing tasty running recipes from Anita Bean.
12. Running headlamp
When the days are shorter, any runner can get caught out after dark and need a little illumination, particularly on the trails, and a running headlamp gives runners the freedom to keep up with early morning and evening runs in winter. The best running headlamps are lightweight and stay-put, while some such as the Petzl Swift RL even features a patented Reactive Lighting technology to adjust according to your surroundings.
13. Running safety lights
If the runner in your life is sticking to city streets rather than dark trails, they might get all the illumination they need from street lamps, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always visible to cars. Help keep them safe with some lightweight LED safety lights that clip onto their socks, clothes and backpack to help keep them safe.
14. Sport bands
A good GPS watch like the Apple Watch Ultra or the Garmin Enduro is a little pricier than the average stocking stuffer, but if the person you’re buying for already owns one, you could get them a fun sport band which fits with the watch to add a touch of color and personality. Look for something that is breathable or sweat-resistant and easy to clean.
15. Lock laces
Running lock laces turn any pair of running shoes into no-tie shoes for under $10. Although these can be particularly great for people with disabilities and for young children, runners who struggle with painful pressure points with their lacing love them too, and they can even be useful for triathletes looking to speed up their transition from the bike to the road.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.