Hey there party people - we're back once again, with the ill behavior, to buy our loved ones the things they'll actually enjoy.
You're here, clearly, for one thing: your friend / partner / parent / offspring are runners and you've got no goshdarn idea what to actually buy them because either you don't think you're good enough to know, or the idea of lacing up trainers and letting people SEE YOU run fills your very nights with terror.
Well, here's tip one: if you're sure you can't get them socks, you're mega wrong. We runners love socks, and the more expensive they are, generally, the more we'll love them. In fact, go nuts with all running gear - get the size right and we're jubilant that it's not slippers.
But perhaps you want to be a little more targeted, feel like you're getting them something they REALLY want. Have they been dropping hints about finally getting a running watch? Keep moaning about their headphones? These are the gifts to go for.
Or perhaps you've already forked out for their 'big present' and you're looking for some decent stocking fillers - I've got you covered there too.
Now, this is by no means an exhaustive list - when it comes to reviewing and ranking tech in my 'day job' we're always superbly thorough and compare many models.
THIS list, however, is made up of things I've tested out or would buy myself and can vouch for - most of it I've stress tested it and it's still going, so that's got to be a good thing, right?
STILL a brilliant fitness tracker
I hate fitness trackers. They're just pointless - they need charging all the time, they give you data about your life you don't know what to do with... in short, they're gamifying things without a victory, where actual running watches do all that and so much more.
But the Moov Now was the first that I actually want to keep on my wrist - for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it has a six month battery life, so no need to charge. Secondly, while it does track steps and sleep you can 'activate' it to help you run faster, get fitter, do HIIT workouts and even monitor swimming through a clever app.
My main reason for loving it, however, is that it's got a brilliant cadence training program that forces you to learn to stride more quickly (and efficiently). If your running partner wants to get faster in races, tell them to use this for a few weeks and watch their times tumble.
I didn't want to put this in the list this year because, well, the Moov Now is a few years old and should have been superseded. You can't fault things that work though, and this is still a neat and inexpensive buy.
It's still number one in our list of best fitness trackers too - and while it might not stay there for long, it's still a cracking buy.
Garmin Forerunner 235
A good entry-level Garmin
I really wanted to replace this from my list last year - but there's every reason to buy the Garmin Forerunner 235 watch. Firstly, while it's getting older (and older), the price is coming nicely down and the fact it's still working well is helping it remain front and center as a popular watch.
The tracking is accurate. You can get updates from your phone when you're running so you don't need to dig it out, and it even keeps your steps counted and sleep quality monitored too.
It comes with a heart rate monitor built in, but I'd still recommend buying a separate HRM strap as well as the wrist-mounted sensor can be prone to spitzing out at times.
This is a strong choice as a present for someone looking to make the upgrade to a 'proper' running watch - the Polar M430 is also definitely worth a look as an even cheaper option though.
A low-cost way to destroy mundane treadmill running
I tried Zwift Running a little while ago, and while I found it a really engaging way to get over the mundanity of treadmills. Plonk an iPad in front of you on a treadmill (or run in front of a TV with Apple TV) and you’ll see your avatar following your speeds through a virtual world.
However, it was quite expensive to get into - even if you have an iPad already, you either need a compatible treadmill or a footpod from Stryd, which wasn't cheap.
Well, now Zwift has launched its own, and for $29.99 (around £25 / AU$40) you’re getting speed and distance data, and a calibration directly set up for the Zwift experience.
I’ve not tried it myself yet, but I’m definitely going to be picking one up in the new year for when I’m bored senseless on a treadmill and it’s too icy to step outside.
Hyperice Vyper 2.0
Give your muscles the treat they deserve
This is a no-brainer for me: yes, it’s expensive but at the same time it’s an indispensable part of my running arsenal. The vibration can go to crazy-strong levels, and it honestly feels like someone gets inside your tired muscles and washes them clean after - check out my more in-depth look to see just how enamored I am.
Garmin Fenix 5 Plus
Spotify. On your wrist. Finally.
Garmin did a really great thing this year: added Spotify to its newer running watches. This was previously only available on the ‘only so-so for running’ Samsung Gear S3 or Gear Sport, or the Apple Watch if you have an Apple Music subscription.
Now, it’s on a ‘proper’ running watch with the Garmin series - the Fenix 5 Plus and 645 Music are the two with the internal capacity to store tunes, and I’ve gone for the former simply because the latter didn’t impress me on battery life in my heavy testing.
The Fenix 5 Plus is a bit overkill (plus it's heavy and rather expensive) for most users though, so while it’s frickin’ awesome to be able to ditch the phone and still be able to track technical interval sessions with ease, I’m hoping that for 2019’s gift guide I’m going to have something more affordable to recommend.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit
Brilliant Bluetooth headphones for runners
The first versions of these headphones were something that I lauded a few years ago when I put them on the for the first time: the fit meant that, finally, I had some Bluetooth headphones that would not fall out.
These upgraded versions are very much worth buying for the runner in your life: they’ve got the same strong fit, but also have upgraded sound quality, more tactile buttons for skpping tracks (a godsend when you’re trying to sprint through a session and need to jump to a more energetic song) and voice information on connection and battery life where previously it was just beeps.
A little more expensive, yes, but there’s also a notable improvement in sound quality, particularly in the bass elements.
A great choice for MP3s and podcasts
We all need a phone as runners, but your intended giftee probably already has a smartphone and you're not willing to buy them a new handset just to let them run better.
However, this phone from Nokia is a strong choice for two reasons: firstly, it's got a microSD card slot so you can load it up with music from that dusty old MP3 selection (sadly this isn't Spotify compatible), and with monster battery life you'll easily be able to get through any distance of run without it losing charge.
Secondly, it's pretty darn cheap as you can see with the prices below - yes, it's a secondary phone, but it'll also be a great festival / leave in the car / crap, my iPhone is out of battery handset to have around.
Thirdly, it's a proper unit - accidentally chuck this onto a path mid run and you won't need to worry about it being instantly covered in smashes.
Under Armour Marvel Alter Ego t-shirts
For the superhero inside
I’m a creature of habit - I’ve been rocking up to Parkruns for a few years now wearing an assortment of superhero running tops, and I still love it now.
The newer versions for this year are out, but there are loads to choose from and will always see you stand out in a race (people get bored of calling out names, but they’ll always cheer for a chap in a Spiderman top at mile 22 of a marathon).
Bowflex SelectTech 552
Removing the need to pay for a gym membership
I used the Bowflex SelectTech 560 models for a little while, and although they're really handy to have in the house, the fact these models were Bluetooth enabled seemed rather pointless, as the rep counting just didn't really work (nor did I find I needed it).
But I was impressed with the form and functionality, so if your runner has a gym membership simply to lift weights here and there, variable dumbbells that let you select a different weight with a quick twist are a real win - and you can do 95% of the workouts you get in the gym with little space and travel needed. An expensive choice but an easy win.
A simple way to carry your stuff around
It looks like a belt. It kind of is. But it's a perfect stocking filler - it's a band that flips around your waist to hold your phone, keys and cards.
Previously I used the Running Buddy, a magnetic purse that clipped onto your shorts really strongly, but could pull them down if you ran too fast. Don't ask how I know that*.
The Flipbelt is so unobtrusive I forget it's there half the time - you can slip a phone in with ease, there's a clip for keys and you can even buy running water bottles to slip in as well.
*(on an unrelated note, maybe buy them some shorts with a strong drawstring.
- Gareth Beavis is TechRadar's Running Man of Tech, testing the latest in fitness technology in a never-ending quest to run further and faster and bringing you the results in a weekly column.
- If you want to say hi, he's @superbeav on Twitter
- You can see his stumblings on Strava
- And for more data, follow him on Smashrun - if you want to sign up, please use this link (once you see the service, you'll work out why...)
- And if you want to get the full lowdown on the latest and greatest running tech, read the rest of the Running Man of Tech story here