“Running is analogue. It is hunter-gatherer. It is Palaeo. It is linear. It is long-form thought. It is an uninterrupted conversation with yourself. It is a journey back through modernity to your body. It is a way out of technology. It is a way to be free.”
Those words were written by a British academic named Vybarr Cregan-Reid, who published the book Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human in 2017. The book is an adventure memoir of sorts, which recounts Cregan-Reid’s experiences running in locations around the world (down boulevards in Paris, under redwoods in California), and his visits to research centers, in an effort to understand precisely why humans run.
I think of his writing often, especially the quote above, because it adds yet another reason to participate in what is pretty much the most positive activity ever invented. We know running lowers your blood pressure and slices your risk of a stroke or heart attack in half. We know it can eliminated your prospects of osteoporosis and does wonders for your spinal cord and back. We know it helps you put whatever you want on your plate, and probably still lose a couple pounds in the process.
But Cregan-Reid’s philosophy goes beyond the physical. He’s writing about running as a core, distinctly human ritual. There’s a reason running alleviates stress. There’s a reason it calms us down and makes us happy. No one has ever finished a run (in full health) and thought “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done that.” It’s the perfect way to get away, too; people pay thousands for tech-detox fitness retreats, when all they have to do is lace up some sneaks and head out down the road.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re firm believers in a life spent running. Whether you’re a seasoned vet still cranking out sub-six-minute miles as you enter your twilight years, or a young fella who lost his fitness level the second high school sports ended and never got it back — it’s as good a time as ever to become a runner. And fortunately for you, we’re living in a golden age of running gear, with enough tech to make our hunter-gatherer ancestors go green with jealousy.
Old stalwarts like Nike are making their fastest shoes ever, young challengers like On Running are dropping apparel that was tested in the Swiss mountains, energy gels are keep runnings on the roads longer than ever, and revolutionary massage guns can make sure their tired muscles recover once the day is done. Below, we’ve rounded up 15 of the best drops and advancements in running from this year, including a couple items just to celebrate the sport. They’d all make a fine gift for yourself (got your eye on a marathon in 2020?) or for a fleet-footed friend.
Happy Holidays, and happy running.
Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2
One of the brand’s best running shoes. The Pegasus Turbo 2 is as light as most race day runners, so you can absolutely gun for a PR in them, but it’s sturdy enough to handle heavy-mileage training, too. The shoe also shares some DNA with Nike’s hyper-fast (and hyper-controversial) Vaporflys; check that tall midsole.
Brooks Nightlife Glove
Good running gloves are a lot like mailmen. Come rain, sleet, or snow, they do their job with aplomb. And considering the use they get in most parts of this country (your fingers can still go numb in early April, folks), they’re well worth the initial cost. We like this polyester pair from Brooks, which features pullover reflective mittens.
Garmin Forerunner 935
The preferred GPS watch of serious runners. The 935 tracks traditional metrics, like what’s occurring in your body on a run (heart rate, VO2 max), and how that run is going (total distance, calories burned). But it catalogues a ton of random, useful stuff too, like your cadence and your ground contact time, and seamlessly charts swimming and biking stats in case you’re training for a marathon.
On Comfort T
If a T-shirt’s good enough for a run in the Swiss Alps, it should cut it on your Sunday jog around town. On Running’s tees, outerwear and sneaks are all designed by Swiss engineers, in collaboration with triathlon champ Olivier Bernhard and (as of a week or two ago) Roger Federer. This cotton-modal-elastane blend eliminates odor, moves with your body as you run, and features a pocket for stashing your keys.
Gu Energy Gel 24-Pack
If only Michael Scott had downed a few of these at the 5K starting line, instead of that Fettuccine Alfredo. Gu’s been around for over 25 years and makes the most reputable energy gel around. It’s basically just a chain of fun-flavored carbs and electrolytes, and it will definitely get you through double-digit mileage.
Balega Enduro Crew Socks
It’s not easy finding a sock that provides both arch support and non-constricting compression on the ole legs. Balega makes the cream of the running sock crop; their socks are made with “moisture management” tech, and leave some all-important wiggle room for your toes.
Jaybird Tarah Wireless Sport Headphones
InsideHook’s Executive Editor is a bit of an audio snob. (No offense, Mike. You’re also the man.) He also ran the Chicago Marathon. He has different types of headphones for all the activities in his life, and when he runs, he wears these guys from Jaybird. They stay in the ear, they can take a beating, and the sound quality is there.
26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi
The latest American runner to win the New York City Marathon (in 2009 — the previous American winner was way back in 1982), Keflezighi is one of the most decorated runners of all time. This memoir dropped earlier this year, and ruminates on the wisdom Keflezighi’s gleaned from a lifetime spent running.
Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%
The most controversial running sneaker of all time? Marathon records are shattered when pro runners wear this hyper-foamy, carbon-plated racing shoe, and the advantage extends down to casual runners, too. Pick up this sneaker before it gets banned.
The best everyday recovery tool out there right now. Designed by MIT engineers, the Theragun uses percussive therapy to encourage blood flow to tight, afflicted areas of the body. Serious runners know the importance of recovery. If you’re serious about fixing your back, unwinding your calves, and easing old strains in your hammies, it’s a no-brainer.
Tracksmith Session Pants
Boston-based Tracksmith’s collection of shorts, tops and sweats looks like it fell out of the back of a truck headed to the 1975 Penn Relays. The brand manages to wed those old-school flourishes with modern materials, though, and these Session Pants are a perfect example. They employ Veloce fabric, a stretch knit made in Northern Italy that stretches well and self-regulates its temperature. Those mesh calf vents help, too.
Etched Marathon Pint Glass
Runners and beer lovers have long shacked up in the middle of a Venn diagram. After all, sitting down for a cold one after running umpteen miles is a time-honored tradition. These etched pint glasses depict the exact routes of 15 marathons across the United States (including New York, Boston, and Chicago) and the globe (London, Berlin).
Janji Rainrunner Pack Jacket
Janji is a “nomadic” apparel brand. For each of its collections, the label chooses a country as muse, and partners with local talent to A) design hardy, technical running apparel inspired by the nation’s terrain and with non-profits B) to help conserve water. Fitness, travel and sustainability — it’s the rare motherlode. They recently visited Mexico City and Oaxaca City; we like this all-weather jacket.
Nike Odyssey React Shield 2
I ran winter track for years, and will never forget a run where not one, but two of our top middle-distance runners went down on black ice on the same street. Both incidents happened within five minutes of each other. Cold weather running is crazy good for you, but not if you’re busting up your ankle or your ass. Pick up a pair of these “winterized” Nike sneaks for the freezing months. The outsole is grippier than normal runners, which will offer more traction on icy roads.
NormaTec PULSE 2.0 Leg Recovery System
Run, recover. Run, recover. Runners get better by mastering that deceptively simple prescription. Over the years, some toys have arrived that make the process a little easier. NormaTec is basically a pair of booted sleeves for your legs, which compress to massage your lower half for a period of 20 to 60 minutes after a run. The systems “pulse” up and down your legs, which mobilizes fluid and catalyzes recovery. I’ve trialed it before at a rehab facility, and it’s a hell of a sensation. It’s honestly worth getting into running just so you have an excuse to sit for an hour and watch TV with these things on.