Valentine’s Day Gifts (and what not to buy) for the runner you love


Valentine’s Day is coming up, and if you’re looking for a gift for your favorite runner, you likely know already that stereotypical flowers and chocolate lose out against the often cheap, yet life-changing training accessories your runner covets.

I’m here to help! Here’s my list of running-related items I’ve received lately (or given to myself) – some favorites and others that weren’t worth the cash.


Ponytail holders: A stocking stuffer from my husband that turned out to be the best item I received for Christmas. Really, you ask? Yes. It’s damn hard to find a good rubber band. Mine always seem to get stretched out, or even when new, slide down my hair. I sometimes get my hair trimmed before a marathon just to lighten the ponytail load so it won’t bother me in the race.

Hello, Scunci no slip grip evolution jelly hair ties. These have worked wonders in keeping my ponytail in place. Worn for long runs and a marathon, I recommend them 100%. You do have to be a little careful in removing them (undo each loop individually, rather than sliding down your ponytail), but I don’t see any evidence of them breaking my hair like a metal clasp would. Change your runner’s life for just a $6 investment! Trust me.

Book: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. A memoir that discusses the author’s running, writing, and how they are intertwined. Less than $10. An enjoyable, easy read that you can finish in one day, or over a longer period of time without losing the plot. Murakami has relatable insights, experiences, and explanations of how we think as runners. As a writer, he can put into words things we runners may feel but not be able to adequately describe.

Handheld massager with rolling ball: I like to multi-task, and sitting in the car is a good way to do this. Disclaimer: while sitting at stoplights or waiting at car pool, not while actively driving! Since I don’t normally carve out time to do the important little things like stretching or rolling, this was a genius solution for me. I keep a little rolling massage ball in my cup holder, and pull it out to do some quick work on my IT bands, quads, or shoulders when sitting in the car. I bought one from my chiropractor’s office; depending on the brand you can find them for $10-$15.

Foam roller water bottle: I bought a SKLZ hydro-roller for myself when I had an expiring gift card to use at Dick’s. MSRP is $39.99, I scored this in a clearance sale for $9. Talk about efficiency. It’s a 27 oz stainless steel water bottle with a foam roller wrapped around the outside. While the foam seems a little softer than my trigger point foam rollers, it is effective enough. It’s large enough to roll out your legs, but I find it uncomfortably small for upper back and shoulders. Since I am never without a water bottle, and don’t make enough time for #extrasalt, now I have no excuse to avoid foam rolling. I’m especially excited to use it when traveling or at races since it’s one less thing to pack.


Electric massager: I received a Homedics Percussion Handheld Massager as a way to get deep tissue massage at home. It does work. 10 minutes, which is the recommended max usage on an area, and you feel a difference. The problem is, I don’t use it. Maybe because in general, I don’t normally take the time to do the extra things that I should (are you noticing a theme?). I’d like it if I had a dedicated person to stand there and do it for me, say while I was reading the book mentioned above, but my budget is a long way from accomodating a live-in Handheld-Massager-Holder.

If you’re willing to take 10 minutes to work on muscle recovery, and want something that goes deeper than a foam roller or trigger point device, then go for it. It costs less than you’d spend on just one massage therapy appointment. But since mine has really just been taking up space on a closet shelf, it’s a good thing I saved the box because I’m probably returning it.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation: I don’t actually own a Marc Pro EMS device, but my husband brought one home from the physical therapy office for me to try out for a few months. They market it as a device to improve recovery and performance by flushing the lactic acid from your legs, preventing inflammation by pushing fresh red blood cells through the targeted areas.

Ease of use gets an A+ from me. You stick the four sensor electrodes on your legs. The manual includes diagrams for recommended placement, you can use those as guides but adjust by feel to pinpoint your target muscles. Then, crank up the sensors as high as you can tolerate. Leave it on and let it do its thing for as long as you want. I found it worked best when I had my legs out straight, so often used it when reading in bed before I went to sleep. I even fell asleep with it on. Really no effort on my part other than hooking it up? Allows for multitasking? Yes please!

Did it work? Hard to say. I’d like to think it helped aid in recovery, but that’s difficult to prove. Would I buy one? Definitely not. While I loved the minimal effort required on my part, the device costs over $600! A quick internet search showed me that you can buy other EMS devices for much less ($100-$200 range), but I have no idea about the differences in effectiveness. If you’re a gadget person and regularly spend that much on massages, then maybe this is something to look into.

Do you have any running related gifts to recommend? Any items we should run away from instead?

Salty Running receives a commission on sales made via our Amazon affiliate links, used in this post.

I have fun trying to sprint, enjoy long runs in the mountains, and everything in between. Former competitive runner (3 x marathon OTQ & trail marathon national champion) currently working through a lingering injury. I write about trying to stay competitive while raising young kids and moving into a new post-competitive stage.

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  1. Keeping a massage ball in the car is a genuis idea! I spend so much time in the car these days that I could totally see myself making use of that!

    I have a small E-stim machine I got on amazon a few years ago for like…. $40? I definitely notice a difference with it, when I make the time to use it. Granted I haven’t really needed it for a while now, but as I get back into training again probably time to blow the dust off it. I usually hook myself up to it and fold laundy, make my grocery list, meal plan, or other multi tasking things….other times I just chill and read/watch TV while I do it…sometimes you need that.

  2. That water bottle/ roller combination is kind of genius!
    In the same vein as ponytail holders, I think the best gift I’ve ever received is a hair tie bracelet (you can find them on Etsy and even get them engraved) – these are made of metal or plastic and have a little groove to hold a hair tie so my omnipresent wrist hair tie is now also an *ornamental* wrist hair tie…

    1. Never heard of those before, but just looked it up after your recommendation. How cute, and what a neat idea! I am always wearing a ponytail holder around my wrist- so much so that my 5 y/o actually thinks it’s supposed to be a bracelet and often puts one on her wrist too! Good way to dress it up!

  3. I loved that Murakami book! Really, any of his books are great. I’d also suggest a foam roller. I know, it’s shocking, but there are probably many of us out there who don’t have one! And new socks. Oh, pink feetures…