The Runner’s Holiday Wish List

With the holiday shopping season upon us, I am going to join in on the plethora of “holiday shopping ideas for runners” blog posts and offer my own thoughts on what might cause the eyes of that special runner in your life to sparkle a little brighter this season.  Runners can be hard to buy for because we usually impatiently buy things without waiting.  If this is the case, you should look for things that they either must continuously have to re-buy throughout the year or for those things that have a cool factor, but may have been difficult for them to justify buying themselves.  Here are a few ideas including some of my personal recommendations from some of my sponsors.

Socks

I absolutely LOVE a fresh new pair of socks, so I tend to go through more than the usual runner, but the bottom line is that replacement is inevitable.  Socks lose their cushion, develop holes, or take on a rather permanent smell.  This makes running socks are a no-lose gift idea for runners.  While many runners are also picky about the brand they use, I personally recommend Injinji.  Aside from being super comfy, the individual toe design provides maximum protection and reinforces proper toe splay.  They have models for all types of runners, but during the winter months, the Outdoor wool line is great for running through snow or kicking the feet up by the fire.  Use code JOEULTRA at injinji.com for 10% off.

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Stocking Stuffers

Continuing with the theme of “things runners continuously buy”, you have those items that are constantly being restocked, such as Food and other nutritional supplements, body glide, headbands, hats, etc.  A random grab bag of essential accessories would be a welcomed gift for any runner.  My favorite accessories that I love to collect are the hats from Headsweats, the best performance hats in the business.  Use code ULTRARUNNERJOE at headsweats.com for 25% off.

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Relief and Recovery

I know so many runners that severely neglect themselves when it comes to stretching, recovery, and working out trouble areas in the body.  What better way to nudge your runner toward a more healthy and productive season of running than buying them the tools needed to take care of their aches and pains throughout the year.  I recently came across and started using the kit from RAD.  They have a wide array of tools for self-enabled trigger point and myofascial release therapy.  They literally have something for every need and their kit is built tough!

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Eliminate the Boredom

We all know that running can be a solitary (lonely) endeavor.  Sometimes it can be a welcomed escape, but other times it can be a drag.  When I want to listen to music, podcasts, or anything for that matter, I hate having wires running all over the place.  Wires constantly get caught on things while running or cross training.  Why not help your runner go wireless with a pair of bluetooth headphones.  The best I have found out there so far are those from Red Fox Wireless.  With about 8 hours of battery life and a great fit, these can help pass the time.

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Instagram Models

They are out there; the runners that like to take lots of pictures of themselves, nature……themselves in nature.  The best add-on I have found to make my photos Instagram-worthy are the iPhone lens attachments from Olloclip.  I especially like the macro photography options!

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Of course, this list is by no means complete.  Runners love gear and would probably be happy with anything that you get them.  I will say though, these are my personal favorites.  For other ideas, check out some of the stuff from my sponsors on my “What I Use/Discounts” page.

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Gear Review: RAD Roller

I would like to think that I am no different than most ultra runners; I too am always trying to find the best way to deal with those little aches and pains that come with pushing your body to the limit.  Yoga works great for stretching and the occasional massage is great if I can afford it, but most days I tend to rely on my foam roller and “The Stick” to get the job done.  The problem I have always had with these though is in my ability to really get to the most troublesome spots.  I seem to never feel totally rejuvenated after using them.  I have always thought of the foam roller as an idea that someone in a manufacturing plant came up with when they were trying to figure out what to do with scrap packaging foam.  Sure, it fulfills a basic purpose, but I tend to get more frustrated than not while I am rolling around on the floor looking for the best way to use it.  The Stick, for all of its usefulness, has it’s shortcomings too.  For one, I actually don’t like that it flexes, which prevents me from getting deep into the muscle.  Second, I am tired of getting my leg hair stuck in between the small rollers…ouch!  It just seems to me that we athletes have become complacent when it comes to self massage and myofascial release.  We love how it aides recovery and helps with the sore spots, but seem to have really low expectations in what they are able to do for us.

While I was cruising around Outdoor Retailer, I ran across the team at the RAD Roller (www.radroller.com) booth (probably my best discovery at OR this year).  It seems we no longer have to settle for rudimentary tools.  This is a company that definitely took an innovative, problem-solving approach by looking at the frustrations we athletes have with everything else on the market in order to develop products that focus on the best ways to deal with our various ailments.  After watching a demo, I left with their full kit so that I could see just how well it worked.

DISCLAIMER: RAD Roller provided me with their whole kit for the purposes of this review. As always, I will do my best to remain unbiased in order to provide YOU with an informative review and THEM with honest product feedback.

Overview

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The RAD Roller kit consists of a number of tools, including:

  • RAD Roller
  • RAD Rounds
  • RAD Block
  • RAD Rod
  • RAD Helix

Price: $140 for everything listed above as a kit

You can purchase these pieces separately, but get the most bang for the buck my buying the kit.  They also have different kit configurations if you don’t want to get everything.  Together, this replaces a number of tools in the typical athletes’ self-massage/myofascial release tool box.  For me, I was able to ditch my foam roller, Stick, and plantar fasciitis ball.  What’s more, I felt that I was not only replacing these previous tools, but upgrading in most cases.

Product Details

Each of the tools comes with extensive how-to documentation that covers using them to target different areas of the body and their website is also helpful, so I won’t get into too much of that here.  Instead, I will go over each tool and what I liked best about it.  I will then wrap up my review with some overall pro’s and con’s.

RAD Roller

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The Roller is their flagship product, which consists of two balls fused in the middle.  These are great for trigger point and working out tense spots in general.  They are also pretty flexible in that you can use them on just about any part of your body.  The best way to use these is to settle on a spot and roll back and forth no more than an inch in either direction. My favorite part of the body for the Roller was on the neck (using the block) and anywhere on the legs.

RAD Rounds

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The Rounds come in two different sizes and are great for trigger point therapy and reaching the small spaces.  I liked these mostly for my feet (like a golf ball to roll out the plantar fascia) and for knots in general.

RAD Block

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The Block, in my mind, is a key accessory.  Some muscles are hard to work unless you can position your body a certain way.  While it does nothing by itself, when paired with the Roller/Rounds, it allows you to lift off the floor slightly so that you can get the right angle and maximum leverage to work certain muscles.  I found this to work especially well on the arms, hip flexors, and quads.

RAD Rod

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As a Product Manager by profession, I always found The Stick to be a bit over-engineered. In the case of the Rod, simplicity is not only key, but twice as effective.  The core of the Rod is an unyielding steel bar, which allows you to get really deep into the muscle.  I LOVE this on my quads and upper shoulders.

RAD Helix

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The Helix is genius, especially on the back.  I have been looking for something like a foam roller for my back and this is it!  It perfectly hits the support muscles along my entire spine, which are always the tightest, without aggravating my spine thanks to the groove in the middle.  For me personally, this may have been worth the price alone.  Other areas where I found the Helix to be most valuable were the neck, IT band, and calves.  One tip that is useful: although the instructions seem to imply you can use the Helix on its own, I found it to be more stable with the RAD Rod in it.

Final Impressions

Overall, this kit is exactly as advertised. It gives you access to complete self-service massage and myofascial release that, in my opinion, meets and exceeds the needs of most people.  For me, I found that it provides enough added benefits over existing tools that I know longer feel like FREQUENT trips to a masseuse are mandatory (in fact, I cancelled a planned massage because I didn’t feel like it was worth spending the money).  That is not to say that it can replace an experts’ touch when it is REALLY needed, but I think it is a great kit for the daily maintenance stuff we should all do and definitely better than other self-service products on the market.

Pros

  • An all-in-one kit that prevents you from having to piece a kit together.
  • Travels well.  Everything is compact and fits in a suitcase with ease.
  • Kit is price comparable to anything else on the market when factoring in everything that it replaces.
  • Only time will tell, but everything seems very durable.  You probably still shouldn’t let your dog chew on them, but they are able to bear weight with no issues.

Cons

  • More expensive when priced individually, so it is in your best interest to commit up front.  If you are interested, I would definitely buy the kit together and save yourself the extra $20 or so.
  • This may be personal, but the one thing I still preferred my foam roller for was the glutes.  As a large muscle, the Roller/Rounds/Helix just didn’t seem to work the whole muscle as well as the foam roller.  I may discover that I am doing it wrong and change my mind, but this is where I am at right now.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!