Gotta run: Some gift ideas for the runner in your life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2021

Have you heard before that it only takes a quality pair of running shoes to get started? That statement is correct, but almost every runner I know keeps an eye open for extras that might enhance the whole experience.

Here are a few things that Santa just might have in his bag for that special morning around the tree.

Beginning with shoes, Ralph Jr. at Ralph Baker Shoes has been supplying my footwear for a decade now because he knows shoe technology and what makes the best shoe. He said, “Brooks still dominates what I would call ‘hobbyist runners.’ Ghost, Adrenaline and Glycerin are going to cover most runners’ needs and then of course, Hoka is still hot. We’ve added a new brand, Topo Athletic, that should be in store within a couple of weeks.  It is owned by the inventor of Vibram 5 Fingers and looks very similar to Altra with a foot shaped toe box but most of the styles have a little heel drop instead of Altra’s zero drop.  I’m impressed with them.”

The shoe market has been stressed with the recent supply chain issues. I asked Ralph what to expect going forward. He said, “As for ‘back to normal,’ industry analysts are saying fall of 2022 before we’re back … hard to believe, I know.  The supply chain has been disrupted and just like a ship at sea, you can’t start, stop, and turn on a dime.  It will take time to get things regulated. I’m in a great position for now because I bought well ahead while I could still get them. Filling in or special ordering is almost non-existent now.  If I didn’t pre-book, I’m not going to get it.  That said, I check inventory status daily for all our major brands to scarf up inventory when or if other dealers have canceled orders.  Sometimes we can’t get a customer’s first choice, but we can almost always get them a great option without compromising their needs.  Maybe not the first color choice, but no compromises on function.”

Ralph had good stock on one of my two favorite models, and I’m set for five months. I suggest stopping by as soon as you can to fill your runner’s shoe needs because selection will continue to diminish. One other thought is recovery shoes. Ralph added, “They’re a little expensive for stocking stuffers but very popular for soothing tired feet after a run. We have shoes and sandals from Oofos, Hoka, and Topo, as well as the very popular Feetures socks.”

Back Country and Beyond has a ribbon cutting coming up on Dec. 10 and grand opening the next day. Dewitt reports specials on almost everything in the store next weekend including the complete line of Garmin watches. I’ve been running for over 40 years, and nothing has convinced me that any brand of fitness watch is more accurate than Garmin. There are styles for every type of runner, triathlete and outdoor fitness enthusiast. Solar technology in their watches seems an intriguing option.

Back Country also has Fits socks and bow Stance socks as well. Fits are the longest wearing performance sock I have worn. Stance socks are touted for every personality, even the weird ones. Dewitt added, “We also have Honey Stinger, an energy supplement, and Body Glide, for abrasion relief. For our weekend event, Traeger will be at the store demonstrating and cooking with their grills while live music will be available.

  The best full service running store nearby is Vac and Dash in Albemarle. Owner Peter Asciutto suggests checking out the Goodr sunglasses, stylish and affordable, and Turtle Towels, used for auto seat covers for sweaty athletes. He also has varied options on Dri-fit and safety clothing for any weather conditions.

  Books on running and adventure are always big hits. Check out Father and Sons Produce, Patterson Farm Market and Rowan Public Library.

  In addition, some personal choices include a race or beginning runners class entry, always available at Nothing tops a destination weekend trip, planned around a race or running venue.

The next race locally is the 30th Annual Santa Run 5K and Bigfoot Reunion, set for Saturday at the Millbridge Ruritan building.