Jesse James' Holiday Fitness and Shoe Gift Guide

Another Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone. Brightly colored lights and fir trees are being hung with care. And yes, Christmas shopping season has officially begun.

If you’re anything like me, the availability of ridiculous amounts of fatty and sugary treats has you reaching to loosen the belt notch. You may feel the need to burn off more than a few extra calories and redouble your focus on bringing in the new year feeling and looking great.

With that in mind I would like to take this opportunity to once again offer my top health and fitness related gifts for the holiday season. These are the items that I consistently recommend to my clients year round and that I personally cannot do without. Here are my top gift picks for health and fitness products for that special someone, including yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an affiliate for many of these products. This means that if you purchase one after clicking one of these links, I will get a small commission. That said, the only reason I am an affiliate for these products is because I believe in them 100%.

1. Foam Roller

If you read my blog regularly, then you already know that I am a huge advocate of foam roller therapy. Upon being introduced to foam roller therapy in 2003, I was an instant convert. Over the past 10 years, the foam roller has been an incredible tool for both me my clients. Including foam roller therapy into your daily or weekly health and wellness lifestyle will reduce the amount of chronic pain and injury in your life; improve mobility and joint range of motion; and help you feel and move better.  It has the potential to have enormous effects on both your short and long term health and well-being.

The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy

The Grid is currently my go-to roller. It is one of the firmest foam rollers on the market. I prefer a firm roller over a soft one. It is great for travel. It fits inside most carry-on luggage. The center is hollow allowing you to pack clothing or other items within it, making it a great space saver.

The Grid 2.0 is a longer version of the grid. The extra length is nice if you have the floor space to maneuver and it is useful for doing some of the corrective exercises I describe in the article, The Scapula: The Mast and Sails.

To learn more about foam roller therapy, benefits and use, check out Foam Roller Therapy For BeginnersHow to Treat and Prevent Injury, and Foam Rolling the IT Band.


2. TRX Suspension Trainer

I love my TRX Suspension Trainer. There is no other piece of workout equipment that has as much versatility. With a pair of straps you can do full body flexibility and full body functional strength training.

Regardless of your current conditioning or ability, you can use the TRX Suspension Trainer. Suspension training utilizes your body weight to provide resistance. The beauty about the TRX is that adjusting the level of resistance is simple: all you have to do is move your feet back or forward. You can make exercises super easy, super hard, or somewhere in between. Every exercise engages your core from your fingers to your toes in ways that are unmatched by most traditional strength training equipment. The TRX Suspension Trainer is the number one piece of workout equipment that I recommend to every one of my clients.

TRX Suspension Trainer weighs about a pound and fits in a small bag – also great for travel. They mount easily to a door, wall, ceiling, tree, or outdoor jungle gym. I have a few clients with very busy travel schedules. They struggle with making it to a gym while on the road. With a set of straps they can workout in their hotel room and are less likely to miss vital workout sessions. I took my straps on a five day trip and had a couple of great workouts.

3. The Ultimate Sandbag

I love throwing a sandbag into a workout… any workout. Whether I am focusing on core, strength, power, or a high intensity burnout, a sandbag is usually in the mix. It is just a great tool. The benefit isn’t always about how heavy the bag is, but how the sand shifts, forcing your body to dynamically stabilize through movement.  The Ultimate Sandbag is a great piece of equipment that would fit in well in any home or professional gym.






4. Rip Trainer

I had The Rip Trainer on my list last year as a new piece of equipment. Over the past year it has become one of my favorites. The Rip Trainer is great for adding multi-plane rotation and anti-rotation training into your workout. If you are creating the perfect home workout studio, I would suggest taking a good look at the Rip Trainer… right after you buy the TRX Suspension Trainer.


5. Barefoot/Minimalist Shoes

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know by now that I am a huge advocate of a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle. As a deep tissue massage therapist, I  see a ton of chronic pain and injuries. I find that most injuries stem, in large part, from postural dysfunction. The majority of dysfunction that I treat is rooted at the  foundation of our posture… the feet. And shoes play a huge role in this dysfunction.

I made my transition into barefoot/minimalist footwear about five years ago when I came across the Vibram Five Finger shoes at Whole Earth Provision Company, a local outdoor living store in Austin, Texas. At the time there were only a handful of barefoot/minimalist shoes on the market. Today there are over 64 and growing. Here are my favorites:

Merrell Trail Glove

When it is time to hit the rugged trail, this is the shoe I reach for. They are stylish, light, fit snugly, have a ton of toe room and a nice protective plate underneath the forefoot that protects my feet from the sharp Texas trail rocks.



Luna Sandals

It’s December in Texas and still 80+ degrees. Which means I’m still wearing my summer time favorites. These are great shoes for minimalist running or casual wear. Each year, as the weather warms up, everyone pulls out their flip flops – one of the worst shoe choices you can make – and a rash of foot injuries come through my door. Luna Sandals provide all the comfort of a flip flop without the same foot and gait dysfunction.


Soft Star Shoes

Soft Star Shoes are simply some of the most comfortable shoes on the planet. They are warm and dry in the winter, and cool and dry in the summer. Plus they make great minimalist shoes for the kids.

These shoes are so comfortable, my son and I have matching pairs.
My son’s winter boots. He loves them!



In case you’re wondering, these are tops on my Christmas wish list.

To read more about the benefits of a barefoot/minimalist lifestyle you can read Free Your FeetNot Just Any Movement, You Need Functional Movement and Heel Strike Compared to Forefoot Strike Gait Pattern and How it Relates to Pain.

Jesse James Retherford is a licensed massage therapist, certified personal trainer and barefoot movement coach. He specializes in the treatment and prevention of chronic pain and injury.

Jesse writes a blog with insights on the treatment and prevention of chronic pain and injury.  lt is also a great way to stay up to date with his availability and the best way to have access to occasional specials, offers, and announcements. You can sign up here.

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