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Winter Running: Part II – Jackets!

Winter is here! Previously, I advised you on your base layer (synthetics and merino wool for wicking action and moisture management), extolled the usefulness of a quarter zip for layering, and discussed the benefits of running tights versus running pants (short version: they both have virtues – choose what works for you). Let’s now turn to the winter running essential: the running jacket.

There is a running jacket for just about any weather condition but most people don’t have the luxury of accumulating dozens of “just right” jackets and will have to choose one or two that will meet their needs. When choosing a jacket, it is important to think about how much time you will be spending combating the elements, how “hot” you run, and what elements you wish to combat.

Going out in this? You’ll need a good jacket.

There are two main types of winter running jackets: insulated and uninsulated. Insulated jackets, which are heavier and warmer, allow you to start your run at a comfortable temperature but can get too hot on a long run. A heavier, insulated jacket with a wind and water resistant shell would be perfect for extreme winter weather conditions –– very cold and very snowy, for instance.

Saucony’s Vitarun Jacket has FlexShell laminate panels on the sleeves, front panel, and upper and lower back to provide wind and water resistance, while its fleece lining wicks sweat away and keeps you warm. Another jacket that combines weather resistant shell materials and insulation, keeping you warm and dry, comes from Norwegian apparel manufacturer Kari Traa. Their jacket combines wind and water resistant panels with high loft insulation (think fiberfill) and back vents so that you can have warmth as well as breathability.

With all running jackets that use some form of insulation, whether it be fleece or loft, it is important not to overdress. One moisture-wicking base layer (depending on how “hot” you run) may well be enough.

         Saucony’s Vitarun Jacket                Kari Traa’s Ida Jacket

The next category of winter running jacket has a softer outer shell over light insulation. While these jackets are heavier and are designed to keep you comfortable when the mercury dips well below freezing (snow should slide right off), they offer greater breathability and lessened likelihood of overheating. Asics has introduced a soft shell jacket for colder conditions and Sugoi continues to yearly update the always excellent Firewall 180.

Is it like this?

Try one of these:


                Sugoi Firewall 180                         Asics Softshell Jacket

Another running jacket philosophy is to go very light with high water and wind resistance, but layer underneath to add warmth when the weather is severe. The Nike Shield running jacket is light, breathable, and has high wind and water resistance by virtue of its taped seams. Adidas makes the Supernova running jacket that (when paired with a base layer and quarter zip) will provide comfort in cold weather. When facing sleet in warmer conditions, both of these jackets should be comfortable with one additional layer.


Light and protective: Nike’s Shield Jacket and Adidas’ Supernova

When choosing a running jacket, consider how you are going to use your new jacket. Is wind and water your main adversary? Choose nylon with taped seams, but be sure that you have adequate ventilation. Are you more likely to go out on a clear but frigidly cold day? Consider a heavier jacket with some fleece lining. The fleece will wick away moisture while keeping you warm. Finally, remember when you are trying on a jacket to leave some room for layering. Be sure to add some layers when you are trying on the jacket at the store.

A great running jacket is a true running essential. What is your ideal running jacket? Please tell everyone in the comments.

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