How to Find the Best Winter Running Jacket
Finding the best winter running jacket is essential for enjoyably running in the cold. If you buy no other gear this year, invest in a true winter running jacket. They are worth every penny.
When you head to your local specialty running store (or look online), you may feel a bit overwhelmed. There is A LOT to chose from.
- Keeps You Warm. Advanced jackets are lighter and less bulky without sacrificing warmth. Quality winter running jackets will have a brushed fleece lining, providing equal amounts heat retention and comfort without unnecessary bulk.
- Blocks the Wind. If your winter running jacket doesn’t block the wind, throw it away. Seriously. This is perhaps its most important job. It should have wind blocking panels at least in the front.
- Breathes! Nearly every jacket will have some breathability to it. The best winter running jacket will be warm, windproof AND breathable.
- Is Reflective. As runners, we need to be safe when running in the dark… an inevitability when running in the winter. Look for reflective piping and striping all over.
- Fits Well. Think of the layers you’ll be wearing underneath. If you are between sizes, err on the side of buying a little larger. Longer in the back is warmer. A jacket that is too small can feel suffocating when worn with layers.
- Has the Necessary Bells & Whistles. A few items I think are absolutely necessary: Thumb holes and/or mitts, hood, and accessible pockets. Other perks might include a built in neck gaiter, headphone ports, pack-ability, interior pockets, etc. Make sure you’re only paying for the features you think you’ll actually use.
How Warm Should it Be?
It might sound counter intuitive, but your winter running jacket doesn’t need to be the warmest jacket on the market. If you buy a jacket that’s too warm, you may find you’ve spent all that money and only wearing it on the coldest of days.
A warm, breathable, windproof jacket with a hood, and a rock solid set of layers will give you the most bang for your buck! You’ll be able to better regulate your body temperature and ultimately, have a more enjoyable winter run.
Best Winter Running Jacket Recommendations
The best winter running jacket is ultimately the one you can afford that keeps you warm. I’ve been running in the Nike Shield Max jacket for a few years and love it! Although a bit on the expensive side, I found it half off at the Nike employee store.
I love it because it’s incredibly wind resistant, yet still breathable. It has a quilted lining that always keeps me warm and cozy, yet doesn’t make me sweat. I love that it has a hood and built in neck gaiter. It also has an interior and exterior Napoleon pocket, two side pockets and a pocket in back. It fits like a second skin, but not tight.
When it’s below zero, I can wear a base, mid-weight fleece and vest and my core feels plenty warm. When it’s around 20, all I need under it is a long sleeve t-shirt. Unfortunately, it is too warm to wear above freezing.
I asked a few current and former members of Team USA Minnesota what their winter running jacket of choice is. Here are their recommendations.
Jon Peterson – Brooks Infiniti
Sent me two Brooks recommendations.
These Brooks jackets are great for different reasons. Brooks LSD Lite jacket is great for a top layer anywhere in the range of 20-40º allowing ventilation. It tucks into itself and can be toted around easily. You will require extra layers for any sort of wind chill below 30º. Brooks Infiniti jacket is a bit of a thicker layer for colder days and blocks out the wind better than most other jackets. It is not as breathable and a bit heavier, so any runs done in a sunny 20º and up will warm you up quickly.
Eric Finan – Saucony Nomad
A cold day can quickly escalate to an ice cold emergency without wind protection. Even on less breezy days, it can seem like the wind is always in your face. Cut the chill by wearing a jacket that has at least a windproof panel in the front. The windproof panel usually decreases flexibility of the jacket, but it’s no bother when it stops wind dead in its tracks. My daily winter jacket is the Saucony Nomad.
Heather Kampf – Asics Storm Shelter
Couldn’t live without her Asics Storm Shelter Jacket. As a self proclaimed “freeze baby” this is her perfect winter jacket.
The Asics Storm Shelter Jacket is awesome! It blocks wind and water while insulating warmth, all the while not absorbing moisture to make you feel wet. Despite it’s utilitarian qualities it’s pretty lightweight and I feel comfortable moving in it. Safety Bonus- it’s crazy reflective!
Dani Stack – Nike Flash
Loves the Nike Flash jacket because of it’s reflectivity. Offering the same options as other jackets mentioned. Dani says,
When I am running out early in the morning, I know people will see me, perhaps even stop and stare because it is so bright!
By far the most expensive on this list, you’ll definitely be seen when running during the dark, cold winter months.
Your Winter Running Jacket
The best winter running jacket is probably whatever one you own. What do you run in? Leave your suggestions in the comments below. For more winter gear suggestions, download our FREE gear guide with more suggestions from the pros!