How to Buy a Winter Running Jacket

A  winter running jacket is essential for surviving the cold in Minnesota. There’s no denying it, we’re officially in the icy throes of winter! Winter running gear is a must.

At this point you’ve either decided to hit the treadmill at Lifetime until the ice is out on Calhoun or you’re going to run through it (if it takes losing a couple toes in the process). If you associate with the latter, then it’s likely that you’ve recently appreciated the benefits that good winter running gear can provide. At this point you have your favorite pair of cold weather mittens, warm Smartwool socks, and a neck gaiter or facemask.

I’m here to ask, how is your winter running jacket game?

A good winter running jacket helps bridge the gap between being underdressed and looking like the Michelin Man. Here are some questions to ask when purchasing a new winter running jacket.

Will it Keep Me Warm?

The great part about the latest generation of winter running gear is how much lighter and less bulky it has become without sacrificing warmth. Cold weather running gear should keep you warm! Most serious winter running jackets will have a brushed fleece lining. These liners provide equal amounts heat retention and comfort without adding unnecessary bulk.

Will it Block the Wind?

On the coldest day this year we decided to wear one of our favorite jackets. It’s an excellent jacket when it’s raining but it did nothing in the face of the bitter NW wind we encountered running along the river. When purchasing a winter running jacket, look for one that includes a wind blocking panel. Give bonus points to a jacket with wind blocking properties on the arms. Most jackets will tout their wind blocking properties on the tags.

Is it Reflective?

It might look cool on the wall of your local running store, but how’s that jacket going to be seen on those dark winter days? Keep an eye out for jackets with reflective piping and striping, most often found around seams and zippers. As runners, we need to be safe and make an effort to be seen when running in the dark.

Will it Breathe?

Nearly every running jacket will have some breathability to it, but the best will be warm, windproof and ultimately breathable. We’ve found some jackets are so water “proof” that they don’t wick moisture as well as water “repellant” jackets. Look for a jacket that has breathable underarm gussets and back panels. These will allow for heat and moisture to escape from areas that produce much of your body’s sweat.

How Does the Winter Running Jacket Fit?

Running jackets have evolved from the big square cut windbreakers of the 80’s and 90’s to the sleek and contoured outwear systems of today. When testing winter running jackets, think of the layers you’ll be wearing underneath. If you’re in between sizes, err on the side of buying a little bit larger. You likely won’t regret a little extra length or room under the arms but a jacket that’s a touch too small can feel suffocating when worn with layers.

Bells & Whistles

Every year running companies come out with the latest and greatest features on their new winter running apparel. Some of this technology is exceptionally practical (we love winter running  jackets with built in thumbhole mitts) while some seem a bit futuristic (battery powered jackets?!?). Think about what you’ll actually use. These additional features will increase the cost of a jacket by $20-$50. If you don’t think you’ll use 8 pockets and a hood, save your money!

Your Winter Running Jacket

What are the best winter running jackets you’ve found? Leave a comment below if you’ve got an amazing winter running jacket you can’t live without.

Jeff Metzdorff

Jeff Metzdorff

Co-Owner at Mill City Running
Just a guy who loves to run, married to gal who loves to run.
Jeff Metzdorff

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