For when a base layer and a tee isn’t enough, a jacket will be a saviour of your off-season run training. Given many will tackle rain, wind and the cold, a well-chosen jacket also provides the pathway
to a massive mental surge for your mid-winter psychology. Skipping the gym and those repeats of Miranda for log leaping, puddle jumping and ditch dodging – while remaining warm while doing so – will reaffirm that love of outdoor exercise and will provide a welcome boost to those flagging vitamin-D levels.
From mid-winter warmers to waterproof numbers and lightweight windproofers, there’s a wide variety here. So when picking your garment of choice, think about the conditions you’ll be using it in. Is it for mountain running, city loops or rural lanes? Nighttime or day?
For us, run jackets are mandatory for anything lower than 5ºC, and much will depend on your own sweat rates for temperatures above that. They’re also far better at thwarting wind and rain chills than a base layer and run tee combo. Elsewhere, the hi-viz aspects are a smart safety addition for any nocturnal running, and the pockets will ensure you can comfortably carry your phone, keys and gels.
If that window of temperature opportunity may seem small, we’ve reused our own run jackets for many seasons and some will easily double as day-to-day (and, okay, evening) wear so having something that looks good in both the trails and the tavern is a welcome bonus.
How we tested the run jackets
Each jacket here was tested separately in the wind, rain and single-digit temperatures, as well as in darkness for any hi-visibility features. The first thing we judged was how warm they kept us, and then came wind- and waterproofing, and breathability. Fit (body and sleeve length, collar height and roominess) was analysed before extra features such as pockets, thumb loops and zip functionality were assessed. We noted the brand intentions for the garment (i.e. the Proviz was repeatedly tested in the dark) before grading the price and aesthetics. The end result? Eleven jackets tested to their limits and the fittest we’ve ever been at Christmas. Now... where’s that January Ironman when you need one?!
BROOKS DRIFT SHELL
For battling the rain, there are few better than the Drift Shell. Made with Brooks’ DriLayer SuperSeal shell, the material ensures water beads on the surface and there was no infiltration during our wet runs and indoor shower test. Elsewhere, the pockets are all water resistant, the zip has a draft flap and the seams are taped.
Pull the hem toggle and the zip does protrude in the centre, however – perfect for mimicking John Hurt’s chest-buster scene from Alien, less so for looking normal on the run. But our main issue came with breathability. Even after a sub-zero low-intensity night run we returned overheating badly and with a sodden base layer, the sweat marks clearly visible; the four tiny holes under the armpits are clearly unable to ventilate such a water-resistant shell. Which is a shame as it’s durable and has reflectivity for night running.
Verdict: Stylish, waterproof, reflective... but lacking any semblance of breathability 56%
Zoot target this as their warmest outer layer and it’s certainly toasty. Try as we may, we couldn’t get cold air to seep in. We even hopped on the bike for some 25mph efforts in -2ºC conditions and the three-layer construction still deflected any wafts of Siberian air. That triple layer of thickness means we’d still only use it for sub-5ºC conditions but the breathability is impressive, with a polyurethane membrane promoting wicking and a sizeable rear vent keeping ventilation turning over.
In a similar vein to the Asics overleaf, the waterproofing in this softshell surprised us, but it was present and correct, with precipitation kept at bay. The trio of zipped pockets are also sizeable and easy to access. For something as visually prominent as a run jacket, thankfully Zoot have toned down their usual garish visuals. The result is a winner across the board.
Verdict: Warm, breathable and waterproof. A smart jacket at a smart price 91%
Saucony tout this as the ‘lightest waterproof running jacket on the market’, and the 213g Razor succeeds in the lean stakes. The internal seams, and wind and waterproof FlexShell laminate thwarted an outdoor shower and our own in-house water test to leave the tee below drier than a night with Jack Dee. With the precipitation boxes ticked-off, the Razor sadly fails in the dry.
Despite the trio of vents on the spine, no jacket here bar the Brooks left us as sweaty on sub-10ºC runs. This lack of breathability combines with the ‘long and loose fit’, which billowed in the wind and had us demotivated running into headwinds, with the lack of a drawstring ensuring we were unable to find the required fit. Which is a shame, as construction is top-notch, the pockets well placed and secure, and the reflectivity is appreciated for nocturnal stints.
Verdict: A waterproof wonder that struggles to breathe in the dry 73%