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%
For manchilds of a certain disposition, Rapido will always be the TV company behind Eurotrash. It’s also one of the more affordable offerings from North Face’s exhaustive range. If the brush strokes prompted some Mr. Motivator-themed heckling, the Rapido Moda is a serious running contender, offering windproofing to rival the best hardshells here.
The durable water-repellent (DWR) finish is able to handle showers but surprisingly, unlike the similar Asics and Brooks, water ingress is noticeable for anything harder. There are neat touches, with the elasticated hems and cuffs keeping things in place, useful pockets and reflective elements. Like the Saucony, however, the Rapido suffers with breathability despite some rear vents. With the temp at 0ºC and wearing just a tee below, we still overheated.
Verdict: Neat features let down by breathability of fabric and the jarring design 69%
Odlo have fine form on these pages and, since arriving, the lightweight 264g Scutum (Latin for shield but be careful how you type it into Google!) has rarely been off our back in the outdoors, proving versatile for commuting, park visits with the kids and more. And for running? Mostly impressive. The adjustable hood makes it stand out from most of the company here, the sole internal and external pockets are useful, and we like the elasticated cuffs. Windproofing is impressive for such a lightweight number and the two-ply construction creates efficient breathability for a hardshell, even
if the duo of layers regularly got tangled up with each other. A relentless downpour did eventually break the water-repellent finish on the arms, and there are definitely warmer options here. Few can match the versatility, though.
Verdict: Stylish, versatile and great for daily use. Another winning release from Odlo 84%
The Accelerate from über run brand Asics is the brightest here by some margin and, while it won’t win any pub points, the reflective decals and mass of orange polyester provide some winning safety features for night running.
Asics have clearly stirred all their vast knowledge in their mind wok for this one, with the number of run-friendly features almost too exhaustive to list. Thumb loops and knitted cuffs? Check. The plushest collar in town? Affirmative. A smartly-placed phone pocket with media port? Oh yes. There’s also side pockets and a couple of giant, open internal stashes for gloves and a hat. The windproofing is satisfactory and, surprisingly given the softshell nature, the top is water-resistant. Our only, and key, negative is that it isn’t the warmest, and a decent base layer is wise for any sub-10ºC conditions.
Verdict: We applaud the waterproofing and features, but it ain’t the warmest 87%
As the supermarket-esque Essential tag suggests, this jacket exists at the bottom of Gore’s run jacket range. But, at £149, there’s nothing budget about this noir number, with durability, construction and finishing all exemplary. For winter warmth, there are none better here; sub-zero conditions are handled with aplomb and – thanks to Gore’s proven Windstopper material – there’s superior draft-thwarting, water-resistance and decent breathability, too.
The quartet of internal and external pockets, plush collar and fleece-lined inner add to the winning mix. Given the thickness and 454g weight, we wouldn’t use it for anything over 5ºC or fast-paced efforts but the subtle stylishness and functionality thankfully means it doubles as a winter coat. Our medium comes up relatively short, however, so try before buying.
Verdict: The best for deep-winter running, and no slouch for breathability too 90%
As anyone who’s witnessed our T1 sojourns will testify, we’re not the best at getting dressed in a hurry. And the myriad of sleeve lengths and combinations for the Pursuit had us baffled for what felt like an eternity. Faff over and thumb-loops utilised, and the softshell polyester combines with a full-length zip shield to prove efficient enough at wind protection.
Pearl Izumi target this for ‘high aerobic running’ and the rear fleece panels are certainly breathable. But – and it’s a big but – we’re just struggling to see how much use we’d get out of this. A windproofing base layer and tee will suffice for most high-intensity efforts in winter, the key lack of water-resistance means it’s outdone by the Zoot and Asics here, and superior windproofing and warmth can also be found elsewhere. And we would’ve liked more than a single pocket on the chest.
Verdict: Breathable and flexible but the window of opportunity is minimal 61%
Inov-8’s entire range is tested in Cumbria and it shows; their trail shoes have the best traction of any we’ve tested. For preventing the cold and winds, the Thermoshell, made with Polartec Alpha insulation, replicates this fine form, swatting away Storm Angus and keeping us toasty on a 90min trail run. The effectiveness of the double zip became clear on the run for venting purposes and preventing wafts of air from entering down the neck.
Given it’s a harder shell, we’re surprised the Thermoshell wasn’t touted as being water resistant as it handled a severe downpour before minimal ingress on the sleeves. If it looks fairly large, the 223g jacket stashes into the chest pocket so you can slot it into your backpack. We would’ve liked some lower pockets and we’re not sold on the half zip length (for weight-saving and stashability, say Inov-8), but it’s among the best here for daily use.
Verdict: Maintains your warmth on the run and swats away the winds. Stylish if pricey 86%
Haglöfs’ Gram Comp reminds us of The Simpsons’ scene where Bart folds his starchy PE kit into a paper aeroplane. On all our runs, it sounded like Gary Lineker was chasing us with a crisp packet. Noise pollution aside, and the
Gram Comp comes top of the class in swatting away precipitation, with the 100% Polyamide Gore-Tex construction and front zip combing to produce a Fort Knox of the waterproof world.
Breathability is surprisingly adequate for such a hardshell and wind protection is superior, helped by the elasticated cuffs, hem and peak hood. But the giant elephant in the room is that £250 price tag. For that outlay we’d demand more warmth and comfort, and additional pockets to the single chest compartment. The result? One for hardcore mountain runners (with a thermal base layer) only.
Verdict: Stylish and excels in the wet but with niche appeal and a sky-high price 65%
As ever with Proviz, the USP of the PixElite is the brand’s hugely reflective fabric that makes this a potential life-saver for night running. The lean 222g weight makes it just a tad heavier than the Saucony, and the winning features continue with a full-length zip buffer, elasticated hems and a duo of easy-to-access pockets.
Onto the urban run loop and high-intensity efforts were rewarded with impressive ventilation, with the trio of large rear vents keeping air circulating throughout. Windproofing is only satisfactory and, like the Odlo and Asics, a long-sleeve base layer will be needed for single-digit sojourns. The water-resistant fabric also bats away the aqua to complete a recommended package at a wallet-friendly price, even if it’s a jacket unlikely to be worn away from the run routes.
Verdict: Not the warmest but huge reflectively adds to the winning features 86%
The final verdict
The quality of the run jackets tested here is generally high, and we’d have no qualms about recommending half a dozen for running this winter.
The Haglöfs puts the hard into hardshell and for serious trail runs in heavy rain or snow (with a heavy duty base layer below) we can see the appeal. But for the day-to-day runner, that price is prohibitive and there are other hardshells here – the Brooks, Saucony and Inov-8 – that offer water-resistance at half the price. Of that trio, the Saucony and especially the Brooks suffer with breathability, but the Inov-8 is ideal for both warmth and windproofing. We’d pass on both the Pearl and North Face for their lack of versatility.
Although its USP is the reflectivity, the Proviz is a hard-to-fault and well-crafted creation that performs well in a number of conditions. Likewise, the Asics ticks nearly every box apart from superior warmth, and ditto the stylish Odlo, which is the jacket we’ve worn more than any other on test but will require more warmth for low single-digit runs.
The title charge is led by two jackets that can handle the cold, wind and water. The Gore, like most of the brand’s output, is understated, high-performing and well-crafted. If the price seems high, we can vouch for their durability over time and we know this’ll last a number of seasons. At £45 less, the Zoot just edges the Gore to the post. It’s slightly leaner for a wider variety of temperatures and also does everything you want a run jacket to, with the surprising waterproofing the icing on a very fine cake from the tri pioneers.