Guest Post: The Pretty Warm Runner
Today’s guest post is by Dr. Rachel Tambling (www.DrRachelRuns.com and www.twitter.com/DrRachelRuns.). Rachel is a college professor, runner, and yogi living in rural Connecticut. You can find her blog (and more gear reviews) at www.DrRachelRuns.com.
It’s winter in New England, and that means snowy weather, blustery wind, and cold temperatures. In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite, wear-tested winter running gear for women. I will highlight clothing that is both functional and cute. Ladies, there’s no need to look like a black marshmallow all winter long. Most of the gear I will feature in this post comes in a rainbow of colors, so you can show your personality, and your feminine side, on the run. If you’re a running gentleman looking for gift ideas for the running lady in your life, this is your post. I will offer sizing and purchase suggestions for easy gift-giving.
Here are some winter gear basics: Layering is key to keeping warm when running in winter. I keep myself toasty with a thermal base layer + warm top layer + jacket outfitting strategy. For tops, consider wearing a thermal base layer that wicks the moisture away from the skin and a top layer that blocks the wind. Invest in thermal pants, tights, if you like tights, and consider two bottom layers if it’s really cold. Finally, winter accessories are a must for keeping warm in cold conditions. You can check out my blog at www.DrRachelRuns.com for more gear reviews.
The best running pants for winter should be both warm and offer sufficient breathability and wicking to avoid overheating.
Favorite: Lululemon Run tights
Among my favorites are the Lululemon Run series tights. Every pair of tights from Lululemon has cute, feminine details that aren’t overly girly. For example, the Run: Back on Track Tight and Crop features a reflective, gathered calf detailing. Not only does Lululemon make cute tights, they make warm tights. My Lululemon tights keep me comfortable and dry during runs. The tights also have great, runner-friendly features such as waistband pockets (perfect for Gu or sport beans) and a zippered back pocket for secure storage. Lululemon gear is sold in normal sizes (i.e. numbered sizes, gentlemen) and free hemming is offered in store.
Honorable mentions: Moving Comfort No Chill Pants, Road Runner Sports Hot Pants Tights
Consider the Moving Comfort No Chill Pants for the lady who prefers a pant style running bottom. The fleece-y inside is soft and they’re great for layering. The Road Runner Sports tights are all comfy and functional. The Road Runner Sports Hot Pants Tight are lined for extra warmth.
In a running top, be sure to look for wicking material and items that you can layer comfortably. Some people, myself included, like a thermal bottom layer.
Favorite thermal layer: Nike Pro Hyper Warm Crew (note: this top also comes in a mock turtleneck version)
I love my Nike Pro Hyper Warm Crews. In fact, I have several. The crews are thermal, with a smooth outer face and fleece-y inside. They are wicking and tight fitting, making them perfect for layering. The crews come in a variety of colors in both the Pro and the regular lines, including patterns and prints, so the fashion possibilities are endless. For runners who prefer a mock or full turtleneck, the Nike Thermal line includes both high-necked options. Nike tops are available at most sporting goods stores in a variety of colors and patterns. They are sold in small/medium/large sizes.
Favorite top layer: Nike Element Half Zip
I, and several running friends, swear by the Nike Element Half Zip. The Element Half Zip is a great top for a few reasons. First, it’s buttery soft and made of Dri-Fit material. This makes it wicking, warm, and cozy. It runs a little long, which keeps the top in place when running and the extra length looks great over tights. The Element Half Zip has one odd feature that I particularly like – the top of the sleeve is longer than the bottom of the sleeve. This keeps the tops of my hands warm, without a bunch of excess sleeve in my hand. It’s also great for Garmin-wearing runners who might experience shifting with shorter sleeves. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns. This half zip is sold in small/medium/large sizing. One sizing tip, if you can, try it on with what you intend to wear under it. I usually wear a shirt under it, but got my normal size. The fabric is pretty stretchy, so you may not need a larger size for layering.
Favorite light jacket: Brooks LSD Jacket or Lululemon
In rain, sleet, and snow, it’s nice to have a water-repelling top layer. I like top layers that can be worn year round, so I favor lighter, rain shell type jackets. They are just as useful as a top winter layer as they are as a light jacket for early morning runs in the summer. I love my Brooks LSD jacket, a water repellant, extremely lightweight, wicking shell. It packs up into its own pocket, making it easy to stash in a running bag. It also comes in a variety of pretty colors. If you prefer more variety, consider one of the Lululemon line of running jackets. I love my Run: Essential Jacket. Look for a jacket that is water repellant (or has DWR coating, a water resistant covering) and useful details like pockets, elastic sleeves, or a hood.
Accessories are not only necessary, but a fun way to perk up any running outfit. At a minimum, a good hat and gloves are necessary for winter running.
Favorite accessory (gloves): Saucony Ulti Mitts
For keeping my hands warm on cold days, nothing beats my Saucony Ulti Mitts. The Saucony Ulti Mitt is a combination Drylete glove (similar to the Ultimate Run Glove, just a bit thinner) with an attached shell mitten-like cover for the fingers. This combination keeps my fingers warm and dry. The mitten shell keeps the wind out, without being too hot. The mitten part also flips back, so runners can cool their fingers, use their smart phone, or dig around in pockets. The Ulti Mitt has reflective details and includes a tiny flashing (removable) LED light for visibility. The Ulti Mitt is sold in sizes small, medium, and large.
Honorable mentions: Athleta Hat, Sock Guy socks, Saucony Loose Fit Beanie
Sometimes it’s the details that matter most. I love cute, feminine details on my running gear. Athleta makes a Visor Beanie that’s cute for women, with a small visor to keep the sun out of the runner’s eyes. It’s great. Sock Guy socks come in a variety of fun patterns and in multiple lengths (most women wear a S/M size sock). Finally, I wanted to mention my all time favorite running hat, the Saucony Loose Fit Beanie. It’s a nice little wicking hat that keeps me warm and dry.
As a public service, I offer the following tips for running gentlemen who might consider buying one of these items for the running lady in his life:
- Know ahead of time what size you’re looking for. Some running gear is sold in small, medium, large, and some is sold in numbered sizes. You’ll need to know what size to get. Your best bet is to do some research. Check out your lady’s jeans. What size are they? Look at a few pairs to get a sense of the range and then pick the most commonly occurring size. Brands like Lululemon tend to fit true to jeans sizing. If you’re looking for small/medium/large sizing, scope out your lady’s t-shirts. Look at the fancy girly shirts, not the one from the last race she ran. What size are they? That will give you a starting point for sizing.
- It’s ok to ask your running lady what size she would like. Here’s how the conversation might go: “Running Lady, I know you’ve been running a lot lately/training for a race. I think that’s great and I think you deserve something pretty/special/nice. I really want to get you something special. I saw [insert item here] on The Running Mike’s blog and I thought you might like it. I was thinking I should get it in a size 2 (or some other really small size – always guess smaller!), but I wanted to ask you first. What size do you wear?” You can also ask about a favorite color this way. J
- Learn about the return policy before you buy. If you guess wrong about the color or size, know how to return the item. It will save your running lady some hassle if you know in advance how to make returns and exchanges.
There you have it, a round up of my favorite winter running gear. I hope you’ll consider one of these great products, and share your favorites in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for running gear that keeps me comfortable and looking like a lady, not a puffy black marshmallow.
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