best winter running jackets

It may not feel like it yet, winter is on its way. Soon, sinking temperatures, whipping winds and constant condensation will turn usual park goers into gym regulars, but not you. You tough it out and stick with the same running route all winter long.

That's dedication, and we here at Sneaker Report appreciate it. Needless to say, we've got your back. To prove it, we've put together a comprehensive guide to helping you picking out the perfect winter running--one that will keep you protected against the elements, keep you warm, and enable you to go the extra distance, no matter what mother nature throws your way. Enjoy.

Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him on Twitter @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.

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Image via Nike.com
Image via Nike.com

Is it warm and comfortable?

A perfect running jacket is like a perfect running shoe—you're not going to wear it if it's not comfortable. The perfect running jacket has to fit well, needs to have a streamlined fit so it doesn't slow you down, and you have to be able to move your arms and shoulders without any restriction.

When it comes to warmth, there are different levels of insulation to choose from. While most running brands tend to go with a layered thermal construction, Nike has recently introduced a goose down insulated jacket that could revolutionize how winter running apparel is designed.

At the end of the day, warmth and comfort are fairly subjective. Some runners may be comfortable in a jacket that may not work for others. It all boils down to personal preference. Throw it on, jump around, see how it feels. You'll know if it's the one (just make sure to follow the rest of the guide).

Try out: Nike Aeroloft 800
Try out: Saucony Insulated Jacket

Image via Nike.com
Image via Nike.com

Is it weatherproof?

The running doesn't stop just because the weather takes a turn for the worse. In recent years, sportswear brands have pulled out all the cards to help ensure runners are completely protected against the elements—that includes wind and moisture protection. Nike has its Shield technology, brands like Asics and Saucony use a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish, and then of course there's Gore-Tex, the mac daddy of weatherproofing.

A perfect running jacket should have a special membrane designed to keep rain out, preferably waterproof rather than water resistant (yes, there's a difference). A top-tier running jacket will usually feature flat, taped seams as well as a hood construction for an extra touch of moisture protection.

Wind is also a key issue for winter running. To tackle this issue, some of the better running jackets on the market generally feature a drop tail hem construction to block any potential wind draft from the backside.

Try out: adidas Terrex Jacket
Try out: Nike Element Shield Max

Image via Asics.com
Image via Asics.com

Is it versatile?

Even in the dead of winter, sometimes you just feel the need to run with less. Well forget about trying to roll up those sleeves--that's old school. Today, there are all sorts of jackets that feature a 2-in-1 construction, allowing runners to go with the standard jacket when they need the extra protection, or rip off the sleeves and rock the vest when they want to dial down the coverage.

Try out: Asics 2-in-1 Jacket
Try out: Saucony 3-in-1 Sonic 

Image via Nike.com
Image via Nike.com

Is it lightweight?

The lighter you weigh, the faster you'll run—that's the theory anyway. As it goes with running shoes, running jackets are also most effective when they can provide the maximum amount of protection with the lightest possible construction. There's no "ideal" weight, but a perfect running jacket should tip the scale under 5 ounces. Lightweight is useless if it can't keep you warm and dry, so it has to offer all-over coverage without any added bulk. Some running jackets even come with pack-in-pocket capability, showing you just how lightweight and versatile they can be.

Try out: Brooks Running LSD Lite Jacket III
Try out: Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket

Image via Gore-tex.com
Image via Gore-tex.com

Is it ventilated?

Warmth and weather protection are great and all, but does that mean you have to sacrifice in the ventilation department? With a perfect running jacket, you don't have to.

Just like cars need air filters and exhaust systems to prevent the engine from overheating, jackets need to be properly ventilated to allow air to flow through for optimal temperature regulation. After all, If you're doing it right, there's a pretty good chance you're going to sweat up a storm on your next run (yes, even in the winter). When you do, your jacket has to be able to wick the moisture away from your body, and allow air to penetrate in order to prevent your body from overheating.

Seems simple enough, but the real trick is to find a way of adding ventilation to a jacket without sacrificing weather protection. Fortunately, most of the notable running brands have it figured out.

Try out: Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket
Try out: Zoot Ultra WRKSnano Thermocell Jacket

Image via Nike.com
Image via Nike.com

Is it safe?

Warmth, check. Comfort, check. Weatherproofing, versatility, lightweight, and ventilation, check. So what remaining factor separates a perfect running jacket from the rest of the pack? We've got one word for you: reflectivity.

With less sunshine and more precipitation, things can get ugly quick out there on the road in the winter time. Needless to say, safety is a major concern. To ensure runners can do their thing without having to keep looking over the shoulder ever 20 meters, the perfect running jacket will be thoroughly covered with reflective material designed for high visibility during low-light conditions.

Brands like Brooks Running and Nike have really stepped up the reflectivity in recent seasons—Brooks with its 3M Scotchlite retroreflectivity technology, and Nike with a running jacket on the way that will feature a glass-beaded exterior that produces 360 degrees of 400-candlepower reflectivity for enhanced visibility.

LED lights are also a common visibility feature in running jackets, for example the Asics Electro, which features LED lighting along the shoulder, as well as on the zipper. Brands have even mastered the art of using bright neon colors to enhance overall runner visibility (we see you Saucony ViziPro).

Try out: Nike Allover Flash 
Try out: Saucony Sonic ViZi Jacket

Gurvinder Singh Gandu is a New York City-based writer and wear-tester for Sneaker Report, and contributor to Complex Media. Follow him on Twitter @GurvinderSG for the latest in performance footwear and gear.

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