AMR GEARS UP: WINTER RUNNING ESSENTIALS
By Sarah Bowen Shea
Let’s talk winter running: As nearly 200 women attested to on a recent Facebook post when we asked, “How cold is too cold?” there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear choices. To help you make great gear choices, we asked a bunch of our brand ambassadors to test a variety of winter running gear. Gals from Minnesota to Maine put snow-worthy stuff through its paces. Take a look at what they have to say about a range of products so you can vanquish the cold!
Rabbit Cocoon 2.0
This innovative top is so clever: It has a, get this, built-in turtleneck that pulls up into a hood and breathable face mask. (Hard to believe this is designed by a California brand!) Made of non-bulky polyester and spandex with a fleece-y lining, it offers loads of smart details, including a ponytail opening in the hood and watch slits on both wrists. Its semi-relaxed fit allowed our Minnesota tester to layer over or under this top depending on the weather.
Pros: The cocoon has the perfect amount of stretch to get it over your head, and is easily customizable based on the temperature: Our tester wore it “as is” when the temp was close to freezing, easily wore an earband under the hood for colder temps, and wore a beanie over for much colder temps. She appreciated that the face covering has small holes that are barely visible yet great for air flow.
Cons: Like all the Rabbit gear we’ve tested, the sizing ran slightly small.
Take it from a mother runner: “I wore it in temps ranging from -5 to 35. The cocoon part was very useful based on those temps. It would not be a bother to keep down and wear around the neck if it wasn’t needed.”
Smartwool Women’s Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip
Wool really is a wonder fiber: This mid- to heavy-weight top keeps you warm in the cold, yet doesn’t make you overheat once you start sweating. And, no, it’s not itchy at all. It’s made from midweight 100% responsibly sourced Merino wool. Inset sleeves allow for an unencumbered arm swing. Also, this top is available in 10 (!) colors.
Pros: Wool offers superior weight-to-warmth ratio, even when it gets damp. The ¼-zip allows you to unzip for a bit of ventilation. The fit is very true to size and flattering.
Cons: “I have no negatives to say about it!”
Take it from a mother runner: “It worked really well on a cold winter day in Minnesota: I wore it under a jacket on a run with a real-feel of 15 degrees, and I actually got a little bit hot!”
Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer
This wool-blend top (52% wool, 28% nylon, 20% polyester) is a perennial favorite among Team AMR: Podcast host SBS owns it in three colors (and lusts for more!). It’s an ideal, 3-season layering piece–under a fleece and jacket in the winter, pulled over a tank top in the spring. The Merino mesh is engineered to be more open around your core for ventilation, and more closed knit in the sleeves or a bit more warmth in your extremities. (It’s no wonder SBS swears by it under a vest on rainy runs.)
Pros: Yet another reason to love wool: It’s naturally anti-microbial, so it fights stink. This crewneck top is warm without making you too warm. The inclusion of nylon and polyester make this top stretchy but not too stretchy. Also, nice long length.
Cons: Our tester (and SBS) wish it had thumbholes, although the sleeves are long enough to pull down over the hands like mitts. Points taken off for not being available in larger sizes.
Take it from a mother runner: “It is such a great base layer. I wore it with a lightweight vest when it was 35 degrees and with a warmer jacket when it was in the low 20s. It’s warm and cute—two of my favorite things!”
Nathan Women’s Stealth Jacket
This jacket is aptly named: It’s made from a 100% nylon fabric that’s noise-free, meaning no swish-swish sound as you pump your arms. Plus, it’s so lightweight, you honestly might forget you’re wearing it (in the best possible way). It’s loaded with welcome details, including a “ponytail port” in the hood, thumbholes, and a zippered chest pocket.
Pros: The whole “quiet” feature might sound a tad bit gimmicky but it truly made SBS love this jacket. It has all the features she wants in a jacket while remaining super-light. It packs compactly into its own pocket, making it an ideal for stashing in a pack for a trail run or hike.
Cons: It’s not waterproof—yet we can’t fault it as it doesn’t promise to be. (And it kept SBS plenty dry on a walk/run through rain showers.)
Take it from a mother runner: “At last, a water-resistant jacket that doesn’t make me feel like I’m running in a terrarium!”
Price: $72 (on sale!)
Rabbit Defroster Speed Tights
Warm, soft, and flattering: These full-length tights check all the boxes. They are made from a semi-compression fabric (that’s even water resistant!) with a soft fleece lining. An internal drawstring means they stay put no matter how far you run—and five pockets let you stash all your essentials.
Pros: “So many pockets!” raved our tester. These tights have a variety of sizes of pockets: small ones for gels, a zippered one for a key, and large side pockets for a phone. Our tester loved “how easy they were to move in. They didn’t feel constricting like some fleece leggings.”
Cons: Our South Dakota tester felt they weren’t thick enough for a run with a real-feel of 16 degrees.
Take it from a mother runner: “I loved how soft, smooth, and buttery they felt; they were very comfortable to wear.”
No matter how smartly you dress for the weather, you won’t get very far on slick snow or ice without traction devices! Kahtoola is the brand we trust the most—SBS has run in NANOspikes for ages. They feature 10 tungsten carbide spikes protruding from flexible underfoot plates and joined by an ergonomically shaped harness that you pull over the sole of your running shoes. A raised heel tab provides easy on/off, even with mittened hands.
Pros: Don’t be fooled by how small the 10 tungsten carbide spikes. Says our tester: “They gripped the ice and the transition between ice, snow, slush, and pavement was flawless.” Our tester also appreciated the included storage bag: “I don’t have to worry about misplacing one!”
Cons: All good here!
Take it from a mother runner: “I have always used coil-based grips for winter running. I honestly didn’t believe spikes would be able to handle the winter terrain in northern MN. I was so very wrong!”
Buff Reflective DryFlx Beanie
This ultralight, seamless hat looks unassuming in the daylight, but thanks to reflective design, it’s an attention-grabber when headlights shine on it. It’s stretchy and breathable, and it dries in a jiffy. It’s available in eight colors, yet all are “green”—this topper is made from 72% recycled plastic bottles and car airbags!
Pros: This is a versatile hat: Our tester reports she “wore it on both warmer and colder days.” The cut of it allowed her to cover her ponytail and still have enough length in the hat to pull it over her ears. Cons: Until the tester figured out the ideal way to wear it, this hat slipped up on runs.
Take it from a mother runner: “I love how lightweight this hat is—most hats make my head too hot even on the coldest winter days, but I didn’t feel that with this hat.”
Smartwool Women’s Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks
These seamless socks walk the line perfectly between function and fashion: Made of 100% wool with welcome cushioning under the heel and forefoot, they are equally at home on an icy run as a day at the office.
Pros: They provide warmth without making your shoes feel too tight. Seamless construction, including the toes, means no seams to rub and cause blisters. And three cheers for a pair of running socks that can do double-duty as lifestyle socks.
Cons: Runners with larger calves might find them a bit too tight in the lower calf.
Take it from a mother runner: “I liked how I didn’t notice them–usually my cold weather running socks are much more bulky.
Sizing: S-L (women’s shoe size 4-12.5)
Brooks Draft Hybrid Glove
These versatile hand-coverings convert from gloves to mittens, with a secure pouch on the back for tucking in the mitten flap when not in use. The pullover mitt is windproof and water-resistant, while the gloves’ palms have mesh inserts to allow air flow.
Pros: They have phone-compatible pointer fingers and thumbs, which our tester found “worked reasonably well.” She loved the magnets in the cuffs, which hold the gloves together when not in use.
Cons: “Since these hybrid hand-coverings have no insulation, they aren’t warm enough for many folks on really frigid runs.”
Take it from a mother runner: “I appreciated these gloves’ very breathable material, which is also wind- and waterproof.”
Sizing: Unisex S-XL
Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Flask
Given that most water fountains are turned off for the season, carry 18 ounces of your own liquid in this double-wall insulated flask. (Which in the summer keeps fluids cooler 20% longer.) Like all Nathan handhelds, this is a grip-free design so you don’t actually have to hold the bottle. (Truly!) The fully-adjustable hand strap, with a chafe-free thumbhole, is 70% nylon, 30% polyester.
Pros: Our tester loved the 18-ounce bottle, saying it’s “enough water for a midlength run or refillable for a longer run without carrying too much to tire you out.” She also liked the mouthpiece, which let her easily squeeze the bottle at the corner of her mouth with no drips. The large front pocket held the tester’s iPhone, ID, and key fob.
Cons: No complaints!
Take it from a mother runner: “I’d totally recommend this to a friend—and my hubby has his eyes on it!”
Did we miss your winter running item?
Let us know in the comments below!