The Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Running Jacket

February 01, 2022
Two runners wearing running jackets from Nathan Sports.

By: Nathan Staff
Published: 2/1/2022

Weather can be a runner's number one enemy. In fact, there is key science that says running in the cold is actually more difficult. But with the right gear, you can run in the hot or cold, rain or shine.

There are many factors that go into picking just the right gear. Constantly changing weather patterns can make it difficult to find the perfect layering system to keep you comfortable on your run. Plus, with body variations, run times, and personal preferences affecting your needs, you may not know where to start.

This guide will help you explore the many different types of running jackets. When armed with this knowledge, you'll know just how to choose the right running jacket.


Water-Resistant vs. Waterproof

While they may sound similar, there's actually a pretty big difference between a water-resistant and a waterproof running jacket. Depending on your climate or running needs, you may find you prefer one of these running jacket features over another.

Water-Resistant Running Jackets

Water-resistant running jackets are also sometimes referred to as water-repellent jackets. This is because, while they can deflect water, they are not 100% impervious to moisture. However, water-resistant training jackets do offer more protection than a simple windbreaker. With a moisture repellent layer, they are ideal for short jogs in wet weather. Generally, they will be able to keep moisture out for 30-45 minutes.

Water-resistant jackets are not recommended for heavy rain. The ideal conditions to use this type of jacket is in cold, damp weather or on days where there is a potential for light rain or drizzle.

Even on cold days without rain, water-resistant jackets may still offer an extra layer of temperature protection.


Waterproof Running Jackets

When weather conditions get a little more extreme, you'll need some running jacket options with a bit more heft. Enter the waterproof running jacket. Waterproof running jackets are designed to do exactly what it sounds like: keep water out. Usually made with high-end material blends, waterproof jackets are designed to completely shed water. 

 It is particularly useful to have a waterproof running jacket when you need to keep your body protected from the elements. Oftentimes, they can also help wick sweat away from your body. 

 It is ideal to use waterproof running jackets on very wet and cold days. They are also useful for longer runs in lighter rain.

Breathability and Moisture Wicking

You'll want to be protected from the elements on your runs. But, you also need to be able to breathe. Too much protection can act as an oven around you, which is obviously no good on a run. The perfect running jacket will protect you from the weather without the potential to cause overheating. That's why you'll want to be sure your running jacket was made with breathable materials.

An MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate) is a measurement used to test jacket breathability. The higher the MVTR, the more breathable and moisture-wicking the fabric membrane will be. Ideally, you'll want to look for running jackets with MVTRs starting around 10,000 g/m^2/24h. Those with MVTRs around 20,000 will offer the most efficient protection and breathability.

Lightweight Materials

Just like you need breathability to avoid overheating, you'll also need a lightweight running jacket to avoid hefty bulk. Too much fabric, and you could find your running performance negatively affected.

The ideal running jacket has a slim, ergonomic cut. This cut will provide the most freedom of movement, helping you achieve optimal performance even in sub-optimal conditions.

Lightweight jackets are also good for storage and travel, as they can be easily packed away in a gym bag or suitcase. That way, you'll be ready for any quick weather changes.

Visibility and Reflective Fabrics

Winter is a notoriously dark time of year. And running in the dark can present a significant danger, especially in areas where bicycles or vehicles frequently travel.

That's why you'll want to look for a running jacket with high visibility. Reflective fabrics can help you remain visible when running in the early morning or evening, or on those dark winter days.

High visibility jackets usually feature reflective materials around the most mobile areas of the body. Elbows and shoulders are popular spots, helping the light to reflect off of your body at every angle.

The Perfect Fit

Like any other clothes, you obviously want your running jacket to have just the right fit. In fact, without the proper fit, your running jacket may lose some functionality.

For example, you'll never want to go for a run in a tight running jacket, as it is unlikely to be able to fit over other layers and can seriously restrict your movement.

A good way to know you have the perfect fit is to check your range of motion. The right jacket will allow free movement of the arms and should respond to your movements without restriction. Swing your arms and take some deep breaths to make sure you can move freely.

Running Jacket Budget

Lastly, you'll need a running jacket that fits your budget. Training jackets can run anywhere from $60-$300. Mid-range jackets will offer the highest quality at the most decent prices. Waterproof jackets will often be more expensive than their water-resistant counterparts.

A running jacket is an investment in your health and your exercise practice, so keep in mind that a quality jacket is worth the cost.

Imperfect Conditions Need Perfect Running Jackets

Now that you know what to look for, you can find the perfect running jacket for your needs and personal preferences. And with a running jacket provider, you can trust, you know you'll be getting quality materials and a perfect fit.

Head on over to our Hoodie & Jacket collections to find the perfect running jacket for you.

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  • Robert Kaschak

    July 29, 2022 at 09:22 AM

    Great Info. Fit ,Function ,and Fabrics

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