Running Fashion Police: Winter Jackets

2012 Hypothermic Half Marathon Edmonton #2
The right jacket will get you through even the grossest winter runs. (Photo credit: Sangudo)

As if the Polar Vortex wasn’t enough of an omen for us, Punxsutawney Phil chimed in last week with a shadow-sighting, predicting six more weeks of winter. But there’s no need to trudge back to the treadmill in despair! Never fear, the Salty Winter Fashion Guide is here!

A few weeks and a half dozen blizzards ago, we had you (and your heads) covered with our first winter wear post, in which we agreed that we weren’t going to let Old Man Winter be the boss of us–or of our winter training. We learned that you don’t have to spend much to keep your noggin warm, and that the word “beanie” makes Salty giggle.

This week, we’re tackling the outermost and perhaps most essential layer to surviving the elements–the winter jacket, or as the chichi running gear stores like to call it–“the shell.”


I confess that I didn’t even own a proper running shell until a few months ago. I had a couple of LL Bean’s Fitness Fleece pull-overs that I’d picked up at the outlet when we lived in Maine. Whenever it snowed, I’d just layer up five ways to Sunday and hope the wind and snow didn’t make it beyond the first few layers. I do still love my trusty fleeces and turn to them occasionally on a clear winter day. But after enduring a few months of a rainy, blustery fall and a windy, snowy winter, I’ve become an evangelist for investing in a breathable, wind-resistant and water-repellant shell.

Last September, I broke down and bought the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket, a water-proof hard shell designed for trail running. I deliberated about buying the darned thing for a solid week. It was half price, but still way more than I wanted to spend on a single item. Finally, after an unexpectedly snowy 10 miler, I broke down and hit “buy”. (My pathetic Beans’ fitness fleece was no match for 90 minutes of fluffy wet September snow). As it turns out, I’ve probably gotten more mileage out of this one piece of gear than all my other favorites combined, as I’ve worn it for nearly every winter run since November!

My Light Flyer jacket is incredibly light (hence the name), wind resistant and completely water proof. Usually with a water proof shell, the fabric isn’t breathable, making ventilation almost impossible and overheating a guarantee–especially in the rain. I don’t how Patagonia cooked up the magic they put into this shell, but it’s completely water proof AND breathable. The zipper vents on the arms also work perfectly for allowing cool air in while keeping the snow or rain out. And the articulated sleeves and extra coverage cuffs come in quite handy (pun intended) by putting an extra layer between your hands and the elements. Did I mention already that I LOVE this jacket? (So much so that when summer comes and it’s time for tank tops, I might have a touch of separation anxiety….)

Now that I’ve outed myself for my borderline unhealthy attachment to an article of outerwear, let’s hear what some other Salties have to say about jackets. And see if you can spot the pattern. Hint: it starts with “Brrr” and rhymes with “looks”.

After Exercise In Shiny Nylon Jacket
Not sure we’d recommend matching your outerwear to your water bottle. (Photo credit: typexnick)

Mint: In the winter I live in my Brooks Night Life Jacket.ย  It is a thin, but highly visible and wind resistant outer layer.ย  Iโ€™ve had mine for years and it is still one of my favorite go-to items.

Salty: I wear a Brooks jacket as well. Mine’s bright pink (not nightlife, but does the job very well). I love it too. It’s thin, but very protective from wet stuff and the wind.

Coriander: The Akron Marathon gives full marathoners a Brooks jacket and I love that not just for rain, but I’ll wear an Under Armour shirt under it and be nice and warm in the snow.

Sassafras: I have a Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Hoody. This standby has wicking qualities but a fleecy feel on the inside. I love the crew neck inside the hood to provide extra coverage from the elements!

If you have a winter running jacket you love, tell us about it in the comments! And if you’re still on the hunt for a jacket that keeps you the perfect degree of warm and dry, don’t give up. You might have to invest a bit upfront, but a good winter shell will outlast at least a dozen pairs of your favorite shoes and countless snowstorms!

Recovering corporate hamster-wheeler turned Alaskan hausfrau, mother of two and running enthusiast. Kind of a June Cleaver in tempo shorts...minus the makeup and vacuum. Will run to great lengths to get a moment of peace.

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  1. I make it through Ottawa, Canada winters with a Running Room shell and a Running Room warm jacket that was part of registration for a New Year’s Resolution Run a couple of years ago. Total cost: coat around $80, registration fee for the race $45. I only use both together on the really cold days, otherwise I choose based on whether or not I am looking for protection from the wind or trying to stay a little cozy. Ultimately I don’t think you have to spend too much money to stay warm – just be sure to layer up. Even my base layers are just from Wal Mart and Costco and I have managed runs that with the windchill have dropped into the -30’s in Celsius ( -22F) and almost all of my runs this winter have been in the -15 to -24C range (5 to -11F). When you don’t have a treadmill it is amazing what you get used too ๐Ÿ™‚ The one run I had where it reached 0C (32) I felt like I was in the tropics!
    One of my favourite winter running memories was being with a group of runners and seeing all the smokers freezing outside a restaurant ( yeah for the no smoking law!!!) We all looked at them and thought how crazy they were standing out in sub zero temperatures because of an addiction. Then of course, I realized what they must have been thinking about us…