How To Choose the Right Jacket for Any Running Conditions

Finding the perfect layering system is challenging for runners considering variable weather alone.

Add to that equation the body’s internal temperature, which changes rapidly with aerobic exertion, and the solution becomes trickier. Unless you are strictly a fair-weather runner, you will likely need to do some simple addition by creating a small quiver of running jackets in your closet. 

In this guide, you'll learn about:

  • Running jacket styles
  • How to choose the right jacket for the conditions
  • Materials and ratings
  • Design features 

Running Jacket Styles

Windproof

This type of running jacket is an essential layer for variable weather conditions. Lightweight and breathable, they can be easily worn for a warm-up and taken off mid-run to help regulate body temperature. 

Conditions: Wear a windproof jacket for cold runs when you might need an extra layer.

Water-repellent

A running jacket that is water repellent will be more protective than a lightweight wind layer. It will have a DWR finish to help shed water while running in light rain or short exposure to wet conditions. This jacket will be more breathable than a fully waterproof jacket but will get soaked through from heavy rain or prolonged exposure in wet conditions. 

Conditions: A water-repellent jacket is best for cold, damp runs when the conditions are variable with a chance of rain, or for cold days as an extra insulating layer. 

Waterproof

When the weather is cold, wet, and windy, you'll need a waterproof layer to keep you warm and dry. These jackets are made with high-end waterproof material blends—designed to shed water and protect you from the elements so that you can enjoy otherwise miserable running conditions. 

Conditions: Wear a fully waterproof running jacket for long runs in damp conditions or during heavy rain and colder days.

Materials and Ratings 

Breathability Rating

The MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate) measures breathability. If a jacket is not moisture-wicking or breathable enough, you'll end up wet on the inside from sweat. The higher the MVTR number, the more waterproof and breathable the membrane will be. Look for MVTR ratings starting at 10,000 g/m²/24h for breathability and over 20,000 for the highest performance. 

Waterproof Rating

The water column, or waterproofness of a jacket, is rated by the volume of water it sheds. Lightweight windproof jackets had a rating under 5,000mm. Water-repellent jackets have a rating between 6,000 and 10,000 mm. For a fully waterproof material, look for 11,000 mm and higher. 

DWR Finish

Water-resistant and waterproof jackets often have a durable water-repellent finish outside the technical membrane layer that repels water. 

Nylon

Quick-drying and breathable, nylon is often blended with other fabrics for lightweight running apparel. 

PU Coating

Many waterproof jackets have a PU coating, or polyurethane backing, that reinforces the membrane making fabrics completely waterproof. 

Gore-Tex

Fully waterproof and windproof, Gore-Tex is a proprietary polymer material used for technical jackets and is often the best option for wet conditions. The material is considered highly breathable and the most durable of jacket materials; however, it is stiffer than other materials. Gore-Tex breathability ranges from 17,000 to 25,000 /m²/24h and is coated with a DWR finish.

Pertex

A waterproof and water-repellent blend of nylon and polyurethane, Pertex is one of the most lightweight and flexible materials. Pertex has a DWR finish and a 20,000 /m²/24h breathability rating. 

Design Features 

Seams

Waterproof seams use a strip of glue or taped seams to bind and seal waterproof membrane layers and keep water from seeping at the seams. 

Zippers

Lightweight jackets will also have lightweight zippers. If you want a fully waterproof jacket, look for covered zippers.

Hood

If you buy a jacket for rain or wind, you'll want a hood. Look for an ergonomic design with an adjustable cord. If the jacket is a lightweight layer, a hood may not be necessary. Some even offer zip-on and -off options.

Adjustment Cord

These help with the fit and function of a running jacket. You'll want to cinch the jacket at the waist to keep heat inside, or be able to loosen the bottom for extra breathability. Cords at the neck and hood also help keep them so you can stay warm and dry. 

Pockets

It's nice to have storage for keys, phone, money or a credit card, plus gels or snacks when you are running. While heavy items carry better in shorts and pants pockets, be realistic about what you want in a jacket and look at pocket sizes and placement. 

Reflective Bands

If you ever run at night, you'll want to look for a reflective band on the running jacket, making you more visible to cars.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.