Photo: Stephen Matera/Tandemstock

How to Choose the Best Running Gloves

Beat the cold with the right gloves or mittens.

Gloves may seem like a minor accessory, but there’s a reason you see marathoners wearing shorts, a tiny singlet, and gloves. Extremities, like hands and feet, get cold before other parts of our bodies because they’re farthest away from your blood-pumping, heat-generating heart. In all but the gnarliest winter temperatures, feet stay warm because they’re hitting the ground and flexing over and over while you run...and, they’re insulated by socks and shoes.

But, hands. Cold hands can lead to a cold body. Comfortable hands lead to a comfortable body. For running in cool to cold temps—spring, fall, winter, summer mountain runs where the temperature can turn quickly, or running at night, gloves can help you up your running game.

Here’s a guide to finding the right gloves for you.

What are Your Needs?

First, ask yourself a few questions, like what scenario you might need to wear running gloves.  

Training for a fall or spring marathon, with raceday potentially being chilly?

Shop for thin, lightweight gloves, or knit gloves.

Running outdoors through winter in cold, dry climates?

Shop for fleece-lined, brushed polyester, or wool/wool-blend gloves.

Running in really cold climates through winter?

Shop for insulated gloves or mittens, or inner gloves with outer mittens, or lobster claws with weatherproof exteriors. And consider longer cuffs to provide extra warmth between long sleeves and hands.

Run trails where temperatures and conditions vary, especially when running at altitude?

Shop for thin, lightweight gloves or thin gloves with windblock over-mittens.  

Run roads in low light?

Shop for gloves or mitts with reflective details. Moving body parts (your hands) with reflectivity increase your visibility, and therefore, your safety.

Want to be able to operate your smartphone mid-run?

Shop for gloves that have touch screen-friendly fingertips and or thumb tips.

Is versatility key for you, due to varying temps and conditions encountered on a single run?

Shop for convertible gloves/mitts, also known as “2-in-1” gloves.

Types

From least to most warm, here’s what to choose from.

Thin, Lightweight Gloves

The gloves you’ll likely wear most often will be thin, lightweight, and very breathable. These types of gloves are made of either synthetic materials, like nylon/polyester blends or merino wool. Lightweight gloves can be easily shoved in a shorts waistband or a pocket, if you warm up enough to not need them mid-run.

Some thin, lightweight gloves are made of windblocking material—a good option for cool-weather running or running on high mountain passes. Note that these won’t breathe as well as non-windblocking material.

Knit Gloves 

Simple knit gloves made out of either polyester or wool serve as a great companion on fall and spring runs, and can handle winter in gentle climates. They’re breathable—knit construction leaves air channels open—yet provide cozy warmth. The downsides of knit gloves are that they’re on the bulky side, and they’re not water-resistant.

Windblock Mitts over Thin Gloves (2-N-1)

Thin liner gloves with a wind- and weather-blocking mitten that pulls over the gloves when needed are often referred to as “Convertible” gloves or “2-in-1” gloves. The mitten portion stashes away into a pocket on the glove when it’s not in use, making this combo great for versatility.

Windblock Mitts and Gloves

Thin mittens and gloves made out of windblocking material are what you need in windy conditions that are merely cold (not frigid). Generally, mittens provide more warmth than gloves because the body heat of each individual finger helps to warm the others.

Fleece-lined Gloves

Synthetic, fleece-lined gloves provide warmth and coziness, but they don’t block a bone-chilling wind. These types of gloves are great for runs in cold, dry conditions.

Fleece-lined Gloves or Mittens with Windblock

The thicker the glove or mitten, the warmer it will keep your hands. Fleece-lined gloves or mittens (as opposed to thin ones) armored with a windblocking fabric or windblocking panel just on the backside of your hand will provide warmth in a cutting wind. The downside to windblocking material, especially combined with thick gloves or mittens, is that it doesn’t breathe very well.

Fleece-lined Weatherproof Gloves or Mitts

For frigid climates, you’ll want thick, fleece-lined gloves or mittens that are weatherproof. These are often constructed with a waterproof/breathable panel. Mittens are the warmest design.

Lobster Claws

Lobster claws do exactly what the name implies: separate your fingers into two claw-like sections. They pair two groups of fingers together, taking advantage of body heat while providing more dexterity than full mittens. Lobster claws are generally fairly thick, and are often waterproof, as they’re intended for very cold climates.

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.