Best Winter Running Jackets of 2024

When temperature drop, these winter jackets will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, regardless of the type of weather you’re facing.

By on November 18, 2023 | Comments
Best Winter Running Jackets - testing the Dahlie Jacket Run in the desert- feature photo

Having the right jacket for the conditions will keep you warm, dry, and running outside all winter. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Just because winter arrives, bringing with it cold temperatures, precipitation, and shorter days, it doesn’t mean that we runners stop doing our thing, and choosing the best winter running jacket to have on hand can make everything much safer and more comfortable. While sometimes we may retreat to the comfort of a treadmill or other indoor cross-training options during the coldest and nastiest days, the proper clothing can keep us outside and running in the fresh air.

To help you navigate the often complex and confusing world of winter running jackets, we searched the running and Nordic skiing worlds for the best options available. Our testing of nearly two dozen jackets can help you take the guesswork out of choosing the right jacket for you. Some of the jackets in this guide have been favorites of iRunFar team members for years, and others are relatively new to our closets. Whether you’re looking for extra insulation for those chillier-than-usual runs, a jacket that you can stuff into a pack on cold mountain runs for extra safety, or one that will keep you running in the coldest conditions, our guide has you covered.

For more background information about how we put together this guide, see our buying advice, testing methodology, and frequently asked questions below the picks.

Best Winter Running Jackets

Best Winter Running Jackets - testing the La Sportiva Koro Jacket

Hybrid jackets, including the La Sportiva Koro Jacket, combine breathability and warmth for cold, but not frigid, runs. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Overall Running Jacket: Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody ($299)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody - product photo


  • Breathable
  • Lightweight


  • High price point

The arrival of winter and cold temperatures doesn’t mean that runners have to slow down, and the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody is an outstanding jacket option for staying warm and outside when the mercury dips. This jacket is strategically insulated in specific areas to provide protection where needed and allow venting in areas of the body that run hot. The synthetic insulation won’t lose its insulating properties when wet, whether from sweat or a drizzle, so the jacket is perfect for faster runs where you might build up some perspiration. The polyester shell over the insulation is breathable to allow water vapor to escape, and the R1 knit paneling on the rest of the jacket is also highly breathable. A spacious hood is easy to get on and off, and two zip pockets provide storage and a warm place to put chilly hands.

We started testing this jacket in the fall of 2022 and it quickly became our go-to jacket for winter runs. As outlined above, the jacket truly hits a perfect balance of insulation and breathability in the correct spots. It came in handy, particularly when facing a headwind, as the boosted insulation on the chest helped keep the core cozy. Meanwhile, the R1 back panel does an excellent job of wicking moisture and allowing it to breathe out.

Patagonia has always been a leader in the outdoor industry when it comes to environmental considerations and practices. This jacket is made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, and the company is part of the 1% for the Planet program, donating a percentage of its profits to environmental organizations. To make the jacket more environmentally friendly, Patagonia has used a perfluoride compound (PFC)-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the 100%-recycled polyester shell to make the jacket water resistant. The insulation is also made up of 93%-recycled polyester.

Weight: 11.8 ounces (335 grams) | Shell material: 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish | Insulation material: 93% recycled 40-gram FullRange polyester

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Best Overall Running Jacket – Runner-Up: La Sportiva Koro Jkt ($139)

Best Winter Running Jacket - La Sportiva Koro Jkt - product photo


  • Reasonably priced
  • Excellent insulation on the chest and good stretch
  • It could be worn as your outer layer or underneath a shell


  • Could have a slimmer fit

Can you tell we’re suckers for the hybrid jackets? There’s definitely a reason why. Staying dry during a cold-weather run while wearing a jacket is important, and the breathability of the La Sportiva Koro Jkt makes it stand out from the rest. This hybrid insulated jacket is designed to excel when working hard on your cold winter runs. It’s made of entirely recycled materials, and the insulation on the front of the jacket is a blend of Primaloft Thermoplume insulation and 100% recycled polyester. The insulation retains its warming properties even when damp. The rest of the jacket, including the hood, is a stretchy and breathable fabric. The PFC-free DWR coating provides water resistance for light precipitation. The jacket has two outer pockets to protect cold hands, and two internal pockets for storing smaller items securely.

Like the Patagonia Hybrid Hoodie above, the Koro hits the sweet spot of insulation and breathability in the correct places. It also has become a jacket we continually find ourselves reaching for. The main difference between the Koro and Patagonia Hybrid is the Patagonia employs a tech fleece alongside the insulation while the Koro features a softshell material. It was our experience that the Koro did a bit better when wintry precipitation was falling. So, if you contend with a bit of a wetter winter, the Koro is probably the better choice.

Weight: 12.6 ounces (358 grams) | Shell material: Polyamide and elastane | Insulation material: Primaloft ThermoPlume; 100% recycled polyester

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Best Insulated Winter Running Jacket: Dahlie Jacket Run ($100)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Dahlie Jacket Run - product photo


  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • The small visor on the hood


  • Shoulders are cut in Nordic skiing style

Primarily a Nordic skiing brand based out of Norway, Dahlie has used its knowledge of creating clothing for high-intensity winter sports to make jackets specifically designed for running as well. The Dahlie Jacket Run is a lightweight insulated jacket perfect for chilly runs during the winter months. The microfiber material is highly breathable, and there is additional ventilation via a mesh panel on the back to dump excess heat and prevent sweat build-up.

The insulated hood provides extra warmth during the coldest runs and has a visor on the front to shield the face from light precipitation, a nice touch not seen on many insulated winter jackets. A small chest pocket provides the only storage but can carry a variety of small items.

This jacket is a favorite of an iRunFar tester based in the high deserts of the Colorado Plateau where temperatures get cold, but not outrageously so. Her only gripe with the jacket is the cut of the shoulders, which errs more towards a wider classic Nordic skiing style rather than a form-fitting running one.

Weight: Not listed | Shell material: 100% polyester | Insulation Material: 93% polyester, 7% elastane

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Best Trailhead Winter Running Jacket: Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody ($370)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody - product photo


  • Warm for the weight
  • Adjustable hood
  • Light enough to carry on winter adventures


  • Expensive

Nearly everyone who lives in cold climates has their favorite down jacket, and the Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody is a great multi-use option. Made with 100%-RDS-certified down, it’s not a pure running jacket, as it will lose its insulating properties if damp with sweat, but it’s a great option to have around if you partake in other wintertime activities like skiing or mountaineering. At 300 grams, it’s not heavy by any stretch and can also be used as a camp layer for fastpacking. The shell is made of windproof Texashield Pro fabric and water repellent. It’s also partially translucent so you can see the down underneath, something you may or may not like.

The hood has a bungee adjustment strap in the back, making it easy to tighten down in windy or cold conditions, something our testers really appreciated. The hood is big enough to fit over a winter hat. The German company offers jackets in European sizing, so it’s worth checking the sizing chart before purchasing.

While you could run in this jacket on extra cold and dry days, we see it more as your pre- and post-run layer. We’ve used this jacket many times as an outer layer driving to and from the trailhead and it’s excellent at trapping heat near your body, as down jackets are designed to do.

Weight: 10.6 ounces (300 grams) | Shell material: 100% polyamide | Insulation Material: 90% white goose down, 10% feather

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Best Hybrid Insulated Running Jacket: Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket ($170)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket - product photo


  • Great shoulder-season
  • Good balance of warmth and breathability
  • An excellent crossover piece for running, mountain biking, and other activities
  • Packs down small for a hybrid jacket


  • More warmth than you need if you’re in a mild winter environment
  • Not much reflectivity if you’re running on dark roads

Hybrid insulated jackets are an excellent option for runners who are more sensitive to cold weather or run in frigid temperatures and don’t want to overheat during intense efforts in cooler weather, and the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket provides excellent protection during those particularly cold dayschilly-but-not-truly-cold runs. The insulating front panel, which is covered with a polyester shell, keeps the wind off and the warmth in around the front of your core. The rest of the jacket is a stretchy and breathable fabric, and the DWR coating makes it water-resistant. As a bonus, this hybrid jacket is even more versatile if you’re a multi-sport athlete — it’s great for activities like shoulder-season mountain biking and cross-country skiing, both of which can involve high-intensity efforts and exposure to wind chill.

Nathan added a drawcord around the hem for adjustability, and cinching it down keeps the jacket in place and traps even more heat. The cuffs also have elastic and keep the sleeves in place from riding up while running. We found this jacket to excel during chilly runs in the shoulder seasons, where a fully insulated warm jacket would have been overkill, but it was still cold enough to need an extra bit of warmth. And if the day warms up, this jacket can be packed down small enough to fit in a hydration vest.

Finally, two hand pockets and a zip internal pocket allow for storing small items like keys, a credit card for a post-run coffee, or chapstick.

Weight: 9.2 ounces (261 grams) | Shell material: 100% polyester ripstop with a DWR coating, Spandex | Insulation material: 100% polyester

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Best Winter Windbreaker: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell ($140)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell - product photo


  • It fits over a pack or waistbelt
  • Quiet fabric
  • More water resistant than other windbreakers


  • More expensive than other windbreakers

Windbreakers are perfect for cutting the cold wind on a winter day and helping to create a warm microclimate next to your skin by trapping heat while releasing water vapor from your skin so you don’t get clammy and wet. The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is a long-time favorite of iRunFar testers for its light weight and weather resistance. While many of the wind jackets we’ve tested over the years are water resistant and will repel some moisture, this jacket, with its water-repellent finish, kept us the driest for the longest. The 15-denier ripstop material and nylon are plenty breathable and very lightweight. It is also quiet and not as shiny and technical-looking as many other windbreakers, ideal for those who want to wear it to a post-run coffee.

The fit is slim but relatively roomy and fits over a pack or waistbelt. This can keep your items within the warm microclimate between your body and jacket and keep your snacks and water from freezing. The hood fits easily over a winter beanie, a headlamp, or a ponytail, and the elastic on the cuffs works to seal in heat further. For storage, a chest pocket will fit several small items and doubles as a stow pocket for the jacket when you don’t need it.

This jacket was named one of the best wind jackets in our Best Running Windbreaker Jackets guide.

Weight: 3.6 ounces (102 grams) | Shell material: 15-denier ripstop nylon

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Best Waterproof Winter Running Jacket: The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket ($290)

Best Winter Running Jacket - The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket - product photo


  • Highly breathable
  • Protects from both rain and snow


  • Heavier than other waterproof jacket options
  • High price point

If you live in a winter climate where rain and cold combine to make some truly daunting running conditions, The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket might be your solution for comfort. While the price tag for this rain jacket is high compared to many other options, its ability to repel moisture while being highly breathable makes it an excellent choice for those who need a high level of protection. As part of a commitment to environmentally friendly practices, The North Face uses 100% recycled Futurelight 3L material in this three-layer jacket and a PFC-free DWR-coated outer nylon layer to repel water further. The fully taped seams provide extra protection, and our testers stayed warm and dry in whatever rainy conditions they took this jacket out in.

Long sleeves and cuffs covering the back of the hands provide exceptional coverage, and the hood and hem are adjustable to dial in the fit when conditions turn truly wet and cold. A single internal mesh pocket is big enough to store small running essentials.

The various features of this jacket and its high level of performance led it to be called the best rain jacket in iRunFar’s Best Running Rain Jackets guide. It weighs a bit more than other rain jackets we tested, but the extra weight is worth it when staying dry is the top priority.

Weight: 8.3 ounces (226 grams) | Shell material: The North Face Futurelight 3L waterproof membrane, 100% recycled polyester ripstop with a DWR finish

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Best Budget Winter Running Jacket: Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 ($70)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket - MT100 - product photo

When you want an insulated jacket that will keep you warm on your cold-weather runs but don’t want to break the bank, the Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 is a great option. Made for running in sub-freezing temperatures, it’s also a great budget option for a jacket to wear as an everyday driver for the rest of your life activities. The 20-denier polyamide shell is water-resistant and durable, and the insulation is made of recycled polyester.

A drawstring on the hem adds fit adjustability, and the insulated hood provides extra warmth when needed. With two hand pockets, there’s enough storage to carry small items, and the jacket easily stuffs away into one of them for storage.

This jacket runs small, so check the sizing chart before purchasing, and don’t be afraid to size up, especially if you plan on wearing more than one layer underneath it.

Weight: 13 ounces (370 grams) | Shell material: 20-denier polyamide | Insulation material: Recycled polyester

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Best Tech Fleece: Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody ($229)

Best Winter Running Jacket - Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody - product photo


  • Very soft
  • Environmentally-friendly construction
  • Good mid-layer or outer-layer on warmer dry days


  • It won’t be warm enough for super cold runs or climates

For many winter runs, you might not need a full jacket for protection from the elements but want the extra warmth of an insulating layer. The Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody is a classic jacket loved by athletes from many sports, from climbing to running to cycling. The R2 double-weave fabric is firmly in the middle of the line for the warmth of Patagonia’s fleeces, and the exterior is treated with a PFC-free DWR coating for water resistance. We found it to breathe well while running, and we didn’t end up damp or clammy from our own sweat.

The hood fits closely around the head and face when the jacket is zipped up completely. The cuffs and the hem fit snugly, but neither have any adjustability points. This fleece works best when worn over a single base layer and has a relatively slim fit. It’s fairly thin as far as fleeces go and fits easily underneath an additional jacket, whether you want to wear a shell over top of it during a rainstorm or want it on underneath your trailhead down jacket before or after your run. iRunFar testers loved this fleece for chilly shoulder season runs.

This fleece was made in a Fair Trade Certified factory and stays true to Patagonia’s commitment to environmental protection by being made from 92% recycled polyester.

Weight: 18.3 ounces (520 grams) | Material: 92% recycled polyester/8% spandex solution-dyed, breathable double weave with a PFC-free DWR finish

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Comparing the Best Winter Running Jackets

Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody $299 11.8 ounces Recycled ripstop polyester PFC-free DWR coating
La Sportiva Koro Jkt $139 12.6 ounces Polyamide PFC-free DWR coating
Dahlie Jacket Run $100 Not listed Polyester Not listed
Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody $370 10.6 ounces Polyamide DWR coating
Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket $170 9.2 ounces Ripstop polyester DWR coating
Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell $140 3.6 ounces Ripstop nylon PFC-free DWR coating
The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket $290 8.3 ounces Ripstop polyester DWR coating
Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 $70 13 ounces Polyamide DWR coating
Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody $229 18.3 ounces Recycled polyester PFC-free DWR coating

How to Choose a Winter Running Jacket

For most of us around the world, running in the winter means adding extra layers to our bodies to keep them warm. The best winter running jacket for you depends entirely on the type of winter climate you’re running in. Are you facing the endless drizzle of the U. S. Pacific Northwest where a fully waterproof jacket like The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket is a necessity, the frigid temperatures and snow of Alaska or other high latitude locations, or are you in a moderate climate where you just need a little extra warmth when compared to other times of year? There are endless factors to consider when choosing a winter running jacket to ensure you get the right one for you.

Types of Jackets

Most winter running jackets can be broken down into four categories: wind-resistant and water-repellent, waterproof, and insulated.

Wind-resistant jackets include many traditional-style running jackets, which are lightweight, compressible, and great for creating a warm and comfortable microclimate next to your body when outside temperatures drop. These jackets are generally made of ripstop nylon and are breathable. Some have extra vents to help control your body temperature and prevent excessive sweating. The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is an excellent option for a simple jacket for winter running.

Many wind-resistant jackets have a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating to keep them from immediately soaking through if you get stuck out in the rain. While water-resistant jackets are no replacement for a fully waterproof rain jacket, they are often adequate for short showers.

Waterproof jackets are designed to repel all water and keep you completely dry inside. They are generally made from one, two, or 2.5 layers to allow for breathability and waterproofness. In our Best Running Rain Jackets guide, you can learn more about the technical fabrics that go into fully waterproof jackets.

Insulated jackets come in many forms. Insulation can be synthetic or down, and many other jackets have a fleece lining or another layer to add warmth. As an aerobic activity performed at relatively slow speeds, at least when compared to cycling and Nordic skiing, running generally requires fewer layers for warmth than other sports. A fully insulated jacket is probably overkill unless you’re running in freezing temperatures. That being said, several hybrid insulated jackets, including our favorite, the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody, place insulation in key areas to provide that extra warmth you might need on a chilly day out.

Best Winter Running Jackets - wearing the Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket - MT100

The Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100 is a budget jacket perfect for cold-weather winter runs. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Fit and Mobility

Every jacket fits a little bit differently and it’s important to consider how you will use it before committing to a size or style. At a very minimum, the sleeves of a jacket should be long enough to cover your wrists and not ride up throughout any part of an arm swing. A properly fitting jacket also shouldn’t ride up on your torso when you lift your arms to the sky. Be sure that the length of the jacket provides enough coverage over the hips. Some people like jackets that run long to give the hips some extra warmth.

Jackets can run anywhere from a slim fit from some European brands to a boxier silhouette. Narrower jackets, like the Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody, are excellent at trapping extra warmth around the body and can be worn under an additional shell. A more traditional fitting jacket will let you change up your base layer choices freely to accommodate changing weather conditions.

Several jackets in this guide come in men’s and women’s cuts. While the technical specifications of the jackets don’t change, they are made in different shapes to accommodate different body types.

Packability and Weight

Nothing is worse than going out for a run with a jacket, getting too warm, and being unable to take the jacket off conveniently because it won’t fit into a pocket or your running pack. While some of the jackets in this guide can only be carried comfortably in a running vest because of their size, including our favorite insulated options, the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody and the Dahlie Jacket Run, many of them are small enough to fit in a pocket or be tied around your waist without feeling bulky or heavy. When choosing a winter running jacket, consider how you will carry it if you no longer need it on a run.

Insulation Type and Placement

When it comes to insulated jackets for running, it’s generally a good idea to stay away from down. Made from feathers, down stops insulating upon getting wet and makes it prone to becoming fairly useless if you sweat through it during a run. Synthetic insulation is a much better option as it retains most of its insulating properties, even when wet.

Many insulated jackets designed for running or other high-aerobic activities such as cross-country skiing or cycling, have strategically placed insulation to provide extra warmth in key places. Many of these jackets, including our favorite hybrid insulated jacket, the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket, have insulation around the front of the body and leave the underarms, arms, and even the back uninsulated. This allows the body to vent heat effectively while protecting the core from incoming wind. Jackets with an uninsulated back also make wearing a pack more comfortable since there won’t be insulation to soak up any sweat the pack creates.

Best Winter Running Jackets - testing jackets in Wind Rivers

Our team took jackets out on both fastpacks and day runs to find the best for cold-weather conditions. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi


As with any piece of running clothing, the breathability of a winter running jacket is important, perhaps even more so than other pieces of running apparel. A breathable jacket will allow moisture from sweat to escape the warm microclimate a jacket creates. If it can’t do so effectively, the moisture will build up inside your jacket, soaking your clothing and skin. While at best, this is incredibly uncomfortable, at worst, it can lead to a dangerous situation in the cold. Wet clothing conducts heat away from the body rapidly and can leave you shivering before you know it. Choosing a winter running jacket with a high level of breathability can help keep you dry and comfortable. Some jackets, like the Dahlie Jacket Run, come with additional vents to help with body temperature control.

A fabric’s breathability is measured by how much water vapor it allows to pass through. It’s measured as its Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) in the units of grams of vapor per square meter of fabric per 24 hours. A moderate breathability rating starts at around 10,000 g/m2. A higher MVTR means a more breathable fabric. While this is a useful starting point when assessing a jacket’s breathability, many factors determine how well it performs, and field testing is the best way to evaluate its performance.

Wind Resistance, Waterproofness, and Water Resistance

The winter conditions you run in will ultimately determine the best winter running jacket for your situation.

If you’re regularly running in dry but cold weather, a simple windbreaker with extra layers underneath or a light insulated jacket is probably all you need. You may even be happy with a tech fleece like the Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody. If you frequently find yourself in cold and snowy weather, you may get away with the same setup if it’s cold enough that the snow that lands on you doesn’t melt immediately. If you’re getting snow at various temperatures, you’ll want to consider a jacket with at least some water resistance to keep you dry. Our team found that the water resistance of the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell was better than that of many other windbreakers.

For those who live in climates with chill and rainy winters, staying warm becomes somewhat of an art form, and the right winter running jacket can go a long way toward comfort. In these conditions, staying dry becomes increasingly important, and a good rain jacket is a necessary investment. If you’re dealing with precipitation coming down as rain instead of snow, you’ll run in temperatures warm enough to sweat with a jacket on. This is when a jacket’s breathability becomes even more important. When conditions turn cold and wet, the North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket has been a long-time favorite of iRunFar testers.

Sustainability Considerations

Many companies are increasingly moving towards using recycled materials whenever possible. Several of the jackets tested for this guide use at least some percentage of recycled insulation in their construction, including the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody, La Sportiva Koro Jkt, The North Face Summit Series Superior Futurelight Jacket, and the Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100.

Many companies are also moving towards using PFC-free DWR coatings for water resistance. Perfluorinated compounds are highly hydrophobic and great for repelling water, but their production results in a variety of highly toxic compounds. New DWR coatings make the manufacturing process more environmentally friendly.

Why Trust Us

When it comes to jackets, there’s no single perfect option and everyone has different needs. Our search for the best winter running jackets started by surveying the tried and true options our testing team has used for years. We considered the jackets that have made it into other iRunFar Buyer’s Guides and looked at potential upgrades for them. We then researched options from running and Nordic skiing brands and took about two dozen jackets out in cold and occasionally wet conditions in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah to evaluate their warmth, fit, performance, durability, and features. With many on our testing team identifying as mountain runners, we looked for jackets we could trust to keep us warm and safe in the harshest weather conditions. Test jackets came out on fastpacks, Nolan’s 14 FKT-setting runs, daily jogs around the neighborhood, and marathon training sessions.

Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often use our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most products will likely remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.

Best Winter Running Jackets - wearing the Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody at trailhead

Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody is the perfect down jacket for pre- and post-run activities. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Running Jackets

Do I need a specific winter running jacket?

For many people in many climates, their summer running jackets will provide enough warmth for winter conditions provided that they’ve layered appropriately underneath. A windbreaker can do a great job of trapping heat next to your body and allowing sweat to exit. Wearing an extra layer or two underneath a breathable windbreaker, like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell, is a perfectly fine winter setup for dry and cold conditions.

If you’re living in climates where it rains consistently, whether as a downpour or constant drizzle, using your summer waterproof jacket as a winter running jacket may be adequate. You’ll want to ensure you’re not sweating through your base layers when running in a rain jacket by being mindful of controlling your body’s temperature throughout a run. Staying comfortable while running in chilly and rainy conditions is one of the hardest situations to get right.

Investing in an insulated jacket for winter running could be a good idea for climates where temperatures plummet. While down jackets are great for trailhead and everyday use, they’re prone to getting wet from sweat and are not recommended for running. A synthetic insulated jacket can provide extra warmth when temperatures plummet below freezing. The Decathlon Forclaz Synthetic Mountain Trekking Hooded Padded Jacket – MT100, our budget pick for a winter jacket, is designed for running in sub-freezing temperatures and is also an excellent option for wearing for other life activities

What’s the best way to layer under a winter running jacket?

There are many schools of thought on the best way to layer for cold winter activities, which are occasionally contradictory. Still, it’s a general rule of thumb that outside of multi-day winter races in the heart of Alaska in the middle of winter where some runners will choose to use a vapor barrier system to keep their insulating layers dry, most runners are best off trying to layer in a manner that minimizes their sweating while still staying warm. It’s often a fine line to trod.

A single short- or long-sleeve baselayer under a light windbreaker is enough for only moderately chilly runs. As temperatures get colder, you’ll want to consider adding an extra insulating layer, such as a fleece, like the Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody. Adding an insulating jacket on top of a layer or two may be needed on even colder days. The Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket is an excellent option for a wide range of temperatures and allows for layers. Multiple layers can allow you to remove and add them as the temperature or your effort level varies throughout a run.

In our Best Cold Weather Running Gear guide, you can learn more about some of the other components for putting together a running setup for wintertime running.

Best Winter Running Jackets - testing in Wind River range

iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks tests a jacket in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

What type of insulation is best for a winter running jacket?

In general, synthetic insulation, generally made of polyester, is the best option for an insulated jacket that you’re planning on using for running. Unlike down insulation, synthetic insulation will stay warm even if it’s damp or wet, so you have to worry less about getting it sweaty. That said, dry insulation is always warmer than wet insulation, so even with a synthetic jacket like the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody, you’ll want to do your best to keep from sweating through it during a hard run.

Down jackets can be used when you carefully manage your body temperature and avoid sweating. The iRunFar team regularly uses down jackets for fastpacking trips where weight and compressibility are important. They are also great as trailhead jackets, as they are warmer than synthetic jackets.

Are there warmth ratings for jackets?

The warmth of clothing can be quantified and measured using a unit called the CLO. Generally, this measurement is used when creating clothing for everyday situations, but it can also be applied to measuring the warmth of different insulating materials. It’s worth knowing that a higher number means a material is warmer, but it’s generally not a measurement tossed around in the running clothing world.

Down jackets come with both a “fill-power” and fill-weight” rating. Fill power measures the quality of the down in a jacket and it’s ability to loft and keep you warm. High fill-power down has a better warmth-to-weight ratio. Fill weight measures the amount of down placed in a jacket. Higher numbers for both measurements indicate more warmth.

Synthetic insulation, like that in the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody and the La Sportiva Koro Jacket, has a similar measure with units of grams per square meter (GSM). Again, a higher GSM means a warmer jacket.

Best Winter Running Jackets - zipping the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket

Alli Hartz of iRunFar tests the Nathan Navigator Hybrid Jacket on a winter morning run. Photo: iRunFar/Andy Cochrane

Is there a temperature when it’s too cold to run outside?

Cold temperatures can be brutal on the lungs, especially during hard aerobic or anaerobic activity. Sub-freezing temperatures will affect everyone differently, but the general rule of thumb is to not partake in vigorous exercise if it’s below five degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celcius). Cold temperatures can damage the membranes of your lungs and potentially cause permanent damage. For the real cold days, a treadmill really is a better option. And if you need to get outside, consider going for a gentle walk instead of a run.

You can learn more about things to consider for winter running at When Is It Too Cold to Run Outside?

Call for Comments

  • What techniques do you have to stay running outdoors in the winter?
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  • What features do you value in a winter running jacket?
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Eszter Horanyi

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.