When it comes to colder weather running, the running glove might be the most overlooked piece of gear. Without it, you are sure to be miserable no matter how warm you are able to keep the rest of your body. And don’t kid yourself, those “over-the-wrist” shirts and jackets that are designed pull some covering over your knuckles don’t really give you the type of protection to allow you to focus on your run. We have come a long way since the track coaches of our youth told us to just wear socks on our hands; today, high-performance running gloves are an important part of your winter running gear setup, every bit as much as your hat or jacket.
Running gloves are not to be confused with cycling gloves, the fingerless varieties that are really designed more to protect the hands against handlebar and grip pressure (and allow for the cyclist to remove debris from a moving wheel). A good set of running gloves will be slimmer, but cover the entire hand and finger, as well as providing an ample cuff to protect the wrist.
When to Wear Running Gloves
Runners often have a different personal preference on at what temps they should wear running gloves. Many like to use them in relatively warm temperatures – anything under about 60 degrees – even if the runner is using a long-sleeved t-shirt on and not even in a jacket. Others wait for colder temps, but most will say that when the mercury drops into the 40s, it is definitely time to be covering your hands. Because extremities can freeze faster than your core, and the hands in particular have a complicated vascular system, it is important to err on the side of keeping them a little too warm than risking your hands becoming uncomfortably cold.
What to Look for In Your Running Gloves
Buying running gloves generally follows the same process as buying other warm-weather gear: You need to balance your specific needs, preferences, and budget. While this article focuses heavily on running, the exact same concepts (and many of our recommendations below) hold true for cold-weather cycling as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around for winter running gloves.
- Warmth. This might go without saying, but you need to find gloves that have the right level of warmth. However, the level of needed warmth might be different for everyone. For someone going for a morning run in Northern California, cold means a different thing than a runner gutting it out during a Boston January. Many gloves will be rated down to a specific temperature – pay attention to that so that you don’t get too hot or too cold.
- Wind Protection. Warmth has more to do with insulation, while wind stoppage has everything to do with material density. For many runners, when they talk about needing to keep their hands warm, what they are really talking about is keeping the biting wind off of them. The best gloves will be made of multiple layers of material, the outermost of which should be designed to stop the wind.
- Waterproof. For many of us, running in precip is a fact of life. Be sure that your gloves can keep a basic level of moisture off your hands. I once ran in fleece gloves – which were great for keeping my hands warm, but the second a drop of cold rain fell from the sky, they were actually a liability. While not many gloves will give you the full protection of being completely waterproof without compromising comfort or breathability, be sure you choose gloves that can at least keep that first layer of moisture off your hands.
- Tactile Function. This is where dollars really come in to play. If you want to combine the things we mentioned above – warmth, waterproof, windbreaking – with being able to have tactile function, it costs a bit to buy that engineering. What do we mean by tactile function? Think about trying to adjust your Iphone or Ipad without taking your gloves off. If you can do it effectively and without fumbling, your gloves have tactile function. Most gloves on the market today boast some level of touch-screen compatibility, usually in the design of the thumbprint and forefinger areas. Some are better than others.
- Fit. A shame this is so far down on our list, because it might be the most important of all. Hands come in an amazing array of shapes. Some have strong, stout palms and short fingers. Others have lean, bony hands with long fingers. Additionally, the glove should provide a bit of protection up your wrist so it can merge seamlessly with your running jacket, eliminating any type of gap or exposed skin. Just be sure that you find a glove that matches your hand, and if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to send it back for an exchange.
- Style. This is going to be more important to some than others, but the style of the gloves can vary across makes and models. Even if all you want is a simple black glove, there will be a different look to each one. We do our best to include photos below so you can understand what your options will be.
The Best Running Gloves – Recommendations
The great thing, and hard thing, about testing running gloves is that when you try them out, you immediately know which one you like. The hard part is explaining why! Some feel better on some hands, others fit other people perfectly. But in terms of construction and design, these are the gloves that top our list.
Manzella Windstopper Glove. We have to admit, we are a little biased. The Windstopper has been our go-to glove for a long time. As the name would suggest, Manzella works hard to make sure this is a wind-proof glove, and we’ve been pleased with the result for both running as well as cycling. The glove covers the wrist with an elastic band to keep air out of your hand. We like the palm and fingerprint grips, allowing for basic tactile function without taking the gloves off. The three-layer construction helps keep the wind and moisture out while keeping the heat in. Highly recommended. Find here for $25 – $30.
Saucony Touch-Tech (Touch Tek) Glove. Saucony has thought of nearly everything in this lower-priced glove. The fleece nose area on the top of the glove allows for more comfortable nose wiping because – let’s face it – noses tend to run on cold workouts. The conductive material in the thumb and index fingers allow for good touch-screen function. The glove has a cuff that extends over the wrist. A good choice, but if you plan to use the gloves on cold bike rides or extreme cold, you might need a little more. Great Value. Find here for $20.
Icebreaker Quantum Glove. Some people are looking for that nice, soft feel of good merino wool on their hands, and Icebreaker has done a very good job of making merino their main material in making gloves. The company is just over 20 years old, and a bit of an artisan when it comes to working with merino wool — perhaps nature’s best insulating and moisture-wicking material. The Quantum gloves are infused with some lycra to make sure the fit is nice and firm, and they have grips on the palm, index, and thumb. Wrist cuffs are long enough to provide additional protection but not so bulky as to get in the way. Perhaps they don’t have the windstopping qualities of some other gloves in ultra-cold weather, but for the typical running or nordic skiing day, these gloves score an A+ for comfort. Find here in the $30 – $40 range.
Under Armour Cold Gear Convertible Running Gloves. Under Armour (UA) has been advancing workout and moisture-wicking technology in recent years, and they are making a good glove with all of that know-how. The Cold Gear glove is part of a long line of Cold Gear products for every body part. A combination of windstopping technology and fleece gives this glove a potent combination of moisture-wicking and thermal qualities. UA fixed prior versions of their running gloves and made the wrist liner a little longer, which we like. The “convertible” refers to the ability of the glove to sense how much warmth you need, and adjust. For a run in 25 degrees or more, this glove should keep you pretty comfortable. Find here for $30.
Sugoi Zap Running Glove. While many of the gloves on this list are nylon, Sugoi sticks to the material they use in their cycling and tri wear and makes a poly-based glove. The result is an effective garment in a lightweight package. Like the Manzella, Sugoi relies on multiple layers of fabric to give the glove a nice wind-resistant coating while still allowing for excellent thermal properties. Like most of the other gloves, there is an absorbent thumb for wiping and conductive thumbprint for touch-screen use. Our field tests suggest suggest that these gloves get an A+ for fit and comfort, but are probably only suitable down to about 25 degrees, and maybe more like 35 if you are cycling. At $40, they are higher priced than many of the other gloves we looked at. Find here for $40.
Smart Wool PHD Training Gloves. These running gloves from Smart Wool are built for comfort. With a merino wool / nylon / elastane blend, they get the award for the most complex recipe in the glove design. The result is a glove that fits well and feels very comfortable. Smart Wool includes grips on the palms (they resemble the Manzella in this regard) and also the smartphone compatible forefinger and thumb areas. A nice long wrist cuff is a nice touch. Like so many of the other gloves, you will need to think about your climate if you buy them – these are generally comfortable down to about 40 degrees. With that said, they do a great job of keeping your warm hand dry. If that fits your bill, the comfort level might make it worth spending the $45 on these gloves.
Pearl Izumi Running Gloves. Leave it to Pearl Izumi – one of our favorite gear makers in multiple categories – to give us a glove that would seriously make us think about switching brands. Pearl Izumi created a high-visibility yellow glove that we really like for both running and cycling. They probably went as far as any of the gloves in terms of thermal ability, as we have liked using these gloves on cold runs and on the bike all the way down to the 30s. They provide a nose wiper spot, and the touch screen compatibility is among the best we’ve used. In short, we are impressed, especially for the $25 price tag.
North Face Runners Etip. North Face is known for making gear that is good in very cold weather, and the Etip gloves prove that point. These might be the warmest of the eight gloves we tested, keeping both runners and cyclist warm well into the low 30s. We suspect we could have gone further as well. They do an excellent job of keeping the wind off, and have the features you would expect – touch screen capability (and the name would suggest), and reflective material. One feature we really liked was the wrist loop for pulling the gloves on easily. If you want a cold weather glove, these are a strong candidate. At $30 (here) , North Face is reasonable with their pricing as well.
So, What is the Best Running Glove?
So which of these gloves will win the “best running gloves” award? It depends on your desired usage.
- For ultra cold weather, we probably like the North Face as our first choice.
- If you are purely going for comfort but your version of “cold” is more like 45 degrees, you would like the Smart Wool.
- As for the best all-around, factoring in overall versatility, it is a close contest between the Manzella and the Pearl Izumi.
One thing is for sure – anything we tested is only on the list because it belongs in the conversation. There is no junk on this list…. You can’t go wrong with any, but just make sure you match the glove’s strengths with what you would be using them for. At the end of the day, be sure you also think about the gloves in concert with the rest of your ensemble. The right cold weather running outfit is a system, incorporating your base layers, thermal running tights, a quality winter running jacket, headwear, and the right shoes for the type of running you will do. Once you have your core in good shape, don’t forget about keeping your head and neck warm — failure to do so will make you instantly uncomfortable. If you get this system right, you just might find that (like us) fall, winter, and spring is indeed the best time to run. It is all about staying comfortable and getting outside!