As my marathon training runs get longer and longer, I find myself increasingly fussy about what I wear. Past the two-hour mark, any little annoyance – a seam that rubs slightly, a pair of socks that start to slip – starts to magnify exponentially. This is particularly the case for wintry runs. After all, you are, quite simply, wearing more.
So, while I can’t review every item on the market, I can promise that every product here has been worn for in excess of a hundred miles (albeit not in one go) and therefore tested very thoroughly. Some are unisex accessories and others women’s products, though ones that also have a male equivalent.
Now, being a good, dyed-in-the-wool Guardianista, I want to be able to support small niche companies making great running products. With a few exceptions, though, I’ve not found any. Economies of scale mean most just can’t compete on price with big brands, so those small companies that do succeed – such as Iffley Road, or Ashmei – are often ones offering a premium product. But if you do know of any I should investigate, please let me know. Otherwise, sorry, but the big brands do tend to feature largely. And as for where to shop, John Lewis (hey, I did say I’m a Guardianista) has a really good range of all the big brands.
It’s all about the ears. If your ears are warm, the most biting cold is bearable. Some swear by buffs, but unless it’s truly arctic, I find that’s too much fabric around the head, and hats make me overheat too quickly. So headbands are the answer. They keep the ears warm, keep hair out of your eyes, act as a sweatband (and yes that means they are truly disgusting afterwards) and don’t cost much. The best I’ve tried are an Asics one (mine is branded with the New York marathon logo but it is identical in shape to this, £13) and Nike’s one (£14). Simple unisex design, never slips down, washes well and is plain old unisex black. And it’s called Fury. I have no idea why.
Gloves are vital for me – my circulation is bad at the best of times and a few miles into a freezing cold run is not the best of times. The best I’ve found for really cold days are Pearl Izumi (£12.99) but I would love any reader’s recommendations because I’ve not yet found the perfect pair. I did have a very good Asics pair (£25) but I discarded them somewhere along the course of the New York marathon. If anyone finds them in Brooklyn, send them back, yeah?
Some brave folk may wear shorts regardless of the temperature, but my knees like to be warm. Nike again gets my thumbs up for its plain black full-length tights (from £32). For women who prefer something less fitting – these Nike trousers (£60) are the only ones I’ve ever tried that you could actually run in, as I usually find tracksuit-style trousers flap around too much for proper running. Finally, do try Gap and their Gap Fit range. With frequent discounts/sale vouchers online and in store, they can be a really good budget choice and they fit and wash (and hold their shape) very well.
Nike Dri-Fit layers. As many as is appropriate to the temperature. They really are great: soft, never rub, don’t go horribly clammy the instant you stop running, and despite hundreds of washes mine all still look pretty fresh. New Balance is also a favourite for well-priced, well-designed running tops. Unless it’s actually pouring with rain, I tend not to wear jackets as however breathable they claim to be, they always feel much hotter to me. They do, though, have the advantage that many are designed to be taken off and packed away into something you can either wear around a wrist (if it has a clever strap) or held in a hand. If you’ve found one you’d happily wear for a run of 15+ miles, please share below.
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