(The Gear Loop) - When the winter months bite down hard, most runners face the same problem: running a chunk of the weekly mileage when it's dark and cold. Thankfully, there's plenty of technical running gear to keep you dry, warm, visible and shave the worst edges off even the meanest winters.
But above all else, running throughout the dark winter months involves staying safe and clearly visibile to other road users, which used to mean donning the kind of high-vis jacket you might find on a building site, but thankfully we are now blessed with advanced fabrics that have reflective technology interwoven into the design. This means you can keep things lightweight and technical, while staying warm and bright.
So whether you're up with the 6am Club, running before the sun gets out of bed, or you prefer to log evening mileage after work, we've lined up a selection of the best winter-proof running kit, so there's no excuse to give up on chasing personal bests and hit the sofa instead. Sorry about that.
The best technical running kit for dark winter nights
BioLite Headlamp 200
- Really durable
- Nice light beam
- Plenty powerful enough for dark runs
- Might be uncomfortable over long distances
Winter running isn't just about making sure other road users can see you, if you're heading into darker spots, you can save a lot of trips to A&E if you can actually see where you are going, too.
If you're a pre-dawn strider or a sundown miler, a head torch is an essential item to have upon your person. At just 50g, the Biolite 200 is an illuminated choice.
It has a wide head strap for unrivalled comfort and zero bounce, while its tiltable beam kicks out a path-lighting 200 lumens for up to three hours on max power.
It is Micro-USB chargeable and has multiple light settings including white plus dim, red plus dim, white and red strobe. If you need more power the Headlamp 300 is worth a look too but we rate this for its keen price and the fact it doesn't disintegrate after just a couple of outings like cheaper rivals.
Soar Calf Sleeves Hi Vis
- Fantastically visible
- Make sure you get the right size and fit
Donning a full upper body hi-vis jacket is one way to be seen but following the law of bike wheel reflectors, it's a smart idea for runners to allow their moving parts - namely legs and arms - to get in on the reflective act.
Soar Running's reflective calf sleeves offer a triple whammy: targeted lower-leg compression to increase blood flow and aid performance/reduce muscle damage, while giving you a little extra protection from those cold, dark winter runs and turning your lower limbs into a safety-boosting light show.
They are comfortable to wear over long distances and offer great support for the calf muscles but we were mightily impressed at how well they lit up when caught by a vehicle's headlights. Couple this with the cadence of a typical running gait and you essentially turn into a moving beacon for road-running safety.
Brooks Carbonite Running Jacket
- Looks great
- Fits well
- It performs as the price tag would suggest
- It's expensive
This light and bright running jacket avoids the high-vis, anti-style trap of the typical building site jacket by remaining perfectly cut and stylish, while offering superior visibility at night.
The shell is on the lighter side of the warmth spectrum but it works well in winter when coupled with base layers (see below) and still offers year-round versatility for the UK's topsy-turvy climate.
Six strategically placed Scotchlite reflective stretch panels light you up like a 90s raver when a driver's beams catch you in full flight, while fantastic water repellency keeps those base layers dry even in driving rain.
In short, there's just enough protection to see off most "I can't run in that" excuses and we found ourselves reaching for it on most dreary morning runs thanks to its excellent cut and performance out in the field.
Vollebak Planet Earth Base Layer
- Supremely warm
- Versatile wear
- Quick-wicking and breathable
- There are cheaper options
- Sensitive to colour choice
One for fighting the cold rather than battling the dark, this Merino wool base layer is a runner's best friend for those times when the sensible option is to hide under the duvet with a mug of hot chocolate.
It works like a charm when placed over a base layer or can sit soft up against your skin to beef up the cold protection of a light outer shell - like the Brooks Carbonite Running Jacket mentioned above.
We found that you get instant warmth as soon as you step out of the door into the biting cold, but it proves high-wicking and breathable enough to cope when things get hotter - and wetter - on the move. It boasts a lofty price tag but we feel the extra expense is worth it for such a versatile and technical piece like this.
Proviz PixElite Performance Running Gloves
- Great visibility
- Small and stylish
- Not bulky enough for freezing temps
- Lack waterproofing
Have you ever tried running with your hands in your pockets? It's not recommended because at best you look a bit silly and at worst, you roll head over heels along the pavement in front of someone you know. Keeping the hands warm and comfortable when tackling those winter jogs requires a glove that is both warm and breathable, which is where the Proviz PixElite comes in.
Featuring a soft touch micro-fleece on the inside, these gloves feel great against the hand and keep things extremely toasty, while wicking away any moisture or sweat that might build up. Above all else, and the reason we love them so much on a dark winter's night, is because the clever Pixel material lights up like a Christmas tree on steroids when blasted with a vehicle's headlights.
They fit beautifully and work extremely well, cleverly slinking back to relative obscurity when used in the daytime or other well-lit scenarios. A great option for those who don’t really want to rock bright neon yellows or traditional high-vis colours when out and about.
- A clever storage solution
- Boosts visibility
- Running with a belt is an aquired taste
- Feels bulky when fully laden
- Requires skinny water bottles
An unbeatable storage solution for all the paraphernalia you need to carry on runs, this waist-worn belt happily stows keys, cash, cards, smartphone, gels and even gloves ... at a stretch.
The system is simple: stick all your essentials in the tubular belt, flip it over and everything stays put. It eradicates the irritating jingling and jangling you can get with stuff floating around unanchored in jacket pockets.
For added night safety, this one is also reflective, so it lights up like a protective halo whenever headlights and other bright sources of light happen to catch it.
CEP Reflective Socks
- Added compression
- Warmer and more comfortable than sleeves
- Could be more reflective
If you don't fancy going down the full compression sleeve route (see above), CEP has you covered with a more approachable and arguably more comfortable long sock, which just so happens to feature a reflective material for added visibility.
This is interwoven into the material in stripes, which aren't quite as visible as the large blocks featured in the Soar sleeves we mentioned above but still light up well when caught at night. The compression is on the mild end of the spectrum, but still keeps the leg muscles in place and reduces vibration when out pounding the pavement.
All of the above helps to reduce the onset of fatigue and limit the chance of injury, but in reality, we just found them extremely comfortable and fast-wicking, keeping annoying blisters at bay and also ensuring the feet remain dry.