Running is a difficult situation for jackets, no matter how well you think your gear is equipped for the demands of the great outdoors. On the one hand, you want to be protected from the rain, snow, and hail. On the other hand, you’re sweating cats and dogs and need that moisture to vent, but that’s where the best running jackets come into play. Gear makers are trying hard to make jackets both waterproof and non-waterproof (aka breathable) at the same time, but most jackets fall toward one end or the other.
Hardshells are very waterproof. They’ll protect you from the elements and keep rain out through storms. Softshells are very breathable. Sweat evaporates quickly as air flows through. There’s a trade-off, though. Hardshells don’t breathe as well. Softshells aren’t waterproof for as long.
The holy grail, which doesn’t exist yet, is a jacket that does both perfectly. Some are getting close.
We don’t advocate having more gear than you need to run, hike, or climb, but running is an activity where having a hardshell when you need it and a softshell for the rest of the route is the much more comfortable way to go. (Who am I kidding? I always advocate for having gear to suit each situation.)
We’ve rounded up seven hardshells and softshells that will give you all the protection you need to run in any conditions. These are the best running jackets for men.
If it’s a technical running jacket you seek, one packed with plenty of bells and whistles for the toughest conditions possible, it’s hard to go wrong with something from the hallowed design minds at HOKA ONE ONE, makers of some of the highest-performing running shoes and gear on the market. Case in point: This GORE-TEX jacket that just so happens to be waterproof and seam-sealed.
Better still is the fact that it features eight liters of carrying capacity built right in, ideal for keeping you hydrated on long, grueling races, while hidden ventilation zips offer even more breathability.
This jacket from the eco-conscious gear makers at Patagonia will have you moving as swiftly as, well, Houdini, thanks to its slim fit and DWR coating for maximum durability and performance through rainy conditions. Reflective detailing and half-elastic cuffs offer increased visibility and protection from the elements in equal measure, while a range of color options provide just enough style points, too.
The Incendo is a highly breathable hooded jacket from Arc’teryx. The super-light Lumin fabric is very water-resistant. A small moldable brim sits on the front of a fitted hood. Mesh panels under the arms literally have holes to dump heat when you’re getting up into wetland, but if the rain starts to really come down you may need to step up to the Norvan SL.
The Incendo’s big brother is the Norvan SL. It’s not as breathable as the Incendo but is completely waterproof. The ridiculously light 4.4-ounce jacket is made from Gore-Tex Shakedry which beads the water on the outside and literally lets you shake the water off. Shakedry completely removes the outer layer of the jacket, putting the waterproof Gore membrane right on the outside. The whole thing packs down to the size of two Clif bars.
For something warmer, there’s nothing better than merino for running. The NDO Jacket from Tracksmith is a breathable softshell on the outside with merino wool on the inside. The merino maintains a consistent temperature and doesn’t hold on to stink. You can soak this in sweat and still wear it again the next day.
Stretchy nylon-elastane on the sides lets your arms power through those hill repeats. A huge white reflective sash on the back helps keep you running and out of the hospital. Speaking of consistency, NDO stands for “No Days Off.” Tracksmith wants to help you strive for consistency, moderation, and patience and the brand will even send you a training calendar if you buy the jacket in January.
When it’s a midweight jacket that you seek, one designed to keep you warm on the go without overheating, this Cotopaxi hybrid jacket is a safe bet. It’s made with Polartec Alpha active insulation, designed to “ditch excess heat when you’re moving fast,” as the brand so sagely says.
It also comes with an array of vibrant, retro-leaning colors that’ll help you stand out on the road, in a good way. Even better is the fact that it should serve you well for other active pursuits aside from running, and that’s the sort of versatility you can’t top.
What we lovingly refer to as GORE-TEX is actually multiple different waterproof membranes: The light and packable Paclite, the durable Pro Shell, the highly breathable Active, and the original do-it-all Gore-Tex.
Each has its own purpose, but for ours, Gore-Tex Active is going to be the best membrane to be completely waterproof while still breathing during high output. The R7 jacket flips the Gore-Tex Active inside out, completely removing the third layer of the jacket. Eventually, that third layer gets wet in the rain and completely blocks moisture from breathing. No third layer equals less weight coming in at 6.6 ounces.
If there were two natural wonder fabrics in outdoor clothing, they would be merino wool and Tencel. Tencel is a sustainable wood-based fiber that’s often mixed with merino to pull extra moisture off your skin faster, cooling you down. Together, they make up the inner lining of the Cool-Lite Rush merino windbreaker from Icebreaker.
A lightweight, water-resistant polyester shell on the outside gives you some rain protection while the merino and Tencel on the inside wicks moisture and doesn’t stink. Seams on the shoulder are offset so they don’t rub when you have a pack on and the back of the jacket is cut lower in a drop hem.
If there ever was a worthy competitor to Gore-Tex, it’s Futurelight, the brand-new waterproof membrane from The North Face. Tiny nano-nozzles spin the fibers of the membrane into whatever configuration is needed, supporting the manufacture of waterproof jackets and tents, and also waterproof sweaters and jeans. We’ve only seen jackets, shoes, and tents so far, but more are coming.
The Flight Jacket is based on the Futurelight membrane and its waterproof breathability. That doesn’t mean the company has to cram a bunch of chemicals in there to do it. Recycled nylon and elastane and PFC-free water repellent coating on the outside finish off the material lineup. The whole jacket folds down into one small pocket on the back.
Salomon is no stranger to running. It’s been creating some of the best running gear out there for decades. The brand’s sponsored runners run the longest trails and highest peaks around the world. The Bonatti Pro running jacket was built as protection for those long days and races.
The Bonatti uses Pertex Shield to keep it very water resistant but still breathable. Expandable sections in the back let you put it over top of a small running pack without having to take it off and rearrange everything. It uses Salomon’s MotionFit patterns to make sure it doesn’t restrict your movements when you run. Obviously, we can’t have any restrictions when we’re trying to shave seconds off the fastest known time, right?
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