Get set, go with the best running jackets for women from The North Face, Lululemon, Sweaty Betty, New Balance, Columbia, Under Armour and more
Whatever your reason to run – whether it’s for fun, fitness or fast 5ks – motivation can somewhat waiver the moment it gets cold and dark. When it’s pitch-black outside and chucking it down with rain, it takes more than just willpower to throw off the duvet and brace the wind and ice – it takes the right cold-weather gear.
Sure, thermal leggings and warm layers won’t physically drag you out the front door, but they can make the whole experience a lot more pleasant.
When choosing a running jacket, you need to decide if you’re after something completely waterproof to battle through the harshest of blizzards or if you just need something windproof and warm to take the edge off.
One thing worth remembering, though, is that you will warm up while you’re running (which means if you’ve opted for multiple layers and a waterproof jacket, it’s going to get very sweaty, very quickly).
How we tested
We tested a range of women’s running jackets – from lightweight to thermal, reflective to windproof – on blustering coastal paths and soggy park runs to find the very best for cold days, wet days and everything in between.
While the naysayers may claim “skin is waterproof”, keep in mind that wearing the right jacket could be the difference between an enjoyable winter run, and one that never happens.
The best women’s running jackets for 2021 are:
- Best overall – 66°North straumnes Gore-Tex onfinium jacket: £250, 66north.com
- Best fitted jacket – Lululemon define jacket luon: £98, Lululemon.co.uk
- Best lightweight running jacket – Sweaty Betty fast track running jacket: £100, Sweatybetty.com
- Best weather-resistant jacket – On Running weather jacket: £190, On-running.com
- Best waterproof jacket – The North Face women’s lightriser futurelight jacket: £270, Thenorthface.co.uk
- Best for running below freezing – Sweaty Betty fast track thermal running jacket: £130.00, Sweatybetty.com
- Best for fun – New Balance printed fast flight jacket: £60, Newbalance.co.uk
- Best reflective jacket – Reflect360 women’s explorer running jacket: £99.99, Provizsports.com
- Best windbreaker – Columbia women’s FKT II lightweight jacket: £90, Columbiasportswear.co.uk
- Best for everyday training – Tracksmith session jacket: £113, Tracksmith.com
- Best gilet – Lululemon down for it all vest: £148, Lululemon.co.uk
- Best for London Marathon runners – New Balance womens printed impact run pack jacket: £75, Runnersneed.com
- Best value for money – Sundried threshold women’s jacket: £41, Sundried.com
- Best insulated jacket – Women’s UA run insulate hybrid jacket: £85, Underarmour.co.uk
66°North straumnes Gore-Tex infinium jacket
Freezing conditions are something that runners in Iceland are incredibly familiar with – so premium Icelandic outdoor brand 66°North knows a thing or two about layering correctly for the cold. The straumnes jacket effortlessly balances performance with classic design. Breathable and lightweight, the stretchy softshell fabric – made with Gore-Tex technology – is built to take a beating from both the wind and the rain. Featuring reflective stripes on the sleeves, it’s great for dimly lit morning or evening runs, and it has handy zipped pockets on both sides, too. When on, it’s a snug, figure-skimming fit, so you wouldn’t be able to fit lots of chunky layers underneath. But when you’re running, you probably only need a merino base layer, plus this insulated outer layer anyway. For us, it’s a great option for the most challenging of winter weather.
Lululemon define jacket luon
Best: Fitted jacket
When it’s cold out but not that cold (for us, that’s usually between 4C and 10C), and not raining, we end up reaching for Lululemon’s define jacket. Soft and warm while still being breathable, and quick-drying so you don’t end up feeling soggy, this is a super fitted and figure-hugging option, so there’s no worry about excess material flapping about in the wind. We particularly love the thumbholes and fold-over “cuffins” that turn the long sleeves into mittens for added warmth, and the fact that you can zip it up to cover your neck when the wind hits. There are also zip pockets for storing essentials, showing that fashion doesn’t need to replace function when it comes to the trendiest running kit.
Sweaty Betty fast track running jacket
Best: Lightweight running jacket
For basic protection from light wind and rain, you cannot beat the ultra-lightweight fast track running jacket from Sweaty Betty. Sweat-wicking, breathable and water-resistant, it also has a handy pack-away hood and a reflective trim on the sleeve. The fabric on this jacket feels markedly stretchy and smooth, so it offers impressive freedom of movement while running (even at a high intensity). We love the unique, double-layered style of this jacket too – the black underlayer fits tight to your body and the blue celestial print hangs over in a cropped fashion. But it’s the light, breathable material that offers a high level of ventilation that keeps us coming back to this jacket time after time.
On Running weather jacket
Best: Weather-resistant jacket
From the Swiss running brand On Running comes this smart, stylish and seriously lightweight jacket. It’s not completely waterproof (trust us, we ran in this during a storm, and our mid-layer had some questionable wet patches) but it does have a water-repellent coating, so it’s ideal if you get caught in a light shower. The cap design on the hood is particularly useful – there’s elastic that keeps it in place, so you don’t need to worry about it sliding off, and the angled cap helps to keep the rain out of your eyes and face without needing to wear an actual cap underneath. It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t feel at all restrictive to run in, and it can easily fold down into its own pocket, so you can pack it away when the shower stops. Versatile, breathable and sleek.
The North Face women’s lightriser futurelight jacket
Best: Waterproof jacket
If you do want something completely waterproof, you’re going to have to increase your budget. Made using recycled materials, this lightweight, minimalist jacket from The North Face is constructed from a highly breathable, waterproof “futurelight” fabric. It might look like a very simple, thin jacket – but when we tested it in the rain we found it truly delivers both comfort and unrivalled protection. The adjustable hood and high neck zip ensure the rain stays on the outside, while the reflective logo helps to keep you seen and safe. If the white isn’t for you (we’ve managed to get a lot of make-up on the inside of the high zip) it also comes in a pleasingly bright green.
Sweaty Betty fast track thermal running jacket
Best: For running below freezing
When the temperature drops below freezing, we generally advise wearing as many thin layers as possible – but sometimes, you just want a thicker, thermal shell. This stylish running jacket from Sweaty Betty is essentially a thicker version of the blue celestial fast track one mentioned above, but with a few key differences. There’s no pack-away hood for starters, but it’s notably warmer, with a soft thermal padded layer and a quilted top layer for blocking a fierce headwind. The thick sleeves are long and it has useful thumbholes. We’d recommend sizing down with this jacket (we tested a size small and found the body of the jacket long – the back completely covered our bottom). Overall, this is a really flattering thermal option ideal for days that are cold and blustery. It also has reflective details so you’ll be visible to cars when you’re running in the dark.
New Balance printed fast flight jacket
Best: For fun
Proving that winter jackets don’t just have to be in black, grey or navy, this bold, fresh orange “citrus punch” jacket from New Balance packs a hefty dose of fun alongside lightweight protection from the elements. Cut to a trendy hip-length and made with a water-resistant exterior, while it won’t keep you dry in the rain, it is perfect for throwing on top of a t-shirt on slightly milder days because of how thin and light it is.
Reflect360 women’s explorer running jacket
Best: Reflective jacket
Proviz is already pretty well known for its original Reflect360 running jacket (£89.99, Provizsports.com), where the entire outer shell is made from a reflective material that shines brightly when light hits it, turning its muted, silvery grey colour into a bright beacon of light. Their newest offering – a black jacket with Reflect360 multi-coloured reflective material on the sleeves and hood – is perfect for people who want to be seen in the dark, but hate the idea of wearing gawdy luminous yellow or orange. Be warned though, this jacket comes up large, so definitely size down, otherwise, you’ll end up feeling like you’ve been tied to a parachute while running – and no one needs that extra level of drag.
Columbia women’s FKT II lightweight jacket
When we first opened this jacket, we were shocked by how thin and minimal the material was. Apprehensive about how it would provide any kind of warmth or protection, we were pleasantly surprised. It’s especially great for heavy sweaters – those who run warm will know that even on the cold days, a base layer and a jacket is all you really need. The job of the jacket isn’t to keep you toasty; it’s just to create a water- and wind-resistant shell. With a secret zipped area within one of the hand pockets for stashing your house keys, and reflective details, this jacket ticks a lot of our boxes – although it’s probably not one to choose if there’s a hurricane raging outside.
Tracksmith session jacket
Best: For everyday training
Boston-born running company Tracksmith produces some of the nicest looking running kit out there, and its session jacket in emerald green not only looks great (and could easily be worn out for brunch as it could for a long run or warm-up at the track) but also incorporates a range of technical features too. Made from lightweight, breathable, insulating and high-stretch fabric, it feels soft and even has mesh side panels for added ventilation.
Lululemon down for it all vest
The ultimate layering essential, a gilet is great for wearing over a long-sleeve base layer or even under a lightweight waterproof to keep your chest and core warm and your arms free. Water-resistant and windproof, the Lululemon down for it all vest is filled with goose down and offers a figure-hugging fit – so you feel held in and snug. We loved how it looked, but ran into issues when it came to washing – it lost its “puff”. A sneaky trick: pop it in the tumble dryer on low heat with a tennis ball, and the down feathers will dry and puff right out again.
New Balance womens printed impact run pack jacket
Best: For London Marathon runners
If you’re running the London Marathon this October, chances are you’ve been training for it for a while (especially as it was cancelled last Spring – thank you, Covid), so why not let everyone know you’re taking part with an official bit of New Balance kit. If nothing else, it will be a nice reminder that you managed to run 26.2 miles across our capital city. Lightweight and water-resistant, it packs up into the back zippered pocket for easy storage – and includes the official 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon badge.
Sundried threshold women’s jacket
Best: Value for money
With a slim, streamlined fit, ultra-high neck and long sleeves with thumbholes, this Sundried jacket is most similar to Lululemon’s define jacket – but at less than half the price. The fabric is thick and feels high quality – you could definitely wear it to the gym or even on the bike, so it really is fantastic value. While the price doesn’t extend to a waterproof or windproof shell, it shouldn’t be overlooked as a handy, distraction-proof extra layer with a gently compressive feel.
Women’s UA run insulate hybrid jacket
Best: Insulated jacket
Under Armour’s hybrid jacket combines the warmth of a gilet with the weather resistance of a water-repellent raincoat. We liked how the back is made with much thinner material than the front – for optimum ventilation, so you don’t overheat. But the ‘boxy’ fit isn’t the most flattering, and for north of £80, the material feels on the cheaper side. For the depths of winter, it’s probably not going to give you the level of protection you need, so it’s best reserved to help take the edge off the wind during early morning hard efforts in the spring/autumn.
The verdict: Running jackets for women
Nothing kept us quite as warm and dry as the 66°North straumnes Gore-Tex infinium jacket. When it’s freezing cold, this technical, smart layer is sure to keep the chill off. For a less expensive option (and for milder temperatures) Sweaty Betty’s fast track running jacket looks just as great as it feels – lightweight and breathable, just pair it with a base layer and it’ll be warm enough for runs in most conditions during the winter months.
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