A world away from the pack-a-mac of yesteryear, the latest waterproof jackets for running come loaded with extreme levels of technology to help keep you comfortable and dry however hard you work and how nasty the conditions.
Admittedly Gore-Tex was invented in the 60s – but fabric tech has moved on considerably since then, with greater levels of breathability making running infinitely more comfortable when the heavens open.
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How to choose the best jacket for running?
Waterproof jackets for runners come in a range of options and weights, from ultralight shells to heavy-duty outerwear, with an array hoods, zips and pockets. All of these jackets include taped or sealed seams to give you watertight protection without letting moisture seep in through the cracks.
The majority of waterproof running jackets use a 2- or 2.5-layer construction to keep weight down. Most also have a durable water repellent (DWR) coated outer fabric that adds to the waterproofing. Some, like the Gore Shake Dry, have ditched this layer, exposing the waterproof layer to the elements. It makes the jacket brilliantly waterproof and breathable, but far from durable.
It’s worth trying on running jackets – or paying attention to the sizing information on the websites – before you buy as they do tend to run quite slim. Great if you’re a gazelle doing your umpteenth Ultra, but not so handy if you’re carrying a bit more timber. Do choose one that is cut close to the body though as it means you’ll avoid billowing in the wind and irritating rustling while you train.
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Best waterproof running jackets, in order
The North Face’s Futurelight fabric was originally developed as a nanospinning techniques used in water filtration systems. It’s impossibly clever stuff that promises unrivalled levels of breathability and comfort, two things waterproof clothing, even the good stuff, is notoriously bad at. It’s also perfluorocarbon free – so there’s no cancer risk from this jacket – and it can be produced to any thickness, so you can go ultra-light for running, or super durable for mountaineering.
With the Flight jacket, The North Face has produced a surprisingly soft, mercifully rustle free design that weighs just 250g. It’s not the lightest, but it is wonderfully comfortable to wear, with the waterproof membrane sandwiched between a durable, recycled outer layer and an inner lining.
It’s also astonishingly breathable, to the point that we didn’t have to unzip during a run, which is a first for this sweaty reviewer, and it remained resolutely waterproof without feeling overly clammy when we upped the effort. TNF claim Futurelight has a permeable rating of 1.5 ft³/minute. Most waterproof-breathable fabrics only manage between 0.07 to 0.09 ft³/minute. Fundamentally, ask any regular runner and they’ll pull your arm off for a wind and waterproof jacket that doesn’t need taking off after the warm up.
Our Chlorophyll Green sample certainly drew attention, but it’s also available in a more sedate black, both with 360-degree reflective strips for safer night running. It’s expensive and doesn’t pack down especially small, but this jacket is a brilliantly piece of cutting-edge fabric tech.
A remarkably light jacket that weighs just 120g and packs down so small it can fit in your jean’s pocket. It’s made from just two layers of Gore-Tex SHAKEDRY, the tech fabric brand’s most breathable option to date. But in direct contradiction to the typical waterproof jacket construction Gore have ditched the face fabric, helping to reduce weight and expose the waterproof membrane to the elements. The result means water never saturates, it simply beads on the surface and either rolls off or can be removed with a quick shake, hence the name.
In a long run through a horrible downpour the G7 kept the wind and rain out and would not saturate. As a result, inside remained 100% rainwater free, but as we heated up it did start to get a bit sweaty. We we’re possibly a little overdressed for the conditions but would recommend minimal layering if you don’t want to end up feeling like you’re training in a bin liner. Something so waterproof can only be SO breathable.
And speaking of layering, be warned, the Gore R7 Shake Dry has an extremely snug fit. This helps reduce any billowing and minimizes rustling (it’s good, but not as impressive as the North Face Futurelight). The hood is also snug and neatly elasticated, and irritates significantly less than most available, plus there are plenty of reflective strips for night running and the cuffs are deliberately tight to keep long sleeve layers in position.
It’s an investment piece for serious runners who demand the lightest possible kit. If this is you, you’ll love how it performs in the wet and wind, but a word of caution, by removing the fabric top layer and exposing the waterproof membrane, it’s not robust enough to wear with a backpack as the straps will ruin the performance.
We struggled to find a decent waterproof jacket for less than £100, but then we remembered the continually under rated Decathlon and our prayers were answered. This great value design is impressively designed with a waterproof rating of 10,000mm with fully taped seams. This is significantly better than a lot of winter running jackets from leading high street brands.
The design is also suitably stylish with no garish blobs of colour or odd shapes to detract. It’s just a well thought out slender shape with a peaked snug fitting, elasticated hood that keeps rain from dribbling in your face. Two pockets take care of essentials, an one doubles as a stash for the jacket when you want to pack it away.
It’s also impressively windproof and makes for a good extra layer on cool days. While not the most breathable design, it did offer enough air circulation to stop us feeling like we were trapped in a plastic bag. Our only concern is that the waterproofing is only rated for five washes, so make sure you invest in some Nikwax wash-in treatment to maintain performance.