What to wear on your legs on a cold-weather run is an area of much debate among runners, but what is right for you?
Do you need tights, trousers, shorts, compression, ¾ length? The amount of choice can be daunting while getting it right is vital for both your performance and your confidence.
This guide, however, should answer all your questions and help you make an informed decision so you hit the road or trail no matter what the conditions.
The big debate – men in tights?
Can men wear running tights? Of course they can! Many top and amateur runners do so and happen to look great at the same time. The benefit of running tights is the feeling of speed and flexibility in this second skin. Tights – especially the thermal variety - are also exemplary at blocking wind chill, and will keep you toasty in the near zeros. Unlike loose-fitting trousers, they’ll also wick away sweat to keep you invaluably chafe-free on your run.
Another benefit is compression, with the tights promoting circulation and keeping your muscles in formation to help you generate power and limit the potential of injury.
While their skin-tightness provides a bounty of benefits, that very property can be off-putting for some. However, many have overcome their initial inhibition after experiencing a run in tights for themselves, which is why these race-ready garments have grown considerably in popularity among male runners in recent years.
Putting shorts over your tights is an option taken by some to protect their modesty, but the practice is one of considerable debate among runners. So, while opinion is split on the subject, it’s down to you to make the call.
If it’s still a step too far for you, there is always the reliable running trouser. While they may be unable to provide some of the same benefits offered by running tights, new materials and approaches have made specialised running trousers a viable alternative with many runner-friendly technologies built-in.
Which option is right for you?
For those preparing to strike out in the worst of winter, thermal insulation is a must. But, while well-insulated legs are important, most quality running tights should provide some protection against the cold. The act of running itself, along with a warm and insulated core, should be enough to keep you far from freezing anyway, and it’s worth noting that you should be somewhat chilly when you first set out to ensure you don’t overheat as you get into your stride.
Quality running tights have seams which follow the muscle to avoid irritation and limit chaffing points, and often incorporate flatlock seams to flow comfortably against the skin, supporting natural muscle movement.
They are also designed to be snug, but not so tight they restrict your circulation. Tights offering compression can be extremely beneficial to those running at a fast pace, on uneven ground, or still honing their technique, but while they put an even pressure on your muscles, they should still feel comfortable and allow complete freedom of movement.
If you’re focused on going for a trouser or pant, then look out for waterproofing materials and an elastane content for support and flexibility.
Three of the best running tights for men
Designed for that awkward time of year when full-on winter tights are just a little too much, but it's too cold for shorts. The soft brushed fabric offers extra warmth on the thighs, whilst the lower legs have been constructed from a lighter weight, breathable fabric. Fit can be adjusted with a drawcord elasticated waist and flatlock seams guarantee comfort against the skin.
The Asics Lite-Show Tights are perfect for cooler weather. Built for warmth and comfort, flat-lock seams minimise chafing and the mesh panels behind the knee bends allow ventilation where you need it. Fluro yellow on the lower legs helps you to stand out in daylight whilst flashes of reflective detail ensure you'll be seen in low light.
The Agravic tight is an excellent choice for cold-weather workouts. The wind-resistant fabric used at the front will keep chills at bay whilst a lighter fabric at the back means you won't get too hot as you work up a sweat. The knees have been pre-shaped to allow a full range of natural movement and there are ankle zips for easy on-and-off.
Three of the best running trousers for men
The timeless styling of the Classic Tracksters makes them a popular choice for runners. The Regulite thermal fabric moves with you and the improved waistband gives you a smoother profile. There's an internal pocket so you can keep your keys safe.
A strategically placed 360 reflective print and generous zip pocket at the rear make the Flashlight Run Tights a popular choice for runners who carry on training through autumn and winter. The mid-weight polyester-elastane mix is comfortable and lightly compressive and the ankle zips make them easy to take on and off.
These lightweight trousers are a superb accompaniment on your chilly morning runs. The durable woven stretch fabric allows you to move freely in every direction while the FlashDry-XD™ technology ensures you stay dry and comfortable. A breathable waistband with internal drawcord and zipped hand pockets also feature.
Women's running tights and trousers
Which is right for you?
While women’s wearing of running tights is considerably less controversial, there is still an array of elements to think about before buying.
High quality running tights, such as those offered by Wiggle, are designed to be opaque at all times, even while stretching or bending. It’s an important consideration to make, with thinner materials used in poor quality brands often revealing more than just their poor performance while out in public, and especially in the sunshine.
Opt for tights that remain opaque even when stretched to avoid embarrassment on the road. Also, look out for tights offering secure fastening systems to avoid the embarrassment of hitching up your tights every other stride of your run.
If the idea of a figure-hugging set of tights does not fill you with joy, for whatever reason, then a pair of trousers is an equally viable option, with a wide spectrum of options available at Wiggle.
Three top examples of women’s running tights
Enjoy the run in the Tech Revive Stretch Tights as they keep you dry and comfortable. The soft fabric made from recycled yarns will wick away sweat as you dial up the effort. Keep valuables close to hand in the thigh stash pocket.
Don't let the darker days and longer nights stop you from training. The Lite-Show tights have been designed for those early morning or evening runs, with Asics Lite-Show reflectivity. The moisture-wicking fabric with mesh inserts for ventilation keep you from feeling clammy so you can run for longer in comfort.
The Tech Tights are a great choice for runners who train regularly. The lightly compressive fabric provides support around the calves, thighs, knees and glutes and a broad, integrated waistband with a drawcord keeps them in place.
Two examples of women’s running trousers
The women's version of the Classic Tracksters features the same Exertech 100 fabric as the men's making them super-comfortable and non-restrictive as well as durable to stand up to frequent washing and wearing. The female-specific cut and improved waistband mean a smooth profile and great fit.
As training ramps up, the Women's Minimus Pants will allow you to keep going through the wind and rain thanks to the breathable PERTEX® Shield. The articulated knees, lockable drawcord and lightweight fabric deliver ultimate mobility so they're also great for trails and mountains.