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
Tough yet lightweight, the Ronhill Classic Tracksters Running Tight provides a combination of comfort and performance as the Exertech 100 fabric moves with you. An improved waistband, featuring a reduced bulk for increased comfort and smoother profile, has been added along with an internal fob pocket for small necessities, such as keys or gel shots.
The Salomon Agile Tight offers warmth, stretch comfort, and 360° reflective branding for running day or night in cool weather. AdvancedSkin ActiveDry technology helps keep you dry at all times by moving moisture away from the skin and spreading it across the surface of the fabric where it can quickly evaporate. These skin fit tights also come with a zipped pocket, draw cord, elasticated waistband for extra support, and a stretch mesh to offer freedom of movement.
The dhb full length waist tight uses a polyester-elastane fabric to form fit around the legs to provide warmth, support and comfort while running. For its relatively low price, these tights are packed with features, including flatlock seams, mesh ventilation panels behind the knee, thigh gel pockets, and a rear secure zip pocket large enough for a phone.
The draw cord has a small amount of stretch to ensure it is not restrictive as the waist area expands and contracts with breathing patterns. Meanwhile, a polygiene anti-bacterial treatment keeps these tights fresher for longer
Four of the best running trousers for men
The Under Armour Reactor Run Jogger features Threadborne Microthread technology in the fabric helping it dry faster and avoid clinging, thereby limiting chafing. The ColdGear® Reactor back yoke, meanwhile, has a hex-shaped pattern that traps warmth but still breathes as you run. The tapered fit trousers also feature an encased elastic waistband with internal draw cord alongside hidden zip hand pockets.
Waterproof and breathable, the AT/C Racepant uses taped seams to deliver outstanding protection and unrestricted running movement. Knee high zips provides a quick kit change that packs away into its own pocket. Able to tackle even the most testing terrain, these trousers are waterproof, breathable, and look great.
These water-repellent trousers are a superb accompaniment on your cold morning runs. Water-repellent with reflective details, the trousers feature UA Storm technology which repels water without sacrificing breathability. Four-way stretch construction allows you to move freely in every direction while 7" leg zips allow quick access and exit. An elastic waistband with internal drawcord and hand pockets also feature.
The OMM Kamleika Pant is a waterproof trouser designed with a unique super stretch fabric for distraction-free running. These top quality running trousers are fully featured for high performance on the road or mountain. Adjustable underfoot bungees keep the trousers secure, while special materials provide temperature and moisture regulation to maintain consistent comfort throughout your activity. Knee length zips permit quick removal while lace hooks at the bottom create a tight closure to prevent debris entering your footwear.
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
Constructed from moisture wicking, thermally dynamic, stretchable fabric the fully featured Cordillera Thermal Trail Tights are equally at home on the road or in the mountains.
An Aeroflyte QD overlay across the ankles and thighs provides protection from cold and wind, while low-profile, flatlocked-sewn seams provide additional comfort. A stretch waist band with drawstring adjustment is also included alongside a rear zipped pocket for your phone and key, along with an extra rear gel shot pocket. YKK reverse coil semi-auto ankle zips make for a snug lower leg fit, assisted by a silicone-grip ankle hem.
The New Balance Women's Precision Run Tight is made from a soft, sweat-wicking fabric that adapts to your movement and activity. Finished with a graphic print and reflective tape on the legs, these tights feature ventilation mesh inserts on the back of the knee to ensure you stay dry, comfortable and performing for longer. A rear zip pocket for your valuables and a stay-put waistband add practicality to these high-performance tights.
Designed to improve visibility when out running in low-light conditions, these full length tights are perfect for cooler early morning or early evening runs. A phone-sized rear centre back pocket, YKK ankle zippers, and a draw cord waist are included in the rich list of features. Made from a mid-weight polyester-elastane mix, the tights are comfortable, non-restrictive, and offer a light level of compression for added support.
Three examples of women’s running trousers
The Women's Montane Minimus Pants are exceptionally lightweight rain shell pants. With the supreme breathability of PERTEX® Shield they’ve become one of the brand’s flagship products.
Constructed from fully waterproof and breathable material, the trousers also feature articulated knees for high knee movement which is perfect for all-terrain use.
An elasticated waist with adjustable, lockable draw cord will ensure you stay confident on your route while ¼ length YKK side zips provide easy access, ventilation, and the ability to pull over your footwear in wet conditions. Hook and loop calf tabs prevents excess material from gathering around the calves, and a pre-elasticated hem gives a tight fit to prevent heat loss. For your phone or keys, there’s a ‘stuff sac’ to keep your valuables protected.
Featuring a warm and super-soft cotton-blend feel, Under Armour's Favourite Fleece Pant joggers for women will keep you comfy on long, cold winter evenings. These loose cut trousers are made from a soft, mid-weight cotton-blend fleece with a brushed interior for extra warmth. The material is designed to wick away sweat and offers fast drying. The ribbed waistband with external draw cord & ribbed ankle cuffs will ensure you stay warm and secure on the road. Side hand pockets are also included to carry your valuables.
The Adidas ZNE collection has been maximised for comfort. A traditional tapered football silhouette is combined with side zip pockets, a draw cord-adjustable waist, and sleek fit that will ensure you run in style.