You might consider a running gilet a luxury. The last piece of kit you will consider getting once you’ve picked up more essential items like shoes, T-shirts, shorts and the like. While you’re not entirely wrong – it is more important to have some shorts to hand than a gilet – the versatility of the latter means that it’s still something no regular runner should be without.
That’s because a gilet offers the perfect amount of protection in many conditions. They’re generally windproof and water-resistant, so they keep your core warm and dry, but the sleeveless design means you won’t overheat. You can use a gilet over just a T-shirt for runs in cool conditions, or put one on over a jacket when you need an extra layer on freezing days, especially when the wind is blowing. They’re also usually packable, so you can pop them into a pocket on your shorts, backpack or jacket to have an extra layer to hand just in case.
In short, you’ll be surprised at just how often you reach for your gilet once you have one in your wardrobe. Here are the best running gilets available, ordered by price.
Kalenji Kiprun Light Sleeveless Running Jacket
Despite being a budget option this lightweight gilet still impresses with its combination of weatherproofing (it’s windproof and water-resistant) and packability (you can stuff it into its own pocket, and it has a band to attach it to your arm or hand when not in use). It might run a little hotter than pricier gilets, but it’s still a great option for those who don’t want to splash out big money.
Under Armour OutRun The Storm Vest
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This lightweight gilet repels water and shields you from wind in an impressively effective fashion given how thin the material is. It packs away into its own pocket to form a neat bundle with a strap, allowing you to carry the gilet on your arm, which we thought would be annoying on the run but actually wasn’t – it was lighter and less intrusive than a phone armband. The packed gilet is also small enough to shove into a running belt, making this a highly portable extra layer to have on hand in changeable weather.
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Nike Therma-FIT Repel
This insulated top is one of the warmer options available to those who prefer a gilet rather than a full jacket, and the Repel version uses water-repellent material on the outside to resist light showers. At the moment the Nike website doesn’t have the women’s Repel version available, but you can pick up the standard Therma-FIT gilet– all tops in this range have the warming insulation, and that’s the key feature here.
Brooks Carbonite Vest
Although this eye-catching vest is sure to make you more noticeable in the daytime, it’s at night that it really comes into its own, thanks to the strips of black 3M Scotchlite tape on its shoulders and arms that shine brightly when light hits them. The tape is placed carefully in motion zones to help drivers to identify you as a runner, rather than a strange shiny object. The fabric is windproof and water-resistant, and the vest has two side pockets plus a chest pocket.
Iffley Road Sheen Reflective Waterproof Gilet
The Sheen gilet comes in five designs, two of which have reflective stripes around the chest. You pay a £5 premium for the striped version, and we reckon that is well worth it for the extra visibility you’ll have on night runs – plus stripes are cool anyway. As well as being waterproof and windproof, this lightweight gilet packs very neatly into its own back pocket.
Soar Winter Gilet
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Like all Soar’s running gear this gilet is both incredibly good and incredibly expensive. If you have the cash it’s pretty much unbeatable – a versatile wind and waterproof layer to keep your torso warm and dry, but not too warm. We’ve worn it for hard sessions on mild days over just a base layer, and as a top layer over a waterproof jacket on three-hour runs in sub-zero conditions in the Scottish hills. The gilet has a chest pocket that’s ideal for your phone, and a bigger back pocket that you can pop other essentials in.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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