As the weather starts to get cooler, one of the most important pieces of your running kit will be some sort of top and other thermal gear to keep you warm. Some of the thermal tops and tights are pricier than others, in this article I will try to explain the differences between some of the tops and tights and what you are getting for your money. First do remember good quality thermal gear should definitely long outlive your running shoes. As they all wick the moisture away quickly they also dry really fast so you can wear it, wash it and it will be dry to wear the next day.
THERMAL RUNNING TEES
Choose the right warmth
How much warmth you need from a top of course depends on how much you feel the cold, but it will also be influenced by what time of day you are going for your run and where you are running. If you run in the early morning or late evening you will obviously need to wear thermals more than if you always run at midday. Likewise if you are running in the hills you will also need a warmer top. Thermal fabrics have become lighter and lighter while still retaining that all important warmth factor so it doesn't and shouldn't feel bulky.
Pull the wool over your eyes
There are now also many wool thermal tops on the market. As wool is incredibly warming, these tops often feel deceptively thin, but don't worry, they will keep you warm. The Montane wool top comes in a short sleeve version as well as long sleeve. Another brilliant really cosy top is the Helly Hansen Merino 1/2 zip top. This top has the traditional Helly Hansen Lifa material next to the skin. As this material is utterly water 'phobic' it repels all moisture to the outside away from the body, so you won't get hot and sweaty.
Cut out the wind
Always remember the wind chill factor. Even if it isn't raining, it can be important to wear a wind-resistant jacket or a gilet, as well as a thermal top. One of the great advantages of running with a thermal top and gilet is that you just don't feel nearly so bundled up as you do in a jacket. I always remember when they first appeared on the scene, getting one and feeling it was so extravagant having it as well as a jacket. Then I wore it almost all winter and my jacket was only worn in the rain! Of course a jacket is also useful, so check out some of the running jackets. They are divided up into windproof, water-resistant, which totally block the wind, and waterproof jackets. The men's and women's Ronhill stride Winter Gilet also has Thermalite insulation for added warmth.
If it is really cold, I have found it useful to wear a short or long sleeved base layer underneath other layers. The perennial Helly Hansen is a great option. Try a short sleeved merino top as a base layer for those really cold days.
One of the great things about some of the most recent thermals is the number of wee extra things that come on the tops. Many of the thermals now come with flat lock seams to add extra comfort and prevent chafing. There are now a number of thermal tops with pockets. The other great thing is having a thermal top that has 'mitts' or some sort of cover for your hands.
Most running jackets will have some reflective on them, but some of the thermal tops have this as well, so if you are running without your jacket you will still be seen.
THERMAL RUNNING TIGHTS
It is of course very important to make sure your legs stay warm. I generally find I need a thermal top before I need to start wearing thermal tights, but again if you are in the hills or when it gets colder you will definitely need warm legs. Here are some of this year's newest thermal tights. They all have a pocket with a zip for keys or a gel, except the Skins thermal compression tights. They also have at least some reflective on for better visibility in those dark evenings or early mornings.
THERMAL RUNNING HATS & GLOVES
Hats and gloves are of course also essential for running in the cold. The Gore Essential Beany is a great thermal hat which will wick well so that your head doesn't get too hot. Another great thermal hat is the fun Ronhill Bobble Hat. The hat is really cozy with 50% wool and the bobble has some reflective material in it for extra visibility. Wool is being used more and more in running kit and the Ronhill merino gloves have been around for a few years now, they are lightweight, but still warm. The Montane via trail gloves keep your hands warm on those really cold days by completely blocking the wind. If you don't like wearing a hat, how about a merino buff to keep you warm? A cozy neckwarmer? Or a thermal headband to keep your ears warm and toasty? Remember, ‘there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!’
So if you usually just go to the gym in the winter because you really feel the cold, why not get a couple of thermal pieces of clothing? Try running outside on those clear, crisp autumn and winter days - soon you'll wonder why you even bothered with your gym membership!