Being new to running, I’ve had to build my kit as I go… realizing what I need as the seasons and temperatures change. Sure, I had most of the basics at the start, but the little things that make a run more comfortable – a headband/ear warmer, warm gloves, socks that come higher than my ankles and aren’t made of 100% cotton, etc. – I learned about the hard way.
With some birthday money in hand, I went on a tiny running-related spending spree recently. I discovered the awesomeness that is Running Warehouse, an online store with lots of discounts and free 2-day shipping, and decided it was high time that I bought myself some warm kit, especially after being miserably cold at my race in Plymouth. After having the chance to try my new purchases out at my race two days ago, and feeling like writing a review for the heck of it, I thought I’d write about my favorite new winter gear:
Thermal Running Tights
Before this purchase, I already owned two pairs of running tights. One pair by Puma (referenced here and here) was bought on clearance at Macy’s a few years back and was worn mostly during late-season outdoor soccer games. They were decent for when the temperature was in the mid-30s or above, but I didn’t trust them to keep me warm during runs on colder days. They also were annoyingly short, ending an inch or so above my ankles, and had a zipper at the back of the calf that irritated me when I wore long socks over the tights. My second pair are technically a long-underwear-type baselayer from Stoic that I bought wicked cheap from Steep and Cheap. I also wore those to soccer games and on a few runs, but again, they weren’t quite warm enough. When the temps were too cold for those tights, I wore my flannel-lined jogging pants (referenced here), but like the Puma tights, these are too short, stopping a few inches above my ankles and making long socks awkward due to the pants’ bulk.
Enter Running Warehouse and their marvelous filter tool that lets you choose clothing based on the temperature you plan to run in. I looked for under 30 degrees and found the New Balance Impact Thermal Tights. They were the least expensive thermal tights on offer, had all positive reviews, and looked like they’d be just the ticket. Plus, New Balance is a local company and I always like to support local business when I can.
I was super excited when I first inspected these tights upon arrival. The lining on the inside felt nice and warm, substantial compared to the thin layer of shiny fabric I was used to with my non-thermal Puma tights. I also liked the reflective detail on the back, and the zipped pocket just above the bum.
Their trial came at the Winter Classic on December 8. Gun time was 10.30 am, when it was supposed to be just about 30 degrees. It was dry, cloudy, and windy… very windy, especially at our team’s VIP tent which was situated in a wind tunnel between two tall buildings.
The tights felt great, for the most part. They were nice and long, long enough that I could wear ankle socks if I wanted and not have a gap of chilly, exposed skin, and the thermal lining was perfect – warm enough that the cold wind didn’t instantly freeze my legs, but not so warm that my legs were overheating 2 miles in. The zippers at the back of the calves annoyed me as much as the ones on my Pumas, though I was wearing knee socks over them, which pressed them into my legs. Unlike the Pumas, I don’t have to wear socks over them so it shouldn’t be an issue in the future. All in all, I’m in love with these tights and would definitely recommend them or buy them again.
The snood, or tubular scarf, came on my radar during the 2010-2011 Premier League football season, when some wussy players I didn’t particularly like *cough*SamirNasri*cough* started wearing them to “keep their necks warm” during games. I thought they were super lame, and was happy when they were banned a few months later. The neck was one body part that I personally never gave thought to while partaking of exercise, and I didn’t understand why some footballers loved them so.
I still don’t understand the desire of snoods for neck warmth. However, after running for a few miles into a strong, icy headwind during my race in Plymouth, I embarked on a quest for some kind of face warmer. My face was so cold during that race that my nose/mouth/chin area went numb and my words were slurred whenever I talked until I fully thawed out an hour later. What did seasoned runners do with their faces during cold runs? Google to the rescue.
What I discovered thanks to running forums was a thing called a neck gaiter, which is like a tube scarf that also covers part of your face. There were also balaclavas, but those smack of the IRA a little too much, plus I already have hats and only needed the bottom half. I searched a bunch of athletic apparel websites and read tons of reviews, and the one I finally landed on is actually what brought me to Running Warehouse in the first place – the Saucony DryLete Neck Warmer. [Again with the neck warming! Face warming is where it’s at.]
It appealed to me because it had a drawstring to tighten the warmer enough to make it stay over the face, and it also had a mesh panel to make breathing easier. Plus it’s made of wicking material, which is always good, and I have a soft spot for Saucony things. It was also long enough that it could act as a gaiter and block snow/rain/wind/cold from one’s neck and chest, and could be pulled down away from the face if one got too hot. It would seem to be a perfect cold weather accessory for one, indeed.
I was excited to try my snood out at the Winter Classic, and arrived at the VIP tent pre-race with it around my neck. Drew assisted with my drawstring-pulling (I was wearing gloves and had festive hair ribbons dangling right around the drawstring, and Drew stepped in to make my struggling stop) and before I was even at the starting line I was already pulling it down to wipe my nose. In fact, I put it back up and pulled it back down so many times that the drawstring loosened (mid-run) and I couldn’t position it successfully back over my cold nose. I like to think it would have kept my face warm if my pesky nose-faucet hadn’t thwarted my plans. This is no fault of Saucony’s… any face warmer snood thing would have fallen victim to my snot, regardless of brand. I’m planning to try it again during Sunday’s Jingle Bell Run, so clearly I’m enough of a fan to give it another go.
Join me next time on Kit Review as I blab about how awesome my kit is in order to justify all the money I keep spending on running gear! Til next time…