Gear trends: Winter running apparel for 2014/15

Running with the wool: Merino, built-in balaclavas and featherweight fabrics give runners more options in the cold for next year.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Winter running isn’t new to many runners in cold climates.

But of late, they’re getting a lot more company on the roads and trails, and it’s no longer slim pickings when it comes to winter-run-specific apparel.

Running apparel for fall 2014 is lightweight, has ingenious components like built-in balaclavas, mixed fabrics that offer the utmost performance and stylish designs so runners can tick off Columnist Chad Stafko while they do errands post-run. Plus, companies provide more pieces for layering than ever and a slew of tights to match.

“The lightweight trend continues with featherweight fabrics with great performance and packability features, along with lightweight minimalist zipper and decorative trims,” said Patrick Crotty, product merchandising manager for Salomon.

Manufacturers finally have caught up to runners and realized the training doesn’t stop when the snow starts falling, so they need to offer stuff that’s warm (but not too warm) and protective against inclement weather.

When it comes to mixing fabrics, wool is making appearances in pieces across the board. The temperature-regulating natural fiber offers the right amount of insulation while maintaining breathability and limiting stink.

Smartwool is utilizing merino wool next-to-skin in its latest PhD run line, which includes the PhD Run Divide Vest (MSRP $160). This lightweight piece with mixed nylon exterior protection is warmer than it looks, and when paired with a long-sleeved shirt underneath is all a harrier needs to face the lower temperatures.

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Winter running might be better than summer running for one reason: layers. You can always shed layers if you get warm during a run in cold weather, but you don’t get that option in the heat. Saucony provides a full outfit for layering with its Altitude Baselayer (MSRP $80), Ridge Runner Midlayer (MSRP $125) and Razor Jacket (MSRP $175). The baselayer contains 5 percent wool, which sets a new low percentage where brands try to take advantage of the natural fiber.

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Winter tights also are on the run.

Smartwool’s PhD Run Tech Tight (MSRP $125) brings the performance of merino wool, as does Merrell’s Ergolux Legging (MSRP $75), both with body-mapping designs.

Runners traveling in the winter know what a pain it is to pack a million little accessories — gloves, wearable GPS units, facemasks and hats. Where they can consolidate, they will. Brooks Running debuts its Adapt Jacket (MSRP $180) with a built-in balaclava for winter running. This lightweight piece provides all the warmth and wind-protection a person needs in the cold. It’s insulated with the company’s proprietary ThermoCool insulation and lined with the Utopia Thermal fabric. Merrell's Ergolux Balaclava top (MSRP $85) offers body mapping to keep runners warm, dry and comfortable in all the right spots. The incorporated balaclava helps keep the head, ears and face warm.

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Runners don’t need the bulk and protection skiers and snowboarders do, so they need their own jackets and vests. Salomon brings its S-Lab Hybrid jacket for men (MSRP $275), an ultralight piece that integrates waterproof panels; a Quick Stash waist, a stretch panel around the waist that allows users to remove and store a jacket without stopping a run; and MotionFit Technology, which allows unrestricted movement without compromising fit. The North Face debuts its Stormy Trail reversible jacket (MSRP $165), which gives runners the option to showcase the reflective, bright technical soft shell on one side, or the subtle gray liner that looks good enough to wear every day on the other side. The ventilation panel on the back keeps customers dry, even while wearing a hydration pack. The women’s version has a drop tail to warm the booty.

Compression in tights remains a trend for fall ’14 with Salomon’s Endurance Tight for men (MSRP $75) and women (MSRP $80). It has compression and Advanced Skin ActiveDry to transport moisture away from the body.

New products from Skins can double as running tights and baselayers for other winter sports. The F400 collection is designed for optimum compression control and durability so it keeps its compression properties longer than most.

“The seams are strategically placed to hold in those major muscle groups — hamstrings and quads,” said Danielle Said, marketing manager for Skins. Key products include the A400 Long Tight (MSRP $150) and the A400 Long Sleeve Shirt (MSRP $120).

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--Ana Trujillo

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