Six shells to get you out there, wind, rain, and snow be damned.
New Balance Hi-Viz Beacon
For pre-dawn and evening runners, the softshell Hi-Viz ($175) boasts your standard visibility tech–neon hues and 360-degree strips of reflective tape–with one surprising twist: a matrix of bright, glow-in-the-dark spots and stripes that are clearly visible on unlit roads. Store the jacket in a sunny place to recharge the glow.
When not in use, the slim-fitting, Kleenex-thin Houdini ($89) disappears into its own zippered chest pocket, stuffing down to smaller than a deck of cards. The treated fabric offers solid rain protection, keeps out storm-strength winds, and breathes far better than we expected. Kudos for the retro snaps.
Pearl Izumi Fly Softshell Run Hoody
Pearl seemingly put more design energy into the cuffs of the fleece-lined, wind-resistant Run Hoody ($140) than most companies put into entire jackets. The thin wrist gaiter has a thumb loop to slip smoothly into a glove, an integrated fist mitt, and five inches of external cuff so you can check your watch without degloving.
REI Airflyte Hybrid
REI stuffed the Airflyte's ($100) windproof chest and back panels with a thin sheet of PrimaLoft, which absolutely cranks the thermostat on subfreezing runs. Stretchy poly sleeves give the arms and shoulders a kind of flexible, base-layer-like comfort with a nice close fit.
SmartWool PhD Run Divide
The Run Divide ($200) is fully lined with a sheet of baby-soft merino wool and has stretchy, supple, windproof panels on the torso, shoulders, and sleeves that deflect icy gusts. It's ninja quiet, nicely breathable when the wind dies down, and the most comfortable jacket on this page by a wide margin.
The North Face Stormy Trail
To boost this waterproof shell's ($165) airflow, designers installed a (somewhat hidden) cinch cord around the hips that helps the jacket suck air into two big, closeable wind gills up front, then force it up and out big, fixed openings on the back. It's the closest anyone's come to solving the chronic breathability dilemma for waterproof running shells.