Why Nordic Companies Make Great Trail Running Gear
Scandinavian cross-country ski heritage brings technical know-how to running apparel.
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Truth: Nordic skiers sweat (a lot) and face conditions that range from sunny and pleasant to ripping cold wind and sideways-blowing snow. Distractions like rubbing seams, non-breathable (or, too breathable) fabrics and sloppy fits would make the already challenging sport unbearable. For those reasons, apparel for Nordic skiing is remarkably high performance. And the good news for runners, and trail runners in particular, is that Nordic apparel companies (literally, Scandinavia-based businesses) have started making running-specific gear.
Apparel brand Dæhlie Sportswear was started by the winningest cross-country ski racer in history (Bjørn Dæhlie) and is the official sportswear supplier of the Norwegian Ski Team. Swedish company Craft Sports has deep roots in Nordic skiing, and was started by a Swedish inventor who tested the moisture content (from sweat) in a set of underwear he designed for running. And Norwegian company Odlo has been making apparel for hardcore athletes since 1946.
All three of these brands have crossed over into the running apparel space. They’ve brought with them what they’ve learned from making Nordic skiing clothes for decades: the technical fabrications, streamlined fits, and designs that enable athletes to keep going, comfortably, through all sorts of winter conditions.
Here’s a look at a few key pieces from these brands that carry their Nordic ski apparel prowess into their running apparel lines, and how we as runners benefit from them.
Our Picks for Trail Running Gear from Nordic Brands
Savvy runners have caught on to the high quality of these brands; for that reason (and because of the pandemic winter driving people to Nordic ski and run outside), some of these pieces may be low in stock. You may be able to find them at local retailers. If not, take note and shop early next fall.
Dæhlie Winter Run Jacket | $150
With extremely lightweight insulation on the chest, shoulders, and along the upper back combined with a super-breathable backside that’s aided by perforations in the high-sweat zone of the upper mid-back, this jacket is ideal for cool to cold runs in anything but a downpour (for which we’d recommend a waterproof shell jacket).
“The best experience we take from Nordic to run is our wide knowledge regarding fabrics and how important this is when it comes to performance as breathability and moisture wicking,” says Dahlie lead designer, Silje Fillinsnes Jandal.
Dæhlie Pants Run Women | $100
For days where you might not be in the mood for tights, for whatever reason, these run pants are designed to be slightly loose fitting without feeling sloppy (which can feel slow). They’re tapered from the knees down for a still-streamlined fit, and made of super-stretchy, thin, lightweight fabric that moves with your every stride. “Common between run and ski is that the athletes need a lot of movement in their garments to perform at maximum,” says Fillinsnes Jandal. “They aim for the feeling of wearing nothing and that’s why fitting and flexibility is very important in our collections.”
Dæhlie Tights Winter | $130
Constructed mainly out of soft merino wool but with wind-blocking material on the upper thighs and mesh paneling to ensure breathability and mobility. These tights also feature reflectivity details that are subtle unless illuminated, making them work great for road running pre-dawn or post-dusk. (The company is based out of Oslo, Norway, where a typical winter day sees just four to five hours of sunlight, making reflectivity an active-wear apparel necessity.)
Craft Glide Softshell Hood Jacket | $125
“Swedish Nordic skiers do multiple sports,” says Jon Howard, director of consumer sales and marketing for Craft US. “We are seeing hooded jackets work for running, skiing, and other sports where added protection and versatility outweighs a few extra ounces.” This jacket’s versatility goes beyond the hood — it’s styled in a way that makes it crossover into casual-wear, while maintaining high performance across sports. The streamlined fit comes from the brand’s Swedish heritage, as Swedes have a long, lean build. The fit is also a practical design feature — there’s no extra fabric flopping about in the wind. And the jacket’s softshell fabric blocks wind and sheds snow and light rain while remaining breathable.
Craft Fuseknit Comfort Blocked Baselayer | $69
The concept of layering is a big deal in Nordic skiing, as temperatures could be frigid, but heat is quickly generated by effort. This is also key for trail running gear, where you need sweat-wicking baselayers with varying fabric thickness and ventilation properties matched up with high-sweat areas, all achieved without irritating seams between paneling, helps temperature regulation. Like most pieces from Craft, this top has a slim fit, which makes it ideal for layering under a midlayer, a jacket, or both.
Odlo Zeroweight Ceramiwarm Element ½ Zip Midlayer | $70
“The key is zero distractions,” says Adrian Cory, U.S. commercial manager of Odlo. “If the skier or runner can focus on their activity without a niggly seam here, or insufficient ventilation there, then their performance will be enhanced.” Cory points to the importance of four-way stretch which ensures maneuverability. “And of course,” adds Cory, “the weight of the clothing is paramount.” This ½-Zip Midlayer functions as a stretchy, breathable alternative to a run jacket (in dry conditions) or can be worn on its own.