March 9, 2019

Boutique Running Apparel for the Winter

In 2019, one of my goals is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Sadly, this isn’t a new goal; running a BQ has been a formal goal of mine – written down and spoken aloud – for the past three new years, and I have failed every time.

I live in Pittsburgh, which isn’t exactly the best place to train for a spring marathon. Runners not only have to deal with short days and freezing temperatures, but also A LOT of moisture. Pittsburgh gets more rain than Seattle, both in frequency and quantity. Why not train in the summer? After running the spring marathon, my desire to keep training all but disappears. Also, with summer comes a number of other outdoor activities, and successfully running a BQ takes a certain amount of discipline (I suppose at this point I don’t know for sure since I haven’t done it, but it’s a reasonable assumption). What about the treadmill? Not for me. As much trouble as I have motivating myself to go outside for a workout in borderline weather – say, 35 degrees and a light drizzle – it is better than the alternatives. Because of this, winter running gear is important.

In 2018, I launched a new segment on MtnMeister called Company Spotlight, where we feature lesser-known outdoor brands for a brief interview and gear review. The segment serves “the little guy” who is often making an equal- or superior-quality product compared to the competition but doesn’t get the recognition. Many outdoor consumers don’t know how many of these brands exist, and they may never find out because retailers don’t want to take on the risk of using too much floor space on unrecognizable brands.

E-commerce is changing this. More and more brands are bypassing the retailer and using digital marketing to sell directly to the consumer. As a runner, an internet-user, and a person in his late-20s, their advertisements enter my social media feed quite often. For my winter marathon training, I wanted to give these small companies a try. This is a list of the best items I tested. To curate it, I ran in the gear for 10 weeks and washed, dried, and re-wore each item multiple times. All of these items were free media samples provided by the companies.

Best Long Sleeve Top

Rhone Reign Long Sleeve

The Reign from Rhone is a beautifully simple long sleeve running top. This is one of those shirts that fits so perfectly that you never even notice it. The sleeves are the exact length that cover your whole arm without dangling or bunching, and the torso falls to your hip without anything extra. The weight is designed for temperatures in the low 40s, or at least for someone who runs hot like me. This is one of those shirts that is always in your laundry pile because it’s always the first one you grab when it is clean.

Best Pants

Janji Transit Pant

Lately, joggers (the pants) seem to be very popular with non-joggers (the people), which results in joggers buying joggers thinking they’ll be good for jogging when they’re actually just meant for fashion. These are the joggers’ jogger. They fit close to the leg but leave just enough space for extra movement. The side pockets are a really nice feature on these pants. They are sewn close to the leg so it prevents the contents from flopping around. With the Transit Pant, I can carry my phone in the side pocket without it bouncing against my leg.

Best T-Shirt

rabbit ez tee

This is a perfect layering piece that I find myself wearing far more often than I thought. It’s silky, thin, and fast-drying, which makes it useful as a base layer under a pullover or light jacket. I’m sure it’d be great during warm weather, too, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait a few months for that. In general, Rabbit offers the most technical running apparel out of the brands in this list. If you’re a serious runner and want something other than Nike, Brooks, Adidas, etc., check out Rabbit.

Best Post-Running

Vuori Zion Half Up

I found myself wanting to wear this sweatshirt far more after a run than during a run. It even works as a casual top – the fit is modern and it has tasteful details that make it fine to wear with a pair of jeans. In case you do use it for a casual run, there’s a pouch pocket in the front with zippers on both sides to keep things inside. The upper part of the sleeves have a decorative pattern, which is a slightly lighter material and adds a nice accent to the heather grey. Vuori also sent a pair of joggers. While they are perfect for a Sunday morning coffee or a gym sesh, there are better options for winter running in Pittsburgh (see the Transit Pant).

Best Underwear

Runderwear Merino Briefs

Are you supposed to go commando under running tights? I’m really not sure. Tights fit best without any underwear, but then things get pretty cold – well, one “thing” in particular, you know? Still, when you try wearing underwear underneath, there’s almost always bunching. Runderwear is the solution here. The merino briefs fit nicely under running tights and provide just enough extra insulation to keep things warm.

Honorable Mention

MtnMeister T-shirt

No matter the weather, the MtnMeister T is specifically designed to be your favorite t-shirt. Neutral yet fashionable colors that go with everything, from running tights to shorts to blue jeans. The cotton and polyester blend is ultra-comfortable and breathable, making it a perfect undershirt for the winter or simple t-shirt for the summer. Men’s and women’s styles available.


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