Heavier Base Layers

Heavier Base Layers


If you’ve found your way to the R4W website, it’s highly unlikely that you’re what they call a “fair weather runner” which means that, at this time of year, you’re out there putting in the miles regardless of the Great British weather. Good for you! But is your choice of running kit keeping you warm, dry and protected from the elements? In cold weather, it’s important to understand the different layers of running kit. Today we’re going to talk about base layers: why you should wear them and what you can expect.

A base layer, as the name suggests, is an extra layer of kit which sits between your mid or outer-layer and your skin. Base layers can include long or short-sleeved tops, singlets, and leggings or running tights of various lengths. For extreme climates, you could even invest in base layers of underwear. What sets a base layer apart from regular running kit is it’s material and function.

A base layer’s main job is to move sweat and moisture away from your body, and out to where it can evaporate. This prevents clamminess, chafing and chills. Plenty of materials could keep you warm, but not all will have these wicking properties which move moisture away from your skin. Compare runs when you’ve worked up a sweat wearing a cotton t-shirt with those times when you’ve been wearing technical wicking material.

Base layers are made from combinations of wicking materials, such as Coolmax, and thermal materials like wool, with a degree of lycra or other stretchy fabrics so the garment holds its shape and doesn’t bunch or ride up.

When it comes to design, you’ll need to consider what kind of temperatures and weather you’ll be running in, and what added functions you may need from your base layer. For example, if you choose very long running tights, you might want base layer tights with zips at the ankles to help ease them on and off. For base layer tops, you will need to decide whether a round neck is sufficient, or if you’d prefer a high neck to protect against wind and rain. If so, will you need a half-zip so you can adapt the top, giving you the ability to unzip it to cool off or do it right up to keep out the cold?

Will you ever wear the base layer by itself (in which case should you choose a brighter colour, and one with reflective detailing)? Fit and personal preference is everything, but good brands for running base layers include Helly Hansen, Ron Hill and Odlo.

Base layers are an investment that will stand the test of time and see you through many winters, keeping you warm and dry so you can continue to put in the miles.  The days of running in bulky jackets will be behind you, and you’ll never need to stop part-way round your run to try and tie your jumper around your waist. Don’t let the weather stand in your way!

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