Why Runners Should Wear Gloves + the Best Ones
When you’re a runner, there’s a surprising amount of gear you need. Didn’t someone say once that this was a low maintenance sport? Not these days. While you could run through the streets naked, there is some essential gear you will want in order to survive your running hobby. Including gloves.
Runners wear gloves for the practical reason of keeping their hands warm. If you haven’t experienced it before yourself, you would be surprised how painfully cold your hands can get even when the temps are in the high 40s. Think about the last time you got caught in the snow without gloves and imagine enduring an entire run with that feeling. Cold hands can be frustrating, but there’s a great biological reason for it.
Why Do Our Hands Get Cold?
When the weather is cold, our bodies like to make sure that enough blood is flowing to the middle of our bodies, our core (source). From a survival standpoint, it’s more important to keep our internal organs warm than our hands or feet.
Also, our hands are small and don’t have hefty blood circulation capabilities to begin with. This is why shaking your hands can help get the blood flowing and some warmth to your fingertips.
When you consider that hands have bad blood circulation to begin with and the fact that the body prioritizes the core when it gets cold, you bet that your hands are going to be freezing when you step outside for a run.
Staying Warm While Running Matters
A lot of runners enjoy the practice of pain tolerance. Heck, don’t we all marvel at ultra runners who cross long distances across snowy continents? It’s not rare for runners to do uncomfortable things, including being cold.
That said, most of us are just trying to squeeze in a run before work, not traverse Antarctica. Staying warm should be a top priority. It can even impact how you run. Studies show that being cold can reduce mental alertness, which can lead to more accidents (source). When we’re running outside, of course it’s important to stay mentally alert.
Running and falling is a huge hazard and something you should avoid at all costs. Believe me, I have enough experience to know. You may be thinking that cold hands couldn’t possibly cause falls, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
When you’re running, even the smallest mental distraction can make you miss a crack in the sidewalk and take a tumble. One second you’re thinking about your cold hands and the next second you’re on the pavement. Ok, dramatics over.
Really though, gloves can be really helpful with falling, not just by preventing it, but by protecting you if it does happen. Every time I fall, I scrape up my hands. While I’m glad I have instincts to protect my face, my hands have taken a beating over the years…except for the times I was wearing gloves. When you put on gloves, you’re giving yourself a key barrier between your skin and the pavement.
There’s also a completely non-biological reason to stay warm while running–it’s more enjoyable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my gloves for an early morning run and regretted it. The term “painfully cold” isn’t misguided, which I’m sure you’ve learned in other situations. When you’re running for an hour and have nothing else to think about, it’s amazing how distracting and annoying cold hands can be.
Yeah, running is exercise and exercise isn’t meant to be fun all the time. There’s no reason to intentionally make it more miserable though. Just grab some gloves and eliminate that one unpleasantry.
Why Runners Hate Gloves, But Shouldn’t
The most common complaint I hear from runners about wearing gloves is that their hands get hot. The run started off cold, but now it’s too warm and they have nothing to do but suffer with sweaty hands in clammy gloves. Sure, this can happen.
The solution–just take your gloves off! Now, don’t ask about where to put them. Gloves are small and can be easily tucked into the waistband of a pair of shorts, leggings, or even a bra. I’ve also been known to hold my gloves.
If you’re getting too hot in your gloves all of the time, you may be wearing gloves when it’s too warm outside. Or, you may have the wrong gloves. Many running gloves are designed to be slim, sleek, and ready for athletics. We’re not talking about fluff filled mittens here.
It’s important to make sure you have actual athletic gloves and not any old pair you found at the store. Non-athletic gloves are designed to keep hands warm at all costs. These gloves are often thick, full of warm fabrics, and lack any breathability. None of these factors are great for running gear. Be sure to buy gloves that are specifically made for running or cycling. You can keep reading for my recommendations for some great running glove options.
Another reason why runners hate gloves is because they can end up feeling dirty. I mean, even in the coldest weather, you may sweat a bit. The solution–get multiple pairs and be brutal about throwing them in the washing machine. While gloves aren’t free, they also aren’t the most expensive running gear you’ll get. A good pair of gloves will cost you $15-$25. If you’re worried about the cleanliness, go ahead and grab a few pairs and wash them as much as you need to.
Lastly, I often hear people complaining about how they aren’t used to gloves and that it would be annoying to wear them. Yes, they can take some getting used to. You will get used to them though and be glad you did. Cold hands are much more annoying than wearing a pair of gloves. Start off with a lightweight pair of gloves that has few bells and whistles and work up from there. I used to hate gloves as well, but now I won’t go on a cold run without them.
What to Look for in Running Gloves
Alright, let’s get into the practical details here. If you’re in the market for running gloves, what exactly should you look out for? In part, it depends on your priorities and needs. Universally, you want gloves that are made out of some kind of Lycra, polyester, or blend of that type. A lot of them will have a thin layer of warmer material like cotton. It’s thin and, without it, the gloves wouldn’t be able to keep you warm at all.
You also want your gloves to be form fitting so that you can use each of your fingers almost fully. These are not snow mittens here. Aside from those basic guidelines, here are more features you may want to consider.
There are many running gloves that let you use your phone while wearing them. This can be a great help if you ever need to change your music or audiobook but don’t want to subject your hands to the cold. It can be really annoying and time consuming to take your gloves on and off. Even if you don’t use your phone often during a run, it may be good to get gloves that are touch screen optimized just in case.
My running gloves have a small pocket running along the top of them. It’s not huge, but it’s perfect for storing my house key. If you run with little odds and ends, gloves with pockets can give you that extra storage you need.
Running in the dark can be a problem. Heck, I’ve almost been hit in broad daylight. I’m one of those runners that looks like a Christmas tree running down the road. I use the Noxgear light up vest and absolutely love it. But, maybe you don’t want to be a running light display and still want some visibility. There are some gloves that have reflective elements to keep you safe on the road.
In general, running gloves aren’t meant to make you overheated. They’re slim. If you need a thicker and warmer option though, you can find them. If you live in a very cold place, have a tendency to get extra cold, or will be doing a long run, these could be a great choice.
Ok, this may be a vanity choice that has little to do with how the gloves function, but who doesn’t want to have some style while they’re running through the streets? A lot of running gloves are black with basic reflective elements, but you can also find some fun colors. Gab a bright orange pair and this will help with the safety and visibility aspect too.
At this point, I hope I’ve convinced you that running gloves are an important part of anyone’s running gear collection. Our hands are important and they shouldn’t be neglected! Especially if you run long distances, you should invest in a pair of running gloves that will protect your hands from such a prolonged period of coldness. Check out my recommendations above and let us know if you have your own favorite pair!
Hey, I’m Diana! I’m an occupational therapist and a long distance runner. I’ve run more races than I can count from 5ks through full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Right now, my PR for the marathon is 3:09 and 1:26 for the half. I’m a bit obsessed with running and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. Let’s crush some running goals together!