‘The Basics’ – a regular look at the simple elements which make running gear useful to the runner. Explanations for those who don’t yet know, along with some facts to cut through the marketing nonsense out there, of which there is plenty!
Part one was Midsoles
Part two was Outsoles
Part three was Hydration
This time it’s Gloves.
They cover your hands. Durrr.
But there are a lot of conditions to consider.
Your hands don’t want to be cold.
So gloves ought to keep the cold out.
But hands get warm. Hands give off moisture/humidity.
Cold gloves meet warmth/humidity and you get condensation.
Condensation inside gloves = wet hands.
Wet anything = cold.
So waterproof gloves (unless disgustingly expensive) trap more moisture. Useful in keeping rain out, but annoyingly good at trapping sweat within.
Thick waterproof gloves do exist, but guess what….. they cost!
There are thin waterproof gloves. But they’re not always very warm when exposed to extreme weather.
Thinner, breathable gloves which wick sweat can help to keep your skin dry and allow the moisture to evaporate from the surface of the gloves.
Thin breathable gloves are fine for runs with an exit strategy, shelter, low altitude, where conditions aren’t likely to change, or when you’re only planning to be out for a short time (up to 60mins).
But they’re no barrier against extreme cold and the wind just blasts through them. Rain too – will immediately penetrate the gloves and replace any warmth with cold water.
There are options with a clever amount of wind-proofing on the back of the hands, to increase the resistance to cold from wind chill, but there’s still only a matter of time before rain will spoil your day.
Something like the Powerstretch glove from Montane seems proven as a cold weather comfort. It’s a little more insulative, with a thicker/heavier material to wick the sweat, while blocking more of the cold air. They will trap the heat produced by your hands, but still vent enough humidity to keep you from becoming damp from exercising alone. In continued cold, where there’s no rain and you avoid placing your hands on anything already wet (or wiping your nose too often), you’ll remain cosy.
So let’s talk WINTER.
Rain and wind together, in extreme cold – a killer!
When faced with anything more than a slight chill in the early hours, or after dark, it pays to go prepared and carry a system of gloves… That breathable pair of gloves isn’t going to block the ‘Beast from the East’ winds which come from time to time, or the deluge of rain we encounter for weeks on end! By this point, you’ll need some outerwear for your hands…
For some who don’t mind the bulk, there are chunky insulated gloves which can claim to remain ‘warm when wet’ and these feature a filling of hollow fibre, whether it be natural down/feathers from birds, or synthetic equivalent in the form of ‘Pertex’, a very lightweight and easily compacted material which fills back to its full size when left to expand. it traps warmth and forms a thicker barrier between the outside air and the hands hiding within. Montane’s Prism Gloves are one such example, which I’ve previously likened to wearing ‘sleeping bags with fingers’. Very effective for their asking price.
For those already attached to/convinced by their everyday gloves, but looking for a solution to bad winter weather, the answer is ‘Shell Mitts’, or ‘Outer Shells’.
Whether you choose the thin breathable, or the thermal glove as your ‘base’, you can rest assured that with a pair of Shell Mitts ready in your pocket/belt/pack, all you need do is slide on the mitts at the first sign of rain, wind, extreme cold or change in pace (don’t forget that the effect of your glove will only be positive if you’re generating heat and creating the warmth you want trapped/stored).
Taking choice of gloves, but having to remove one pair in order to swap for another. The time spent exposed to harsh conditions can reduce your fingers to frozen popsickles in seconds. Especially if suffering from poor circulation (like myself) or Reynaud’s Disease.
The thing to do is carry the spare layer, but add and remove it at will, according to how you feel or the circumstances as they arise. Never risk getting your base layer wet through carelessness, but rather – stay alert and manage the use of the shell mitts in the same way you might use a waterproof jacket.
I have personally found it a real buzz kill to feel freezing cold fingers despite pleasant conditions during some frosty runs where the sky was clear and the running perfect under foot. Similarly, while challenged by extremes in weather and I’m wrapped up in base, mid, shell layers to keep warm and relatively dry, my hands would suffer due to the waterlogged gloves, freezing in the high winds.
Surprisingly, with the addition of the Shell Mitts, I’m concerned about getting too warm! Even at minus 10 degrees wind chill on Kinder Scout (Derbyshire’s tallest peak), I’m bobbing along quite happily, opting to avoid overdressing because I feel so comfy with my breathable layers and toasty digits under just two thin layers of glove.
The secret – not losing the warmth already generated. Your gloves won’t make you warm. But they can, if you allow them to, insulate against the elements which would otherwise remove the heat all too quickly. Plus, while on, they still allow the wicking to continue, but the large amount of air between inner and shell, allows dispersal of moisture, so the cold/wind can’t then cause any wet surfaces to become shockingly cold before heat can build.
For best results:
Find a ‘fair weather pair’ of thin gloves for Autumn/Spring, which cover you against sudden (perceived) changes in temperature before/after a warmer midday stretch. It’s all too common for our bodies to feel vulnerable to these seasonal variations, since our defences haven’t had time to adapt.
Obtain that comfier, warmer pair of gloves for when its really cold all day, or when you can anticipate nasty conditions along the way (say, on a 10 mile hilly trail run between November – March). That way you’ll spend a majority of your time feeling safe and sound during the winter gloom.
Have that pair of Shell Mitts at your disposal for when you’re heading out into what already looks pretty grim. Perhaps a night run. Long winter trail. Exploring, or ‘breaking trail’ down paths you’ve never before taken. Anything at extreme altitudes, like Mountains (610m in height is the UK definition for a ‘Mounatin’). When you’re heading out for a considerable length of time, where to become wet would be to become susceptible to hypothermia. If there may not be shelter or exit for the time it would take to lose core temperature (particularly when moving slowly through fatigue). Carry Shell Mitts.
Then simply apply and remove the mitts as you go, maintaining warm, dry hands and a happy disposition while enjoying the scenery. Whatever the weather.