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News: Ultrarunning Magazine - Winter Gloves

No matter what else you’re wearing, all it takes is soggy hands or frosty fingertips to make an otherwise pleasant cold-weather run completely miserable. However, even though they’re a little thing, there actually is a fair amount of complexity when it comes to picking the ideal winter glove. Choosing the best one for your individual needs requires some thought – so let’s run down a list of aspects to consider, and throw in a few product suggestions along the way. Gender Our first question is fairly easy: What gender are you? If you’re a woman who thinks you can just wear smaller-sized men’s gloves, think again. Proper fit is an integral part of insulation and comfort, and women are often overlooked when it comes to glove sizing – particularly if something is marketed as unisex.  In most cases, anatomic dimensions of women’s hands are quite different from men’s. Females typically have thinner wrists, narrower palms, and more slender fingers than males with the same hand length. Therefore, unisex gloves often fit poorly, and will be less effective at trapping heat or wicking moisture from the skin.  Consequently, it’s important to buy genderspecific models whenever possible. Fortunately, many manufacturers, including almost all of the ones mentioned in this review, offer separate male and female versions of their best gloves.

Body type
Now that you’ve identified your gender, the questions get a little trickier. How does your body – specifically, your hands – typically react  to being cold? Some people lose heat in their extremities much more quickly  than others while running. If you tend to “run hot,” you can stay comfortable with thinner, more breathable materials, but if you lose circulation in your fingertips easily, you’ll need  extra insulation and weather protection. Runner, know thyself.

What else do you need to do with your hands while on the move? Most trail runners have to at least operate zippers or headlamp buttons, while others need to manipulate pouches, cameras, Ziploc  bags, or small bungee straps. The thinner the material, the better your fine motor skills – so if you need to operate a bunch of stuff without repeatedly taking the gloves off, look for thinner synthetic fabrics with optimal warmth-to-thickness ratios. Also look for sticky rubber or silicone overlays on the palm or fingers to help improve your grip when handling small items.
And if you just can’t bear to leave technology  behind (Heaven help you), some gloves will even help enable your addiction. Mountain Hardwear’s Momentum glove has an index finger “trap door” to free your fingertip as needed, and Manzella makes three styles of gloves with TouchTip pads on the index finger and thumb that allow you to operate smartphones or any other touch screen device without removing your gloves.

Weather conditions
So, where do you live? Does your winter climate have bitter cold or freezing wind? Is it common for you to run in sleet or driving snow? Does winterprimarily mean long periods of steady rain? Or do you need to be prepared for everything? The answers will help determine what kind of materials you should look for. (See below.) Material construction Here’s where the choices get more involved. There are several different materials out there: wool, fleece, polyester, or any combination of fabrics. Wool (especially merino wool) and fleece are warm, but have very minimal resistance to wind or water. Many  polyester fabrics are highly effective wind blockers, but don’t provide water resistance. Others are waterproof but don’t breathe particularly well. Some fabrics have stretch components to aid the fit, while others don’t. The most common material construction usually incorporates some combination of wind and water resistance – but the way this is accomplished varies from one brand to another.Mountain Hardwear’s Momentum gloveplaces a windproof, breathable barrier fabric onthe outer surface of the hand, but has a softer insulating layer along the palm. Sugoi’s updated Firewall LT uses a triple-layer fabric on both surfaces of the hand: the interior layer is breathable and moisture-wicking, while the outer layer blocks wind and has a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish to enhance water resistance. The North Face’s Winter Runner gloves use weatherresistant, DWR-coated Apex ClimateBlock fabric on the fingers and palm surface, with a breathablefleece at the palm and wrist.  Some fabrics are built to be 100-percent waterproof,but even this claim can be misleading, because simply having a fabric that is completely impervious isn’t always enough to keep your fingers dry. If the seams aren’t fully bonded, water will eventually seep in and potentially cause some discomfort.  One good example is Seirus, famous for its waterproof fabric – but only its Xtreme All-Weatherglove is completely sealed at the seams. Other models from the same fabric, such as their standard All-Weather glove, aren’t seam-sealed and are slightly vulnerable to seeping.

Mittens? Gloves? Or both?Most of us are aware of the functional differences between mittens and gloves: mittens keep the fingers warmer but are nearly impossible when it comes to manipulating zippers or headlamps, while gloves are generally colder but better for dexterity. Over the past few years, a new breed of handwear has emerged: the convertible glove/mitten.
Basically, a convertible is a thin fleece or polyester glove with a lightweight hood over the top of the fingers that can be removed if the morning gets warmer, or if you need to reach into your electrolyte bag. The Pearl Izumi Wind Shine, Manzella Hatchback, and The North Face Winter Runner gloves are all examples of convertibles that provide the best of both worlds. (Note:
the Pearl Izumi model is available in unisex sizing only.)

The most effective moisture-wicking and weather-resistant fabric in the world won’t do you a lot of good if it’s itchy against your palms, or has a rough texture when wiping your nose or sweeping sweat off your forehead. This is one area when it’s really beneficial to try some gloves on to see how comfortable they feel. Soft fleece, such as that used for the North Face model, is usually the softest against your skin, although many gloves (including the Sugoi and Mountain Hardwear models mentioned) have a soft terrycloth panel on the thumb that’s pretty plush as well. The more weather-resistant polyester fabrics tend to be more coarse against the skin.

Of course, none of the technical aspects of glove construction will be very helpful if the gloves don’t fit well. The fabric should contact every square inch of your hand, without gaps or scrunching, to allow the moisture-wicking capability to work properly. The cuff should stay comfortably secure around your wrist for optimal wind protection and temperature regulation.
Proper sizing of gloves can be somewhat tricky, as each manufacturer has slightly different parameters for its size ranges. Some base their sizing on the circumference of the hand, and others use just the width of the palm; sometimes the thumb is included in the measurement, sometimes not. Even though it’s a bit of a hassle, if you can’t personally try on a pair of gloves in the store, it’s definitely worth it to take the extra time to actually measure your hand in whatever manner the company specifies – usually indicated on the webpage – rather than just guessing at the proper size.

Posted on Dec 7, 2011