Why Do Runners Wear Gloves? [5 Best Qualities for Running Gloves]

Running in winter weather can present a number of challenges, but one of the most uncomfortable side effects of low temperatures is the pins and needles feeling you get in your hands from extreme cold. One way to combat this effect is to wear gloves, but are there other benefits to wearing these common accessories? Why do runners wear gloves?

Runners wear gloves to protect themselves from cold weather, to stay dry when running in the rain, to provide light reflectivity when running at night, and to improve their look and aesthetic by adding an additional accessory. When purchasing running gloves, consider the insulation, water resistance, durability, style, and reflective qualities.

Read on to find out more about running gloves and why they’re so popular. 

Do you need running gloves?

Running has the lowest barrier to entry of pretty much any sport. Pants, shorts, or short-shorts? Yeah, some kind of lower covering is necessary. Shirts? Occasionally. Shoes? Probably. But what about gloves?

You don’t need running gloves, but depending on the climate you live and train in, they may make your running experience much more comfortable. There are a number of reasons you might want to wear gloves while running, but the climate is the most important.

You don't need running gloves, but they can definitely help if you're running in the cold!

Because the hands are anatomically located on the body, the palms and fingers are among the last places to receive blood flow. Add to this the fact that your hands normally move out in front of your body and into the cold wind.

This can cause the hands to become numb or even to produce an extremely unpleasant tingly feeling in extremely cold weather. In severe cases, exposure to cold while running could cause frostbite on your fingers.

This is not only because of the proximity of the hands to the heart but also because when the weather is colder, your blood becomes thicker, and the veins in your body become restricted, causing the blood to flow more slowly from your heart to far away places such as the hands. 

This is also one reason why runners wear arm sleeves.

Should I run with gloves in winter?

Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you wear gloves no matter what you’re doing when you go outside.

If you plan on running during the winter, it may be a good idea to wear gloves. Obviously, runners wear gloves during winter to protect extremities such as the hands and fingers from the negative effects of winter weather. 

People with poor circulation or those who suffer from diseases such as Raynaud’s disease should definitely consider wearing gloves or mittens because their fingers will have a much more difficult time warming due to lack of blood flow.

woman wearing running gloves in cold weather

Why do runners wear gloves in hot weather?

In most cases, running gloves will be a ridiculous accessory for running in hot weather.

There is much less benefit to wearing gloves to run in a warm weather climate, and it may even contribute to a feeling of discomfort while running if the weather is too hot. With that being said, there may be a few potential benefits to wearing gloves when the sun is out in force. 

First, wearing gloves can keep your hands dry in rainy weather. Even though the climate may be hot, running in a downpour can still cause chills or even in extreme cases, hypothermia. Wearing gloves can provide that extra layer of protection to keep your fingers and palms dry.

A second reason you might consider wearing gloves in hot weather is to improve visibility. In some instances, you may find gloves made with light reflective material and designed for in the dark or in low lighting. 

Style is a third, slightly less significant reason to wear gloves while running. Adding accessories to any outfit is often fashionable, and it’s no different for athletic wear. In some cases, wearing gloves might make you appear more attractive or impressive as a runner, but this is a subjective matter and, for most, won’t make any difference. 

Potential benefits of using running gloves

The use of running gloves may provide a variety of benefits to a runner. While some of these benefits will be specific to a specific context, others may be more universal.

Running gloves might benefit you during the course of your training due to:

  • Hand warmth – The most obvious reason to wear gloves while running is to keep your hands warm.
  • Moisture retention – Running can dry your hands out, especially on cool or dry days. Keeping gloves on can reduce the need for hand lotion.
  • Light reflectivityReflective gloves can help you stand out while running at night. If you’re going to be wearing gloves anyway, they might as well have a safety element.
  • Style – It’s not likely that a runner will wear gloves exclusively to complete a look, but they may be part of a complete running outfit.

What to look for in running gloves

Like any outdoor accessory, you will want to find a pair of durable running gloves that accomplishes the task at hand (no pun intended).

Take a look at the following list of attributes to inform your future purchase and consider these features along with additional ones you might already have in mind:

  • Thermal insulation
  • Water resistance
  • Reflective capability
  • Durability
  • Style and design

Let’s take a look at each of these qualities in detail.

Thermal insulation

Because the most likely reason for purchasing running gloves is to protect your hands from the cold, you will want to make sure you buy a pair of gloves that can insulate your hands from the cold. 

Some pairs of gloves are going to be sleeker and usable in multiple types of weather, while others will be a bit bulkier and are designed solely to protect your hands from extremely cold weather.

men wearing running gloves during a group run

Water resistance

Another element to consider protecting against is the rain.

Wet weather can still cause a chill, even if you’re running in the middle of summer. Running in gloves can help keep you warm.

With that in mind, you will want to make sure your gloves are water-resistant, so that your hands stay dry when a surprise rain shower hits you.

Reflective material

Light reflectivity is another important feature to look for when purchasing a new pair of running gloves.

The more accessories you can wear that reflect light, the safer you will be when running in the dark.

If you’ll be buying a pair of gloves to protect yourself from the elements, you might as well make sure they are light-reflective as well. You can even find running gloves with lights for even more visibility.

Durability

When purchasing a product exposed to the elements, you want to make sure it’s made of durable materials.

Consider buying a pair of gloves made mostly from nylon, which is a more durable material than polyester.

Style & design

The final consideration when purchasing a pair of running gloves is the style and design of the gloves themselves.

You have to determine what style and design are appropriate for the context in which you plan to run. 

If you’re just running by yourself, you may consider something a little more exotic and fashion-forward. If you’re running as part of a cross-country team, however, you may need to find something that matches your team’s uniform. Ultimately, the style and design will be up to you. 

One last thing to remember is whether you can use your gloves with your phone or other devices. If you need this feature, be sure to look for touchscreen running gloves that will register your finger presses.