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When it comes to running gear, running shoes are probably the first thing you think of, but your apparel also makes a big difference in your comfort level. This is especially true for long-distance runs when extra layers can make or break your ability to properly regulate your temperature and stay dry through the elements.

Running vests are an excellent option because they offer a lot of versatility: Most of them are water-resistant and windproof, but not as bulky as a rain jacket, which can slow you down and limit your range of motion. 

Others have extra insulation to keep you warm, so you can take your run outside even in colder months. They also give you a place to store your valuables, thanks to zip pockets and other hidden storage.

Whether you’re looking for a running vest to hit the streets of NYC or the deepest backcountry of Montana (if the latter, you’re probably going to need trail running shoes, too), we’ve got you covered. Here are the best running vests for all situations.

A Fitness-Obsessed Team That’s Run A Lot Of Miles

The Garage Gym Reviews team is fitness-obsessed. If you add up the total miles we’ve run, you’d probably come up with a number that looks similar to Jeff Bezos’ bank account. Okay, maybe not that many, but the point is we’ve run a lot of miles—and we take our running gear very seriously. 

We’re made up of certified personal trainers, triathletes, marathoners, and former college athletes, and we know how important it is to have the right gear. That being said, our testers put every one of these running vests through rigorous testing and we only recommend the ones that we would actually wear ourselves.

Best Running Vests in 2023

Best Running Vest Overall: Columbia Outdoor Tracks Vest

Good for: anyone looking for a high-quality running vest at a fair price point

Best Running Vest Overall

Columbia Outdoor Tracks Vest

GGR Score: 4.75 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Features Omni-Heat Helix insulation, a new high-efficiency insulation cell technology that manages heat and air flow
  • Available in 5 colors
  • 1 zippered chest pocket and 2 zippered hand pockets for bringing along essentials
  • Made in a factory that supports BSR’s HERproject

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Not bulky
  • Good insulation
  • Several color options
  • Zippered pockets
  • Good price point

Cons

  • May run a tad snug

Bottom Line

Columbia’s Women’s Outdoor Tracks Vest offers a lot of heat with its innovative insulation while keeping the vest slim.

The Columbia Outdoor Tracks Vest just works. Kate Meier, certified personal trainer, two-time marathoner, and GGR editor, tested this running vest and it got high marks across the board. 

“I love the pockets, I love the look. The performance is great for runs and walks outdoors,” Kate says. “I wouldn’t wear it indoors because you’ll get too warm, but it works great as an outer layer.”

This running vest is made of a 100% polyester shell that has a specialized insulation design that Columbia calls “Omni Heat Helix.” That’s the brand’s fancy way of saying that the insulation effectively controls heat and allows airflow to keep you warm and comfortable, but also relatively dry. 

Kate agrees that this technology works, saying that it’s great for cold weather—almost too good, in fact. If you run hot, be forewarned that this vest insulates you really well, so things could get a little sweaty.

To add to all that, it’s only $65, which also makes it the most budget-friendly option on the list. We love when the best item is also the least expensive! 

And, Kate says it looks nice enough to wear out, so you really get two pieces of apparel in one. Heads up: If you’re in between sizes, you may want to size up, especially if you’re using this as a layering piece. It also runs a little small in the chest.

RELATED: 11 Surprising Benefits of Running

Material100% polyester
FitSnug fit
SizesXS to XXL

Best-Looking Running Vest: Sweaty Betty Fast Track Thermal Quilted Running Vest

Good for: anyone looking for a stylish vest that can go from running workouts to running errands

Best-Looking Running Vest

Sweaty Betty Fast Track Thermal Quilted Running Vest

GGR Score: 4.6 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Lightweight full-zip thermal running vest
  • Features a stretchy fabric constructed from recycled materials that is breathable and boasts a quilted design
  • Flattering silhouette with a waist that cinches using a toggle to adjust it in the back
  • Two side pockets

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Cinched waist
  • Lightweight
  • Warm

Cons

  • Not a lot of reflective detail
  • Description notes a back zip pocket but both pictures and reviews indicate there is no pocket

Bottom Line

The Sweaty Betty Thermal Quilted Women’s Running Jacket is a lightweight, stylish, and warm vest well-suited for running or daily athleisure wear.

While looks aren’t everything, we do like to run in style. (And it’s well-known in the running community that running apparel and shoes aren’t always up to par for good looks, so finding an aesthetically pleasing piece is always fun)

The Sweaty Betty Fast Track Thermal Quilted Running Vest, which was tested by Lauren Strong, certified personal trainer and GGR writer, made our list as the best-looking running vest, but make no mistake: It was one of the top performers, too.

It’s made from a recycled polyester and elastane combo that come together to give it a stretchy, thermal feel. It’s insulating without being too hot and it feels lightweight instead of bulky. 

There’s an adjustable bungee cord around the waist that lets you adjust the shape and somewhat change the function. When cinched, the running vest has a stylish, form-fitting look and sits close to your body for extra insulation. When loosened, the vest has a more relaxed fit that allows for more airflow to help cool you off. There are fleece-lined pockets too, which were one of Lauren’s favorite features.

“​​It’s fairly expensive, but you can wear this more than just running; it has a fashionable element to it,” she says.

Heads up: The sizing on the website may be slightly off. Lauren ordered the vest with this guidance and it was way too big in the chest and waist. While she didn’t end up exchanging it, she did say that ordering the right size would have definitely made a difference in the overall performance and look.

Material88% recycled polyester, 12% elastane
FitSnug fit
SizesXXS to XXL

Best Trail Running Vest: REI Co-Op Swiftland Insulated Vest

Good for: trail runners and/or anyone who wants a running vest with a little more insulation

Best Trail Running Vest

REI Co-Op Swiftland Insulated Vest

GGR Score: 4.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Constructed with a lightweight recycled nylon front
  • Designed to protect against wind up to 30 miles per hour
  • Protective against light rain thanks to its durable water repellent coating (DWR)
  • Plenty of storage: chest pockets, zip hand pockets, and an inner phone sleeve
  • Back panel is sweat-wicking and encourages breathability
  • Reflective elements to keep you visible in low lit areas

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Packable
  • Treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating
  • Plenty of pockets
  • Reflective detail
  • Recycled material

Cons

  • Only three colors

Bottom Line

Both environmentally-friendly and functional, the Rei Co-op Swiftland Insulated Vest is a lightweight vest designed to keep you warm and dry.

The REI Co-op Swiftland Insulated Vest is a good all-around option that has enough insulation to keep you warm on cooler days, but not so much that you’re dripping in sweat as you start to heat up during your run. It combines a lightweight, recycled nylon front with a stretchy polyester and spandex back panel that’s breathable and moisture-wicking—features that trail runners may find especially useful.

It’s both water- and wind-resistant, but GGR writer Anthony O’Reilly, who is also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, says it doesn’t produce too much “whooshing” or sloshing as you run like some other vests can. Yes, it got some extra performance points for this since he finds that noise annoying.

As far as fit goes, Anthony says it’s form-fitting without being too constricting. It feels comfortable and durable, and it’s loaded with pockets. It has two zippered pockets on the front, two zip side pockets, and an inner phone sleeve. There’s some reflective detailing too but this isn’t a true reflective vest.

Another check in the pro column is that this running vest has a wider sizing range than others; it goes up to XXXL while many others cap out at XL to XXL. 

The only knock on this vest is the price tag. While $90 isn’t totally unreasonable, Anthony did think that you’re partially paying for the REI branding. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re a brand loyalist, though.

RELATED: 9 Tips on How to Build Stamina for Running

MaterialRipstop nylon chest and upper back; 91% polyester and 9% spandex lower back and torso
FitSlim fit
SizesS to XXXL

Best All-Season Running Vest: Houdini Pace Ultralight Vest

Good for: anyone who wants to add pockets to their run without adding extra heat

Best All-Season Running Vest

Houdini Pace Hybrid Vest

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Designed for year-round use
  • Lightweight softshell fabric provides light insulation 
  • Coated with durable water repellent (DWR) to block out moisture
  • Ripstop design is durable
  • Dual zippered chest pockets to securely carry a few small things

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Light insulation
  • Dual-zipper design
  • Durable
  • Responsibly made

Cons

  • Limited sizing
  • Only two colors
  • No reflective detail noted

Bottom Line

The Houdini Pace Hybrid Vest is a versatile, durable, and ultra lightweight running vest with plenty of storage and ventilation, but it could use more reflective detail.

The Houdini Pace Ultralight Vest is a minimalist, all-season option that can handle the elements and regular wear and tear. Although the running vest itself doesn’t have any fill, it does provide some light insulation.

It’s really designed to keep you dry and give you some storage during your run. It has two zippered breast pockets and it’s also windproof and super breathable. Because of this, it’s ideal for all seasons, even the really warm summer months in Florida.

The face of the vest is made of a 100% recycled polyester turned into a softshell fabric, while the back is a ripstop fabric that’s also polyester (but only 57% recycled). Ripstop is a reinforced woven fabric that’s very resistant to tearing and ripping, which adds to the durability of the running vest. 

Lauren also tested this one and says it’s an excellent top layer, even over a shell jacket or a long-sleeve shirt. It’s in men’s sizing, but it still fell nicely to her hips and wasn’t too long or bulky.  

Lauren does think the price is a little questionable since it’s a super-thin material, but it is backed by a one-year warranty. Even if you get a full year of regular use out of it, we think it’s ultimately a worthwhile investment.

The TL;DR: “It’s nice for having pockets while running and not adding a lot of extra material or heat,” Lauren says. 

RELATED: Anatomy of a Running Shoe

Material100% polyester
FitRelaxed
SizesXS to XXL

Best Splurge Running Vest: Lululemon Another Mile Vest

Good for: Lululemon loyalists and/or anyone looking for a super soft vest who doesn’t mind the higher price tag

Best Splurge Running Vest

Lululemon Another Mile Vest

GGR Score: 4.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Designed for cold-weather running 
  • Features water-repellent, windproof material with a 4-way stretch, breathable inner fleece that is durable water repellent (DWR) treated to protect you from all weather
  • Lightweight but insulated with PrimaLoft material
  • Zippered pockets with a hidden phone sleeve and reflective details

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Warm insulation
  • Stretchy
  • Water-repellant
  • Wind-proof
  • Hood (removable)
  • Fitted but not tight

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Will be long on shorter people or those with short torsos

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a high-quality, warm, and functional vest for your next run, the Lululemon Another Mile Vest could be for you.

Okay, let’s get this part out of the way right now: This vest is expensive. If you’re a fan of Lululemon gear, you’re probably not surprised at the $168 price tag (it is on par with the brand’s pricing in general), but this is one of the most expensive running vests on our list. That said, if you have the budget, it did get high ratings for both performance and style in our testing.

This running vest is considered a “tech fleece,” which means it’s soft and comfy, yet durable and functional (it keeps you protected from the elements). Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer and the GGR editor who tested the vest, says it’s form-fitting and sits close to the body—an important callout for an apparel item that’s designed to keep you warm.

“The interior is very soft, but the exterior is a water-repellent material. The seams look strong and sound. It’s also windproof, which is a nice touch for bad-weather days,” she says. 

It also has a sleek, high-profile design that just looks cute. The only thing Amanda didn’t like about the style was the hood, saying that it looks puffy and kind of awkward. However, the vest can be separated into two pieces—there’s an inner zipper that detaches completely and takes the hood with it. Fair warning though: Getting the hood back on took 45 minutes and two people to figure it out.

It also has zipped exterior pockets with a phone sleeve and some reflective detailing on the exterior. However, we do recommend getting a proper reflective vest if you’re running at night, especially with the darker colors.

RELATED: Post-Run Stretches

Material100% nylon body; 82% nylon, 18% Lycra elastane side panels; 100% polyester filling
FitSlim fit
Sizes0 to 14

Other Running Vests We Tested

For this particular guide, we only tested apparel-type running vests (not hydration vests). While these two didn’t earn “best” spots, we thought they were still worth mentioning:

Smartwool Merino Sport Ultralite Vest: Lauren thought this vest was just “meh” for the price. It’s made of thin nylon and only has one breast pocket. There’s not really a lot of storage (and it definitely doesn’t provide insulation). It could work if you just want a minimalist design that literally holds just one or two things, but we think there are better options out there for the price.

On Running Weather Vest: The On Running Weather Vest provides a lot of warmth for such a thin design—GGR editor Nicole Davis was actually surprised at just how warm it got. It didn’t make the list because it runs really small and it has minimal stretch, so it tends to ride up. It does have two pockets, one on the lower back and one on the chest for easy access, which is a plus. While we liked this vest overall and thought it performed well, we just didn’t think there was anything noteworthy that made it stand out for the price.

How We Picked and Tested

There are a lot of running vests out there and while we would love to test them all (and plan to some day), we couldn’t make that happen for this round. To narrow down our choices, we looked at popular brands and top-rated vests within those brands.

We came up with a short list that included a wide range of different running vest styles. Our testing pool ranged from lightweight, nylon running vests to fully insulated polyester vests with a hood. We considered price in our decision-making process, too. While everyone has a different definition of “budget-friendly,” we made sure to include a decent price range to suit most people’s needs.

To test the running vests, we took them on many outings in various weather conditions over a period of several weeks. We did short runs and long runs. We also wore them around the house and did some body movement exercises just to see how comfortable they were and whether they annoyingly rode up when we were just living our lives (some did).

We noted how durable they felt and how many pockets they had. We also considered how convenient the pocket placements were—while a lower back pocket might be the most comfortable place to keep a bulky phone, it’s not exactly the easiest access point if you want to answer a text mid-stride.

After our testing period, we rated each running vest on several factors, including fabric, durability, performance, appearance, fit, delivery, and overall value. The running vests that ultimately made our list had the highest average rating across all of these categories.

Benefits of Running Vests

Yes, running vests do have an element of style. But when it comes down to it, they’re functional apparel. Amanda says they serve a few major purposes: 

  • They act as an extra layer of insulation
  • They help maintain your core body temperature
  • They protect you from wind and rain
  • They don’t limit movement (or slow you down) as much as a jacket
  • They store your phone and other belongings (if they have pockets)
  • They had a layer of safety if they have reflective detailing

Keep in mind that we’re only talking about this specific type of running vest. Hydration running packs and weighted running vests have different benefits, which we cover in those corresponding guides. (Go check them out when you’re done reading through this one.)

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Running Vest

Running vests are pretty straightforward, but they do have some nuances that you should be mindful of when choosing one.

Material

Material is one of the most important things to consider when buying a running vest. Not only does the material play a big role in your comfort, it’s also vital to the vest’s function. Polyester is warm and moisture-wicking, so it’s excellent for running on cooler days and/or keeping you from getting drenched in sweat. 

Nylon is extremely resistant to the elements, and one of the most durable (and easy-to-clean) clothing materials. It’s not as warm as polyester, but if water- and/or wind-resistance is your main goal, this is the material for you.

Some vests also include spandex, which gives the vest a little stretch so it doesn’t feel too snug. If you like the slim fit style but want to make sure it will adjust to your body, look for one that has some spandex worked in with the other materials.

Fit

There are two main types of fit: relaxed and slim (or snug) fit. Relaxed vests have a more boxy look and feel and don’t hug your body as much. Slim-fit vests hug your body and form a tighter “seal,” which typically makes them more effective for insulation and temperature control.

Of course, the fit affects how the running vest looks too. If you’re going for a more polished look, you probably want a slim-fit vest. If you like a more casual look, the relaxed fit is a better option.

Versatility

You also want to consider versatility. Can your vest be worn all-year round? Or does it have a ton of insulation that only makes it suitable for winter months? You can certainly buy multiple vests to accommodate different seasons, but if you’re looking for one vest that meets all your needs, you’re better off finding some middle ground here.

Pockets

In addition to regulating your body temperature, running vests with pockets add a convenience factor. If you want a place to store your phone, keys, and/or headphone case, look for a style that has enough pockets to accommodate your needs.

Consider the placement, too. Some have front pockets, while others have side and/or rear pockets. Sometimes these pockets have hidden phone liners for added security. There are also mesh pockets which add an extra layer of breathability.

Price

Price factors into every decision you make, so it’s worth calling out here. The running vests that made our list range from $65 to $168, which is a big difference. While we are firm believers in the “You get what you pay for” mantra when it comes to fitness equipment, you have a little more leeway when it comes to fitness apparel

Our testing showed that a more expensive running vest isn’t always a better running vest. Sometimes, like in the case of Lululemon and REI, you may be paying a premium for the brand name. If you’re okay with that, we’re okay with that—but it’s something you should be aware of.

FAQs About Apparel Running Vests

What are the vests that runners wear?

There are two types of vests that runners wear: regular running vests (like the ones in this list) and hydration running vests, also called hydration packs. Regular running vests really serve as an extra layer of insulation or a way to fight off the elements like wind or rain. They also help make your run hands-free since many of them have pockets where you can store your phone and keys. 

Running hydration vests serve mainly as a water source. They’re popular for trail running, longer runs, and even short runs on hot days. They aren’t full vests; instead they often have unisex sizing, usually with breathable mesh shoulder straps, sternum straps and/or chest straps that can hold a couple water bottles or soft flasks. Alternatively, they may have a main compartment that stores a hydration bladder, or water bladder, that you fill with water before your run. 

Often, these running vests have a storage capacity that fits multiple liters of water so you don’t have to worry about going dry. The best hydration vests also have storage space so you can carry your personal items with you, plus a bounce-free design (usually thanks to adjustable straps) that prevents them from hindering your run. Hydration vests that are made for trail races and runs may also have attachments for trekking poles.

Why do people wear vests when running?

Sometimes a vest is just a fashion statement, but there’s some functionality there, too. Running vests provide warmth without limiting your range of movement, or slowing you down like bulkier apparel can. They also keep you dry, block the wind, and help you maintain your core body temperature, especially on chilly days. Some running vests also have reflective details or paneling that adds a safety element. If you’re running in low light or at night, they make it easier for other people to see you.

What should you not wear when running?

Running apparel is all about comfort and function. It’s best to wear lightweight, breathable clothes that are fairly form-fitting. You don’t want anything too baggy, since this can interfere with your running form and slow you down if it catches the wind. Baggy clothes can also contribute to chafing, especially if they’re made of cotton, which is not as moisture-wicking as many people think.

Do people use running vests for marathons or ultramarathons?

Marathon runners may wear running vests to help with temperature regulation and protect them from the elements. However, people typically don’t wear hydration packs on race day unless the event doesn’t have any aid stations. 

In that case, a lightweight hydration vest, like the Salomon Adv Skin 12 (or any of the Salomon Advanced Skin lineup, really), Nathan VaporAir or Quickstart, Osprey Duro, Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest, or a Camelbak vest, should do the trick.

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