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 Keep your muscles warm on your winter runs with a new pair of leggings.

You don’t have to go back too far in running history to enter ‘the time before running tights’. Legends like Steve Ovett and Seb Coe trotted around in baggy old jogging bottoms just as their running ancestors did. However, since then – and more especially in the past few years – fabric technology has gone into overdrive. Now leggings are anything but baggy. In fact they performance-enhancing pieces of kit – really – that you should wear in the winter. They’ll keep your muscles warm, offer some protection against thorns and nettles, and certain pairs deliver a degree of compression to aid circulation and recovery.

Saucony Nomad Pant

1. Saucony Nomad, £47.95

Running is all about getting things in balance – which is an apt description of this pair of tights You won’t feel out of place in them; and by that we mean they’re not ballerina-tight, but nor will you be compromising on performance. We actually favour the the slightly more conservative cut. In terms of technology, there’s everything you need here – breathability, wind resistance, reflective features to catch traffic headlights, and nice extra touches such as pockets and offset ankle zips that don’t rub on your Achilles. They’re small details, yes, but nonetheless essential in performance kit.

Rating: 8/10

Icebreaker Pursuit Leggings

2. Icebreaker Pursuit Leggings, £75

Here at Outdoor Fitness we’ve become fans of the merino concept – 96% wool and 4% lycra. Warmth is definitely the watchword for this particular piece of kit. However, stop thinking granddad’s wooly longjohns and think instead performance kit for the feel and movement provided. While other leggings in the test are very much outer layers – you don’t need to wear them under shorts if you don’t want; these on the other hand are most definitely a layer item. Pull them on under your shorts on a brutally cold day and you’ll soon be running in a perfect temperature.

Rating: 8/10

CW-X Insulator Endurance Pro Tights

3. CW-X Insulator Endurance Pro Tights, £120

These tights pack some impressive technologies designed to help you run more efficiently. The windproof front panels work well – you’d appreciate them on your bike as well – while the heat-regulating fabric keeps muscles working at a comfortable temperature. What really caught our eye was the fit; using CW-X’s Support Web, a series of panels helps your hips, knees and ankles feel secure. There’s additional support around your hamstrings and quads, all of which provide the compression. They lack a pocket, but in terms of performance, these are spot on.

Rating: 9/10

Asics Winter Tight

4. Asics Winter Tight, £39 

Middle of the road can be a damming conclusion for some, but in the world of running tights in our eyes it’s a real thumbs up. These tights feature all the usuals – reflectivity, storage, and Asics’ Motion Dry technology to help your muscles maintain an ideal working temperature. But there’s also a little bit of compression as well. You’ll wear these under your shorts, but you don’t have to be overly brave to be seen in them as your outer layer. Basically, they’re a performance piece of kit, that feels warm, comfortable and looks pretty good as well, all at a competitive price.

Rating: 9/10

Gore Magnitude Compression Tights

5. Gore Magnitude Compression Tights, £59.99

You know when it’s dark, windy and raining and you feel like opting for a session in front of the TV? Well, Gore has just the piece of kit you need to drag yourself away from the sofa. They are bright, darkness needs never be your enemy again. And for a compression tight, they are soft and movement-friendly. There are tighter fitting leggings around, but for an everyday, functional offering, these are spot on. We love the storage – two pockets; we love the visibility; and we really like the feel. Just hope for a really blowy day, when they perform brilliantly.

Rating: 9/10

Berghaus Thermal Tights

6. Berghaus Thermal Tights, £40

When our testing team – hardened club runners – declares it can’t live without this piece of kit, you know you’re on to a winner. Warmth, as you can imagine, is what these tights are all about. Okay, they are a little old school in appearance – definitely a layer to be worn under your shorts – but they pack plenty in the technology department; the Argentium Thermal Grid fabric provides heat and odour protection and is quick-drying. Think long days out with varying pace, perhaps walking and running and you get the drift as to how you should use them, and the price won’t break the bank.

Rating: 8/10

What to look for

Style aside, when you’re buying leggings look for:

  • Breathability and temperature regulation: To ensure your legs operate at the best temperature yet.
  • Fit: Panelling will work on your quads for wind protection and improved performance.
  • Pockets: A small point, but we all have keys to carry.
  • Reflectivity: Essential in a winter garment.
  • Movement: The leggings must allow you to move through your natural range of motion without any restriction.

Words: Paul Larkins