Our pick of the best softshells for triathlon training

Best Softshell Running Jackets For TriathlonWith summer a distant memory and the nights closing in, you’ll need to start thinking about beating the weather as well as your PB, so we’ve rounded up 15 of the latest softshell jackets to find out which ones are best at keeping the elements at bay.

Some of the jackets on test are crossover pieces from outdoor sports brands like Marmot and Salomon. We’ve included them because they’re a solid choice for people who need a jacket to do double duty for running and the odd hill walk or trip to the pub. For the same reason, we’ve also included some coats with a cycling persuasion.

We tested the softshells in every condition imaginable and tried them out on the bike as well as on foot, to see how they fare if you’re too busy getting the training done to worry about changing clothes, with the ultimate aim of finding the best softshell for triathlon training.


WINNER

Gore X-Run UltraGore X-Run Ultra
£180
goreapparel.co.uk

We had high hopes for the flagship running softshell from Gore, and they were well and truly met. The X-Run Ultra feels like it was custom made for us, with a slimline but highly stretchy cut that makes it feel like you can make any movement without worry. The cut of the arms, in particular, shows a great understanding of how much material is enough – others should take note. We love the sleeve pockets, and while we worried about losing the contents, it never happened. We also wondered if the jacket would be hot, given that there’s no venting, but it managed as well as any on test to avoid boil-in-the-bag runner syndrome. If you’re serious about running and want a fully featured softshell, this is the one to beat.

Verdict

Simply excellent performance hampered only by high cost

Performance 5/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5


RUNNER-UP

Halglofs BlastHalglofs Blast
£160
haglofs.com

Haglofs, from Sweden, is getting into crossover sports clothing – stuff that works on a bike ride or run. While not specifically designed for triathlon, we’ve been extremely impressed with this mid-weight softshell. The basic cut is quite athletic, slim and flap-free in the breeze, but with enough space for sweat vapour to move away from your core. The well-fitting tall neck, tapered sleeves and three pockets (chest and twin hand warmers, all zipped) make the Blast a good choice for low- to mid-tempo activities. It almost feels more like a mid-layer than a full jacket, and that’s no bad thing – we were always pleasantly surprised when it performed like a jacket when the weather decided to do the dirty. We’re keen to try more from the Swedes with speed.

Verdict

We love this jacket to bits, but wish it were a bit cheaper

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5


VALUE PRIZE

Nike CycloneNike Cyclone
£80
nike.com 

The Cyclone is a lightweight jacket made from a very soft feeling, slightly stretchy softshell fabric. It’s one for bright and breezy runs, not persistent, nagging rain. While it’ll see off light drizzle, the thin, next-to-the-skin nature of the build means you tend to feel wet before you actually are wet. It’s properly windproof, though, and isn’t too flappy thanks to a fairly slim cut. Reflective accents help make this black beauty safe at night, and the hood fits well thanks to a toggle drawcord. When you’re on the move, the whole thing comes together rather nicely and you get the protection you want from the wind without getting too hot. We’d like a slightly bigger rear pocket, though, and for it to be centrally placed to stop load slop.

Verdict

Solid performance for a lightweight – just watch out for heavy showers

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


4-STAR REVIEWS


Craft Elite Run LightCraft Elite Run Light
£80
craft.se

Craft, from Sweden, makes some clever gear. The Elite Run Light jacket is a case in point, with an extensive array of louvred venting flaps. The look is a bit weird, but the effect isn’t. The flaps let fresh air in to keep you cool, but you don’t get any direct blasts of wind or rain from the outside because the vents blow shut, not open. The jacket is made from a very light windproof softshell fabric with a high degree of flexibility, so you can go nuts with star jumps and funky cross-training moves on your run without feeling restricted. It’s great for running and we used it on the bike with good success, too. There’s a new version due out soon for the same money, so if you hunt around online you may be able to bag yourself a bargain.

Verdict

A jacket made for running that can cover multiple triathlon bases

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Mizuno Impermalite FlexMizuno Impermalite Flex
£100
mizuno.eu

Mizuno may not be the most high-profile run brand in the UK but its kit is definitely worthy of closer inspection. The Impermalite Flex is one of the best performing jackets on test. Our only want was for the body to be an inch or so shorter, though that means it should fit taller athletes well. The rest of the fit is pretty much spot-on. The neck is close fitting but comfy, the arms slim and free moving, there are hand warmer pockets and a chest pocket, and there’s even some good rear venting courtesy of a double row of flaps. The jacket needs them too, as it’s well sealed and can get warm, but it’s designed for foul conditions, so you’d expect this. Loads of high-visibility patches and piping keeps you safe.

Verdict

Can get warm, but good fit, venting and visibility make it a fine choice

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Pearl Izumi UltraPearl Izumi Ultra
£100
pearlizumi.co.uk

Warning – you’re likely to fall in love with this jacket! Despite the high price for what feels like a thin windbreaker, we still feel you’ll be pleased with your investment in this extremely comfortable, lightweight run jacket. It feels soft and warm on the skin, even when you’re sweating bullets. Moisture transfer is mercifully quick, with Direct Vent slots across the shoulders and thinner panels under the arms and on the back. Pearl has added grippy rubberised patches to the shoulders to help hydration pack users keep their watery loads stable. Pockets are restricted to a small mesh pouch on the back. We fell in love with the Ultra on summer runs. We just wish it cost £20 less as, despite working brilliantly, it feels a bit pricey.

Verdict

For such a lightweight, we always felt it had us protected

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Sugoi RS 180Sugoi RS 180
£100
sugoi.com 

The RS 180 is another softshell designed for a blend of riding and running. Its ability in both sports is good, and of the mid-weights in this test, it proved one of the better performers. Pull up the smooth-running main zip and get your feet moving, and the jacket feels as though it’s purpose-made for running, rather than having a double life as a bike jacket. The highly flexible underarm panels help with run movement. Only the detailing gives it away, as there are no handwarmer or chest pockets, just triple pouches at the rear – which shouldn’t be overloaded if you want to avoid bouncing. Plenty of visibility from reflective piping on all sides should ensure you’re safe training in the dark.

Verdict

A worthwhile investment for triathlon training duties

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Endura Stealth IIEndura Stealth II
£170
endura.co.uk

The Stealth II is equally at home on midwinter icy runs and on the bike. As soon as you get it on and do the zip up, you get the feeling that you’re in a protective cocoon and you can laugh at the elements as they bounce off into the gutter. The flipside is that you’ll be warm – at least until you deploy the arm vents, side vents and main zip. Sure, you have to think about ventilation and be prepared to move the zips up and down to regulate body temperature on the move, but that’s the price of being able to ignore the British weather. The reflective details could be bigger – especially on such a stealthy, black jacket – but the addition of a light clip on the back helps, allowing you to attach an LED blinker.

Verdict

Great fit and performance on cold runs and rides alike

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5


Inov-8 Race Elite 275Inov-8 Race Elite 275
£80
inov-8.com 

Inov-8 is all about high-intensity exercise in the mountains. That means this jacket is designed for two things: keeping the weather out and being tough. The four-way-stretch Race Elite softshell is a half-zip affair – a soft sports smock, if you will. It’s cut with a close but not tight body and arms that have enough room for layering and plenty of movement. The slight drop tail and long arms make the odd bike ride doable as well, but running up a Lakeland pass is really where this jacket wants to be. Life away from the mountains should be a doddle and it’ll cope with laps of the local park in the rain easy-peasy. With a single Napoleon pocket on the chest for your door key and some reflective details for night run safety, you’re good to go.

Verdict

We’re not mad on half-zip jackets generally, but we like this one

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Marmot TempoMarmot Tempo
£90
marmot.com

Despite the brand being more commonly associated with mountain sports, many items in Marmot’s clothing range work well for the rigours and variety of multi-sport training too. There’s plenty of room in the upper portion of the Tempo, making warm-up movements and running easy. There’s no venting other than the main zip, though, so you’ll need to learn to work it and use it for maximum performance. As with many of the softshell materials in this test, the fabric can’t move heavy amounts of sweat fast enough to keep you dry on its own. There’s a Napoleon chest pocket and two hand warmers. Build quality is first rate, and from experience, Marmot gear will last the proverbial lifetime.

Verdict

Run in it, ride in it, walk the dog in it. This jacket is a solid all-rounder

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


3-STAR REVIEWS


Saucony Kinvara NomadSaucony Kinvara Nomad
£75
saucony.co.uk 

The Nomad’s windproof front and yoke work very well to keep the wind on the outside of the jacket, while lighter wind-permeable sleeves help keep body temperature balanced. The engineering of the Kinvara made us want to run fast, but we never felt like we could hit top gear, as the cut is quite boxy – we’d have liked it to be a smidge slimmer in the body and the arms. There’s the usual trilogy of chest and twin side pockets, all with zip closures. Nighttime visibility is excellent thanks to use of Saucony’s super-bright neon orange ViZiPRO material on the large lower-back panel and main zip, along with plenty of standard-issue reflective piping elsewhere. You may be pointed at, but you’ll never go unnoticed. Job done.

Verdict

We’d like the cut to be a bit more aggressive. Good value though

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5


Scott AS Plus PremiumScott AS Plus Premium
£210
scott-sports.com

OK, it’s a ton of money (over two tons, in fact) but the cold weather AS Plus Premium should count as an option for tri training this winter. Firstly, it’s got a properly close fit, so it’s good on the bike – maybe better than it is on foot. Secondly, its mix of Super Roubaix, Roubaix Vintage and Gore Windstopper fabric allows you to run and roll like it’s summer. The upper arm vents are cleverly positioned to draw cooling air in, whether in run or ride mode. The triple rear pockets are perfect on the bike and just as useful for runners – why they don’t exist on more ‘training’ jackets is a mystery. The AS Plus Premium is warm, close fitting and though it’s not desperately light, if we had the cash to burn, we’d get one.

Verdict

A lot of money, even with the ability to ride and run in the cold

Performance 4/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5


Adidas Terrex HybridAdidas Terrex Hybrid
£145
adidas.com

Adidas doesn’t shout about its Terrex range enough, but it’s actually ideal for multi-sporters, who can find themselves doing a run and a bike ride or a walk to the pool on the same day. Using the company’s Formotion athletic design language, the body of the jacket is close cut, but with plenty of room in the shoulders and upper arms for easy movement while running. It’s pitched between mid-weight and heavy-weight – one we’d reach for when the thermal tights and merino socks come out. The triple chest and twin hand warmer pockets are large enough to take whatever you need and more, the zips work one-handed and the slight drop tail means it’s usable on the bike, too. All up, a worthy choice for cold weather training.

Verdict

A good jacket but a bit heavy for all but the very coldest runs

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


Ashmei UltimateAshmei Ultimate
£180
ashmei.com

We like the clean lines of the Ashmei jacket and it’s packed with features, too – a bite zone on the front of the neck to make pulling the zip down easier, loads of reflective detailing, handy headphone routing and big louvred vents across the shoulder blades that proved effective at keeping moisture moving and air flowing. A few of these features do appear to have been added ‘because we can’, though. The top-of-shoulder mini pocket is a case in point – it’s far from easy or practical to use and it’s noisy if the contents move, as it’s right next to your left ear. We’d also like a mesh back to the side zip vents, as we lost a fiver putting it into a ‘pocket’ that was a vent. D’oh!

Verdict

Verging on too clever, and we’d like a more precise cut

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


Salomon CharvinSalomon Charvin
£100
salomon.com

Salomon has worked hard to up its game in the running market and its clothing, which has always been well made, has, if the hype is to be believed, finally found its running feet. The Charvin is a fairly straightforward softshell jacket that would be equally at home on a damp and blowy run as it would a walk along the beach or a weekend hiking in the mountains. There are no vents (main zip aside) and two hand warmer pockets. If it sounds low-tech, it’s not – the fabric works well to deflect wind and light rain, though it could do with a bit more venting. There’s plenty of space for air to circulate, giving unrestricted movement during runs and warm-up exercises, and room for you to add an extra layer if the temperature plummets.

Verdict

A middle-of-the-road option that’s not unbelievably good or bad in any department

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5