Maybe I read too many comic books as a kid, watched too many superhero movies, or both, probably often at the same time while playing with action figures, but I’ve always felt a little bit like a superhero when I put on a brightly colored wetsuit. Or when I used to Spandex-up as a road cyclist. Form-fitting apparel feels cool. It looks cool (sometimes, though it’s real easy to do it wrong). Despite those delusions of grandeur, it took me a long time to come around to running tights. Even though I do most of my trail running in the winter, I’d usually still wear shorts and add an extra layer up top. But since I grabbed a pair of tights for a few crosscountry ski missions early last spring, I’ve become a devoted running tights wearer. Especially, the Patagonia Borderless Tights ($99 for both men’s and women’s).

Built from a polyester + nylon + Spandex blend, with an odor-fighting fabric treatment (Polygiene), these tights are supremely comfortable, very warm, and they breathe. A soft, elastic waistband with a drawcord cinches them up, where they stay put without riding, sagging, or otherwise taking on a shape or invading a crevice that you don’t want them invading. They have two really deep hip pockets for phones, energy bars, what have you. One little zippered pocket at the lower back for…a stick of gum maybe? It’s very small. I typically put my house keys in there.

While I’ve worn the Borderless Tights mostly while trail running in the cold, they’re also fantastic for highly aerobic snow sports. If you’re nordic skiing—whether skate or classic—in decent weather, these are a joy. Try them once, and you’ll never go back to soft shell pants while gliding again. Friction-free and they keep your legs nice and toasty and dry.

They also serve as terrific baselayers in extreme cold. Far warmer than a thin layer of merino wool, or a synthetic layer, they can be worn under light soft shell pants in the coldest part of the day, then as you or the day warms, you can strip off the soft shell and remain warm and comfortable in the tights. Or, wear them over traditional, thinner baselayers. I’ve tried this too, and as long as the fit is right you get a super layer combo—but this setup can also get clammy.

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Now then, if the temperature is over about 50 degrees, these are probably way too warm. But for coldweather when you’re really seating, these tights are like a perfect superhero uniform. Well, the pants part anyway.

These tights are tight too

Freezing cold wind a problem? The Arc’Teryx Trino tights have a Gore-tex windstopper panel in the front to shield your hams from any wind chill. $149 for both men’s and women’s

Smartwool knows how to make well-fitting tights and their PhD Wind Pants are simply awesome. $140 for men’s, $112 for women’s

For a basic, no-nonsense pair of dependable coldweather tights, the North Face Winter Warm Tights fit well, breathe nicely, and work great as thicker baselayers. $85 for men’s, women’s

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