Gloves vs. mittens: What does ergonomics have to say?

In our house, we are divided down gender lines…the girls prefer mittens and the boys want gloves. But which are truly warmer?

Mittens keep the fingers together, which allows them to keep each other warm.

Gloves insulate each finger from its neighbours. If you wanted to keep the hands cool, this would be a good idea, right? But since warmth is the goal, we want the circulation into the hand to work as one unit, not as isolated units.

My Christmas goal this year was for all of our kids to have warm hands through the winter months. When I was shopping for mittens, I came across some mittens with glove liners. I couldn’t imagine a use for these!  What would be the sense in insulating your fingers from each other and then binding them all together into a mitten? I’ve read that some people have sweaty hands and the glove liner wicks moisture away. But I’m not still convinced that there’s any warmth advantage to the mitten, if there’s a glove inside it. I haven’t tried it, so I’ll have to leave that to you to test. Please let me know if you’re a fan!

If you accept that mittens are warmer than gloves, you still need to acknowledge that not all tasks can be done while wearing mittens. If you need the dexterity of your individual fingers, it won’t be an advantage to have warm fingers, bound together. (Imagine trying to play the saxophone with mittens!)  Similarly, just like selecting winter boots, we also need to consider the task demands before selecting the material. If you want waterproof (for tasks that involve handling slushy snow, perhaps), then keep in mind that a waterproof mitt or glove probably won’t “breathe”. If you are exercising heavily and your hands sweat, they might stay wet for the whole day, and wet won’t be warm. Wicking materials inside will help, but the moisture will still be in the glove.

Grip is another important consideration. If you’re handling ice or other slippery items, you’ll want a grippy palm surface. Even the task of handling a snow shovel benefits from a high friction grip.

Perhaps the fashion preferences for gloves and mittens in our house have more to do with the tasks that we perform. None of us are outdoor winter sports enthusiasts, so we rarely go outside for hours at a time. If my daughter and I are cold, it’s because the car hasn’t heated up yet, the bus is late, or the lock on the mailbox is stuck again. If the males in our family have cold hands, it’s because there’s more snow than they can keep up to with the scraper and shovel….that kind of work keeps them warmer, and may require a little more dexterity than the mittens permit! (Now, maybe if I bought them grippier mittens….)

What type of gloves or mittens do you prefer, and why?

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