How to Dress for Winter Running

how-to-dress-for-winter-running

When the temps creep down, how do runners cope? It might be tempting to just pack it in and stick to the treadmill, but with the right gear, you can run in almost any conditions!

Even though the thought of running in these bone-chilling temps might sound like a cruel thing to do to yourself, winter running can be really cool. One of my favorite times to run is after a snowfall – it’s eerily quiet and peaceful (probably because everyone is inside).

What kind of clothes will keep you warm on a run when the temps are below freezing? I like to use DressMyRun.com and Runners World has a great What to Wear tool to let you know how many layers you need.

Your base outfit: Tights, base layer, jacket or vest.

You need to keep your skin covered, so you need running tights, such as the Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Tights. You want to make sure your tights are thick, lined and long enough to cover all of your skin. If you need an extra layer on top, try something like the Columbia Sportswear Women’s Storm Surge Pant.

Your base layer on top should be long sleeve and ideally mock-neck, like the Baleaf Women’s Fleece Thermal Mock Neck. If it’s really cold, and/or you’ll be out for more than an hour, you might want to invest in some merino wool baselayers, like the gear from IceBreaker.

I have a few jackets and vests. A great place for vests is Old Navy – if you wait for a sale, you can get a fleece vest (pictured above) for pretty cheap, and they also have puffy down vests. The Nike Women’s Therma-Sphere Max Training Vest would look sleek during or after a run.

For jackets, I like a mock neck and secure pockets, like the Mizuno Running Womens Breath Thermo Hoody Jacket.

The Nike Impossibly Light Women’s Running Jacket is a great lightweight packable jacket that adds a little extra warmth over a baselayer. Kelly and I both have the version from a few years ago:

FNRC

Sometimes it’s chilly but not freezing (high 30s or 40s) so you don’t need multiple layers. You can just get by with a single layer. In this case, I opt for a mock-neck half-zip pullover, like the Nike Women’s Pro Hyperwarm Half-Zip Top.

Dash into the New Year 5K

Extremities: Feet, hands, head

You want your feet to stay warm without overheating. It might be tempting to double up on socks – DON’T. Unless you like getting blisters. There are lots of socks to choose from, and every runner has a preference. I prefer Injinji 2.0 Outdoor Midweight Crew Nuwool Socks for keeping my feet warm and dry, and the taller crew-length prevents exposed skin around my ankles. (Otherwise … ALERT THE ELDERS.)

To keep your hands warm, you can go cheap and pick up those stretchy gloves they sell everywhere. I have picked up pairs at Target, H&M and Old Navy, and they can also be found at your local drug store. Or, you can splurge. Vera got me a pair of
Mizuno Breath Thermo Running Gloves
a few years ago. I also have a pair of Saucony Ulti-Mitts – I love having the extra “flap” that I can use for extra warmth at the start of my run and then tuck away once I warm up.

If it’s only a little chilly out (40s), I like to at least keep my ears warm. Sometimes a Bondi Band Moisture Wicking Headband is enough, or I might add a fleece headband on top of it. I have also turned a cheap fleece beanie hat into a ponytail hat. The trick it to find a fleece hat with a seam down the top, and rip a hole in the seam (no sewing required). I have a few knit hats that I’ve gotten as race swag that I wear on runs.

If it’s snowing and/or raining, wear a baseball cap or visor (put it under your headband or beanie) to create a “front porch” to keep the elements off your face as much as possible.

ponytail hat

It’s also a good idea to pick up a neck warmer. You can find affordable ones at sporting goods stores – check near their ski apparel. The one pictured below is by BULA. The Buff Original Headband can also work as a neckwarmer or headband.

neck warmer neck warmer neck warmer

Safety: See and Be Seen

Now that the days are shorter, many of us have to run in the dark. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but it still beats the treadmill in my opinion. In regards to safety, you want to be seen. The cheapest and most versatile option is to wear a reflective vest over your clothing, although that’s not always the most flattering.

RelaxReflect has a lot of cute super reflective running clothes – tights, tops, arm warmers, skirts, capris, hats. They have styles for men, women, and kids.

Relax Reflect Reflective Running Clothing

Please please please make sure you wear something reflective if you are running in the dark. And more than just the tiny reflectors that are on your shoes or that is the tiny logo on your top. I see a lot of people walking around or kids riding bikes at night, and without wearing anything reflective, I literally cannot see them until they come in the direct path of my headlights. It scares me to know how easy it would be for me to accidentally hit them if I were making a turn or had to swerve.

So that’s how you can be seen, but you also need to be able to see. If you can find a well-lit area to run (like if your neighborhood has streetlights), that’s probably enough (as long as you wear reflective gear so cars can see you). But if you need extra light, you can wear a headlamp (check your local sporting goods store near their camping equipment), or Knuckle Lights. The bonus to wearing a light is that it is yet another way for cars to see you.

What’s your favorite winter running gear? 

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24 Comments on “How to Dress for Winter Running”

  1. I always wear two pairs of socks! My only motivation to stop is the excessive sock laundering it causes. I love the BULA wrap thing! – Last year i just used a flannel scarf to wrap around my face and it was more trouble then it was worth….

    1. The ONE time I doubled up on socks, I got blisters. Maybe I have freak feet. Luckily Injinjis magically keep my feet super toasty. I think there are little elves in the fabric with magical warming powers.

  2. Toe socks regulate the heat across the top of the foot and toes so they stay warm in cold weather. Also the friction from the toe fabric rubbing together creates more heat. 🙂

  3. For runs below 20 degrees and into single digits, I love my Asics Storm Shelter jacket, I picked it up on Zappos last Christmas. I am also a big fan of SmartWool socks! I have a neck gaiter, but this year I am searching for a face mask–when its really cold, the gaiter over my mouth and nose gets icy and that’s no good. 😉 For slippery days, Yak Trax! They get me through a lot of runs that would otherwise be on the treadmill.

  4. This is timely as I am currently procrastinating going out for a run because its 30 deg outside.

    I skipped the outdoor winter running last year when I was pregnant, but I really do love it. It’s rarely windy here during the winter and I have a friend who is ALWAYS willing to do trail runs with me when the roads are too slick. We use the yaktrax for deep snow and I have a couple good pairs of thermal tights that I got on clearance and weren’t too pricey.

  5. Thanks for sharing this wealth of information! I’m a huge winter fan, but I’m glad to find out I won’t always have to dress like an Eskimo to survive an outdoor run. This is going to be my first winter of running, and I’m trying to avoid the treadmill as much as possible. Can’t wait to read your survival strategies!!

  6. Thanks for posting this! I’m kind of at a loss in terms of winter running clothes. I thought I was ready but seeing all the things I need makes me realize that I’m totally unprepared. Ugh. I really like the Buff because of its versatility – I’ve used it as a headband/ear warmer, nose/mouth guard, and headwrap + nose/mouth at the same time. After reading this I’m definitely going to check out Old Navy, Target, and other stores mentioned!

  7. Really great tips, especially the one about the hat with the seam in the back! I absolutely love that puffy purple vest you have, too.

    On a different note – I tried getting myself a balaclava (basically a ski mask that covers your entire head and face except for your eyes) and it just kept fogging up my glasses. Plus after awhile it was tough to breathe through it. So the balaclava will have to be revisited in some way, shape, or form for cold-weather usage.

    1. I don’t like having my mouth covered when I run. Even when it’s super duper cold, I go back and forth between mouth covered and uncovered. I like the neck warmer dealies that can be worn in different ways, depending on if it’s cold or crazy cold.

  8. How can I find a neck warmer like the Bula one?! I’ve tried google, but I can’t seem to find a double one like that, and it’s exactly what I’m looking for snowboarding this year.

    1. I found mine at the local big box sporting goods store (either Sports Authority or Dick Pond). They had a whole display with various items like that made for skiiers/snowboarders – helmet liners, face masks, neck warmers, gaiters, etc.

  9. Hi, thank you so much for all your wonderful information. Since I live in the opposite hemisphere (Australia), is there an archive area on your site so that i can read past posts about the opposite seasons?
    Warm regards from Melbourne which was a wet and cold 14 degrees today

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