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What to Wear For Winter Running

Above or Below Freezing: What to Wear on Winter Runs

If you're forgoing the comfortable temperatures of your gym this Winter, that can mean dealing with a lot of snow, ice, hail, rain, and sleet. Winter running has just as many challenges as running in extreme heat, but with the right gear, you'll stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

Your comfort level depends on many factors, including how fast you're running, how comfortable you are in the cold, and how long your run is, so your perfect Winter outfit may differ. However, below are good rules of thumb for dressing for Winter running, whether it's in snowy, freezing conditions or slighter warmer temps.

When It's 32 Degrees or Below

  • Start off with a wicking bra and a wicking tank. We love Ibex sports tops since they are made of comfy, breathable, and natural merino wool.
  • Pull on a long-sleeved midweight base-layer shirt made from either nonitchy merino wool or polyester.
  • Slip on wicking socks that go up to your knees to keep your calves warm. Lightweight ski socks do just the trick; many, like these Smartwool PhD Snowboard Light socks ($16, originally $24), are made of a natural and synthetic blend that keeps your toes warm without too much bulk.
  • Wear warm running tights on your legs. Try these Under Armour cold-weather compression leggings ($70).
  • Over the long-sleeved shirt, wear a fitted, wind-stopping softshell like this one from The North Face ($149).
  • Running gloves or liners will protect your hands.
  • Wear a lightweight hat so your head doesn't get too sweaty.
  • On cold days, wear a fleece neck warmer. It will keep your neck and chin warm while also helping to prevent burning lungs.
  • Facial sunscreen and lip balm with SPF are both musts, as are sunglasses to protect your eyes. Snow reflects the sun's harmful UV rays, and the light bouncing off the snow can be blinding.
  • Water-resistant but breathable running shoes help make snowy or rainy conditions bearable for your feet. These Salomon XR Mission trail-running shoes ($77, originally $110) are made just for bad Winter weather. Wearing gaiters over your calves will keep your ankles and legs dry when the snow is deep.
  • When it's icy, slip on a set of Yaktrax Run straps ($40) on your running shoes to give you more traction and prevent slipping on hard snow or ice.

When It's Above 32 Degrees

If temperatures are chilly where you live but haven't hit that freezing mark, you still need to dress for the weather. But while all of the above are Winter essentials in snow country, layering that much on your body in 40-degree weather can lead to a sweaty, uncomfortable run. Dressing like it's 20 degrees warmer than it is will help ensure you don't overlayer. With that said, here are some guidelines for those (slightly) warmer Winter runs.

  • Dress in layers, but leave out the insulating middle layer. Depending on the temperature, you may want to stick with a thin moisture-wicking shirt (go for short-sleeved if you are running for a long time and temperatures are 40 degrees or higher) and lightweight zippered jacket that you can easily take off when your body temperature rises. Look for a thin, waterproof windbreaker with vents to keep you dry and comfortable if it's raining, and choose a jacket with zippered pockets as well to stash any headgear or gloves when you warm up.
  • If it's windy, you probably will need running tights to help insulate your legs from the chill. If there's not a lot of wind, regular fast-drying pants should work.
  • If you find that hats trap too much heat while you run in warmer Winter weather, look for ear-covering headbands that keep your ears warm while preventing overheating.
  • Rainy Winters call for shoes that protect your feet, so look for shoes that have as little mesh as possible for your wet Winter runs. Trail runners work perfectly; just be sure to wear noncotton moisture-wicking socks and avoid puddles as much as possible.
  • Gloves are still important in above-freezing temperatures, since cold weather can chill your extremities and cause discomfort while you run. Go for thin, wind-resistant gloves without the bulk, and stash them in your pockets after you warm up.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF are still a good idea, even if you're running under cloudy skies. The sun's UV rays can pass through clouds.

— Additional reporting by Jenny Sugar

Image Source: Thinkstock
karenfarber2710 karenfarber2710 2 years

Holy crap, so glad I live in California! It's still 70 here :o

PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 4 years
Thank you so much I really needed this! I just started a running regimen and I stopped because I was running in the Summer but as soon as it started to get cold here I didn't know what to wear for outdoor running. Now, I know more or less how to pull together the essentials. Some of it is a little pricey but it will just go on my Xmas list. Thanks again!!
palisa palisa 4 years
You guys are hard core!\u00a0 I dream of being a runner.\u00a0 Thanks for all of the great tips and great article!
cmhads cmhads 5 years
Great article! I always wear gloves, a long sleeve shirt and another lightweight jacket over. Sometimes I will wear a tanktop underneath the long sleeve shirt as well.
lighthouselady lighthouselady 7 years
Great suggestions. My biggest problem I have though, is something covering my mouth. When I use a scarf, my glasses fog. If I go without, then my throat and lungs ache.
ojodeazul ojodeazul 7 years
Tissues are a must this time of year..I think I have them in every jacket!
heatherhas heatherhas 7 years
Don't forget to shove some tissues in your pocket! My nose always runs terribly in cold weather.
ojodeazul ojodeazul 7 years
-14.8F, I would not leave my house at all!
1apple 1apple 7 years
Yeah...where I live it's the equivalent of -14.8 F today. Hence my treadmill!!!
michlny michlny 7 years
Wow. I can't believe you all think that it's a lot of layers...I definitely need another layer on a fleece or something.....
runningesq runningesq 7 years
ohh! you have a few options: - headlamp (lightweight) - reflective tape - reflective vest
ojodeazul ojodeazul 7 years
I guess I mean more for visibility to people in the dark, I am ok with warmth, I am more concerned about being hit....
runningesq runningesq 7 years
ojodeazul -- it depends on the temperature... see above for what a lot of people wear in the cold. generally the best way to go is layers - traps body heat and removable if you get too warm.
ojodeazul ojodeazul 7 years
What does everyone where before the sunrises? I have trouble going out before the sunrises, which really cutes my run short in the winter....
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Yeah, Fit, I do think that is a lot of layers for 30*F, but to each her own. This morning I had on tights, sports bra, gloves, long sleeved shirt, thin hat, thin gloves.. it was 25*F and I took off the gloves halfway though !
Anne26 Anne26 7 years
Yeah, even though it is so cold outside. The many layers I have on come off while I am jogging in the mornings. That is the great feeling of exercising in such cold weather.
ojodeazul ojodeazul 7 years
I ran 7miles this morning it was 23F I wore 1. Smart Wool Socks 2. North Face Wool Hate 3. Liner Gloves 4. Sports Bra 5. Wicking merino lined long sleeved top 6. 800 fill Vest 7. Cashmere Scarf (which came off mid run) I have had moderate asthma my whole life, so with me was my Ventolin HFA and tissues for my very very running nose. Was cool to start but warmed up fairly fas
Chicagomarie Chicagomarie 7 years
WOW, when I'm wearing as much clothing as you suggest FIT, it's -20 windchill! I've lived in the chicago area and competed in college (xc /track) and we ran outside all the time. in the snow, ice, and -25 windchill. 12, 13 ,14 miles. good base layers are very important, as is a hat, and a half zip...because you CAN get hot on 0 degree days, so having something to release the heat is important.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
It was 25 when I ran tonight.. 1. smartwool socks 2. UA cold gear tights 3. sports bra 4. UA cold gear long sleeved fitted shirt 5. north face flight series jacket (with neat sleeves -- they hook over your thumbs so your 6. gloves and jacket sleeves don't gap and show exposed skin 7. lightweight hat
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