You’d think the hardest part of winter running is the running itself, but I think it’s figuring out the right combination of clothing.
The best advice I’ve heard is to dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer. The advice I’d offer is to dress according to your body and preferences.
Where to start
As soon as the temperatures dip, you want to layer. A good baselayer is the most important, as it’s designed to trap a thin layer of warm air against the body while wicking sweat away. Running stores have some options, but large outdoor stores will have the greatest variety. Hit up a MEC (in Canada), REI, or other outdoor shop.
From there, figure out how much you want to wear on top. If it’s really cold, I’d recommend a mid-layer to help insulate. For me, this is usually a Nike half-zip. I have a few different ones, but I’ll wear a thermal or wool one when it’s quite chilly.
Lastly, wear a wind-proof shell or jacket. Without something wind-proof, a winter wind will cut through your clothes instantly. I have a couple winter running jackets. One is a lot better at blocking wind, and is a little bigger. I wear this one when it’s really cold so I can put multiple layers underneath.
Start with undies, especially men! Then decide whether you need a couple pairs of pants, or if one will suffice. If you need more than one pair, use a baselayer for the bottom.
I have three pairs of running pants- one thin, one thick with a fuzzy lining, and one thick with wind-resistant material on the thighs. Sometimes I wear one pair, and sometimes I wear a baselayer and two pairs!
I’m not picky about winter running socks, so long as they are thick, wicking, and tall. If you can’t find Gore-Tex running shoes or if your preferred shoe brand doesn’t make them, try a trail shoe. They generally have better grips and are made of a bit thicker material. If you can’t find either, simply wrap the top of your shoe in electrical tape. I did that one winter when my feet were always going numb.
Lastly, there are a few different companies that make traction aids, like YakTrax. They fit over the shoe and have little spikes to prevent you from slipping or falling on the snow and ice.
I use Due North. They work really well for me; however, Kelly’s foot is in between sizes and they constantly shift around on him. Last winter he ended up pulling out some older shoes and putting screws directly in the sole.
Head & hands
You lose the majority of heat through your head, so make sure you have a couple toques, one thin and one thick. You definitely want these to be wicking. Most running-specific toques also have the handy ponytail holes!
In winter, I almost always wear a neck-warmer to prevent a chill. The colder it gets, the warmer the neck-warmer I wear. Again, running or xc-ski specific neck-warmers/ balaclavas are the best because you are able to breathe through them. Some even have nose vents and holes for the mouth.
I also have a few pairs of gloves and mitts. Mittens are always warmer since your hands are together, and they have space for hand warmers inside.
Lastly, protect your eyes and any other vulnerable skin. I almost always wear sunglasses but have also worn ski goggles in the bitter cold. If it’s really cold and you have any skin showing, put a little Vaseline on the skin to protect from the wind.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! These are some suggestions of what works for me. I’ve run outside for over a dozen winters and have dealt with frostbite and a lot of falls!
Runner’s World has a ‘What Should I Wear’ tool. Check it out for guidance for your next winter run!
Also, read last week’s post for more tips on winter running, including wearing reflective gear.
What’s the coldest weather you’ve run in?