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Cold Weather Running Gear To Keep You Warm

Updated on July 29, 2013

Winter Running Is No Fun If You Get Cold

When winter hits you need the right cold weather running gear
When winter hits you need the right cold weather running gear | Source

A Guide To Dressing For Cold Weather Running

Cold, winter weather shouldn't force you indoors for your running as the mercury drops.

Winter running offers you the opportunity to get back to nature and see a whole different side to running. This guide will help to show you how to enjoy your training with the right gear gear for winter running adventures.

Advances in fabric technology mean that when dressing for cold weather running the old-school heavy cotton hoodie has been banished to the casual wardrobe and made way for lightweight, performance orientated specific winter running wear to help keep you warm on the bitter coldest of days whilst wicking away sweat to keep your feeling comfortable.

Thus follows a top-to-toe guide to dressing right for cold weather running.

Keep That Head Covered Up To Preserve Core Temperature

Whilst running a large amount of heat is dissipated through our extremities- particularly our head. This effect is great in warm weather as we're able to sweat to cold down. However in winter we need to conserve some of our body heat as it's believed we lose around 40% of our body heat through our heads. Therefore you need to conserve your body heat by wearing a hat while you run, particularly if you're challenged in the full head of hair stakes.

Merino Wool Offers Performance Without The Smells

Icebreaker Merino Men's Chase Beanie
Icebreaker Merino Men's Chase Beanie

This lightweight Merino Wool hat from Icebreaker offers excellent thermal performance whilst wicking away sweat from the body to help regulate body temperature. As it's made from merino wool it will not smell awful if you refrain from washing it for a while too.


Go For Merino Wool For Your Winter Hat

A lightweight, wicking skullcap or beanie hat is a simple way to protect from excessive heat loss whilst running in winter. Look for a hat in a lightweight, wicking fabric.

Merino wool is all the rage due to it's excellent thermal properties and the awesome breath-ability that a natural fibre brings. Merino wool also has great anti-bacterial properties so will refrain from smelling badly if you leave it in a gym bag overnight too!

Protect Your Neck And Chest With A Neck Gaitor

A favoured item with everyone from road cyclists to skiers- a neck gaiter can be an exceptionally useful piece of gear for cold weather running.

Not only does a neck gaiter like the Buff® (featured below) offer you protection from cold air going down your front and back. It can also be used as a balaclava for extreme cold weather running or as a face mask to protect your mouth and lips from extreme cold air.

Protect Your Head and Neck With A Buff Headscarf/ Neck Gaiter

Protect Your Lips When Running In Cold Weather

Consider using chapsticks, vaseline or lip balm to protect from the cold weather playing havoc with your lips. Chapped lips can be uncomfortable when you want to concentrate on running and will otherwise need to be treated after your runs.

Upper Body Dressing For Cold Weather Running

Winter running calls for an upper body layering system to protect from the elements
Winter running calls for an upper body layering system to protect from the elements | Source

Upper Body Dressing For Winter Running

Winter running calls for a layering system in your upper body clothing to enhance breath-ability whilst keeping you warm and protected from the elements. Depending on the temperature you can take a two or three step approach to dressing for winter running warmth.

Those from a cycling or walking background will be familiar with performance wind-proof winter jackets from materials such as Gore® Windstopper™ fabric which offers excellent protection from the wind and in many cases will negate the need for a third layer.

2 Step Approach To Dressing For Winter Running

  1. Long Sleeve Wicking Base Layer
  2. Thermal, Windproof Jacket

3 Step Approach To Winter Running Layers

  1. Wicking Long Sleeve Base Layer
  2. Warm Mid Layer
  3. Protective Outer Layer / Shell

Winter Running Base Layers on Amazon

Helly Hansen Men's Pace Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip Shirt
Helly Hansen Men's Pace Long Sleeve 1/2 Zip Shirt

Helly Hansen's Lifa Cool fabric manages moisture to keep your body dry whilst running. This zip top will look great worn on it's own too!


Key Priority For Winter Running- Wicking Long Sleeve Base Layer

Every running should own a good quality wicking base layer. If you buy right they're ideal for wearing on their own on slightly cooler days and then can be used as part of a layering system when conditions get cooler.

The key ability of your base layer should be to wick sweat away from your body to keep you dry and warm. Some base layers also factor in a degree of thermal (warmth) properties too which can be particularly useful if you're looking for a base layer to wear on it's own.

Many companies have their own wicking polyester fabrics with names such as Coolmax and DryFit (Nike products). Merino Wool base layers have gained popularity recently due to quick drying breathable fibres which stay odour free. Smartwool make some of the best Merino Wool base layers on the marketplace.

Steer clear of cotton as it holds moisture keeping you damp and at subsequent risk of getting cold.

Winter Weight Insulated Jerseys Are Great For Layering

Gore Running Wear Men's Flash 2.0 Winter Weight Thermal Jersey
Gore Running Wear Men's Flash 2.0 Winter Weight Thermal Jersey | Source

Winter Running Insulated Layer

Use an insulated layer to provide additional warmth by trapping air between the layers between a long sleeve base layer and your insulating layer to enhance warmth for winter running.

The ideal insulated layer will have excellent wicking and breathability.

Many insulation layers for winter running feature a fleece backed material or alternately you could use a micro-fleece layer.

Consider A Softshell Windproof Jacket For Winter Running

Softshell fabrics are great investments for active people and have uses for cycling, running and hiking.

The key benefit to softshell fabrics for winter running are their breath-ability and their windproof properties. This helps to protect your body from cooling as a result of cold winter winds.

Softshell Running Jackets Are Great For Cold Conditions

Saucony Men's Kinvara Nomad Jacket
Saucony Men's Kinvara Nomad Jacket

A softshell jacket will provide warmth and wind protection in cold climates. Treated for water repellancy too this Saucony jacket will become a winter running wardrobe favourite.


Protect Your Fingers From Frostbite With Winter Running Gloves

As the body loses a large percentage of it's heat through the extremities you need to make sure you're protecting your hands and fingers when you run. Therefore it's imperative to protect them by wearing gloves for winter running.

The best gloves for running are lightweight and breathable, yet providing warmth. You shouldn't need a bulky pair of skiing gloves for running. If you struggle for finger warmth you could consider a thin pair of microfiber liner gloves to add extra warmth.

Mittens are a good idea for when the weather gets really cold or if you struggle with your extremities in winter.

Shorts! Not In The Middle Of A Cold Winter

Cover those legs up for winter running. The only excuse is races in milder weather
Cover those legs up for winter running. The only excuse is races in milder weather | Source

Cover Those Legs Up Or Your Joints Won't Be Happy

We've all seen the 'hardcore' runners out in all weathers in just their regular shorts. Unfortunately running in cold weather in just a pair of shorts is exposing your legs and joints to potential problems.

Our joints rely on the fluid between the joints to stay viscose and allow smooth movement. When your joints get cold- this leads to a cooling of the fluid and a decrease in the viscosity which can potentially lead to long term joint problems.

Get those legs covered up for winter running!

Ideal Leg Wear for Winter Running Down To Freezing

For cold weather running you really need more than a pair of lightweight Lycra running tights as the cold will simply cut through them. A favourite for cool temperature running in the UK and North America is a pair of Ronhill Tracksters which in styling offers a great alternative to tight running tights for men.

If you don't have any worries on how you look then running tights are the best option as they're closer to the skin to trap air for additional warmth and can be purchased in winter weight thermal designs. Many feature fleece backed thermo-roubaix Lycra type fabrics.

Softshell Running Tights For Below Freezing Runs

Regular running tights will offer most runners protection down to freezing but cool icy winds often are able to cut through them. For extreme winter running a set of activity tights like Pearl Izumi's AmFIB tight will offer an additional degree of protection.

The Pearl Izumi AmFIB features softshell wind-proof fleece panels to help provide warmth, as well as blocking out cold winds and rain. They're actually cycling tights but are able to have dual usage. If you're looking for a running specific tight consider the Salomon XT Softshell Running Tight which offers weather protection with a running specific anatomic cut.

What About Your Running Shoes For Winter?

Regular running shoes tend to be well padded and this helps to keep some heat within them to guard against cold feet for winter.

Steer clear of lightweight racing shoes as these often feature ventilated soles which will allow water to splash up through if you're running in wet conditions and snow.

If you live in an area where a wet winter or snow is a distinct possibility. Consider purchasing a set of winter specific trail running shoes with a waterproof membrane as this will help keep your feet dry and warm on your winter runs

For running in icy, snowy conditions you could also consider fixing a set of Yaktrax Run's to your shoes as their ice-spikes will dig into icy and deep compacted snow giving you grip.

Think About Those Feet Too (Winter Socks For Running)

For running during winter consider some cold weather specific running socks. A good pair of winter running socks will wick away sweat from your feet and limit your risk of frostbite. Look for quick drying fabrics which also have thermal qualities.

Never run in cotton socks during winter as these will hold moisture and leave your feet damp. This subsequently leads to increased potential of blisters.


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    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks dave. Sport has definitely gone back to its roots in terms of clothing fabrics- it's just a shame they don't have retro prices to match!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice article. I've had wool stuff for years and had started to replace the majority of it with modern running gear. It's amaing how technology has actually almost gone backwards as all the innovative fabrics like drifit weren't necessarily better all along.

    • aykianink profile image


      6 years ago

      Really good hub. "Protect Your Lips When Running In Cold Weather" is something I've never really thought about.

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks tireless- cotton can cause excessive cooling. I love defeet's woollie boolie merino socks myself but wool recommend wool to all. It's amazing how technology has gone back to old school basics.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Nice! Didn't have any wool socks the other morning and grabbed a pair of thick cotton socks. My feet sloshed all day. Thanks for the reminder that cotton holds moisture. Love Warm Wooley and Smartwool socks for every sport in the winter.

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks carol-it's never fun getting cold in winter. Not everyone gets it right so I hope this guide helps. Enjoy your walks- winter can be an amazing time of year

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Lots of good advice here for running in the cold. We bundle up to go for a the 20s is pretty cold here. It is not fun to be cold outside. Voting up and sharing ...


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