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Running Clothing Based on Temperature

Updated on March 23, 2013

When the Weather Changes, Change your Clothing!

The range of clothing that a typical runner will wear over the course of the year varies greatly in most temperate climates. There are frozen extremes in the winter and the risk of heat stroke in the summer. The specific running clothing that you choose to wear has a direct impact on your comfort during the run.


90 Fahrenheit and hotter

Consider running at odd hours of the day like before dawn or after sunset. If you must run drink adequate water and make sure your electrolytes (salts) are adequate. Also consider wearing white long sleeve clothing and a white hat. Getting as much sun as possible to reflect off of your clothing instead of being absorbed will help keep the temperature down. It is possible to run in very high temperatures as long as hydration is taken taken very seriously.

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80-89 Fahrenheit

When the temperatures heat up, take it off! Not necessarily, but for most people on shorter runs less clothing is a good idea. Getting a little bit of sunlight, wearing sunscreen of course, is good for absorbing vitamin D. Also, the pace of your running, at four miles an hour and greater, creates a slight wind that helps the sweat on your body evaporate so that you can cool down. Shorts and a t-shirt are common and many people do not even wear a shirt. Wearing a white hat and sunglasses helps keep your body relaxed and keep some heat off of your head. Wearing thinner low cut socks will allow more airflow to your feet and ankles and keep you cooler. Clothing insulates and less of it insulates you less. The key is to get airflow to your skin.


70-79 Fahrenheit

The 70s is classic shorts and short sleeve shirt weather. Wearing synthetic clothing helps wick moisture. Many road races offer synthetic shirts and these summer runs are a great way to show off your road race shirts.


60-69 Fahrenheit

This is also classic shorts and short sleeve shirt weather. The 60s are great weather for interval and repetition workouts because it is cool enough that you will not be slowed down over over intervals a few minutes long and warm enough that staying warm is not a problem.


50-59 Fahrenheit

This is the ideal temperature for long distance running. You can run for hours without over heating. The ideal clothing for most workouts is still shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Although on recovery or easy runs a long sleeve shirt might be worn. The 50s are a great temperature for racing, even up to the marathon.


40-49 Fahrenheit

When the temperature dips below 50 it's time to put pants on. The exception is extensive (long and difficult) workouts, such as a long run or a race. Although, it is typically better to wear pants or tights even in those circumstances! The number of hamstring issues that people have had proving it is warm enough to wear shorts in cold weather is evidence enough. Typical workout clothing consists of a long sleeve shirt and long pants or tights. The 40s are warm enough that a single layer is sufficient. A light hat, such as a baseball hat and even a thin pair of gloves might be prudent depending on your personal taste and the wind.

In this temperature range in the upper regions of the United States there is often quite a bit of rain. Wearing water resistant layers like wind jackets are very helpful for keeping you dry longer than materials like cotton. Secondly, when running in the rain, wearing a baseball style brimmed hat is ideal. Keeping the water off of your face will go a long way toward keeping your attitude positive. Due to the huge number of nerves on the human face what your faces feels will determine how your body feels far more, per square inch of skin, than other parts of your body. So keeping your face dry in the rain, or shielded from the wind and sun will help you stay relaxed longer than if you expose your face to the elements.

Manzella Power Stretch Gloves

Manzella Men's Power Stretch Glove (Black, Medium)
Manzella Men's Power Stretch Glove (Black, Medium)

Manzella makes a number of very impressive gloves. For running they easily make some of the best, most appropriate gloves. A running glove needs to be breathable because your hands will be sweating significantly. It also needs to be wind proof because running into the wind can easily mean that you are encountering 20+ mile per hour winds, which make most temperatures far less comfortable. Power Stretch fabric is some of the best material for a glove. Power Stretch is breathable and highly wind resistant. It is also somewhat stretchy so it conforms to your hand which means you have less air gaps to heat up. It's more efficient than those cheap cotton gloves and it will insulate when wet.

If you have one pair of gloves for running, get some Power Stretch gloves from Manzella.



30-39 Fahrenheit

When the temperature gets near freezing it's time to button up! One layer over your legs, hands and head is important to keep you at a comfortable temperature. On your torso and arms one or two layers will suffice. The number depends on the thickness of each layer. I have two thin Nike shirts that are about as warm as one Patagonia R1 fleece.


20-29 Fahrenheit

As the mercury drops the clothing gets thicker. When the temperature is in the 30s it is possible to have your head or your hands exposed. When the temperature is in the 20s it is important to make sure that everything is covered in at least one layer. A hooded garment is especially helpful because it protects your neck from wind. Multiple layers over your torso is critical. When the temperature dips into the 20s your ability to run as fast as you can at warmer temperature is reduced. Proper warm-up is critical before any sort of speed work otherwise an injury is likely.


10-19 Fahrenheit

At these temperatures it becomes important to cover your face as well. The addition of wind can create the potential for frostbite. Wearing sunglasses to reduce the reflection off of snow and keep the wind off of your eyes is very helpful. Many sunglasses have multiple lenses, including lightly shaded lenses for days when keeping the wind off is more important than shade. At these temperatures two layers on your legs will feel more comfortable than just one layer. Moderately thick gloves or mittens often made of Polartec Power Stretch fleece will keep your digits warm. A stocking hat in addition to a hood is used by many runners to cover as much skin as possible. For your torso and arms multiple layers, often thick wind proof or highly wind resistant layers help insulate you core body functions.


0-9 Fahrenheit

When it gets this cold just put everything on. Two layers on your legs, three or four layers on your upper body, two coverings on your head, mittens instead of gloves, a covering over most of your face, and thick socks are all necessary. You may even need to wear two layers of socks. Also, you might want to consider shoes with thicker soles. If you often wear thin shoes, such as Vibrams it is important that you wear socks because your toes can get cold because of the conduction that occurs with the ground. It is well known in mountaineering circles that contact with the ground is the fastest way to cool down. In running that is your feet, keep them warm! It is important that your inner layers are synthetic or wool and not cotton. As you change direction in the wind you will go from periods of perspiring more to being slightly cold. Getting the sweat away from your body is the first step. Often after a mid-winter run everyone's clothing will be soaked in sweat yet their skin will still be a comfortable temperature. The goal is to keep your body working fine, and if it takes your clothing getting soaked with sweat that is very acceptable.


Below 0 Fahrenheit

When it gets really cold out bundle up! Add another layer to everything. Watch out for ice, it can break ribs. Consider investing in a treadmill or gym membership.

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