How To Dress For Winter Running


[image via React Mobile]

Here’s a question I’ve been asked quite a few times over the last few weeks: “What do you wear when you run in the winter?” Since I’m fortunate enough to test out all of the best running gear on a regular basis, it’s definitely about time I answered this question in more detail here.

I stumbled across the above graphic while I was working on a few posts for The Active Times’ Tumblr page this week. I just had to share it because not only is it super cute, but it’s also accurate. These are all of the pieces every runner needs to gear up for a cold-weather run. For each piece in the graphic, I’ll tell you what my favorite brands are below!

Hats are a totally acceptable option, but personally, I prefer ear warmer headbands instead. I like that they stay nice and snug over my ears but also allow the rest of my head to stay cool. As of late, I’ve been switching back and forth between one by Moving Comfort and another by 2XU, which I received as a gift after a Built By Chocolate Milk sponsored Olympic Ski workout. The 2XU band is slightly tighter than the one by Moving Comfort but they both work really well and keep my ears warm while I run.

Gloves are a must-have because keeping your hands warm helps the rest of your body stay heated. Plus, have you ever been out in the cold without a pair? It just plain hurts. My favorite gloves are by Reebok. They are convertible, finger-less mittens. I bought them a year ago at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Right now, I am in desperate need of a new pair. (I’ve wiped my cold, runny nose on them a few too many times. TMI?) I haven’t had a chance to revisit the store yet, but I can’t find them (or anything comparable) online. The reason I love them so much though, is because you can cover up your fingers to keep warm at the start of a chilly run, but if you start to feel too hot you can easily cool off by pulling back the mitten piece.

My other pair of running gloves are also by Moving Comfort. They have tech tip fingers so I can fool around with my playlists and MapMyRun without having to expose my hands to the cold.

Base Layer
This layer must be moisture-wicking. You’re going to sweat on it, and if it absorbs any of the moisture it’ll feel like you have a cold, wet blanket wrapped around your body. In case it’s not obvious, that’s not a feeling you want to experience while trying to enjoy exercise outside in the wintertime. For my base layer, I usually wear an Under Armour tank. It’s nothing fancy; just a plain, white, moisture-wicking polyester tank. Personally, I think tank tops are best for the base because I don’t like having too many layers under my armpits.

Insulating Layer
This goes over the base layer. For me, if it’s anywhere from 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit outside this layer is usually a long-sleeved tech tee. Right now, I’m obsessed with my black Built By Chocolate Milk 2XU tech tee (also a gift from the Olympic ski workout). It keeps me just the right amount warm on days when it’s chilly out, but not really crazy cold. If it’s on the colder side (between 35 and 40 F) I’ll go with something a little bit heavier. My favorites are: Layer 8’s polyester long-sleeve  fleece, Layer 8’s polyester  long-sleeve half-zip fleece (I believe I found these at Target last year), Skirt Sports’ “Tough Chick” half-zip, and Reebok’s polyester kid’s zip up. (Yes, sometimes I shop in the kid’s section.)

Just like your base layer, this layer should also be moisture-wicking. The type of leggings I wear on a winter run also depends on the temperature. If it’s 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above, I’ll go with capris, anything colder and I’ll opt for full-length tights. I have an unhealthy number of spandex capris and tights. In fact, my dresser has a drawer dedicated entirely to spandex pants. I can’t name them all, but my favorites as of late are black capris by Skirt Sports, Reebok, Old Navy (most affordable), and Athleta. My favorite pair of leggings, which are great for super chilly workouts, are by Opedix. (They have a few special features which you can read more about here.) I also really like both Reebok’s and Under Armour’s full-length leggings.

Since the body keeps itself pretty well-heated while we run, jackets are only necessary when it’s one of those unbearably cold days. I only wear one over my insulating layer when it’s below 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside or if there’s an exceptional wind chill. The closest thing I have to a running jacket is my Moving Comfort half-zip. It’s the heaviest piece of activewear that I own and with a long-sleeve tee and base layer underneath it’s kept me quite comfortable during some of my coldest workouts.

Bonus Layer: Socks
For the same reason you don’t want to wear a cotton base layer or cotton leggings, you don’t want to wear cotton socks. My favorite socks for running right now are C9 by Champion’s Duo Dry socks.

For more winter running tips, check out these links:

5 Tips for Winter Running

What to Wear for Winter Running

5 Ways to Motivate Your Winter Workouts

What’s one piece of running gear you CANNOT live without in the winter? Let me know in the comments section!

  1. This is awesome! Thanks for spelling out all the layers for those of us who are seasonally challenged! I just moved to the midwest from sunny California and I thought I was going to die on my first sub-30 run…Looks like it’s time to go shopping!! 😉

  2. Great tips! I’m off to Stockholm (Sweden) on business in a couple of days and I’m determined to get a run in – can’t imagine a better way to visit the city to be honest! I’m very much a novice winter runner though, so this article was absolutely on point. 🙂 Thank you!

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