Winter Running Gear: What You Need To Know

As soon as the cold weather starts, many stop their training. But you do not have to. Because running in crunchy snow when it’s dark, and not a single soul is outside, can be an incredible experience. Also, running in winter is healthy. It can help with depression, beat winter blues during the colder days, or if you have low energy levels, running can improve all these symptoms. All you need to do is think running and prepare your running gear ahead of winter.

To make sure you are ready for the winter training, follow these steps and prepare yourself ahead. It will help keep you running throughout the cold weather.

– To be able to run in the cold, layer up and get running clothes that wick.
– Get three smart (top layers) to protect your body from cold and wind, thin moisture wicking tank or breathable shirt, lightweight zipped jacket and a thin waterproof windbreaker, or an insulated cozy vest might. Women would also need a wicking bra.
– Warm running fast-drying tights or tights to protect your legs from the cold wind.
– Warm hat or balaclava. Although if you find that a hat is too much f or you, than headbands are a great alternative and will keep your ears warm.
– Mitten gloves or thin wind resistant gloves.
– Woolen socks that go up to your knees.
– Comfortable shoes such as trail runners are perfect.
– Lip balm and cream to protect you from the wind and cold.

Also, equip yourself with protective gear like a reflective vest and a headlamp. 

What to wear for running or jogging in winter?

There is a lot of clothing available today to keep you not only warm and dry but also comfortable to run in the winter time. But one is for sure, always wear a base layer top and bottom and from there add extra layers based on temperature. I have not so good circulation so I tend to layer up, but you may find that you do not need as much clothes as I do.

When you select your winter gear before the run, choose clothes as outside is at least 5 degrees warmer than the actual temperature  (your body gets warmer during the run) and based on your length and tempo run. However, if it is windy outside, dress up as it is 5-10 degrees lower than the actual temperature. When it rains, a water proof jacket is always good to have in your closet.

Upper Body

Warm hat. If you tend to get really cold, a warm cap that covers your ears is always good to invest in. On the other hand, if you sweat a lot when running with heat, then ear warmers that come over your ears might be a better solution for you. The buff hoodie is also a great alternative, when super cold and windy. The buff hoodie  is a hood/buff combination that can keep your face and head warm.

Neck warmer or neck gaiter. When super cold I would have a middle layer of a fleece top which covers my neck, and other times instead of a fleece top just a neck warmer. I usually wear the neck warmer when is windy outside, snowy or when the temperatures are around -10C. I know it might look a lot but this way I make sure not only that my neck is safe and warm, but I can pull the neck warmer up and cover my mouth and nose to ensure that my breathing is comfortable when super cold outside.

If you really hate the cold (like I do), get a balaclava. This head+neck warmer called balaclava is ‘all in one’ piece of cloth designed to expose only your eyes and mouth, and keep your head and your nose from freezing off. I have a small issue with breathing in the cold (when -10C), so I wear something over my mouth and nose in winter, like balaclava that covers the lower half of my face.

Skin and Lip protection. Winter air can be harsh and cold. 

Gloves. I live in the North, and I am not so in favor of the cold and harsh weather. So, I usually have good warm gloves because my body does not start to sweat fast. As my hands get freezing, I also layer some mittens over my gloves. The feeling is just amazing. I put on mittens to keep my fingers together + extra warm. But if you are like other runners whose hands start to sweat soon after they begin to run, your hands will get warmer fast so you will need a thin glove.

Torso. In winter, you need three layers of clothing. For the cold runs, always make sure you buy wind resistant and warm clothes, which will pull the sweat away from your body and keep you dry and keep the wind away.

1. The base layer is thin, and it should fit your body to keep the sweat away from the body. Even though I love clothes made of cotton, in winter, I do not use such materials because the cotton holds the moisture, which means it will keep you wet, the last thing you’d want to experience in a cold winter day when outside is running. The thin layer of clothing you’d want to put on in winter, as a base layer, should be synthetic material (polypropylene). This is a very good material for winter as it will wick sweat from your body.

2. The second layer is a bit thicker, it is breathable, and it will help you stay warm. When the temperatures are around -10C I add an in-between fleece layer to keep me warm.

3. When windy, I also put a wind resistant layer. Two years ago we moved to the North. The winter can be mild to super cold (up to -30C) and sometimes windy. When it gets windy, it feels as the cold stream of air runs straight through your bones. Therefore, having a wind resistant layer at hand is a must in such a climate.

Lower Body

Dry-fit pants for the winter run.
If you tend to be very cold when you run, or you are feeling usually cold in winter, you would need either tights or dry-fit pants to keep your body warm and dry.

On minus ten when it is cold and sometimes windy, I wear a pair of tights and over them loose fitting pants. That way I keep the wind away from my legs.

Regardless of the weather outside, your shoes should always be comfortable and breathable. When it comes what kind of shoes, I do not have special shoes just for winter. I wear my usual shoes. The only difference for winter is, in order not to freeze my feet, I wear a good thick pair of socks to keep my feet warm and dry. I choose socks made from wool. They feel nice, and they keep my very so often cold feet warm during the cold wintertime. I have long woolen socks so I can tuck them under my running pants.

A few extra tips and ideas that are useful to keep in mind when getting ready to run in winter.

  • Layer up with wicking (sweat away from your skin) clothing. Layer up and run. In just a few minutes, you’ll be warm and not even notice the cold.
  • Get comfy, breathable shoes, a hat & warm gloves.
  • Get an Energizer headlamp if you run early in the morning or late at night. Winter nights and mornings are quiet and dark. So, if you are ready for such an experience, get a headlamp.
  • Also, a reflective vest over your jacket is good to have. It will keep you (relatively) safe.
  • If you love the solitude, you will enjoy the winter races. You will not only have the paths all to yourself, but you will be able to experience new winter sounds, such as hearing your breathing while the snow muffles, or the unique sounds when you step on wet, fluffy or crunchy snow.
  • If you do not like solitude running, find a friend or two to run with when it’s dark out. Organize a social run. Running with a group helps.
  • If it gets too cold in your area, run every day, at least a mile a day. Don’t break your running spirit.
  • Avoid too icy roads and those days when the streets become incredibly messy due to snow melting.
  • When snow and cold or wet, take smaller steps that will keep you from slipping and falling.
  • Last but not least, sign up for a few small winter races or a big spring race. That will keep you going. I find it easier to train if I have a plan set up for an end goal.

Every season is unique in its own way including winter. And there’s something about the absolute white silence of a cold winter that just can’t be replicated in another season. I live in a country with a mild to super cold (it can get up to -30C) climate. Until the temperatures get to -10 C, I run outside and usually in the mornings. It’s a little chilly in the beginning but not too bad. I love making the first morning footprints in fresh snow. It feels like a fairy-tale.

When it is severely cold, like Siberia cold, I do run on the treadmill, and I love it. The treadmill is my time for focusing on much longer runs, a bit socializing and exchanging ideas with other runners. Also, I do interval training at this time to boost my running speed and to build on stamina.

Winter can be a tough time for running if you do not enjoy cold weather. But, you can try different things and clothing when running in the winter and see what works. You may end up loving winter runs better than in the summer.

Now run. 🙂