Many runners choose to stay indoors throughout the winter to avoid the treacherous sidewalk conditions and frigid temperatures. However, if you’re anything like me, the thought of logging endless treadmill miles sounds exponentially worse than battling the weather.
But luckily, running outdoors through the winter isn’t nearly as bad as many would expect.
The key is learning how to dress for winter running.
Running outside when there are bitter windchills and slippery sidewalks means that selecting what to wear might take a little bit of thought.
Dressing for cold weather running requires a bit of strategy, some quality gear, and a little extra patience as you prepare.
Whether you face endless snowstorms and negative windchills, or temperatures that remain moderately above freezing this time of year, winter running season will no doubt bring a few challenges and curveballs.
Check out what to wear on winter runs at every temperature to stay warm and comfortable this season. Here’s what you need to know about layering for a winter run, how to avoid harsh winds, and how to stay safe on slippery sidewalks.
How to Dress for Winter Running
As a general guideline, runners usually want to dress as if the temperature is about 10-20 degrees warmer outside. For example, if the temperature is 40 degrees, you’ll generally want to dress as if it were between 50 and 60 degrees, depending on the type of workout you’ll be completing.
For harder workouts and tempo runs, dress as if it is 10 degrees warmer. For short, easy runs, dressing about 15-20 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature should suffice.
However, while this rule is a helpful starting point, it gets a bit trickier in the winter.
When the temperature hovers around 20 degrees outside, it may or may not actually feel this warm. Winter running weather often brings icy winds and cloudy skies, making the air feel even chillier than predicted.
When deciding what to wear for a winter run, it’s important to look at the “real feel” temperature – not the actual air temperature.
There may be days when 20 degrees feels like -5, or when 20 degrees feels like a balmy 25 in the sun. Checking the real feel temperature is key to dressing appropriately for cold weather runs.
What to Wear for Winter Runs at Any Temperature
While the rule of adding 10 to 20 degrees to the real temperature can be helpful, it still leaves runners questioning how many layers they truly need to wear for winter runs.
0 degree temperatures and 30 degree temperatures both feel pretty darn cold from inside, which can make dressing for these cold weather runs even more challenging.
Here is a helpful starting place for deciding what to wear for winter running a bit less confusing.
40 – 50 degrees:
A long sleeve shirt with shorts or capris depending on your preference. Many runners choose to bring along some light gloves in these temperatures to keep their fingers from getting chilly when they begin.
30 – 40 degrees:
A long sleeve shirt with full length tights, gloves and a headband. For slow paced, easier runs you may choose to add a vest to keep your core temperature warm at the beginning of your run.
20 – 30 degrees:
Two top layers (a long sleeve shirt with a pullover or another looser top layer), full length tights, mittens and a headband. If you warm up quickly, you might opt for an insulated vest as your top layer rather than something with long sleeves.
10 – 20 degrees:
Two top layers plus a jacket or windbreaker, full length insulated tights, mittens and a headband or hat. At this point, many runners may also opt to layer on some windbreaker pants if they do not have insulated, warm running tights.
-5 – 10 degrees:
Two top layers plus a jacket, insulated tights, mittens, hat and neck scarf. Depending on the windchill, you may also choose to add a vest beneath your jacket to help keep your core warm.
Less than -5 degrees:
It’s probably safest to stay inside. While winter running certainly feels cold no matter what the actual air temperature may be, a real feel of less than -5 degrees could potentially be dangerous for runners.
At this point, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. With any luck, that temperature will rise to a balmy 20 degrees in a few days and you’ll be back outside in what feels like a heat wave!
Additional Winter Running Accessories
In addition to dressing in appropriate layers for winter runs, it might also be helpful to have a few extra pieces of winter gear on hand to keep yourself safe and comfortable in cold weather.
Gortext Running Shoes
Many running shoes are also available in Gortex material, which is a thicker, waterproof material. Not only does this Gortex material help keep your feet dry when running through snow or puddles, but it keeps them warmer on the run as well.
Gortex helps keep the cold air from reaching your feet, since it does not provide the usual air flow that is found in most running shoes. This type of material can really come in handy during freezing, snowy runs.
When the sidewalks are especially snow covered or icy, Yaktrax can be really beneficial with helping to maintain traction. Yaktrax are easy to slip on the bottom of your shoe and contain extra material to grip slippery surfaces.
If you’re anything like me and suffer from poor circulation and ridiculously cold hands, finding a pair of mittens to wear for especially cold runs can be a game changer. While running gloves are certainly better than nothing, there is a big difference between gloves and mittens.
Test out a few pairs of lightweight running mittens to see if your fingers help keep each other warm on the run.
Dressing for winter runs certainly requires more patience and commitment than any other season, but being able to stay outdoors year round is well worth the extra effort.
Despite the wind chills, frigid temperatures and snow-covered sidewalks, winter running season is well worth sticking it out. The beautiful scenery and sense of tranquility is unlike any other time of year.
Not to mention, the bragging rights you gain for running in the cold weather.
Enjoy this time of year, because before we know it, it’ll be over.
More winter running tips:
- 8 Winter Running Tips to Conquer the Season
- The Best Winter Running Gear for Cold Weather Runs
- How to Create the Ultimate Winter Running Plan
- 3 Breathing Tips for Cold Weather Running