Deciding what to wear running in the cold is often easier said than done. No matter how bundled you may be, those first few moments after stepping outside are bound to make any runner second-guess their clothes.
Learning how to dress for winter running will not only keep you warmer, but it will make running in cold weather much more enjoyable and sustainable.
What do you wear running in the cold?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t usually very straightforward. The “cold” can mean a variety of different things to different runners. In mild climates, running in 50 degree weather might feel chilly, while northern runners regularly experience below zero temperatures.
It should come as no surprise that dressing for cold weather running involves layers, extra gear and coverings for exposed skin and extremities.
Some runners choose to stay indoors throughout the winter to avoid the treacherous sidewalk conditions and frigid temperatures. However, for many runners who live in areas with a long winter, logging endless treadmill miles sounds exponentially worse than battling the weather.
Luckily, just like with many other aspects of running, practice makes perfect. The more practice you get with how to dress for winter running, the better and more efficient you will become. The more often you head out for a run in the cold, the better you will become at understanding exactly what clothes and gear to bring for each temperature.
How do you dress for winter running?
Selecting what to wear to run in the cold requires a bit more thought than dressing for a summer run. However, over time, most runners become very proficient at understanding how to dress for winter running.
Dressing for cold weather running requires a bit of strategy, some quality gear, and a little extra patience as you prepare. Here are some items that every runner should wear running in the cold:
- Hat/headband and mittens
- Waterproof (Gortex) running shoes
- Face mask, buff or balaclava
- Waterproof jacket
- Thick, insulated running tights
- Waterproof socks
Whether your facing mild temperatures or endless snowstorms and negative windchills, this winter running season will no doubt bring a few challenges and curveballs.
Learn how to dress for winter running at every temperature to stay warm and comfortable this season. Here’s what you need to know about layering for a run in the cold, how to avoid harsh winds, and how to stay safe on slippery sidewalks.
What to Wear Running in the Cold
As a general guideline, runners should 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 15 – 20 degrees warmer. For short, easy runs, dressing about 10 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature should suffice.
However, due to the windchills and snow, it gets a bit trickier when deciding what to wear for winter running. When deciding how to dress in the winter, it’s important to look at the “real feel” temperature – not the actual air temperature.
How to Dress for Winter Running
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 to make deciding what to wear to run in the cold a bit less confusing.
What to Wear Running in 40 Degree Weather
- Long sleeve shirt
- Shorts or capris
- Light gloves if needed
What to Wear Running in 30 Degree Weather
- Long sleeve shirt
- Full length tights
- Optional vest
- Mittens & headband
What to Wear Running in 20 Degree Weather
- Two long sleeve top layers
- Full length tights
- Optional vest
- Mittens & headband or hat
What to Wear Running in 10 Degree Weather
- Two longs sleeve top layers
- Jacket or windbreaker
- Optional vest
- Full length, insulated tights
- Mittens & hat
- Balaclava or buff
What to Wear Running in 0 Degree Weather
- Two top layers
- Insulated tights
- Mittens & hat
- Balaclava, buff or face mask
- Optional hand warmers
Dressing to Run in Below 0 Temperatures
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 Fahrenheit 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!
What to Wear Running in the Cold: Must Have Running Clothes
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.
Gear created using the thermoregulating 37.5 Technology is unparalleled when it comes to winter running clothes. This unique technology is designed using natural minerals and no harsh chemicals to create different fabrics and insulating materials that help you maintain an optimal body temperature.
37.5 Technology helps diffuse water vapor from sweat to keep the body dry. This reduction in sweat helps greatly increase body temperature and improve your chances of staying warm on cold winter runs. 37.5 Technology is available in a variety of different running clothes – from warm running pants to socks, shoes and more.
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. These shoes are perfect for any runner who is consistently dressing to run in the cold.
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.
Learning how to dress for cold weather running is key – but no matter how well you layer up, nothing will keep your hands warmer than handwarmers. These relatively cheap, easy to use warmers are perfect to throw in your mittens for the coldest runs.
Face Mask or Balaclava
Winter running often involves some harsh winds and icy blasts. When the temperature gets cold enough, runners need to protect their skin from the wind. A face mask, buff or balaclava is a great way to protect your face and neck from those freezing winds during the winter.
>> Check out the Best Cold Weather Running Masks of 2022
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. Once you learn what to wear to run in the cold, you’ll find that even the chilliest days aren’t that bad.
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.
Winter Running | Vermont Folk Troth
Thursday 13th of January 2022
[…] What to Wear to Run in the Cold | How to Dress for Winter Running — Running for the Solar Deity […]
Running My Best Life
Saturday 7th of December 2019
Dressing in the right amount of layers--not too many or too few--is key to enjoying winter runs. One of my issues tends to be the motivation to get out there in the cold. Here are a few more tips runners can use to get out the door and enjoy their winter runs! https://runningmybestlife.com/cold-weather-running-motivation/