Tuesday, February 9, 2021

How To Dress for Winter Running

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

After last weekend's trail race, I received a lot of questions about what gear I wore on that bitterly cold, snowy run. I've been running for 30 years and living in the Midwest, you either suck it up and go no matter how cold it gets or you run on the treadmill. I think you know what I do. The only thing that keeps me inside is ice. 

Here's how I dress for the cold. 

I know you've heard it before, but the key to winter running to dress in layers. This doesn't mean you pile on so many clothes that you can't move. 

Don't do this!

The key is to pick a few good pieces that will keep you warm and wick sweat away from your skin. Because yes, no matter how low the temperature outside is, you will sweat. The morning of this race is was 5F. I was chilled at the start of my race, but once we got moving, I warmed up nicely. 

Let's break it down and dig into the layers:


Inner Layer:

Besides your sports bra and technical underwear (NEVER COTTON), you should pull on a long sleeve technical shirt. I have a variety of shirts, but truly my favorite ones are UnderArmour Cold Gear. They are relatively inexpensive and come in a variety of colors.  

Socks should be wool. Technical socks are good, but nothing warms and wicks like wool. I like SmartWool and Swiftwick for my cold weather running. Knee high socks will serve as a base layer and keep your lower legs warm. You should only need one pair of socks. Two pairs will be too tight and may actually prevent your feet from getting warm. I've got a trick for warm toes; read on.

Top Layer:

Over your socks, pull on a pair of lined tights. I wore Craft tights for this run, but there are a lot of good brands. UnderArmour makes a great pair of lined tights and they are reasonably priced. Over the tights, I recommend a winter running skirt, like the one I have from SmartWool. It keeps my booty and upper thighs warm. This skirt is short enough not to hinder your forward progress. 

A warm top layer is essential. When it's bitter cold, you'll want a thin insulated jacket like the NorthFace thermoball I'm wearing. I've had mine for quite a few years and it's still going strong. 

Essential accessories:

Everyone asks me where I got my balaclava from, but I've had it for years! There are many similar ones available. My recommendation is to go with fleece; I like this one because it covers my nose and mouth but I can pull it down below my chin if I get too warm. On top of that, I wear a stocking cap. 

Before putting on my shoes, which are GoreTex (waterproof), I slip in disposable toe warmers. They work amazingly well. There's nothing worse than cold feet. Over my shoes go the YakTrax. I use a pair of ankle gaiters to keep the snow out of my shoes. I like these gaiters from Ultimate Direction because they are really snug around the ankle. 

Obviously, if you aren't running in the snow, you can skip the YakTrax and gaiters. A word about YakTrax--they are meant for at least an inch of snow. Running in them on pavement can be really jarring and can ruin the YakTrax. Trail shoes have thick lugs on the bottom and should be sufficient for a light layer of snow. I love my Brooks Cascadia GTX

My gloves have those convertible mitten covers, into which I slip in disposable hand warmers. Mittens keep your hands warmer than plain gloves, and the convertible mitten gloves give you both options. 

Final thoughts:

It might seem like a lot of effort to get ready to run in the cold, but it definitely is worth it. I love running in the winter--it's a really peaceful time to get outdoors. I usually have the trails to myself, with the exception of wildlife. With spring just around the corner, it can warm up as you go, but you can always shed your top layer of gear. 



Do you run outside in the winter? How do you like to dress? Anything that I missed here?

Runners have layers: How to dress for winter running /via @oldrunningmom #running #runchat #TuesdayTopics #Runners'Roundup

I'm linking up with Kim and Zenaida for Tuesday Topics and with the Runners' Roundup: DebbieDeborahJenLaura, and Lisa.  

 

39 comments :

  1. Thank your for these tips, Wendy!
    Strange, but I never have cold feet while running - but then I haven't been running in deep snow for a few years.
    I will need ankle gaitors for my Ultra - because of sand! Yours look very effective.

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    1. They have been one of my best purchases this year! I’ve also been using them for XC skiing.

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  2. Yup - it's all about the layers! I am very intrigued by the quilted skirt. Even when I wear 2 pairs of leggings, but butt is still cold, lol. I think this skirt would help solve that issue!

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    1. I never had one before this year. Best.thing.ever. No more popsicle butt!

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  3. I think you got it done.

    I'm not quite as organized. I do have a zillion dollar store knee socks that I use as arm warmers. Love them.

    I also wear compression calf sleeves for support but mostly for warmth under my tights or fleece lined leggings.

    I also wear a skirt to keep my butt warm. Well I always wear a skirt lol

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    1. With this jacket, I don’t need arm warmers!

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    2. I wear layers, a vest and a light jacket for the most part. Usually works but I do have a heavier one for those sub-zero days.

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  4. One of the problems for me with Winter running is being chilled FOREVER afterward. It's why I don't mind running on the treadmill (well, that's part of the reason) -- although I absolutely run outside too. I thought I'd be able to get out ahead of the snow this morning -- I couldn't, but the main reason I will run inside today is it looked really icy.

    Yes, I have things that can help with that, too, but like I said, the treadmill doesn't make me feel like I'm putting needles in my eyes. :)

    Good for you for racing in the bitter cold -- and more, enjoying it! I'll get my fresh air today shoveling. :)

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    1. The key to avoid being chilled forever after a winter run is to take off all your gear ASAP. Thanks for mentioning that!

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  5. I’ve never run in the snow or bitter cold. When I visit the snow it is in the mountains and the streets are too hilly and potentially icy so I skip my runs then. Great breakdown of what to wear though, I will keep it in mind for possible future winter runs.

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  6. Yes, SmartWool socks for the win! My favorite cold weather "accessories" are my cut-off knee-high socks for arm warmers. We Midwesterners know this cold weather stuff ;-)

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    1. I don't use arm warmers this time of year--the jacket is plenty warm. But I have done the cutoff socks in the spring.

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  7. I don't have YakTrax but after this winter, I might have to invest. Usually we have cold but not so much snow and ice under the snow. That is what is keeping me on the 'mill right now. My dog really freaks out when I fall!

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    1. We don't usually get this much snow either! But winter trail running is also new to me and the YakTrax are great for that. I'm hoping to avoid the mill as much as possible.

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  8. You have alot of great items! I have a decent supply but one the windchill goes below I will usually stay indoors. And now that I have a treadmill I'm more likely to stay in even when its warmer than that. I could probably use a few more high-quality items for winter running.

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    1. I'm just not a fan of running on the treadmill--I'll do it when I have to, but I'd much rather be outside, even in the bitter cold.

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  9. It is a lot of planning to get dressed for a cold winter run but definitely worth it! I also like the Under Armour mock turtles very comfy. Thanks for the tips! I always opt outside unless there is ice

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  10. There was one winter about 2 years ago when I did about 99 percent of my runs outside. At that time I was training for the Illinois Marathon. I learned it was all about the gear. I invested in a few items and survived. :-). Now I have similar items but it just feels different. It is the darn snow! I guess I need a pair of Yak Tracks or I can suck it up and wait for the snow to melt.

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    1. I don't mind running in the snow--but when it thaws and freezes is when it gets dicey for me!

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  11. I need to get a warm winter running jacket! I have a few key items that I rely on rather than a bunch of options for winter. It's all about wool and layering! I'd rather be outside, but now that my husband is back in the office, I'm back on the treadmill until the mornings get a little lighter (I'll do dark but not dark and icy/snowy) or until conditions are okay for the jogging stroller.

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  12. I don't need cold weather gear anymore, but I grew up in the midwest and ran through many winters. Running gear has really come a long way! I used to run in all sorts of ridiculous things- cotton t-shirts and sweatshirts that weren't even made specifically for running. I think I even wore cotton leggings. Glad to see things have improved a bit over the years!

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    1. I've been running for a long time and the gear I wear now is nothing like what I wore back in the day!

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  13. I wrote a post about winter running a couple of years ago and it looks completely different from your post, LOL! I had a good giggle to myself!! Thanks for the explanation about YakTrax! Do they feel heavy to run in or you don't really notice them when you run?

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    1. I often wonder what you think when you see my winter photos, lol! The Yak Trax aren't heavy at all, but if you use them on pavement, they make your shoes very stiff. They are meant for snow and they work well on the trails.

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  14. Oh, man! How do you move??? This is way more layering than I ever have to do. Mostly, it's a tank with a long sleeve fleece over it and done. I start to feel super bulky and suffocated with even that sometimes.

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    1. My layers are thin and light! It's all about choosing the right pieces without bulk. A runner's gotta run!

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  15. This is so helpful! We rarely get to single digits in Philly, but your hacks are so helpful! I've been thinking of buying more merino wool gear. I still don't have any lined tights! I tend to "run hot" but would love some better options to keep warm.

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    1. One good pair of lined tights would be a great investment! The lining makes a huge difference when it's really cold.

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  16. I was just thinking the other day about how old my Thermoball has gotten. I still love it though. Like Catrina said, I've never gotten cold hands or feet and I've never used warmers in them. Layering up is such an individual thing.

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    1. It's so odd, but when I wear the Thermoball, I'm warm all over!

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  17. This is a great resource. I don’t think I’ve ever run in more than 2 layers, but it’s always been at least in the teens. Convertible mittens are a must for me.

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  18. Never thought of wearing a skirt over top of my running pants. Good idea!

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  19. Thank God I live in Southern California! I just can't imagine have to wear all those clothes or the idea of actually being warm enough to not freeze!

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    1. Count your blessings, my friend! It has been a brutal couple of weeks here.

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