Are you cold yet? 2018 walked right in with a cold arctic chill, dropping many states well below zero. And runners have been wrapping up. Growing up in Arkansas, I hardly knew what real cold was, but a move to Montana quickly taught me how to dress for running in colder weather. Now, I absolutely LOVE a good run in the fresh snow and bitter cold.
I’ve run in feet of snow and temperatures in the teens below zero. You don’t have to look like the Marshmallow Man to stay warm. If you dress too warm and start sweating, you’ll end up even colder. You should be a little chilly at the start of your run.
Here are some of the running gear and clothing tips I’ve found to be most useful when cold temperatures arrive. You don’t need all the layers if you invest in quality gear.
Start with a thin base layer to trap warmth near the skin. Whether wool or synthetic, you’re looking for something that will trap moisture and keep body heat close to you. I have found good wool base layers to be worth the investment. However, synthetic compression gear and base layers from major brands work well, too. Tuck those shirts into your pants or shorts for better warmth.
Mom always told you to cover your head in the cold for good reason. Trap the heat from a place where it escapes easily. I find a beanie most useful when it covers my ears, holds in my bluetooth earbuds, and can be adjusted easily when I start to get too warm. I also find a good Buff headband especially useful. It can cover my head in chilly temps but also be used to keep my neck warm in colder temps. And invest in a good pair of sunglasses to block the cold wind and glare from winter snow. I’ve had these Spy Optic sunglasses for 2.5 years and have been absolutely satisfied with the investment.
Your mid-section is where most people overdress with poor layers. Invest in the right material and you don’t have to feel like a marshmallow. The key is to keep your core warm and the rest will usually take care of itself. I’ve found windshell jackets or vests to do the job well. Look for one with a wind panel on the front if you’re looking for a lighter option but still want protection from cold winds.
If your legs are cold, run harder. I’m joking. A little. I’ve run in shorts in temperatures as low as the upper-20s. A good pair of running pants is worth the investment. Running tights are an even better option. When it gets really cold, I’ll use a pair of running pants as a second layer and usually end up a little too warm.
Invest in good socks and your feet will thank you. I’ve found the key is to keep your feet dry. I’ve found wool socks to be the best option for me. I usually am good with only one pair of these Fitsok wool socks to be my best option in all seasons. On a rare occasion when I’m running in deep snow, I’ll go for something taller as a thin second outer layer.
For those time you encounter ice or snow, you’ll want to add some sort of traction for better footing. In most situations, a good pair of trail shoes will do the job. Some folks will add short screws to the soles for a cheap fix. I’ve found Yaktrax traction devices to work best. Their run-specific traction cleats worked really well, but I wore them out in only one season (granted I was pretty hard on them with ice and some gravel).
The best solution to avoid the cold winter miles? Head to the beach!
Boil it all down, the key I’ve found to staying warm and running in the winter is to invest in the right layers. You don’t have to dress bulky. Start with the base layer, aim to block the wind and remember it’s ok to start out chilly. Run harder and you’ll warm quickly!
What have you found to work for staying warm while running in cold winter weather?
Like what you see here? Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future stories and weekly headlines. Click here to sign up.