Last year was the first year that I ran regularly outdoors throughout the winter. In previous years, I took to the treadmill or chose other workouts instead. But last winter, I was training for the NYC Half, and committed to running four days per week outdoors. As the weather changed, I got quite an education on how to dress myself properly for runs of varying distance and intensity in all sorts of weather. I thought that it would be a useful tool to share what I have been wearing as the weather has gotten cooler.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that I regularly tweet my running outfits. I have been doing this, in part, so that at the end of the month I could look back and summarize it all for you in a post at Rachel On and On. Also, it is a way for me to look back at what I have worn in the past so that I can re-wear some of those same outfits when running in similar conditions.
Why? A water repelling shell that also blocks the wind will cover you for inclement weather conditions. It also layers easily over other base layers.
What to look for: smart features like handwarmers, breathable materials under the arms and other high sweat areas, and pockets to stash hats and gloves when you start to feel warm. Bright colors and reflective features also make it easier to be spotted in low light.
Half-Zip Tech Shirt
Why? It’s cool out and you want the warmth of a long sleeve top with a high neck, but inevitably you’ll warm up during your run. A half-zip can both be lowered to enhance breathability, or the top can be easily removed and tied at your waist.
What to look for: Light or bright colors and reflective details.
Fleece-Lined Tech Shirt
Why? It’s a cozy way to keep yourself warm during runs without the bulkiness of a jacket.
What to look for: Thumb holes that help keep sleeves down and hands warm…and bright colors with reflective details.
Why? They make the perfect core warming base layer without constricting arms under outer layers. Also, if you warm up enough to remove your outer layer, these offer more coverage than a sports bra.
What to look for: Breathable fabrics and built-in support.
What to look for: Breathable fabrics and high-impact support.
Why? They keep your legs warm with the added benefit of compression.
What to look for: Pants that fit well should stay in place and not ride up or slide down during runs. I also like a gel/key pocket in mine. Added features such as mesh behind the knees to avoid sweat build-up are a nice bonus.
Why? Same as above, but offer more breathability.
What to look for: Make sure to find a pair that falls a few inches below your knees to avoid bunching.
Why? These are best for 50+ degree days when a long sleeve top and shorts are all you need to feel warm during your run. However, without the benefit of compression, adding a pair of compression socks or calf sleeves may be a good idea.
What to look for: Fit is crucial; storage pockets are nice. I am also a fan of bright, pretty colors.
My trusty Saucony Guide 5’s
Why? Because they actually make mid-foot striking easier.
What to look for: Sales. This model has been replaced with the Guide 6 which I have yet to try, but I stocked up on these when they were on clearance at my local Modell’s a few weeks ago.
Why? It keeps your ears and forehead warm without messing your hair, like a hat.
What to look for: One that narrows at the base of the head and is wider at the top is more likely to stay on during runs.
Why? It’s a great way to stash money, ID, fuel, keys, and/or a phone when wearing gear with minimal pockets.
What to look for: Check out their site to learn more about their styles.
Why? Cold air will dry you out, these items will keep your skin from becoming chapped and irritated.
What to look for: thick formulas that won’t run in to eyes or irritate skin. And yes, you still need SPF in the winter!
50 degree (overcast and damp) trail run outfit: half-zip long sleeve top, tank top, crops
Thoughts: I was a bit warm and ended up tying the half-zip at my waist after a mile or two. Shorts would have been more comfortable for the temperature; in which case, I probably would not have removed the half-zip.
50 degree speedwork outfit: tank and crops with long sleeve half-zip for warm up and cool down
Thoughts: based on my prior run at this temperature, I knew that I would need to remove the half-zip. For some reason, I still didn’t bother to take out my shorts!
40 degree long run outfit: half-zip long sleeve top over tank top, crops, fleece headband
Thoughts: perfect for the weather. I was comfortable throughout my run but barely broke a sweat. I did roll up sleeves and unzip the half-zip during sunnier portions of my run.
37 degrees increasing to 40 degrees long run outfit: run jacket with handwarmers, tank top, running tights and fleece headband
Thoughts: this run started off pretty cold but the temperatures increased during the run. My run jacket is difficult to tie at my waist, and I still would have been too cold with just a tank top, so I think the half-zip or fleece lined performance top would have been better choices for these conditions.
37-42 degree speedy runs: half-zip long sleeve top over tank and crops
Thoughts: this outfit got a lot of love in November. I ended up wearing it for most speed workouts, as well as one four-mile race (and a five-mile race that I ran in October – although I removed the half-zip at the start line for that one).
35 degree speedwork outfit: run jacket with hand warmers over a short sleeve top and sports bra, running tights and fleece headband
Thoughts: this outfit was definitely appropriate for the weather and workout, but a tank top would have offered more freedom of movement than the short sleeve top.
35 degree hill repeats: hooded long sleeve over tank top, running crops, down-fill vest and fleece headband
Thoughts: I haven’t mentioned my long-sleeved hoodie much because it doesn’t wick moisture away as well as some of my other layers. I like it for short runs, and appreciate that the hood offers some additional protection from the wind. The down-fill vest also made its only November appearance during this run. It was especially cold during this run, and I ran a full hour earlier in the morning than I usually do, so I craved the extra warmth. As temperatures drop, these two items will probably have a more frequent appearance in the rotation.
35 degree long run outfit (also worn for a speedy four-and-a-half miler in the dark at same temperature): fleece lined tech shirt over sports bra with run tights and fleece headband
Thoughts: this outfit met the needs of two very different runs at the same temperature. My fleece lined top is a bright color with reflective details, so I felt safe wearing it in low light, but it is also really snuggly and makes morning runs in cooler temps far more enticing. I removed the fleece headband during both runs, once I had warmed up.
For more recommendations, here are links to some of my favorite articles and blogs on winter run gear:
Five Essential Winter Running Tips (Competitor.com)
How I Survive Winter Running (CarrotsnCake)
Eight Bottoms to Keep You Warm (Runner’s World)