Running in Cold Weather: What to Wear for Winter Running

Winter running can be a challenging yet exhilarating experience. As the temperature drops, it's crucial to dress appropriately to stay comfortable and safe during your outdoor runs.

In this article, we'll explore the essentials of what to wear for winter running. Whether you're a seasoned runner or a beginner, these tips and recommendations will help you make the most out of your cold-weather workouts.

Dressing in Layers: The Key to Warmth

One of the fundamental principles of dressing for winter running is layering.

Layering allows you to regulate your body temperature by adding or removing clothing as needed. Each layer serves a specific purpose, providing insulation, moisture-wicking properties, and protection against the elements.

Base Layer: Keeping Dry and Warm

The base layer is the first layer of clothing that sits directly against your skin. It plays a crucial role in keeping you dry and warm by wicking away sweat and moisture.

Look for a base layer made of moisture-wicking materials such as merino wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon. These materials will keep you dry and comfortable throughout your run.

Mid-Layer: Insulation and Heat Retention

The mid-layer provides insulation and helps retain body heat. Opt for a lightweight and breathable fleece or thermal top that traps warmth without adding excessive bulk.

Additionally, consider wearing running tights or leggings as a mid-layer for your lower body. These will provide insulation while allowing for freedom of movement.

Outer Layer: Protection Against the Elements

The outer layer, also known as the shell layer, protects you from wind, rain, and snow. Look for a waterproof and windproof jacket that is breathable to prevent overheating. Choose one with zippered vents to allow for airflow during intense workouts.

Don't forget to invest in waterproof pants or leggings to keep your legs dry and shielded from the elements.

Headgear: Keeping Your Head Warm

Beanie or Hat: Essential for Heat Retention

In cold weather, a significant amount of body heat is lost through the head. Wearing a beanie or a hat is crucial to prevent heat loss and keep your head warm. Look for a hat made of moisture-wicking material that covers your ears for added protection against the cold. This will ensure you stay comfortable during your winter runs.

Balaclava or Neck Gaiter: Extra Protection

For extreme cold or windy conditions, consider wearing a balaclava or a neck gaiter. These accessories provide extra protection for your face, neck, and ears. They are versatile and can be adjusted to cover just the lower face or pulled up to cover the entire head, depending on the weather conditions.

Hands and Feet: Protection and Comfort

Gloves: Keeping Your Hands Warm

Investing in a good pair of running gloves is essential for cold-weather running. Look for gloves that provide insulation while still allowing for dexterity and touchscreen compatibility. Choose gloves that are moisture-wicking and breathable to prevent sweaty hands, which can lead to discomfort and even frostbite in extreme conditions.

Socks: Warm and Moisture-Wicking

When it comes to running in cold weather, wearing the right socks is crucial. Look for moisture-wicking and thermal socks made specifically for running. These socks will keep your feet warm and dry, reducing the risk of blisters and frostbite. Consider wearing a thin liner sock underneath for added insulation and blister prevention.

Shoes: Traction and Stability

In icy or snowy conditions, it's important to wear shoes with good traction to prevent slips and falls. Look for winter running shoes that have a sticky rubber outsole and deep lugs for enhanced grip. Additionally, choose shoes with stability features to support your feet on uneven or slippery surfaces.

Safety Tips for Winter Running

While dressing appropriately for winter running is essential, it's also crucial to prioritize safety. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay visible: Wear reflective clothing or accessories and use a headlamp or a blinking light to ensure visibility, especially when running in low-light conditions.
  • Choose well-lit routes: Opt for well-lit paths or roads to improve visibility and reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Stay hydrated: Despite the cold weather, staying hydrated is still important. Drink water before, during, and after your runs to maintain optimal performance.
  • Warm-up properly: Take extra time to warm up before your run to loosen your muscles and reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain. If you experience numbness, tingling, or extreme cold, it's essential to head indoors and warm up.
  • Check the weather forecast: Before heading out, check the weather forecast to prepare for any changes in temperature or conditions.

FAQs About What to Wear for Winter Running

What should I wear on my legs for winter running?

For winter running, it's best to wear thermal leggings or running tights as a base layer to keep your legs warm. Top it off with waterproof pants or wind-resistant pants as the outer layer for protection against the elements.

Are there any specific materials I should avoid for winter running?

Yes, it's best to avoid cotton clothing for winter running. Cotton absorbs moisture and holds onto it, leaving you wet and cold. Opt for moisture-wicking materials like merino wool or synthetic fabrics for better insulation and comfort.

Should I wear a running jacket or a hoodie?

It's recommended to wear a running jacket specifically designed for cold-weather conditions. Running jackets are lightweight, waterproof, and breathable, providing better protection against wind and rain compared to a regular hoodie.

How can I protect my face during winter runs?

To protect your face during winter runs, consider wearing a balaclava or a neck gaiter. These accessories provide extra coverage and protection against the cold. Don't forget to apply a layer of moisturizer with SPF to shield your skin from the elements.

Can I still run in snowy or icy conditions?

Yes, you can still run in snowy or icy conditions. However, it's important to take extra precautions and wear shoes with good traction. Consider reducing your pace and avoiding steep or slippery surfaces to minimize the risk of falls or injuries.

How do I know if I'm dressed appropriately for winter running?

A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it's slightly warmer than the actual temperature outside. You should feel slightly cool when you start your run, as your body will warm up quickly. If you feel too warm, you can remove a layer or unzip your jacket to regulate your body temperature.


Running in cold weather can be a rewarding and invigorating experience with the right attire. By dressing in layers, protecting your extremities, and prioritizing safety, you can enjoy your winter runs comfortably and safely.

Remember to listen to your body, adjust your clothing accordingly, and always be prepared for changing weather conditions.

So, gear up, stay warm, and embrace the crisp winter air as you continue your running journey.