At some point in all of our childhoods, we were told some version of the adage, “You lose (x) percent of heat through your head.” I’ve heard it quoted as low as 50% and as high as 90%. So, why don’t we wear hats everywhere we go in the winter? Maybe it’s because we all have an intuitive sense that these statistics aren’t quite true; in fact, studies show that we only lose about 10% of heat through our heads, so we won’t attempt to sell you headwear with deeply rooted fear tactics here. Still, if we’re willing to switch from short sleeves to long sleeves in the winter for a few extra percentage points of warmth, why not don a hat or beanie and knock out a full 10%?
If you’ve ever cursed the wind that whips across your scalp, whimpered over the aching deep in your ears, or despaired as rain seeps into your hair and down your neck, we invite you to try out a hat this winter and see for yourself how much better 10% can feel. We also know that winter can mean many different definitions of “miserable” depending on where you live, so here are some solutions for your personal winter running dilemmas:
The Salomon RS Beanie (or Headband if that’s more your thing) really earns its win here. An excellent all-around winter pick, this beanie has a soft, brushed fleece inner shell paired with a water-resistant outer shell to keep you cozy and warm while shielding against light rain. A thicker panel along the forehead blocks wind while leaving the rest of your head with room to breathe, and side slots make this beanie easily compatible with sunglasses or goggles.
If you thought the last category was the pinnacle of cold weather headwear, think again. This full headpiece isn’t messing around, using Patagonia’s Polartec technology to fully insulate your head, neck, ears, and nose from the cold. With a piece like this, you might not even need a sweatshirt. Or a shirt. Or pants.
Running into the wind is hard for lots of reasons. While the Craft Wind Stopper Hat can’t turn your headwind into a tailwind, it can keep the frosty breeze from penetrating straight through to your skull. Form-fitting Windstopper fabric is fully windproof, making this a perfect piece to wear solo or as a trusty base layer.
Despite its humble appearance, the Brooks Seattle Hat is actually a water-fighting machine. All seams are fully sealed to make this hat waterproof and windproof, and a flexible neoprene bill and elastic back create a secure fit that won’t loosen up as the rain pours down. Forecast lied to you? Pack it up to easily stow in the palm of your hand or in a pocket.
For those who live farther from the equator, or for anyone who squeezes their runs into a busy schedule, nighttime running is often an unavoidable part of winter. In addition to a fantastic fit made possible by soft, stretchy fabric and flat seams, this Sugoi beanie features 360 degrees of reflective Zap technology for safety from motorists while you grind out your darkest miles.
It might be cold during your winter long runs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t sweat once your core temperature gets up. This Smartwool Headband (or Beanie for those who want a little more coverage) is made of 100% Merino wool, meaning it’ll naturally help your body regulate temperature and will resist bacteria buildup, so the only thing you’ll be smelling during that Sunday long run is the sweet, crisp winter air.
You step out into the cloudless, blinding sunlight and are smacked by the unexpected bite of icy air — it’s one of winter’s sneakiest tricks. For days when it’s as sunny as it is cold, this Nike Aerobill Earflap hat out-tricks the trickster. The brim blocks glare like any cap, but the inside is lined with soft, warm fleece. The extended ear and neck flap serves double duty by protecting your skin from both the sunny rays and the chilly gusts.
Elena has been running for two years since graduating from college, where she pole vaulted on the UCLA track team. At this time, she remains the only documented case of a pole vaulter learning to love running. She can hardly believe it either.