What to Wear for Winter Running: A Head to Toe Guide

Randy from A Christmas Story, like a tick about to popGrowing up in a small, snowy mountain town in the Sierra Nevada mountains, I was no stranger to dealing with inclement weather. I knew what it was like to be forced to brave the freezing conditions to and from school (and everywhere in between). Not unlike Randy’s mom from A Christmas Story, my mother would make sure that I was tightly bundled and layered before I ever left the house. I was going to stay warm, whether I could keep my arms down or not.

Running in a get up like Randy’s doesn’t prove successful, comfortable, or practical, though. When it comes to running in winter weather, staying warm isn’t the only thing that matters. Visibility, mobility, ventilation, and comfort are other factors to consider.

Let me take you through some appropriate winter running solutions, head to toe.


Headlamps – Not just for miners! Using a headlamp on your runs will allow others to see you better and you can see the path in front of you more clearly when running in low-light conditions. As the days get shorter, running in the dark is inevitable so help yourself by avoiding tripping and tumbling down the path. Also great for spelunking.

Beanie – Why do we feel so much warmer when we cover our head? Could be psychological, or it could be because it is one part of our body we often neglect, so when we put a hat on we instantly feel much warmer. Compared to cotton or wool beanies, running beanies use fabrics that wick moisture and keep your head from itching or overheating. Add in some reflective details and ramp up your visibility to drivers out on the road.

Head to Toe



Buff – NO, don’t run in the buff! That’s a sure-fire way to freeze to death. But you can run with a buff. And that will keep your neck extra warm. You can also use it to cover part of your face if you’re feeling extra frosty. With over a dozen different ways to use a Buff, it may become the most functional accessory in your running arsenal. You’ll also look a lot like a ninja, so there’s that.

Gloves – Cold hands? Don’t let frostbite get you down. Keeping your hands warm and dry can make a huge difference in your comfort level while running. Amp up the warmth with mittens, if you prefer. They’re not just for snowmen and small children, folks!

Upper body apparel – Key word: layering. A moisture-wicking base-layer, a thermal mid-layer, and a weather-resistant or weatherproof outer-layer are all key parts that make up a winter-ready ensemble. Customize to your needs, of course, and remember that you don’t want to overdue it. Your body will heat up as you run, so make sure and dress so that you start of your run dressed for temperatures 15-20 degrees warmer than it is outside.

Lower body apparel – I’m not talking your typical elf tights, you want something a little more substantial. Some cold weather tights come with a thermal lining, and other features include wind and water-resistant paneling that will help to block out the bad weather. Consider a tight with compression for added muscle support and a faster recovery. Most tights have some form of reflectivity to make you stand out in the darkness, from reflective logos to reflective seams.

Socks – Big, thick socks are typically hung by the fireplace this time of year, in anticipation of a certain jolly man dressed in red who will soon visit (if you’ve been more nice than naughty this year). This isn’t the only use for big, thick socks during the holidays, though! Wool socks are built to provide the most warmth to you while you run in cold conditions, while also being naturally antimicrobrial, which helps reduce odor and wick-moisture. Warm and dry feet during winter running is probably the most important factor.

Shoes – Running in soggy shoes may be one of the most uncomfortable things in the world. And I can attest to that because I recently went for a long run during a downpour. Let’s just say, my feet weren’t stoked that each stride came with a sloshy, squishy landing. How can you avoid this, though? I mean, a puddle is a puddle, and if you run through it, you’re bound to get soggy socks and shoes. Well, your kicks can be weather-resistant, and that certainly helps! DWR coating repels rain away. Beyond water-resistance, some shoes also offer increased reflectivity to amp up your visibility on a dark day.

So I leave you with this: Gear up, go out, and enjoy your run whatever the weather! Embrace the change in season and enjoy the challenges that come with it. Beyond using appropriate gearf, attitude is everything. Run and be jolly – ’tis the season.

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