As the frost starts to decorate our morning windows, some might be tempted to hang up their running shoes and hibernate. For the brave souls who lace up and step out, no matter what the weather report says, you want to make your run as comfortable and pleasant as possible.
We're here to share seven essential cold-weather running tips that will make your runs not just bearable, but downright enjoyable.
1. Find the Right Winter Running Gear
Remember the old saying, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing"? This couldn't be truer for cold weather runs. The key here is finding the right gear and then layering. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Add a middle layer, like a fleece, for insulation, and top it off with a windproof and waterproof jacket.
But here's the golden rule: don't overdress. You should feel slightly cool when you step outside because you'll warm up once you start moving. (Yes, we know this is easier said than done, and virtually every running on the planet has made the mistake of overdressing during the winter months, usually more than once.)
We love this handy chart on what to wear for cold-weather running. Of course, everyone's tolerance for the cold is different, so use this as a basic guide.
Photo credit: Dick's Sporting Goods
2. Protect Your Extremities
Your extremities‚—think hands, feet, ears—lose heat fast. So, make sure to keep them warm. A pair of moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry, insulated gloves, and a warm hat or headband can make a world of difference. And for those extra chilly days, consider a neck gaiter or a face mask. Not only do they protect against the cold, but they also add a bit of a superhero vibe to your running outfit!
When running on snow or ice, make sure to wear shoes with excellent traction and grip to prevent slips and falls. Look for running shoes designed specifically for winter conditions, which typically feature deeper treads and are often made with water-resistant materials to keep your feet dry and stable on slick surfaces.
3. Warm-Up Indoors
Warming up is always important, but it's a must-do when it's cold outside. Start with some dynamic stretches or a quick indoor warmup to get your blood flowing. This prep work will decrease your risk of injury and make the first few minutes of your run less of a shock to your system. Plus, it's a great excuse to do some jumping jacks in your living room!
4. Be Visible
Winter days are shorter, meaning you're more likely to be running in the dark. To stay safe, make sure you're visible. Wear reflective clothing and consider using a headlamp or carrying a small flashlight. Not only does this help cars see you, but it also helps you avoid any potential hazards on the ground, like ice patches or uneven surfaces.
5. Stay Hydrated
Just because it's cold doesn't mean you can skip on hydration. You might not feel as thirsty as you do in the heat, but your body still needs fluids to function properly. Carry a water bottle with you, or plan a route that has water stops along the way.
Cold air can be dry, which increases the risk of dehydration during winter running. To combat this, try sipping small amounts of water consistently throughout your run, rather than waiting until you feel thirsty. This proactive approach ensures that your body stays well-hydrated, helping to maintain your performance and overall health during those chilly runs.
6. Listen to Your Body
This is as true for winter running as it is for warm-weather running. Always be sure to listen to your body. If you're too cold, cut your run short. Watch out for signs of frostbite or hypothermia, like numbness, uncontrollable shivering, or slurred speech. There's a fine line between being a winter warrior and being reckless. Your safety comes first, all year round.
7. Know When To Take it Inside
Sometimes, the bravest decision a runner can make is to not run at all—at least, not outside. It's essential to recognize when conditions are too harsh, and it's safer to take your run indoors. This isn't admitting defeat; it's smart, responsible running.
Extreme cold, icy paths, or blizzard conditions can turn a routine run into a risky endeavor, especially if you're a trail runner. In such cases, an indoor treadmill can be your best friend. Treadmill running allows you to maintain your training without battling the elements. It's a controlled environment where you can focus on your pace, form, and endurance without the added challenges of winter weather.
Our Top Picks for Cold Weather Running Gear
Of all these tips, finding the right gear is what seems to confuse runners the most. While much of it comes down to personal preference, there are a few tried and true features that you can look for to provide extra protection on super cold days.
reflective gear if you're running in the dark
a waterproof and wind-resistant running jacket to protect you from the elements
leggings or running tights with a fleece lining to keep your legs warm
really good socks (seriously, invest in good socks)
We've compiled a list of some of our top picks for cold weather running gear from some of our favorite brands.
When it comes to finding the right base layer, you want something for your winter runs that helps regulate body temperature, wicks moisture (you do NOT want wet clothes when you're running in below-freezing temps), and is thin enough that you can wear a mid layer on top.
Smartwool: Merino wool is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to the best gear for running in the cold. You can't go wrong with Smartwool's Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Bottom. These lightweight gloves are made from 100% merino wool, which means they're moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and offer natural temperature regulation, making it perfect for those long, cold runs.
Under Armour: The HeatGear Full-Length Leggings from Under Armour provide excellent thermal insulation without being bulky, so they're perfect for layering under your running pants for extra cold temperatures.
Lululemon: For a splurge on high-end winter running tights, check out Lululemon's Cold Weather High-Rise Running Tight. These tights are made from warm technical fleece and have weather-repellent panels to help protect you from wind and snow.
A good mid layer will help trap body heat to keep you warm. Think fleece jackets or tops for a mild winter run, or something with down or synthetic fibers for the even colder months.
Nike: Nike’s Running Division Mid Layer Top is a great mid-layer option. It’s made from a wool fabric blend that is breathable but still provides the necessary insulation for those colder days.
Patagonia: The R1 Pullover from Patagonia is an excellent mid-layer addition. Its unique grid pattern traps heat and wicks moisture, plus it's made from recycled materials, adding an eco-friendly touch to your running gear.
Asics: The Asics Winter Run Half Zip is perfect as a mid layer piece that you can wear running in super cold weather or you can wear it alone in warmer weather. The ACTIBREEZE™ technology and light stretch knit fabric make it breathable and comfortable.
Your outer layer should be wind-proof and waterproof, or at least water-resistant. You want something that can protect you from the cold wind and keep you dry when the weather forecast gets unpredictable.
Patagonia: Patagonia makes great quality gear for runners and outdoor enthusiasts. The Houdini Jacket is a lightweight, windproof, and water-resistant top layer. It’s ideal for protecting you against the elements without weighing you down.
Under Armour: Another great option is the Under Armour Out Run The Storm Jacket. This piece is not only water-resistant but also super light, providing excellent protection against wind and rain without restricting your movement.
Lululemon: We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Lululemon Down for It All Vest in our outerwear list. This cult favorite is filled with 700-fill-power goose down that offers lightweight warmth at your core without causing overheating.
Hats & Gloves
When it comes to winter running gloves and hats, you may want to stock up on a variety of options depending on how cold it actually is. Here are a few to consider.
Smartwool: For hats, check out Smartwool’s Active Beanie. It's a thin hat—in fact, it's their lightest-weight option—which may be all you need on those chilly spring morning runs.
Still I Run: The SIR BOCO Converter Gloves are the ultimate running glove. With reflective details, silicone grips (they're semicolons!), touchscreen-compatible fingertips, and a foldable mitten that will keep the fingers warm as the temperature drops, you can wear them in all types of winter conditions.
Do You Embrace The Cold or Stay Indoors?
Running in the cold can be a refreshing and exhilarating experience. It's a great way to beat the winter blues, stay in shape, and enjoy the beauty of a wintry landscape. With these seven tips, you'll be well-prepared to face the cold and enjoy every frosty step.
But remember, every runner is different. What works for one person might not work for another, so it's all about finding what suits you best. Experiment with gear, try different warm-up routines, and always be willing to adjust your plans according to the weather and how you feel.
And if cold weather running isn't your jam, that's totally okay, too. Hop on the treadmill with a good book or your favorite show and get those miles in!