How To Keep Warm When Running In Winter

Runners don’t necessarily hang up their shoes when winter rolls around, and then hibernate for four months while the snow melts. They keep running. They sign up for marathons. They might do a little more strength training at home or use the gym’s treadmill, yes, but many prefer to stay outside even when its coldest. That’s because there’s something magical about taking a jog while it’s snowing out. 

When running in fall or winter, most runners use a layering system. When hiking, it’s easy to shed layers and place them in a small backpack until you need them again — but when running, the extra layers are more of an encumbrance and need to be tied around your waist instead. You still need them.

When using new clothing or running in winter for the first time, make sure you don’t stray too far from home. If the clothes end up too thin, you’ll want to be indoors before hypothermia can set in. 

First and foremost, don’t wear any cotton clothing. Always look for merino wool, synthetic, or waterproof down clothing options. Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Footwear. You’ll want a pair of wool socks — not too thick and not too thin — that will keep your feet warm in cold, wet weather, but will also fit in your shoes or boots. Because you’re running, you’ll probably want a pair of breathable trail runners. Try adding insulation and buying a size up if necessary.

  • Hands. You’ll want to protect fingers from frostbite as well. A form-fitting fleece glove will keep your hands toasty, but you’ll probably want a shell to keep the digits dry. Try a slightly thicker weatherproof brand of glove or mitten, but make sure you can still move your fingers easily.

  • Head. In super cold weather you’ll want a balaclava to cover your entire head. These can be complemented well with a buff, bandana, or neck warmer. Add a hat only if necessary. Try a pair of ski goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.

  • Base Layer. Start with a pair of form-fitting fleece or synthetic long underwear. You can find merino wool for this as well. These should cover both your legs and torso.

  • Mid Layer. Some people skip this layer entirely depending on the temperatures. Try a fleece hoodie to trap more body heat and keep your head a little warmer.

  • Outer Layer. Find a puffy jacket made of synthetic or down material. These are thin, lightweight, and trap a lot of heat.

  • Shell. You’ll want to protect yourself from rain, sleet, and snow. Find a wind-breaking and waterproof coat and pants, as lightweight as possible. Keep in mind that shedding your pants will be a more difficult task in winter!