Whether we like it or not, it’s getting darker earlier and temperatures are dropping. Depending on where you live, cold days may have different translations along with what your terrain may look like. Either way, cold weather running is here for the foreseeable future over the next training block. We are here to help you with how to dress for winter running.
Check Your “Local On the 8s” Weather Report!
Whether you are a runner in the Denver/Golden area or anywhere else, running in the cold requires winter running gear, period. Before learning how to dress for winter running, here is the best rule of thumb for running when the temperature drops. Try adding 10 to 20 degrees to the outside temperature to calculate your running temperature. This comes down to what your workout out is, what the weather forecast says regarding wind chill and “feels like” temperature, how cold you feel when you are under these certain circumstances and time of day as well.
For a shorter, more easy-paced run, add 10 to 15 degrees to the outside temperature to estimate your running temperature. However, if you are doing a long run, harder workout, or your engine is always “running hot”, add 20 degrees to the outside temp. For example, the report says 40 degrees outside with a wind chill so feels like 30 degrees. If you’re doing a hard effort, it’ll feel like 50 degrees outside based on the wind chill temperature of 30 degrees.
One trick with wind chill and running, run into the wind on your way out for your workout and the wind at your back when returning. This helps avoid running into the wind when you are wetter and sweatier, naturally making you colder. This brings us to our next point.
Layers, Layers, Layers!
Winter running gear is imperative that it can be layered. Layers do a few things for us as runners. They give us a small pocket of air between each layer that is warmed by your body heat and keeps you that much warmer. Additionally, it is simply functional meaning if you’re heating up more than you thought, take a layer off. You can always take layers off; however, when you’re trail running and it’s snowing, you can’t add layers then and there. You can always stand outside your place to dynamically stretch or warm up for five minutes to see if you’re within a good range of layers before taking off on your winter run.
Avoid cotton layers, especially as your base layer, as they absorb moisture quite a bit as you sweat and thus make you feel colder. Asking local coach Andrew Simmons of Lifelong Endurance and Peak Performance, he suggests wool for most things, especially socks. A lightweight baselayer shirt with a high neckline allows you to keep the heat in and cold wind out. A wool, poly blend, or fleece-lined exteriors allow for a full range of motion and keep you staying warm.
To break this down better, think layers of three. Your base layer needs to be sweat-wicking since this is the closest to your body and can be short or long sleeve depending on the elements and temperature. A mid-layer is next where this can be wool or a poly blend being light or mid-weight but is suggested for long sleeves. Lastly, the outer layer can be one or many obviously depending on the temperatures but revolves around a jacket or vest. One key piece for the outer layers is to make sure they are reflective. This is to make sure people not only see you but see how badass you are for running outside. Let’s wrap things up by going from head to toe on what to wear.
Top to Botton – How to Dress for Winter Running
We will address each area on how to dress for winter running where you can find hyperlinks to possible suggestions.
You’ve got a face that people love and if you think differently, they at least like the way you think. Because of this, wearing a headband, sock hat, or face mask that is breathable and sweat-resistant fabric with a comfortable feel is imperative especially if there is a wind chill. Sheryl Crow said, “the first cut is the deepest” and as we all know, she was referring to the wind out there when running.
For layers around the torso, we described above the layering concept. When it comes to a jacket, local Denver trail runner, Mountain Endurance Coach and influencer, Margaret Spring, couldn’t stop talking about finding your perfect jacket. She notes finding one that is water and wind-resistant, reflective for when it’s hard to see out. It also has thumbholes or longer sleeves to allow gloves to fit over and not have any breaks between you and the outside. Pockets can never be underestimated as well, especially if there are inside pockets to store your phone or fuel. Vests are another viable option depending on the temperatures.
Do not forget about gloves! We will say the same for socks as well below. Your extremities naturally have less blood flow because of how far they are from your heart and thus are cooler by nature. This goes for ears, hands, and feet in even “cool” temperatures. Gloves you may want some touchscreen-compatible fingertips to allow you to control your phone better as well.
Tights are perfect for really all-season running. You can pair them with t-shirts in warmer weather and layered during colder temperatures. Tights should be moisture-wicking and seams being comfortable. They are made with different weights and thicknesses as with some being fleece lined or special fabrics.
Socks and shoes are closest to becoming the wettest during your run and are often overlooked. Wool socks don’t absorb sweat and therefore keep the tootsies warm. Aim for socks that are ankle height or higher where you can even tuck the tights into. You don’t want to double up on socks because this could compromise the fit of your running shoes so pay up for better. For running shoes, commonly, you might decide to wear trail shoes out when on the snow. These have a better outsole for slippery elements. Some trail shoes even have GORE-TEX material on the upper that allows for water resistance. If the trail or area where you run is slippery, don’t forget your spikes to strap on your shoes that go by Yaktrax or Nano spikes.
We hope this helps bring more of a method on how to dress for winter running. If you’re running into other questions with your running, you’ve come to the right spot. Holler at us and let’s link up!