Cold Weather Running

I feel like I’ve done a few of these entries before, but every year I change up my arsenal of gear a bit and want to revisit it. So! Here it is…what currently helps me survive running through the winter.

DISCLAIMER: We only get into single digits a handful of times throughout a season, so if you live in a colder climate? This entry will probably just get you through the autumn.

DISCLAIMER #2: I have learned everyone handles cold differently on different parts of their body. I have friends who will be wearing expensive cold-weather running tights and $2 gloves whereas I’ll be wearing capris and $30 gloves because they get cold legs and I get cold hands. All that matters is YOU find what helps YOU stay warm because if you’re not comfortable, you won’t run.

DISCLAIMER #3: I’m not entirely sure that higher cost determines better quality. I’ve spent $40 on expensive running gloves that are only a fraction better than my $2 stretch gloves. Other’s swear differently. My favorite top running layer came from Target. But I spent $60 on my favorite running capris so…it’s hard to tell. Don’t assume higher cost name brands are better, thought. Even if they have 14 tags explaining the tech behind the fabric and why it keeps you warm.

Head to Toe

EARS: One thing I’ve been running with since 2006 (the first and failed time I tried to become a runner) is my Northface Fleece ear wrap. I have a few others I use periodically now, but the Northface one is still my favorite and since it’s old, you can’t buy it anymore. This one is close but fuzzier than the one I have. If you have hair I recommend an earwrap over a hat because it’s insane how hot your head gets when you run.

FACE: Next is something I started using sporadically two winters ago but didn’t leave home without it last year. here is the brand of the original one I bought but Donnie started using them too and we found them in a different brand in multi-packs last year. Those worked fine so don’t feel obligated to use the BUFF brand. You can breathe through them FINE, as a matter of fact, that’s what keeps you warm. A cold face is TERRIBLE. Especially under cold wind. If it was really cold I used two at once. I would get too warm, pull them off my face for awhile and then put them back on. Of course, if it was 20 or below sometimes while they were pulled of my face the moisture in them from my breath would freeze solid, but it only took a few breaths to defrost it and warm my face again. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Also? You look like a bank robber. A plus.

ARMS/CHEST: I get hot when I run, hence liking the ability to pull down a face buff instead of wearing a balaclava. I feel the same way about my upperbody. If it’s 40 degrees or warmer I’ll wear short sleeves and arm warmers. I tried several pairs but I like the softer fleece-like ones over the spandex-type ones. I do have to grease up my upperarms though because they will chafe me. They’re so easy to deal with if I get hot, which is why I love them. Sometimes I just roll them down around my wrists, other times I cram them in my hydration pack.

Now – if it’s between 30 and 40 degrees I might stick with the arm warmers on the trails where we’re often protected from wind. Also? I hate wearing two layers on my upperbody. HATE. And have yet to find any jackets or pullovers I just love, so keep that in mind.

BUT – if it’s 30 or below I’ll wear a second layer on top. Sometimes it’s a light windbreaker type jacket. They’re not warm but they insulate you pretty well and then pack pretty tight later if you get too hot. But for the teens and single digits? You need warmth. So for those days I wear a pullover that has a half-zip (too help me cool off if I get hot) and then those thumb hole things so you can use your sleeves for your hands to add extra warmth. I even have one that has a thumb hole and then a flip cuff to cover your fingers. (That’s the one I got at Target.) Really nice when it’s REALLY cold.

HANDS: I have yet to find gloves that will keep my hands warm under 35 degrees. Two winters ago my painfully cold hands brought me to tears on occasion, and that was wearing $40 gloves. I think maybe I just get really cold hands. SO! Last winter I invested in a bulk pack of Hot Hands from Amazon it was THE BEST THING EVER. I just wore them inside my gloves and they kept my hands warm for an entire run. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM. Some days I used two per hand.


LEGS and FEET: This is the one part I don’t stress about too much. I’m good in capris until below 35 and then I have full-leg running tights, but they’re not that fancy. I’ve worn them over stuff before, if it’s 20 or below. My legs and my feet just get warmed up eventually. I know people though who suffer from painfully cold toes and who wear full-length tights in 45 degrees, and they have specific brands etc that are warmer, but I can’t help you there!

4 thoughts on “Cold Weather Running”

  1. Up here in Canada where is gets very cold, we have a few more tools in our tool kit. I wear Under Armour tights that are rated for -10 C and many of the guy runners I know throw in a pair of shorts overtop to stop the cold wind from blowing on the boys. I have an insulated running jacket that is rated for up to -20 C that has the thumb holes. We have to wear a toque for running and I like the one made of wicking material that has a hole in the back for my ponytail. We also use merino wool as a base layer because nothing keeps you warm like it. Icebreaker brand is the one I like. Also great under your hockey equipment.

  2. I agree with Erin. I’m also from Canada, and it can get COLD so sometimes I have to wear 3 layers on each half (top and bottom) Icebreaker is good, so is North Face- and many of the running lines
    (Sugoi Pearl Izumi etc) make winterized clothing as well. My favorite place to get good gear is the local outdoor gear store- though not specifically for running, a lot of the winter cycling clothes work just as well, and the price point is often comparable or lower. I run outside all year round (boo treadmill) so I just layer up and hit the road(path)

  3. I’m in Colorado, so it seems like I should know from cold, but actually it’s pretty temperate, at least compared to Canada! 😀
    I absolutely HATE (with the power of a thousand burning suns) running with something on my shoulders, especially when I get warm, so I have several pairs of arm-warmers to pair up with my tanks, and buffs and scarves for my neck. (I will layer up with long sleeves and jackets if it’s well below freezing, but only if I’m going to be out for more than an hour)
    One thing I like to do is wear a pair of fleece shorts OVER my running tights if its really really cold to keep my hip joints warm. I like this option better than layering tights over tights, because if I get too warm I can pull the shorts off quickly and stuff them in my hydration pack.
    Totally agree on ear warmer headband v. hat, as well!

  4. Are those arm warmers pinchy at the top? I got a pair that have a rubbery grip thing and they hurt a lot… even in an XL! (And I don’t think I have unisex XL arms.) I’d like to find an option like that, though, for longer runs where it starts out cold but then warms up.

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