What to Wear for Winter Running: A Complete Guide

September 4, 2023

What to Wear for Winter Running: A Complete Guide

Winter running can be invigorating and refreshing, but it’s important to dress appropriately to stay comfortable and safe. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the essential clothing and gear you’ll need to tackle those cold-weather runs. From base layers to socks and running shoes, we’ve got you covered.

Why Dressing Right for Winter Running Matters

When the temperatures drop, your body’s natural response is to conserve heat by constricting blood vessels near the skin’s surface. This can make it challenging to stay warm during your runs. However, dressing in the right clothing layers can help you regulate your body temperature and prevent discomfort or even hypothermia.

Base Layers: The Foundation of Warmth

Base layers are crucial for winter running as they provide insulation and moisture-wicking properties. These thin, lightweight garments sit directly against your skin and help regulate your body temperature. Opt for long-sleeve tech shirts made of moisture-wicking fabrics such as merino wool or synthetic blends.

Example: A long-sleeve merino wool base layer, like the Icebreaker BodyfitZONE 200, is an excellent choice for cold-weather running.

Layering Up for Warmth and Flexibility

Layering is the key to staying comfortable during winter runs. By wearing several thin layers, you can easily add or remove clothing as your body temperature changes. This flexibility allows you to adapt to changing weather conditions and exertion levels.

Mid-weight Layer: Over your base layer, add a mid-weight layer such as a quarter-zip pullover or a lightweight fleece. This layer provides additional insulation and can be easily removed if you start to overheat.

Running Jacket: To protect yourself from wind and light rain or snow, invest in a windproof and water-resistant running jacket. Look for one with ventilation features to prevent overheating.

Outer Layer: In extremely cold or wet conditions, you may need an outer layer like a down jacket or a waterproof shell. This layer provides the ultimate protection against the elements.

Example: The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is a lightweight, packable windbreaker that offers excellent protection without sacrificing breathability.

Bottoms: Keeping Your Legs Warm

When it comes to choosing bottoms for winter running, consider the temperature and your personal comfort level. Here are some options to consider:

Running Tights: Running tights are the go-to choice for many winter runners. Look for insulated tights made of moisture-wicking materials to keep your legs warm and dry.

Running Pants: If you prefer looser fitting bottoms or need extra warmth, opt for running pants made of thermal materials. These pants provide insulation while still allowing for freedom of movement.

Example: The Nike Pro HyperWarm tights are designed to keep you warm and dry with their thermal fabric and sweat-wicking technology.

Head and Hands: Protecting Your Extremities

Headband or Beanie: To keep your ears warm, wear a headband or beanie made of moisture-wicking and insulating materials. This will help prevent heat loss from your head, which is significant in cold weather.

Gloves or Mittens: Your hands are vulnerable to the cold, so invest in a pair of running gloves or mittens. Look for options with touchscreen compatibility if you need to use your phone while running.

Example: The Smartwool Merino 250 Cuffed Beanie is made of warm and moisture-wicking merino wool, perfect for keeping your head cozy during winter runs.

Socks: Keeping Your Feet Warm and Dry

Cold and wet feet can quickly ruin a winter run. Invest in moisture-wicking and insulating socks to keep your feet dry and warm. Look for options made of merino wool or synthetic blends designed specifically for running.

Running Shoes: Traction and Protection

Choosing the right running shoes for winter running is essential for traction and protection against the elements. Look for shoes with the following features:

Grip: Opt for shoes with a lugged or trail-specific outsole to provide better traction on slippery surfaces.

Water Resistance: Consider shoes with water-resistant uppers or a waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry in wet conditions.

Insulation: If you live in an area with extremely cold temperatures, look for shoes with added insulation to keep your feet warm.

Featured: The New Balance 1080 v12 is a popular choice for winter running, offering excellent traction and waterproof protection.

Accessories: Enhancing Visibility and Comfort

Running at Night: The Ultimate Guide to Staying Safe and Visible

Reflective Gear: As daylight hours are shorter in winter, it’s crucial to prioritise visibility. Wear reflective vests, armbands, or jackets to make yourself more visible to motorists.

Sunglasses: Even in winter, protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays is essential. Wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from glare and potential damage.

Adjusting for Temperature and Weather Conditions

Remember that the ideal clothing choices may vary depending on the temperature, wind chill, and other weather conditions. Use the following guidelines to adjust your attire accordingly:

Temperature: As a general rule, add 5 to 10 degrees Celsius to the outside temperature to calculate your running temperature. Adjust your clothing layers based on this calculation, considering your body size, run pace, and the length of your run.

Wind Chill: Take the wind chill factor into account when dressing for your run. If there’s a significant wind chill, add an additional 5 to 10 degrees to the lower temperature to ensure you stay warm.

Additional Tips for Winter Running Comfort

Warm-Up Indoors: Before heading out for your run, warm up indoors to raise your body temperature. This will help you start your run feeling warmer and more comfortable.

Run Against the Wind: When running on windy days, try to run against the wind on your way out and have the wind at your back on your return. This will prevent you from getting chilled quickly when you’re wet and sweaty.

Stay Dry: Moisture management is crucial in winter running. Choose moisture-wicking fabrics for your clothing layers and avoid cotton, as it retains moisture and can make you feel colder.

Protect Your Skin: Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to exposed areas of skin, even in winter. The sun’s rays can still cause damage, especially when reflected off snow.

Stay Hydrated: Although you may not feel as thirsty during winter runs, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Cold air can be dehydrating, so remember to drink water before, during, and after your run.

Our Conclusion

With the right clothing and gear, you can conquer winter running without sacrificing comfort or safety. Layer up with moisture-wicking base layers, mid-weight garments, and a windproof jacket. Protect your extremities with a headband or beanie, gloves or mittens, and moisture-wicking socks. Choose running shoes with good traction and consider adding reflective gear for visibility. Adjust your attire based on temperature and weather conditions, and don’t forget to warm up, stay dry, and hydrate. Now, lace up your shoes and hit the winter roads with confidence!

Remember, winter running can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Embrace the cold, stay prepared, and enjoy the unique beauty of running in colder temperatures.

Return to Blog Homepage


Recent news

Run, cycle or walk and earn awesome medals


Not sure how virtual fitness works?

The easiest way to learn is to try Fitwins for yourself! The app is free to download, and you only pay for challenges you take part in, so why not take it for a test drive?

In the meantime, here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about how Fitwins compares to other virtual walking challenges.

No! We believe that flexibility is the key to fitness success, so instead of forcing you to complete a set distance, we let you set your own goal.  This means you can be flexible in how you complete YOUR challenge: so if you are smashing your target, you can raise the bar and aim for more. 

All entries into our challenge will receive a great medal, with a ribbon specific to the challenge type.

For our “iconic challenges”, your ribbon will have a unique design related to the challenge. For our regular monthly challenges, your ribbon will reflect the total distance you covered.

Running and walking ribbons are awarded based on 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175 and 200+ miles. Cycling ribbons are for distances of 50km, 100km, 200km, 500km, 1000km, 2000km and 3000km. 

Absolutely! Not only that, but all the distance you’ve covered since the start of the month will count, as the Fitwins App syncs with Strava and logs all activities from the start of the month, regardless of what date you sign up for the challenge. 

If you are hitting the streets with your app activated, verification is completed automatically by sycning with Strava. You can focus on completing your challenge, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you’re using a treadmill, exercycle or other stationary equipment for some of your challenge, you’ll need to log this manually.


Be the first to hear about our exciting virtual running and virtual cycling challenges, medals and awards

Motivation Mode

Download our app and try our challenges for FREE