My first years of winter running took place in Kansas City (before I moved to Miami and forgot all about winter). Now, I’m in Denver where winter is full of crazy mood swings meaning I need to be ready for running in the snow, wind or a great 70 degree January day!
Over the years, I’ve tried out a LOT of cold weather running gear and as usual a few pieces always rise to the top and tend to stick around in my closet much longer than others.
Of course many of the items from my summer guide can be used year round like the GPS watch and electrolytes, but we know there are definitely a few things that need to change!
The right gear can make winter running far more enjoyable. The first few years I ran, I was a poor college kid so I just layered up cotton shirts and complained about how awful it felt outside (SMH). A few years in, I found out the power of a couple good pieces of clothing!
Luckily, within a few years, I learned about the power of QUALITY gear and how to dress for running so that I wasn’t miserable…and suddenly it was enjoyable!
Not sure what you need? Checkout this guide for the must-haves and then go learn how to layer appropriately >>
Cold Weather Running Gear Must Haves
Enjoy winter running a WHOLE lot more by gearing up the right way!
From preventing slipping and sliding on the roads, to feeling your fingers for the entire day. Here I’ll outline the pieces of winter running clothes and gear that will help get you out the door and back again with all fingers and toes happy.
Winter Running Gloves
I have to start here because some days I can still head out in shorts, but without gloves I’m completely miserable. In fact, I spent a bunch of time testing out a wide variety of gloves to give you ideas!! Go checkout my top selections from the lightweight for cool days to the heavy duty for it’s serious winter.
Winter Running Shoes
There area couple of options for winter running that will help you feel more stable.
1. Put on your trail shoes. They have a lot more grip and will provide you traction in the snow. This is because they have more grip with the nubby sole than your everyday road running shoes due to the larger ridges…it’s like putting snow tires on your car!!
I’ve run in the Saucony Peregrine on many different surfaces and love the traction they provide! But you can also opt for trail shoes that are more waterproof if you think you’ll be stepping in deep snow occasionally.
2. Shoe Spikes (Ice Cleats)
Grip it, grip it real good.
While many runners have advised putting nails in my existing running shoes to turn them in to spikes, I just feel more comfortable pulling something on over them. These are a great cheap way to gain some traction when running in the snow…they are not however going to save you on an icy day!
I like the cleats a little better than the original YakTrax which are a metal cylinder and for me still slid sometimes.
Winter Running Socks
I’ve done a whole deep dive post on socks as well, so here I’ll just say that in the winter thick isn’t always best. You MUST wear something that wicks the sweat away from your feet to keep you from getting chilled.
Smartwool Socks are my favorite go to. Our feet go from cold to hot faster than we plan on many runs. The benefit of good wool running socks is that they can handle both! They first keep you warm and then as you begin to warm they quickly wick away moisture keeping your feet dry and breathing.
Winter Running Tights
When it comes to the cold, there are two big options: layers and thermal tights….ok three, a combination of both when it’s extra cold.
Option 1: wearing fleece lined running pants. This is great because it’s largely like just wearing your standard leggings. The fleece lining helps them to obviously keep you warm, but is also designed to draw the sweat away from your body.
I recently tested out these Daehlie Winter tights, which also have basically wind breaker material along the quads and GAME CHANGER!! Not only where my legs warm, but when that frigid wind would blow, it’s not cutting right through you.
Option 2:wearing a base layer under another layer of running tights.
Base layers are usually very thin and light, so I like having them for runs, hiking and hitting the slopes. These are different than compression tights, they are designed to help keep you warm and often are looser fitting. Some runners like these under a wind pant or just another pair of tights.
Option 3: When you need a layer but it’s not crazy cold. My personal choice is my CW-X Stabilyx Compression Tights.
The first reason to love these on race day is the compression which helps to keep blood flowing and for me can ward off some calf cramping. The second reason is the style of the pant provides additional support around the knee which provides support to the IT Band.
These are a thicker tight, which for me makes them an optimal choice for winter running. They are not lined, just a thicker material.
Winter Running Jacket
Maybe I should have started here first because the right jacket really can make all the difference. I’ve talked before about understanding waterproof vs water resistant, but beyond that there’s the fit so you can move and the amount of warmth that you need.
To that end I spent a couple of months heading out in a variety of conditions to test out all kinds of running jackets! I won’t recap it here, but instead you can see what’s great for cool to freaking cold and why I like this jacket for keeping me both dry and warm!
Bonus Winter Running Gear
I love these for after a rainy or snowy run to help dry out the shoes and maintain shape. There used to be a brand called Stuffits that I love, but can’t find so this is a great option because wet shoes become stinky shoes.
Nathan Vapor Howe Hydration Pack
You know what super sucks is to head out on your run and find that you water keeps freezing in the tube!! Yup, the right winter hydration pack is a must have. This one has an insulated pack so you won’t find your water frozen and it keeps you from getting cool because you aren’t carrying a bunch of ice on your back!
As an addition, I like to but an insulated cover on the tubing where it will freeze even faster.
Don’t wear your stocking cap, the wet material will make you feel cold even faster. Many people like to do the headbands which cover your ears, but if I’m cold I want to hold on to all the heat possible, so I like the thin caps, aka BEANIES. And bonus points for the one’s that now have a spot for my ponytail like this Asics Fleece Beanie.
Ladies I’m also excited to say that now most of the running versions come with a spot for our ponytails to stick out…I don’t know why but this is every bit as thrilling as thumbholes!
What’s a MUST in your winter running gear?
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