Beginner’s Guide: How to Dress for Cold Weather Running
February 1, 2023 @ 10:00am
My hands were freezing: bright red, tingling. It was hard to make a fist. And I still had four miles to go. It was this time last year I realized my Nike gloves — perfect for southern California “winters” — were no longer cutting it in my adopted home in the DMV. My immediate solution: run with a Little Hotties Hand Warmer shoved into each glove. It was the stuff of miracles that got me through the rest of the season.
Flash forward one year, and I’ve hit a sustainable cold weather stride mainly revolving around attire. Whether you’re new to running in the cold or looking for ways to make your dark season workouts more enjoyable, we’ve got you covered (literally) with a few tips on what to wear to feel good out there.
Protect your extremities
Thanks to my podiatrist’s recommendation, I now don mittens on frigid mornings.
“When the fingers are together, they’re better able to generate heat,” she noted.
Sure, mittens are clunky — and taking mid-run photos is nearly impossible — but at least they’ve preserved my fingertips. I’m still testing models, but the Oiselle Super Puff Mittens are reliable. On the other end of the spectrum? My feet also easily turn into ice cubes. The Feetures Merino 10 Cushion Crew Socks do the job, covering exposed skin around my ankles. A tip: Layer on Body Glide to avoid unnecessary rubbing with longer socks (if, like me, you’re used to shorter styles).
I cover as much of my head and face as I can, too. At the bare minimum, protecting my ears is essential. I like the Oiselle PNW Earband. It’s plush and wide enough to encapsulate my ears and the back of my neck. On super cold days, I layer a thinner earband under my longtime set of Nike beanies. (The ones I have are ancient. If you check out newer iterations, I’d love to know if they work.)
Insulate your core
The rest of my “lewk” consists of a few standards. Athleta’s Downtown Vest keeps my core consistently warm even though it’s not technically for working out. Take that to heart: Wear what works for you. A long-sleeved but breathable running shirt and fleece-lined pants, like the Athleta Altitude Tight in Polartec, round things out. On days temps dip below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, I throw a tank under my long-sleeved shirt.
Look ahead + adapt
Remember to always check the weather before you suit up. Sometimes it can change quickly, and you’ll find yourself too toasty in all those layers. (Anything in the 40-degree range and I’ll go with a thinner vest, or if I’m really feeling bold, shorts.) Rain? I sport the Oiselle Seattle Showers Anorak. When it rains, the humidity makes the air a little warmer, so fewer layers are needed. A light snow? I’m begrudgingly pulling out my Yaktrax and wondering if I’ll make it more than a mile.
It’s far harder to get any kind of speed in icy conditions — not to mention running in the snow is taxing. Be realistic. If it looks like a mess out there, it’ll be a mess when you try to pound pavement you can’t feel through the ice. So, try running later (if a break in the weather is forecasted), or trade the outdoor excursion for the dreaded treadmill, strength training or another indoor routine.
Lean into the wind
I assure you, cold weather running is not all bad. I’ve learned to love the blast of frigid air when I open my front door, the chill on my cheeks when I first get going and the eventual warmth of my body heat. But dressing for the conditions goes a long, long way toward making outdoor running not just bearable, but joyful. Whatever you do, stay warm. Stay dry. And remember: Those Little Hotties are lifesavers in a bind.
Before you sprint out the door
Check the weather: Plan your training schedule and attire accordingly or opt to work out inside. Layer up: Start with your core and don’t forget to protect your hands, feet and head. Get creative: Wear attire that works for you, regardless of how it’s marketed. Try to find joy: If you’re dressed for the weather, try to relax and lean into the experience. You may even learn to love it.
Georgetown Running Co: 3401 M St. NW, DC; fleetfeet.com // @georgetownrunningco
Pacers Running: various locations; runpacers.com // @runpacers
Potomac River Run & Walk: various locations; potomacriverrunning.com //
Winter Running Must-Haves
Athleta altitude tight in polartec
Athleta downtown vest
Feetures merino 10 cushion crew socks
Little Hotties hand warmers
Oiselle PNW earband, Seattle showers anorak + super puff mittens
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