Winter Running and Gear Recommendations

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So lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about winter running gear.  It’s that time of year when it starts to get cold and runners start to contemplate putting away their shoes for the winter.  Or worse, hitting the treadmill for the next six months!

Let’s not do that, folks!

I personally love to run outside in the winter, and I’ve got it just about down to a science.  And thus, read on for some helpful tips and a few of my favorite winter gear recommendations.

First, the cardinal rule of winter running is to layer.  This is important for both warmth and comfort.  On top, your first layer should be tight and wicking.  Your next layer can be looser and warmer.  And your third layer should be windproof.  (Or wind resistant, let’s be honest.)  I only recommend layering your bottom half if it’s below 20 degrees.  In that case, again, stick with a tight, wicking base layer, and a looser, windproof layer on top.

Second, you are probably going to want to dress as if the temperature is a bit warmer than it is.  However, this somewhat depends on the person.  I don’t like to be cold, and I don’t mind being a bit too warm, so I dress for the weather straight up.  But, some people have more success with being a little bit too cold for the first mile, and then warming up to match what they’re wearing.  My golden rule is: you can always take layers off, but you can’t put them on if they’re back at the house!

Third, don’t forget your extremities!  Hands, feet, and head are out there in the most cold, and affect your core temperature the most!  Make sure you have a good, warm pair of socks, a hat or headband to keep your ears warm, and a really good pair of gloves and/or mittens to keep your fingers from freezing to death.  Again, this tends to depend on the person, but there are quite a few of us out there who struggle with Raynaud’s, and these parts are key!

Fourth, when it’s really cold, wear a neck gaiter.  They work wonders for keeping your neck and face warm.  And when it’s below 20 degrees, you have the option to pull it up over your nose to warm up the air you are breathing.  When it’s super cold out, it can be tough to get your breathing right when it’s literally freezing on the way in!

Fifth, depending on how severe your winter weather is, you may want to invest in GoreTex running shoes.  And if it gets icy, a pair of YakTrax.  Wet feet in winter are no fun, and neither is falling and getting injured.  Stay safe!

Last, as always, you want to make sure that you have a lot of reflective and lighted gear for winter!  Shorter days force many of us to run when it’s dark, and not only do we need to be warm, we need to be visible!

With that, let’s get to my favorites!  And let me be clear, these are only items I have had success with.  I would certainly recommend them to others (which I am obviously doing), but by no means are they the end-all be-all on the market.  Specialty running stores are stocked with lots of options!  (Also, to be very clear, I am in no way compensated by any of these companies to endorse their products.)

For winter running, I cannot live without:

Smartwool socks!

Smartwool toe sock

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Holy cannoli, I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful these socks are!  I actually wear Smartwool year round – warm in the winter, cool in the summer!  The wool keeps your feet toasty and sweat free.  And they come in tons of options, toe socks, regular socks, thick, thin, compression, you name it!  Highly recommended.

My Saucony jacket.

Saucony Nomad Jacket

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I’ve had this puppy since the very beginning – 4 years!  It’s still the best piece I have for winter.  It blocks wind, traps heat, and still breathes.  I hardly have to wear anything under it to stay warm, even in the coldest weather.  Plus it has a fancy blinking light and lots of reflectivity!  There have been lots of updates to the Nomad jacket, but the materials are the same.

My Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves.

Mizuno Breath Thermo Knit Glove

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These.  Gloves!  Another piece I have had since the beginning.  They are the best!  The Breath Thermo technology actually generates warmth from your sweat!  Yeah, totally awesome, right?  If it’s cold, I wear them and they work great.  If it’s really cold, and windy on top of that, I put a light pair of windproof mittens over the top of them, and my hands are sweating in no time.  The windproof mittens are Sugoi.  Super good stuff!

My Sauce headband.

Sauce Ventilator Headband

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This line was actually created for skiers, so you know it’s good for cold weather.  I like this headband because it’s very wide and covers all of my ears, all the time.  It’s fleecy on the inside, but is great for wicking sweat too.  Perfect!

My Icebreaker neck gaiter.

Icebreaker Flexi Chute

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Again, I got this for skiing, but it is awesome for running!  Wool is just great at keeping you warm and dry, I cannot say enough about wool for sport.  I also wear a fleece gaiter on top of this one to block wind if I need it.


Well, I really recommend trying several pairs for fit and comfort.  They all run so differently, and bodies are all different shapes and sizes, so pick what works for you.  I have several pairs of tights.  A great, warm and comfy pair from Pearl Izumi.  My favorite tights of all time, CW-X, in both brushed and non-brushed for when it’s not that cold.  A pair of Nike Hyperwarm, those are OK, but actually not hyperwarm, so I use them for layering.  And I just got a brand spanking new pair of Mizuno Breath Thermo tights, and those are going to the top of the list!


As long as it’s warm, soft, and wicking, I’m down.  I wear everything from old Lululemon to Nike to UnderArmour.  Whatever is clean and comfortable for the day!  And my second layer is usually a long sleeved race shirt of some sort…gotta use them sometime!

So there you have it!  What are your favorite recommendations for winter running and cold weather gear?