A Guide for Cold-Weather Running Gear & Tips For Running In The Cold



Figuring out what to wear when running in the cold isn’t always easy. That’s because striking that perfect balance between being too warm or too cold can be a challenge.

In fact, if you’re heading outside during the colder months of the year, you need to come prepared with the right winter running gear to match the conditions. To ensure you have the perfect running gear for when the mercury drops, we’ve put together this guide, including exactly how to layer and accessorize and tips for staying safe.


Running in cold conditions can require a lot of gear if you want to stay warm and comfortable while you’re outside. It’s important to understand the basics of the winter running layering system so you can determine what to wear when running in cold weather.

Winter Running Layering System

When you recreate outside in cold temperatures, there’s no single piece of gear that’s magically going to keep you warm, dry and comfortable all at the same time. Instead, it’s important to layer your winter workout clothes properly so you’re always prepared for the conditions you might face.

Here’s what you need to know about layering your clothes for cold-weather running.

Base Layers

Any good layering system starts with base layers. Also called “thermals” or “long johns,” base layers are designed to wick sweat away from your body. This moisture-wicking layer is particularly important in cold conditions as sweat can quickly chill your body as you run in colder temps.

For winter running clothes, base layers usually take the form of leggings on the lower body and a synthetic or merino wool shirt for the upper body. 

What’s important here is that you avoid cotton for your base layers. That’s because cotton absorbs moisture and actually makes you colder when wet, which is not ideal in the winter months. 

Mid Layers

Next up in the winter running layering system is our mid-layers. Unlike base layers, which are designed to wick moisture, your mid-layers are meant to insulate you from the cold.

It’s not ideal to wear a super-thick puffy jacket as you run. Instead, mixing and matching running clothes like hoodies and half-zips can often give you just the right amount of insulation from the cold.

That being said, if it’s really cold outside, don’t be afraid to layer on a couple of long-sleeve shirts or fleece pullovers if you think you need them. The key is to start your run feeling slightly chilly because you’ll eventually warm up as your heart starts pumping.

Outer Layers

Finally, we have our outer layers. Your outer layers are your primary protection from the wind, snow and rain when you run during the winter months, as they’re designed to keep you dry in wet conditions.

For runners, outer layers almost always take the form of windbreakers since most other forms of winter outerwear are too thick and heavy to be practical for running. While windbreakers usually aren’t fully waterproof, they can help limit the effects of wind chill and precipitation on your body, helping you stay warm while outside.

Winter Running Accessories

In addition to the winter running layering system, which focuses primarily on keeping your core warm, you’ll want to come prepared with a whole slew of winter running accessories as well. Here are some key pieces of gear to consider:

  • Socks Socks are a must for any run, and cold-weather running is no exception. Opt for sweat-wicking, non-cotton socks whenever possible.
  • Gloves —A thin pair of liner gloves can help keep your hands warm in the cold. 
  • Beanies and headbands — Depending on your personal preferences, you might want to consider either a beanie or a headband to insulate your head while you run.
  • Face coverings —In very cold conditions, some sort of face covering or balaclava is a must to prevent frostbite on your nose and cheeks.

Tips for Running in the Cold

Whether you’re new to winter running or you’re a seasoned cold-weather jogging vet, heading out on a run in frigid temps is a big undertaking. Here are some tips to help:

  • Tell someone where you’re going — Whenever you head out on a run — even if it’s just around the block — tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. That way, someone will know to look for you if you happen to get hurt on an icy road or trail.
  • Check the weather —The weather can be particularly fickle during the winter, so always check the conditions before you head outside. Even if it looks beautiful out, a storm may be on its way, which may mean you need to be more conservative with your running plans.
  • Bring a headlamp — It gets dark much earlier in the winter, so always bring a headlamp if you’re going on a post-work run, just in case.
  • Do a pre-run warm-up — Our bodies don’t like to be cold, so running straight out of your warm house into frigid conditions isn’t an ideal way to start a workout. Therefore, try to do a pre-run warm-up at home to get your heart rate up before you head outside.
  • Be okay with changing your plans — The winter months can be cold and inhospitable, so it’s important to be realistic with your running plans, especially if you’re new to running in the cold. Always be willing to change your plans if the weather looks questionable.

Keep on Running – Rain or Shine

Winter running can be a fun and rewarding experience, but you must come prepared with the right gear. Remember to layer your clothing and to always keep an eye out for changing weather conditions to ensure that you can make the most of your cold-weather run. 

Suit up and show us your cold-weather running gear by tagging @finishline on social media!

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