13 November 2012

Running 101: Cold Weather Essentials

Ok, not a cold weather running picture, but close!

It is snowing in Erie, Pennsylvania. it is wet snow, the kind that sticks until tomorrow morning at best, but cold weather is hear to stay!

With the weather turning colder a lot of runners realize it is time to turn shorts into pants and t-shirts into jackets. An unfortunate part of the year for some runners, I absolutely love the freezing cold Saturday mornings where running in one direction for 6 miles is all I can manage due to the wind and snow. I can't wait to run on top of that crunchy frozen earth. And breathe in that fresh cold air. (and perfectly, just about the time I will be back running it will be the coldest part of the year!!)

In anticipation for what I am sure will be a long, cold winter (last year was short and mild), here are some of my favorite winter running must haves.

Side note: the best kind of cold weather dressing is in layers. You might start out freezing your bum off, but realize 3 miles in you don't need gloves. I always think about dressing in layers and buying running clothes that are lightweight and stackable. 

A great jacket: I have a few actually! One for kind-of-cold-but-might-need-to-take-a-layer-off days and one for the really absolute freezing days.

I like this kind from Brooks for the light jacket. It is easily packable and very versatile. I recommend the neon color as it stands out, night or day. It easily ties around my waist when I am too hot to keep it on any longer. I have one of these from a few seasons ago and through many washings it has stood up very well.

For the colder weather days, I also prefer a Brooks jacket like this. I scored a gently used jacket like this at a second hand store once and love the way it fits, tight to keep me warm but not too constricting given I might be wearing layers of clothes. I find I don't like running jackets with hoods, but there are several hooded options out there.

Gloves and Hats:  Hands down the best every day running gloves are these from Nike. They are lightweight enough to wear on most days. I love that they have a key slot in the glove, because loosing a key in the snow is not ideal. I have two pairs of these gloves, I know running clothes hoarder over here, so I can have one pair in the wash and one pair for the day.

I also have a hand-made pair of mittens that are great for the extremely cold days. Mittens keep your hands warmer but letting your fingers "snuggle" for body heat. I haven't tried any commercial mittens, but almost every running clothing company has several options.

Most of the heat from your body escapes from your head, so do yourself a favor and get a good running hat or head band! I like this type from Sporthill. It washes really well and holds up through years of abuse. A good hat can be hard to find so try a few types. I have one I really like that is again homemade (something about it fitting better) but there are many options out there. 

Pants: Here is a running clothes confession: I have one pair of pants which I absolutely adore and will never get rid of no matter how many holes or worn out elastic parts they have. My Sporthills are my favorite running pants ever. Now I know they look a little unisex-y and unflattering BUT they are the most comfortable pair of pants. They are light weight, but when the weather really turns cold there is plenty of space to pair a tight or other legging option underneath. I cannot speak highly enough of these pants!

I also have a pair of Under Armour leggings similar to these, which I also like. They are not lined, but I know they make lined (think fuzzy fleece) for those awful cold days. My only issue with these tights are they don't have a great waist band. I have to wear a longer shirt to make sure we don't have any fashion disasters while running.

Long Sleeve Tops: Depending on your core body temperature, you might want a couple of long sleeve top options.

I like the basic Under Armour long sleeve for most days. Mine doesn't have the face cover but that looks like a nice new option (really those do help you stay warm!). Again, lightweight enough to be paired with a jacket for the really cold days.

Again, they make a warmer option with fleece like lining, which I also recommend. I have one of these tops and do need it on some days. I find I can wear just that top and no jacket in fact.

I know there are plenty of other accessories for cold weather, but a few good basics and you should be all set. Depending on the places you run during the winter you might also want some clip on no slip shoe coverings like these (yeah, I know they say seniors, but really anyone can benefit from them). Changing to a trail like show for the winter can also be a good idea if you feet can handle it.

Getting the right gear can lead to better runs. Less time spent worrying about what to wear and keeping you warm are keys to running success in the cold weather.

Any other suggestions for running gear? What are your favorite cold running accessories?


  1. Really, I think the best every day running gloves are just those cheap knit gloves that any big box retailer has. They're about $1 a pair, easily washable, and they last longer than you'd think. If it's particularly cold and windy, though, I have a pair of running-specific gloves that also double as mittens...I can't remember the brand, but they're really nice!

    Also, I second you on the Sporthills. I actually managed to wear mine out from frequent use, so I had to buy another pair last year!

    1. I forgot about those ones! You are right, the are super cheap and pretty warm for most days. Mike has about half a dozen of those kind of gloves, he loves them.

      My Sporthills have been sewn back together a few times as they got a few holes but I just couldn't give them up!

  2. Thanks for the tips!! I'm nervous for my first winter of real running! :)

    1. You'll do great! Number one thing to remember is to take it slow if it looks icy and have fun! You might not run very fast in the winter but it is a great time to build some endurance!

      When's your next race?