How to Winterize Your Running Wardrobe

A man and woman set off on their run in chilly temperatures.

For most people, the winter season means bundling up, cranking up the heat and staying inside with a warm cup of coffee. For runners, winter means dark, frigid mornings spent watching our breath puff out in clouds of white while our feet pound the slick, wet or snowy pavement.

While winter running certainly poses its own challenges, having the proper gear makes it much more enjoyable. Here are five things you can do to winterize your running wardrobe this season.

A woman stands bundled up in her running jacket and hat.

1. Layer Up

When you open up your weather app and see freezing temperatures, it’s tempting to bundle up in your warmest coat to stay cozy. But since your body will warm up as you continue running, a good rule of thumb is to dress for temperatures that are 10-20 degrees warmer than what the thermometer says. Layering will help you stay warm at the beginning of your run without overheating toward the end.

Start with a base layer first. This layer should be lightweight and moisture-wicking, since it will be the first layer in contact with your skin. Your mid layer is what will keep you warm (think fleece or down material), and your outer layer, your first line of defense against the elements, should be windproof and waterproof.

Read more about how to layer for winter running.

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2. Don’t Forget Your Face

A woman smiles in sunglasses and a jacket.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the sensitive skin on your face is the most susceptible to frostbite, which can occur when the temperature is below 31 degrees Fahrenheit. You should take extra care to protect your face when running in freezing temperatures. Consider wearing a gaiter over your neck, nose and mouth to keep these areas protected from the cold. You can even slather on some Vaseline to act as a protective barrier if you don’t want to wear an extra layer on your face.

While it may seem counterintuitive in the winter, you’ll also want to wear sunscreen and a pair of running sunglasses. Snow can multiply your UV exposure by reflecting the sun’s harmful rays.

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3. Protect Your Piggies

A man pulls on socks before heading out for a run.

Just as your face is more susceptible to frostbite, so are your toes and fingers. You can keep your toes warm by opting for moisture-wicking socks made with wool, mohair or even thick polyester blend. And if you’re one of those runners who absolutely refuses to wear anything other than shorts no matter the weather, you can try to keep your calves warm with some long socks.

Don’t forget about your hands, too! Gloves or mittens are essential for keeping your hands warm and your fingers frostbite-free. Two-in-one gloves, like the Craft Hybrid Weather Glove, feature an outer glove layer as well as an inner mitten layer that leaves your fingers free. These gloves even have touch-screen compatibility, so you don’t have to take them off every time you need to check your phone.

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4. Traction is Key

A runner stands on the trail wearing the On Cloudvista.

Icy pavement and snow-covered trails mean lots of slipping and sliding – unless you prioritize traction in your running shoes. Many runners opt for trail shoes in winter conditions because they have aggressive lugging on the outsole, helping you grip the ground as you land and take off.

If you’re running on packed snow or ice, you’ll need more traction than what trail shoes can provide. In this case, try a pair of Yaktrax or Kahtoolas. You can slide them on easily over your shoes and the microspikes or steel coils on the bottom provide more traction than what your shoe’s soles can offer. Remove your microspikes if you’re in direct contact with pavement, as it will wear them down.

Some brands offer running shoes designed specifically for winter running that include waterproof materials like GORE-TEX to keep your feet dry. The Saucony Peregrine Ice+ 3 features a grippy PWRTRAC ICE outsole that sticks to icy ground to keep you from slipping and a water-resistant upper.

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5. Stay Safe by Being Seen

A man clips on a reflective light before heading out for his run.

We can’t talk about the dark days of winter without mentioning the importance of visibility while running. Wearing reflective gear will make it easier for drivers, bicyclists and other pedestrians to see you. Opt for bright layers like the Brooks Run Visible Convertible Jacket, the On Weather Lumos Jacket, or add some brightness to your existing wardrobe with items like the Nathan LightBender RX or the Amphipod Xinglet vest.

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