I was chatting with a buddy this morning about cold weather running gear. He told me that he was so overdressed for a run last week that at eight miles in, he to stop and walk for a bit for fear of passing out from being too hot. And to add insult to injury (so to speak), when he got home, he was DRENCHED in sweat when the high temp was only 18F.
Clearly he made a few mistakes, I’m gonna lay out what I usually do when I run in the cold weather in the hopes that it will help you from the same problems.
And with the weather on the east coast in the coming week predicted to be in the single digits, it’s high time for this article.
Running outside in the winter means you need to be comfortable with the fact that you’re going to be cold at the start of each run.
A few years ago when I was on Team ASICS, they made a graphic with my thoughts on how to layer:
While you can’t control the cold, you can control is how comfortable you are while you’re running – and I don’t know about you, but if I’m out there running for long enough, I usually get hot no matter what it’s like outside. Now, before you start rolling your eyes, I admit on a few of the long runs I’ve done in the cold months, I’ve had moments of being freezing cold in the middle of a run, but they really are few and far between.
I wear the same basic gear when I run from 40 down to 0 degrees – tights, tech shirt, pullover, hat, gloves and in extreme cold (say teens to single digits), a tech base layer, a neck buff and I may switch out the pullover for a jacket. I wear the same socks and sneakers regardless of temp, so I never consider them when thinking about winter running gear. Although I’ve heard from more than a few of you on Twitter that some folks change into wool socks.
Some prefer running pants and some tights. I’m a tights guy. I’ve never understood why you wouldn’t want the material clinging to your legs keeping you warmer, but it’s a matter of personal opinion I suppose.
There are lots of tights to choose from, every running brand makes them and they’ll all tell you why their technology is the best.I have about six pair of tights that I rotate through. At it’s simplest, what I look for is something super comfortable with an internal pocket as well as a zip pocket on the butt. As a side note, my wife is the first person to veto running clothes (either for odor or tatter factor) and after five seasons of running five to six days each week, all of the below are still going strong. The other things I take into consideration are how thick are they and how long they last.
For cold but not freezing runs, I like the Firewall 180 from Sugoi. They’re not to long and the zipper on the ankle keeps them snug against my legs so if I wind up running through a puddle, I don’t get a shock of cold water against my skin.
For super cold running (I’ve run in races as cold as 6 degrees), I pull on Sugoi’s MidZero, micro fleece lined so my legs stay warm. And for Windy or wet days, I’ve found that the Gore Fusion Windstopper Tights are great.
Tech shirt (as base layer)
Rarely do I wear something more than a short sleeve shirt. It has to be REALLY cold. I stick with a random assortment of tech shirts that were given away at races I’ve done. And as I’ve said before, if you don’t have a drawer full of race shirts, you’re not running enough races. That said, I’m still waiting for Lululemon to sponsor a local race – just for the shirt.
I will rarely wear a long sleeve base layer but it has to be really cold and with no sunshine. I’m talking single digits with a 10MPH wind.
Actually, as I think about it, last winter was pretty mild and I found myself in light tights and a long sleeve shirt with my favorite Rapha Sleeveless Base Layer underneath.
My friends and I go through a debate every year about what’s best for cold weather runs, a jacket or pullover. Both have merits (and I have a closet full of both items – I buy a jacket at almost every major marathon I run) but I prefer the pullover. Why? They tend to fit a little more snugly, have thumbholes in the sleeves, a higher neck and pockets in the back.
When it gets colder, I like products by a small company out of the Pacific Northwest called SportHill. I have a few of their Men’s XC 3SP Zip Top and I love them. They have thumbholes, pockets in the back, and are micro fleece lined. I still have one that I bought when I first started running (11 years ago!!) and to this day it passes my wife’s smell test so you know they’re doing something right up there.
ASICS sent me its Softshell Jacket to check out and I have to tell you, it’s super comfortable and warm and snug without being restricting. The jacket is lined with a microfiber-type fabric and is so stylish, I tend to war it on cool days when I not even running. I particularly like the toggled adjustment at the waist, so if I start feeling wind or cold sneaking up, I can pull the drawstring and lock it in a tighter fit.
Again, depending on the temps and the amount of sun that will be out, it can be anything from a simple running hat (I’m partial to the Headsweats Race Hat these days) or a cap. The deciding factor is whether I need to cover my ears or not.
If I go with the cap, I stick with what I know. I love the Sugoi Zeroplus Tuke. It’s always been more than I need for a long or short run.
No brainer, go with the cheapest ones you can find. I buy synthetic-fabric gloves from vendors on the streets of NYC — ~$5 a pair. If I’m feeling extravagant, I’ll plunk down $10-$12 at my local running store for a pair, but that’s it. I find that I don’t need thick gloves. In fact, regardless of the temp, I wind up taking them off during any given run after about four miles. So why bother to buy an expensive pair?
That said, I’ve heard from a few on Twitter that they prefer multiple layers of gloves, so this really is a personal opinion.
I like these because I feel like they’re just a versatile piece of fabric. You can wear them as an extra layer on your neck, as a hat, to cover your face, as a muffler for your hands, the list is endless. I wear one at the beginning of a run and when I warm up, before it gets too sweaty, I stuff it in my pocket so I can use it as a hat after the run when whatever I’m wearing on my head is soaking wet and sometimes, literally frozen. And I’ve never bought one either, the NYC Marathon gave them away at the 2010 and 2011 races. With the way I hang on to gear, I’ll have these for the rest of my life.
If you weren’t lucky enough to run either of those races, Headsweats sells some stylish ones on its site.
Or if you tend to be cold on runs (then none of this has been helpful I’m sure) check out the Turtle Fur Neck Warmer that a friend of mine suggested.
Hope this has been a help.
Think I left something off the list, or have a favorite piece of cold weather gear? Let me know in the comments.