Guide to Winter Running Gear

in Running Life by

As much as I hate to admit it, we’re finally at the time of year when the temps aren’t going to be hitting 60 for much longer (can you believe it’s lasted this long?!?). And while I would like to think I can run outside in shorts all winter, I realize that’s a delusional thought.

It’s high time for a post on mid season/winter running gear.

The first thing you need to consider is sweat level. Do you “run” hot or cold. I tend to run hot (and sweat a lot) which means I like minimal layers.

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. Last year ASICS 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 I get hot when I run no matter what it’s like outside.

I wear the same basic gear when I run from 40 down to 15 degrees – tights, tech shirt, pullover, hat, gloves and in extreme cold a buff. I wear the same socks and sneakers regardless of temp, so I never consider them when thinking about winter running gear.


Some people 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.
Winter Running Gear

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 take two things into consideration when I buy tights, 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 10 degrees), I pull on Sugoi’s MidZero, micro fleece lined so my legs stay warm.

I have three pair of these tights, they’re super comfortable and I love the fact it has 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 four seasons of running five to six days each week, these are still going strong.

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 fill of race shirts, you’re not doing 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 teens.

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 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.

Winter Running Gear

When it gets colder, I like products by a small company out of the Pacific Northwest called SportHill. I have a few of their SwiftPro tops and I love them. They have thumbholes, 12″ zippers, pockets in the back, and are micro fleece lined. I still have one that I bought when I first started running (10 years ago) and to this day it passes my wife’s smell test so you know they’re doing something right up there.


Again, depending on the temps and the amount of sun that will be out, it can be anything from a simple running hat (Trailheads sent me their Race Day Cap and it’s been perfect) 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. In fact, I ran the 2011 NYC Marathon wearing this cap and while I was a little hot when the sun came out, it was perfect for 99% of the race.


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. So why bother to buy an expensive pair?

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, 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, Rapha sells sells this stylish one on its site.

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.

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