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Clothes for Cold Weather Running

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

Some runners dress warmer while others tend to wear less. It’s best to test out different combinations of clothing to see what works best for your body. What you wear while running is, of course, a matter of personal preference and the best way to find what works for you is to test different clothing combinations. The following guidelines are a great way to start.


Some runners can get away with not wearing gloves until it’s really chilly out, will others wear them as soon the temperature drops below 50 degrees. Having at least three pairs of running gloves that can be used in different combinations will protect your hands from the cold and allow you to enjoy winter running.

What to buy:

  • Lightweight finger gloves

  • Medium-weight finger gloves

  • Outer shell mittens

  • Hand warmers

What to wear based on the temperature:

  • 50 to 40 degrees: Lightweight finger gloves

  • 45 to 35 degrees: Medium-weight finger gloves

  • 35 to 25 degrees: Outer shell mittens

  • 30 to 20 degrees: layer lightweight finger gloves with outer shell mitten on top

  • 30 degrees and colder: Add hand warmers 1/3 way through your run if you are running longer than 30 minutes.

  • Windy days up to 40 degrees: layer outer shell mittens with appropriate weight finger gloves for better protection


Although it’s constantly rumored that you lose 80% of your body’s heat through your head, you really only lose 10 to 15 %. Even so, your head is obviously a very important part of your body and you need it to function properly so cover it up! Those of you with a head of hair have an extra built-in layer of insulation…bonus!  What to buy:  Vaseline or lotion (protects and insulates your face from the wind)  Baseball cap  Ear warmer band  Synthetic beanie, with ponytail hole for the long haired runner  Fleece beanie  Hooded jacket  What to wear at what temperature  50 to 40 degrees: Baseball cap (with ear warmer band if you have sensitive ears)  40 to 34 degrees: Baseball cap with ear warmer band or fleece or synthetic beanie o Beanie tip: when you start out, have it sitting on top of your head, not over your ears, allowing ventilation. As you progress in your run, pull it down over the tops of your ears and then further down as needed to trap more body heat.  33 to 20 degrees: Fleece beanie cap o Beanie tip: in these temperatures you’re going to start your run with your beanie cap covering the tips of your ears. o If you are running more than five or six miles, bring a second beanie to change into when the first one becomes wet (put the second cap in your vest pocket in a Ziploc bag so it doesn’t get wet).  20 degrees or lower: Fleece beanie cap as above PLUS a hooded jacket if you plan to do a long run (a jacket with a hood zipped into the collar works well).


Use layers that have zippers so you can vent off body heat. The ladies have an advantage here as a jog bra adds an extra layer to trap in heat.

What to buy:

  • Breathable jog bra (women only – avoid cotton as it traps wetness close to the body)

  • Short-sleeved technical shirt (light & medium-weights)

  • Long-sleeved technical shirt (light, medium & heavy-weights)

  • Nylon breathable vests

  • Nylon breathable jacket, remove sleeves, with attached hood or detachable hood

  • Arm warmers

  • Hand warmers

What to wear based on temperature:

  • 40 degrees and above: Lightweight long-sleeved shirt layered with a medium-weight short-sleeved shirt on top typically works the best. Arm warmers could also be used with one or two short-sleeved shirts.

  • Between 30 and 40 degrees: Add a third layer—a vest or jacket—and remember to vent the first mile and then gradually close off the jacket or vest.

  • 33 to 20 degrees: Consider putting hand warmers in the pockets of your jacket or vest. You can activate these a few miles into your run to help keep your core warm and later move them to your hands.


Legs are a body part you can leave exposed if coated with Vaseline or lotion to help protect and insulate against the wind and cold. The advantage of wearing less clothing on your legs is that in the event of precipitation, wet running pants and tights get heavy and your bare legs will not. The downside to Vaseline on your legs, however, is that it traps road grit and grime that has kicked up from your shoes and onto your legs.

What to buy:

  • Vaseline or lotion (protects and insulates exposed skin from the wind and cold)

  • Shorts

  • Running pants or full tights

  • Half tights

  • ¾ tights

  • Protective underwear

  • Compression sleeves for lower legs

  • Outer shell pants

What to wear based on the temperature:

  • 44 to 38 degrees: Shorts only or shorts and half-tights PLUS the use of Vaseline or lotion. In this temperature range there is a possibility of precipitation. Men may want to choose a half-tight that has a protective covering.

  • 37 to 20 degrees and dry—no precipitation whatsoever: Running pants or tights and protective underwear (men’s wind briefs or boxer/compression short).

  • 20 degrees to 8 degrees: Running pants layered with tights and protective underwear.

  • 8 degrees and below: Once you’ve hit the single digits you’ll most likely want to add an outer shell pant to all of the above, but more importantly, you should ask yourself, “Do I really want to go out there?

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