Proper Layering for Winter Running

by - 12:54 PM

As a year-round runner living in the Midwest, I've done my share of ice running, rain running, 85 degree humid running and everything in between. This has led me to acquire a slew of running gear and pin point optimal layering for varying temperatures – especially at this time of year. (50 degrees Saturday, 26 on Monday – say what now?)

Both my high school and collegiate track teams practiced outdoor year round, so I am pretty comfortable running in cold temperatures. I've put together a list of my Top 5 Tips for Winter Running that I’ve learned over the years:

Top 5 Tips for Winter Running

  1. Figure out your minimum temperature. Mine is 30 degrees – if it’s over 30 with minimal wind, I will run outside. That is not to say that I haven’t cheated on this rule (I have) or that this should be your minimum (it’s ok if you think I’m crazy) – just find your comfort threshold.
  2. Know that you may not have a super awesome run. The key is to acknowledge the fact that if you are running at a lower (or higher) temperature or humidity level than your body and lungs are used to, you may not have as good of a run as you anticipated – and that’s ok!
  3. Plan out your run. I am a slave to – especially in the dead of winter and the heat of summer. If my 5 day tells me there is a 40+ day on Thursday, I will adjust my workout schedule to target that day.
  4. Run into the wind first. If you have an option of doing a loop, figure out which way the wind is coming from and run INTO it first. I learned this tip running the Chicago lakefront for several years – it is much easier going into the wind for your first few miles and having it push you home than the opposite.
  5. Figure out your layering situation. If you are dressed properly for a run, you should be a tiny bit cold when you walk outside. If you are “comfortable” – you will most likely get too hot about 1 mile into your run. I have done this SO. MANY. TIMES. Learn from my mistakes!

One of the keys to layering is investing in some cold-weather running gear. If you go with a great brand (Brooks, Saucony, NikeRunning, or my personal favorite, lululemon) I have found it is well worth the investment in a few "staple" running pieces. I still have a pair of Nike running tights from high school!

Here is how I like to layer, depending on temperature and wind combinations:

Layering for Winter Running 30-40 Degrees

NIKE / Run Toasty Tech Tight / Cool Racerback / NIKE black glove / run: turn around jacket | women's jackets and hoodies | lululemon... / run: turn around jacket | women's jackets and hoodies | lululemon... / lululemon athletica - Brisk Run Earwarmer

Your key layer is definitely your base layer - don't invest in a pullover or run jacket and then wear a t-shirt underneath. Get a great, moisture wicking base to collect sweat and absorb it so you don't get a chill. Look for a running jacket with side vents that you can unzip if you get too toasty.

40-50 Degrees

Travel vest / lululemon / Activewear / NIKE black hat / run: u-turn pullover | women's tops | lululemon athletica

Wind will be a big factor. If it's closer to 40 than 50 and/or windy, I usually include a base layer. The Run: Inspire Crops shown are one of my staples - I wear them almost year round. They aren't available on the website right now, but are available in stores.

So what are you waiting for? Get off that treadmill and into the great outdoors! You may even learn to love it.


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  1. Hey Kat,

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing! Since we're on the topic of apparel I was also wondering if you had any thoughts on compression gear (i.e. calf sleeves or socks)?



  2. Thanks Buddy! I do actually - I am a huge advocate of compression socks, especially when I am training heavily. I use mine post work out rather than during workout to stimulate blood flow in my calves.

    I also favor compression socks over compression sleeves, because socks also stimulate flow through the foot, rather than cutting it off at the ankle.

    CEP is my favorite brand - and can be found at any local running specialty store.

  3. Great piece Kat, but don't forget about propper running shoes. You need shoes with a lot of tread on them for winter running. If you don't have enough tread, it's like hydro planing on you own two feet.

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