My friend Simon lives for the heat. Phoenix in summer at 40°C (104°F) is one of his favorite places on earth. But like many of us, he has lived most of his life north of Phoenix. Quite a bit north. North enough that for a good chunk of the year he is running in cold weather. When the temperature starts to drop even a little, he vanishes under about 10 pounds of winter wear.
Ultimately, what you should wear when the seasons change in the northern or far southern latitudes is a personal thing.
One runner might not miss a beat when the temperature gets to -20°C (-4°F). Or, if you’re a runner like me, you might not leave the house when it gets that cold. If you’re going to be spending any time in cooler climates, there’s going to be some trial and error.
If you’re new to running in cooler temperatures, or you’re traveling to where winter really happens, it might be helpful to have a starting point.
But if you’re new to running in cooler temperatures, or you’re traveling to where winter really happens and you want to keep up your running, I thought it would be helpful to give you a starting point. An idea of the types of clothes you might need as the mercury drops – based purely on what works for me.
I choose what to wear based on two things: what temperature is it, and is it raining?
Snow isn’t as big an issue as you might think.
Wind doesn’t factor in too much either.
Starting with a short-sleeved tee-shirt and shorts I’ll begin adding clothes when the mercury gets below about 10°C (50°F). If it’s raining and cold I’ll add a layer.
For me, this is how it looks:
|10°C (50°F) and higher
|Short-sleeved tee, shorts, (ball cap, for sun)||Short-sleeved tee, shorts, ball cap, breathable rain jacket|
|5°C to 10°C
(41°F to 50°F)
|Long-sleeved tee, shorts (ball cap for sun)||Short-sleeved tee, shorts, ball cap, breathable rain jacket|
|0°C to 5°C
(32°F to 41°F)
|Short-sleeved tee, tights, breathable jacket, dollar-store gloves, ball cap||Long-sleeved tee, tights, breathable rain jacket, dollar-store gloves, ball cap, (breathable rain pants)|
|-12°C to 0°C
(10°F to 32°F)
|Short-sleeved tee, long-sleeved tee, breathable jacket, tights, dollar-store gloves, toque|
|-20°C to -12°C
(-4°F to 10°F)
|Long underwear, short-sleeved tee, long-sleeved tee (x2, if you don’t have long underwear tops), tights, neck warmer or scarf, toque, ski gloves (or mitts over the dollar-store gloves)|
|-20°C (-4°F) and below||Pyjamas – I stay home.|
On the Feet
Don’t worry about it. I have never worn anything but a single pair of socks inside my running shoes, regardless of the temperature. Even in Fivefingers and a foot of snow, it’s surprising how neutral your feet stay – as long as they’re dry. Ankles though, can get cold if you’re not wearing socks.
On the Hands
Once the temperature gets to 5°C (41°F) and lower, I like the dollar-store variety black polyester gloves. They’re cheap, wash easily and do the job until about -12°C (10°F) or so. Then it’s time for either heavier (ski) gloves or mitts.
Whatever Works Best
If you have time to acclimate and try things out, you’ll land on your best clothing choices by trial and error – whatever works for you. But if you’re traveling to cooler climates, or just starting to venture out in the cooler weather, start with these guidelines, use the right type of clothes, and you’ll run just fine as the temperature plummets.
And if you happen to live in Phoenix and you see someone running in January with about 10 pounds of winter gear on, it’s Simon. He’s a great guy. He’s from out of town.
If you have any questions or you’re able to share your experiences with running in cold weather, I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment in the Comments area below and we’ll compare notes.
After all, we’re all in this together.
See you out there!
thank you for publishing a very interesting article about what to wear when we running in cold weather. I have to point out, you really explain in detail everything we need to know about what to wear when we run on cold weather. I really learned a lot, and I’m glad that I came across your website.
Thanks for the comment Karlo. All the best.
This was a great read! I myself have never experienced running in cold weather being from Florida. It was interesting to me seeing what you suggested.
In my opinion, I would want to see some specific clothing suggestions and brands that have worked for you in the past. I know certain athletic brands are popular here in FL, but when I’ve visited the northern states I noticed that people were wearing brands I have never worn before, such as northface. Maybe runners in colder weather choose to wear different brands?
Great idea Kenton – I’ll put together some reviews in future posts on some of the gear I use to battle (become one with?) the elements. I agree, you’re probably not going to see a lot of NorthFace or Patagonia in Florida. At least not for the foreseeable future. I’m guessing that at times it gets too hot to run although I know at least one person who would disagree!
Having run in Florida a few times, it’s terrific. Not many hills, beautiful weather most of the time, and if you can find a route by the ocean – unbeatable. You’re in a beautiful, popular corner of the world Kenton…and it’s popular probably in large part because people don’t need to bring their North Face gear.
Just shorts and a shirt.
Thanks for the comment Kenton.
For years after college where, and including high school I was on the track team, I converted to a long distance runner from a sprinter.
I ran in all kinds of weather all the way through my 20s to mid 30s when after one of my Achilles tendons started to talk to me I ended up quitting. I probably would have torn it after years of pounding the pavement and, also being dedicated road cyclist to which I still today now in my late 50s I turned completely to that sport.
You provided some very sage advice about choices of clothing when a person is running in cold weather. I always believed that it was best to dress in layers, especially on top. Wearing a heavy coat really is counter-productive regarding arm movement. So in below freezing weather I would usually have a tee-shirt, turtleneck over that, (mainly to protect my neck area) and a light jacket. I would have shorts worn underneath a track suit that while providing warmth, was semi-thick without being cumbersome. Light gloves on my hands
The most important thing, as scientifically it is known that in cold weather temps. you lose body heat mostly through your head, you simply had to have some type of hat or thick cap on your head, definitely something to cover your ears.
I just noticed in really reading what you wrote in your article, particularly in the section where the temps were below freezing that you left this very important clothing material out.
My now deceased mom a nurse for 40 years in the healthcare field even when I was an adult and visiting my parents over at their house in the winter would always say just before I left – “Where is your hat, Jeff? Put it on your head before you leave this house”! I mean I was a 30+ year old adult man! But my mom was well aware of the fact regarding a person losing body heat in the winter through his/her head. She said it to my sister as well.
A very well informative article,Larry! I can’t blame you for the fact that when it’s below zero (Farenheit) you choose not to run outside. Trust me, neither did I!
Jeff, I’m totally with you.
Too bad you’re not able to run. My achilles was in pretty rough shape too with tendinitis two years ago and it sidelined me for about 8 months. I thought it would heal on its own if I just left it, but no way. I finally went for physio and got it straightened out and I’m thankful I did! Not a fun injury.
We’re in the same age category: where we have to be a little more careful. A few of my running friends from 10 years ago are also now on the bike and enjoying it. I haven’t joined them yet – I’d need a much better bike than my old mountain bike to keep up! But I do love running…don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t.
And yes, about the hat, that’s exactly what my mom used to say too. I don’t know if all moms got the same script or what. And I left that hat material out of the post but I mention, in another post, at what temperature I’ll switch from a ballcap to a toque. I have a wool toque and a poly-cotton blend. I only wear the blend. I like the wool but it was knitted by my mom and I’d rather not, you know, sweat in it now. It’s lasted this long – I think I can safely retire it to the keepsake bin!
Thanks so much for the comment Jeff.
Good on you for staying active. Keep on keeping on.
A great write up on what to wear for running during cold weather. For me, I don’t experience winter as I stay in Singapore. So I do wonder how you are dressed for running during the winter season. I do travel overseas once awhile but I don’t see anyone running during the winter season.
Nonetheless, great job on describing what to wear. I am sure it is beneficial for people like me who wish to go for a run in other countries during the winter season.
Thanks for the comment Kevin.
I agree, you’ll have little need for this in Singapore. It’s definitely more geared to those of us hanging out in the the north – or much farther south. If you ever find yourself traveling to the north, though, and you’re wanting to run here, it might come in handy!
I’m just curious on what to wear when you are running in winter. I live in the most beautiful tropical paradise, Indonesia.
Winter is something that I have yet to see. But I can relate to this article when I’m hiking. We got some really high mountain that temperature can drop to 10 degree Celcius or even lower.
I’m surprised that you only need to wear a regular pair of socks. It is logical, though. Your feet will heat up really nice when you are running.
I’m envious ariefw! No snow. Wow. (Actually it just snowed here this morning – Calgary – first snow of the year – it’s early this year but apparently we’re in for a cold winter. Oh brother.).
And to answer your question, everyone pretty much wears the same shoes for running in winter and summer. In the spring, when the snow tends to melt during the day and then freeze at night, some people wear studded shoes (shoes with tiny metal knobs or buttons on the soles) for walking – but I don’t know of any runners who do. We just avoid the icy patches.
I don’t think you’ll run into any troubles at 10 degrees Celsius in the mountains either. Rain, though, and slippery footing, that’s another thing right?
I hope you’re enjoying the weather in Indonesia. Heading into spring? We’re headed in the opposite direction here. But it’s still all good!
Thanks for your comment!
All the best!
Wow, what an awesome site! I lived on the West Coast of Canada and walked everywhere. It took my such a long time to adjust to the weather, specifically the rain.
When I finally figured out how to dress for the weather, it was so much more enjoyable. I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to share such in depth and helpful info!
I wish I’d found you when I first moved to BC!
Joy, thanks for the comment.
Yes, BC is a beautiful place – from one end to the other. The west (wet) coast especially.
And you’re right. The minute you get your head around how to dress to deal with the weather (especially on the coast) that’s when you can start having fun.
They don’t get a lot of snow on the coast, but running in the rain and the cold – that’s something they need to dress for.
So beautiful on the coast – hope you enjoyed your time there.
All the best in your running (or walking)!
See you out there!