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!