How to choose clothes for running in cold weather?

Athletes-runners are divided into two types: some with the advent of winter move into gyms and begin to “make friends” with the treadmill, while others are happy to plan their winter runs outside, build routes and get insulated. It is for these people that this article is prepared. We will talk about how to choose the right clothes for running based on air temperature, the presence of precipitation, wind and other natural conditions, and also tell you how to do it taking into account your features and preferences.

To give a simple answer for domestic runners on the question “how to dress for a run in winter” is impossible. Russia is a huge country and winter is very different. Moreover, athletes from different regions have their own experience of running in winter conditions, everyone has his own idea of what is cold. Also, we should not forget the individual differences in people and their personal perception of the cold. For some runners, a fall in temperature to +5°C is a reason to stop training outdoors, while others are happy to breathe in the freezing air during a run at -15°C. Good news for everyone, it’s no problem to buy running gear that lets you run even in extremely low temperatures down to -35°C. The main thing is to choose the right clothes, and then you’ll get not only pleasure, but also benefit from winter running.

What to look for when choosing running clothes?

Heat-accumulating zones

During physical activity, the blood circulation rate in the body increases, the heart rate increases, and the thermoregulation process begins. There are areas on our body that particularly actively give off excess heat: forehead, cervical collar zone, armpits, solar plexus, lower back. It is in these areas of the body that the most profuse sweating occurs.

The hands, inner sides of the elbows and knees, groin area, feet – also have an increased heat dissipation, but do not produce as much sweat.

Manufacturers of sportswear take into account the above features of the human body, so produce specialized clothing perfectly suited for vigorous physical activity. Such clothing has a special ventilated areas adjacent to the heat loss areas of a person, so it takes away excess moisture, not allowing clothes to get wet.

Multiple layers of clothing

You need to understand the essential difference between putting on a T-shirt and a thick down jacket or several layers of special runner’s outfit for a run in freezing temperatures. In the first case, you will sweat very quickly, the jacket will not be able to drain the excess moisture, in the end you will freeze and will be forced to go home. It is good if you do not catch cold after such an adventure. In the second case, you can easily get over the route without the risk of getting cold and sick. Hence the most important rule: the runner’s outfit should be multi-layered, and each layer has its own purpose.

The first layer, which adjoins the body, should have high moisture-wicking and ventilating properties. It is desirable that the first layer clothes were made of quality synthetic, because when running in some natural fabrics, such as clothes made of cotton, you will immediately sweat and freeze.

The purpose of the second layer is heat protection. Clothing should keep the body warm and remove the excess heat. For the second layer is perfect clothing made of fleece.

The third layer – this outerwear. It should have high wind and moisture protection characteristics, i.e. it should not let precipitation in, protect from wind, as well as ventilate the lower layers of the outfit. Here the runner is suitable windbreaker or jacket with a membrane, which has additional ventilation zones in the neck and armpits.

A fourth layer is not always worn. It is needed in particularly severe frosts, acts as an additional insulator and is put on after the second layer. For the fourth layer will again go clothes made of fleece, fabrics Windstopper or other insulating materials.

Types of accessories for running

Many people think that running accessories are stupid or a waste of money. In fact, accessories are a necessity, without which training in winter can become a dangerous activity. Remember, you can’t go out for a workout in the bitter cold without a running hat, gloves, balaclava or face protection buff. Gloves will protect your fingers from frostbite, a hat will prevent you from catching a cold or ear infection, and a buff or balaclava will help protect your respiratory system from frostbite. Of course, you can wear balaclava in warmer weather – manufacturers have tried to present this headgear in different materials.

Sports goggles. It’s impossible to imagine running during heavy snow, snowstorms or just in bright sunlight without sports glasses – they will ensure good visibility.
Reflective stickers. Note as an accessory reflective stickers, if they are not on outerwear. In winter, when it gets dark much earlier, reflective stickers will allow people and vehicles around you to see you from a distance.
Gaiters. Snow gaiters or leggings are another necessary accessory. They are worn over your shoes to prevent snow from getting into your running shoes and to protect your shoes from dirt.
Running Cats. It is impossible not to mention running crampons, one of the most important accessories for running on ice or slippery surfaces. Cats are a kind of alternative to the spikes on the sole of athletic sneakers. They are attached to the runner’s shoe and reduce the risk of the runner falling on the ice. In some competitions, it is not possible for athletes to participate without cats.
Backpack. If you have a long training session, take a backpack or bag with you. In them you can put a basic set of things such as: food, water, dry clothes, windbreaker, navigator, powerbank, which will help you in case of force majeure.

What does the choice of clothing for running depend on?

We want to elaborate on the point that you should not look for a one-size-fits-all solution to the choice of sportswear for winter running. It is always necessary to evaluate the totality of factors affecting the choice of equipment for a particular training or competition. The point is that clothes designed for running at zero temperature will not be effective for a run at -20°C, just as vice versa. Similarly, shoes for one surface, such as dry asphalt, are ill-suited for cross-country running and are not at all suitable for running in snow. And high-tread shoes designed for the mountains are totally unsuitable for running on asphalt. In other words, for each value of the thermometer and each running route there is a different outfit that works most effectively.

As you know, visual information is much better remembered, so we’ve provided you with a hint table, which will help you to orient yourself when choosing clothing in the temperature range from +10°C to -20°C, taking into account the weather conditions, whether it be sun, wind or precipitation. Do not forget that the final choice is always your own, because only you know the characteristics of your body.

Some may be outraged at the look at the table, because the extreme temperature value is -20 °C. Indeed, there is a category of particularly tough runners who do not consider air temperatures of -30°C to be a serious reason to cancel a workout. In fact, the equipment for these temperature values will not differ much from each other.

We cannot help but note that many experts do not recommend running outside at extremely low temperatures of -30°C. However, everyone is free to make his or her own decision.

The above table is suitable for most runners and very accurately shows the necessary clothing for each specified period.

Clothing for running at +5…+10°C

Running at this temperature is pure pleasure. You don’t need to put on a lot of clothes and accessories. The weather is conducive to long, hard training outdoors. For most runners, the warmth of autumn is the best time to get in shape.

Running T-Shirts

The times of scarcity are long gone, the market is flooded with a variety of t-shirt models from a huge number of manufacturers. When looking for the right t-shirt for running, opt for sportswear stores. Specialized manufacturers make clothes specifically for people engaged in intense physical activity, which means that their clothes have good moisture-wicking and ventilating properties. Many models have special areas for areas of the body with high perspiration, which certainly makes running much more comfortable.

Many athletic runners divide their clothing into training and competition gear. All in all, the idea is understandable, because we don’t go to a party in the same thing we wear to a walk in the park. Well, for those who do not see the point in such a division, it would be useful to initially buy a quality item, able to serve for a long time.

In the more affordable price segment of sportswear, you can buy a simpler T-shirt. These shirts are often made of one material and do not have special ventilation zones adjacent to the areas of the body with high heat loss.

One thing is certain, buy a T-shirt made of high quality synthetics and forget about cotton forever. Cotton products do not conduct moisture, respectively, very quickly get wet and dry for a long time. As a result, you not only run the risk of running in drenched clothes, but also seriously increase your chances of freezing and catching cold.

Running Shorts

In terms of length, running shorts can be either long or short, whichever one prefers. However, for marathons and competitions, runners prefer to wear very short shorts, so that nothing will constrain their movement at the crucial moment. Some shorts, especially those from the trail running segment, are equipped with extra ventilation, making them even more effective compared to regular athletic shorts.

When buying shorts, evaluate them comprehensively: the quality of the material, the ventilation properties, even the weight. Make sure that the inner seams do not rub on the body. It is desirable to make a few squats when trying on and make sure that nothing impedes free movement and a sense of comfort. Running shorts should not have zippers or buttons. Their function is a tight elastic band, which can be adjusted in size.

Vest or windbreaker for running

If it is windy outside, you should not neglect a windproof vest or a thin windbreaker jacket. These items of equipment are made from the lightest fabrics with high windproof properties, such as WindStopper fabric. The vests are well ventilated, easy to move and very light in weight, which is a big plus.


Headwear is necessary not only in cold weather, but also in temperatures below +10°C. A lightweight hat, such as a sports cap, will protect the runner from getting rain in the eyes. If it’s raining heavily outside and you don’t want to cancel your training session, a windbreaker with a hood and DWR impregnation or a membrane jacket are better suited for protection against getting wet.

In addition to the cap, you will definitely need a sun visor, as well as a foreheadband that will absorb sweat from the forehead. All of these seemingly insignificant accessories play an important role – improving your visibility while running.

Clothing for running at 0…+5°C

Jogging shorts

When the thermometer goes towards zero, you need to think about how to insulate your legs, because even a little cold will be felt first of all. A great option for this weather are tights up to the middle of the calf.

Leggings are elastic leggings that are made of high quality synthetics, well preserving the normal body temperature. Tight-fitting leggings perfectly protect your legs from hypothermia. Many people do not know that severe hypothermia of the knees can lead to injuries to the joints and ligaments, and subsequently to the development of arthritis of the knees. That is why it is so important to choose clothes carefully at the first signs of a cold snap in the street. Note also that tights are often included in the list of necessary equipment in various marathons, especially those held in the mountains.

In addition to thermal insulation properties, tights have compression properties and some models even belong to the compression clothing for training. Progress does not stand still and now there are models of tights with local compression. It reduces muscle vibration and increases blood flow, which allows the muscles to work more efficiently and recover faster. Other models of tights have localized insulation for the areas of the person’s body most often affected by hypothermia, such as those same knees.

If you do not like the fact that tights are too tight, you can solve the problem by wearing shorts on top or by replacing tights with jogging pants. By the way, experienced athletes wear jogging shorts on top of shorts for additional insulation of the hips and lower back.

The choice of tights on the sportswear market is very large, so every runner will find the right option for themselves.

T-shirt or longsleeve

In cooler weather it won’t hurt to wear a long-sleeved t-shirt (longsleeve). Its function is the same as a normal T-shirt. It should ventilate the body well and wick away excess moisture. Some athletes like to wear it over a running T-shirt with short sleeves. And in colder weather, it’s a great way to stay extra warm.

If you are quite sensitive to the cold, then thermal underwear can be a good option for you. It’s a great way to keep you warm, while also getting the excess heat out.

The most professional copies of sports t-shirts are produced by trailrunners’ outfit manufacturers. This is not surprising, because for such intense and long races you need really high quality clothes.

It is worth noting that manufacturers of sportswear invest in the development of new technologies to create a new generation of sportswear. For example, the Swiss manufacturer X-Bionic, created a T-shirt for running in which the runner is physically less tired. The manufacturer claims that this effect is achieved through a unique material and a special way of fabric weaving.

Running Goggles

Needed in heavy snow and strong winds, prevent your eyes from watering, protect your eyes from dirt and dust. Running goggles as well as normal, protect against ultraviolet light, and also have anti-fog properties. A good view of the trail is one of the must-haves for safe running.

Jogging Jacket

The market abounds with a variety of winter running jackets. But which one to choose to protect yourself from the wind, which one will help you not get wet when it rains, and in which one you will not be afraid of freezing?

These days, jackets for winter jogging called and windproof with impregnation, and down jackets with Primaloft, and membrane jackets. All can run in the winter, the main thing to evaluate the weather conditions.

With full confidence we can say that when running in rain and cold weather, especially on rough terrain, you need a waterproof jacket, otherwise the risk of catching a cold is incredibly high. In this case you need a jacket with a membrane – only it can be a real protection from the rain. As for jackets with impregnation, such as impregnation DWR, they are able to trap moisture only for a short time. Such jackets are suitable for fine autumn rain and a short training session. In other words, do not neglect your health and comfort, with heavy rain choose a good jacket made of membrane fabric, such as Gore-Tex.

A membrane jacket will be your faithful friend and companion right up to severe frosts. It reliably protects against various manifestations of bad weather and allows you to continue training without risk to health. Indeed, many runners have experienced that the membrane jacket firmly withstands a strong wind, not letting the cold air inside, not getting wet in the pouring rain and heavy snow, moreover, it removes the excess heat outside. And when running in the mountains, such a jacket is generally vital.

On sale you can see a lot of jackets with a membrane fabric and a large set of various additional features and functions. Remember, it is not enough just to find a membrane jacket, as not all of them are suitable specifically for running. Running jackets are lighter weight, compact, in these jackets is the main emphasis on ventilation and extra heat than on protection from external moisture. When buying a membrane jacket, consider these factors first. Excellent models are found in the department for mountaineering and trekking.

Needless to say, a good membrane jacket will be required to participate in any ultra trail run, as the organizers regularly include it in the list of mandatory equipment for participants.

Clothing for running at 0°C … -5°C

Many people mistakenly believe that it is most dangerous for health to run in extreme cold, but in fact the most insidious period is a slight minus. Often, when the air temperature is between 0°C and -5°C, runners do not take their running clothes seriously. Many people think it’s still warm and they can afford to train in their old outfit. However, when the temperature is between 0°C and -5°C it’s time to go for warmer clothes.

Tights, leggings or jogging pants

For this temperature range, you’ll need elastic leg warmers or shorts (also called ¾ leg sweatpants) for jogging. If you have to train in rain or snow, wear tights with water-repellent and ventilating properties. And be sure to consider past leg injuries when choosing cold-weather running pants. This is an important consideration, which we’ll discuss below.

Why cover your legs?

In case your legs are open when running, you are expending much more energy to heat your muscles. If you don’t believe me, you can get a good feel for this over a long distance, such as a 20 km run.

The moment we start, our body is full of energy. During the race we regularly replenish our energy with sports nutrition. The leg muscles, working continuously, use a lot of energy and generate heat, which has to be dissipated from the body without hindrance. In sub-zero temperatures, this heat is less.

In case your legs are open, the body has to expend a huge amount of energy, because it has to additionally warm up the freezing leg muscles! Thus, the runner takes away his own strength, his motivation sooner or later drops and running turns into torture.

And that’s not all. Leaving your legs open increases the chances of a serious leg injury. Frozen muscles, joints and ligaments are more prone to tears and sprains. That’s why experts always talk about the need to warm up your muscles before and after training. The experienced athletes, if necessary, can even resort to the warming creams.

By the way, the organizers of ultratrails, which take place in the mountains in temperatures ranging from -5°C to +5°C, include loafers or tights in the list of compulsory equipment. So be prepared for the fact that you will have to buy them. And remember that hypothermia can lead not just to colds and nasty colds – in some cases it has fatal consequences.

If you study the range of loafers, tights and jogging pants on the market, you will find many options for all tastes of color. They come in thin, tight, microfleece, compression, extra compression zones and more.


At minus 5°C use a long-sleeved t-shirt. As the first layer of a multilayer runner’s outfit, the T-shirt will be present in all temperature regimes. However, they also have their own features and differences, which we will talk about below.

Windbreaker or ski jacket

In strong winds, feel free to wear a vest or windbreaker, with good non-blowing characteristics. If there is no precipitation outside, you do not need to wear a full membrane jacket for training, a simple windbreaker will be lighter and will serve its purpose properly.

Many windbreakers are equipped with hoods, a number of models have impregnation DWR. Windbreakers are good for its lightness and compactness, usually their maximum weight of less than 200 grams. Since one of the main functions of windbreakers – ventilation, quality models have a zone of additional ventilation in the armpit, the hood, and sometimes the sleeves. Also in a good windbreaker can tighten the hood and the edge of the jacket in case of particularly strong wind. Some manufacturers make a zippered pocket on the windbreaker, in which the jacket itself can be easily stowed. When folded, it takes up minimal space and it is very easy to throw in the backpack.

As we said above, in heavy rainfall, even the impregnation windbreaker will not save from getting wet. In the case of rain or snow, choose a membrane jacket.

Thus, any runner needs a quality windbreaker or jacket that will last more than one year.