Winter Running Gear: Layering 101

Learn to layer your winter running gear

Getting too hot and sweaty while running in cold weather is not a good feeling. New runners and those not used to running outside during colder months often tend to overdress in those situations. And a few minutes or miles into a run, heat from too much insulation leaves them hot and sweaty—and eventually wet and cold. Thankfully, a smart layering system of the right gear will keep you comfortable no matter what Mother Nature has in store.

While every runner has their own unique apparel combinations for different types of weather, these guidelines will get you started.

– Select a lightweight or midweight base layer to wick moisture away from your skin. Experiment with different styles and fabrics to find the fit and moisture management properties that work best for you. It could be a short-sleeve or long-sleeve, tight or loose-fitting, depending on your preference and the temperature and humidity where you are running.

– Top it off with a lightweight windproof or waterproof breathable shell to protect you from the elements, while allowing water vapor to escape. Keep in mind that lightweight wind shells are typically more breathable, but sturdier waterproof jackets do a much better job in rain and wet snow even if also trapping more heat. If you get warm, you can simply unzip the jacket or tie it around your waist.

– On extremely cold days, you might consider adding a layer of breathable insulation, like a lightweight vest, a jacket or vest with synthetic insulation or a heavier second-layer shirt over your base layer. The insulation layer might be enough to protect you from inclement weather, especially if it’s not wet, so you might not need a shell layer if you opt for an insulation layer.

Scroll down to see some of our favorite wicked-weather apparel available at running stores this season.

Craft Essential Winter Tights

Well-known in cross country skiing circles, these winter weight tights feature a windproof front, pre-shaped knees, adjustable waist and a zippered pocket for your keys. If temps are truly bitter, consider adding a pair of long underwear or thin running tights underneath. They are available for both men and women. ($100)

Buff Midweight Merino Wool Multifunctional headwear

Use a Buff—as a neck gaiter, chin protector, lightweight hat, headband and more—to adjust your comfort as your body heats up or the temperatures drop. The fact that it’s wool means it will keep you warm even when it’s damp with sweat. ($32)

READ MORE: Why Merino Wool Is an Ideal Running Fabric

Outdoor Research Ascendant Vest

Even in single-digit temperatures, running generates heat. With synthetic insulation and a breathable shell, this vest will keep you warm while venting sweat. Available for both men (pictured) and women, you can wear it with just a shirt or under a shell depending upon the weather. ($175)

Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Hoody

The lightweight shell has a DWR coating to provide protection from wind and wet weather, while body mapped mesh wool panels deliver breathability and moisture management. It even packs into the chest pocket for storage when the weather warms up. ($125)

 Ultimate Direction Ultra Light Jacket V2

This lightweight, wind and waterproof shell is breathable to keep you dry from the inside out and outside in. A brimmed hood adds protection from the rain, a gathered back dials the fit and underarm vents release moisture vapor when the heat builds up. It is available for both men and women (pictured). ($190)

READ MORE: Essential Traction for Winter Running

Icebreaker Tech Top Long sleeve Half zip

Merino wool is naturally soft, breathable and odor-resistant. Forward-set side seams and flatlock stitching eliminates chafing when your moving, and the half zip allows you to adjust comfort across a range of temperatures. It’s available for both men (pictured) and women. ($120)

Hot Chillys Women’s Micro-Elite Chamois

Besides its softness, the Bio-Sliver treatment is the real star of this shirt because it inhibits the stink common in some technical base layers. It’s available for both men and women (pictured). ($70)

READ MORE: Winter Running 101

La Sportiva Stretch Gloves

These fleece gloves are warmer than your average liners, to keep hands toasty as the temperature drops. ($40)

 

 

Lou Dzierzak
A full-time freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Lou Dzierzak has written about outdoor recreation since 1997. Although slow and steady, he’s completed multiple marathons, triathlons and finished Ironman Wisconsin before the midnight deadline.