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What to Wear for Running in the Cold


TRIA physical therapist and running specialist, Lauren Loberg, talks about dressing for running outside in the cold. Prepared for your winter runs can keep you outside for some of the most peaceful and memorable runs of the year. Knowing how to dress can be simple, so consider dressing for cold weather success. 

In general, you should be dressing like it is 15-20 degrees warmer outside. This means that when you start your runs you will feel a bit chilled, but then warm up quick. Layers, the right coverage, and dry feet are all important. For your upper body, your bottom most layer should be snug, sweat wicking and synthetic material – not cotton. The second layer should be more insulating, like a vest or fleece shirt. The top layer should protect you from the elements, such as, wind protective or water resistant material.

Clothing that has zippers at the neck or under arms can make it easy to vent out heat and adjust to temperatures. Having a snug hat and a pair of gloves is always a good idea as they can be stashed in a pocket or up a sleeve if not needed.

For the lower body, running tights are essential as the base layer.  A second layer could be insulated or wind resistant type pants.

For your feet, avoid running shoes with a lot of mesh. Winter or wet running specific shoes have Gore-Tex coatings to keep water out. Your local running stores can point out these options. Also, snow cleats like Yaktrax can placed on bottom of shoes to give you more grip. Here is a guide to layering:

Temperature Tops Bottoms Gloves Hats Other accessories
30 Degrees 2 1 1 1  
10 to 20 degrees 2 2 1 1  
0 to 10 degrees 3 2 1 1  
-10 degrees to 0 degrees 3 2 1 – thicker gloves or mittens 1 Scarf or wrap around your mouth
-20 degrees to -10 degrees 3 2 2 1 Scarf or wrap around your mouth Consider sunglasses

For skin exposed to the cold air, like your nose or tip of ears, use a coat of Body Glide or lip balm to prevent frost bite. A final clothing tip is to dress bright. High snow banks and sleet on windshields can make it harder to see runners. Drivers are also not as accustomed to seeing runners on the roads during the winter.  With shorter days, make sure you have reflective gear and/or lights when running in the dark.  

For more information about running, visit the Running Program webpage.

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