Winter Running: What to Wear and How to Power Through It

Winter running tips and tricks to keep you running all season long. |

It’s not here yet. But we know it’s coming.


Will it be an easy winter like last year? Will it be brutal like two years ago?

The Farmer’s Almanac is saying it will be colder with average snowfall here in New Hampshire. I ran in shorts and a t-shirt last week and then it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. Who knows what will happen until it does!

I get a lot of questions about what to wear for winter running.

How do I stay warm but not hot? How can I keep my hands warm? Do I need different shoes? What are the essentials?

Every person is different when it comes to the cold. Your comfort level depends on many factors, including how fast you’re running, how you tolerate cold, and how long your run is, so your perfect Winter outfit may be different than mine.

I’ve picked up many tips over the years from my own experiences and from my fellow winter running warriors.

Here’s a breakdown of what to wear from head to toe.

Shoes: Unless I’m running in a snowstorm or soon afterwards, the roads in my area tend to be clear of snow. There may be spots of slush, puddles or ice, but generally it’s no different than running any other time of the year. If I am running in snow, I’ll wear a pair of trail shoes for a bit more traction. Yak-Trak are another option but I will only wear them for a short distance. It throws my gait off and I don’t want to risk an injury from that.

Winter running tips and tricks |

Socks: On really cold days, I switch to a thicker sock, but I still wear low cut. I’m ok with my ankle being exposed a little bit in between my tights and sock line unless I’m running in snow. An alternative is to wear compression socks for more coverage. Darn Tough and Smart Wool are my go-to winter socks.

Tights: I prefer to have less on my legs no matter what the temperature. Fleece lined tights are not for me. I get way too hot. Instead, I prefer a thicker material that at least provides wind protection. Some of my favorite brands are Saucony and  Athleta. If it’s really cold (single digits or below), I’ll layer a running skirt over my tights. It’s essential for preventing butt freeze. If you’ve had butt freeze, you know that it is no joke. It kills to unthaw the buns!

Winter Running tips and tricks |

First layer: A long sleeve, 1/2 zip, tech top, preferably with thumbholes is what I always reach for. I like to have something up around my neck for more warmth at the beginning. As I warm up, I can unzip to allow more air flow if needed.

Outer layer/Jacket: A good, waterproof and windproof jacket is essential if you are running in any kind of precipitation or low temps. Your first layer will stay dry, therefore, you will be able to stay warm. A good alternative is a vest if you don’t mind your arms being exposed. On really cold days with a bitter wind chill, I sometimes wear a base layer, jacket and a light vest.

Mittens: My hands being too cold is my number one complaint with winter running. Mittens definitely work better than gloves to keep the whole hand together rather than fingers separate. I’ve mentioned it numerous times, but Saucony Run Mitts (check out my gift list for fitness lovers this year) have been a life saver for me the past two years. So far, the lowest temp I’ve run with them is 10 degrees with no cold fingers. They’ve been a game changer.

Winter running tips and tricks |

Hat: I prefer a hat over a headband. In the past I’ve worn my ski hats but when I started to sweat, it would soak the material and make me colder. Hats should be made of lightweight technical fabrics to trap just the right amount of heat, but still keep your head dry.

Other accessories: A neck gaiter or Buff is great for keeping your neck warm but can be pulled over your mouth on really frigid days to help with your breathing. When your mouth is covered, the air is warmed rather than taking in cold air.

Hand warmers stuck in your mittens can also be a life saver if your hands are always cold.

With my winter gear, I also tend to reach for the brighter colors. It’s a good way to be more visible with less daylight hours available. It also gives a little perk to my mood when everything is dull and drab during the Winter. And it makes you look extra marvelous. Reflective gear is also a good idea. You know I’m loving Saucony’s new Reflex line!

Now that you know what to wear, how do you stay motivated to keep it up? Cold, dark and dreary weather isn’t the best motivator.

Sign up for a late winter or early spring race. That will light a fire under you for sure. January and February are the important building blocks of training if you want to race well in March and April. Find a tune up 5k or 5 miler race to gauge how your progressing towards your big goal.

Winter running - Post race Midwinter Classic | happyfitmama.comCan you tell I really love my hot pink Saucony jacket? 😉

Remember why you are running. Aiming for a PR in a spring half marathon or marathon? Trying to get a BQ? Do you need to shake off the stress? Or is it for the way running makes you feel alive and happy? Remembering why you run can help you get out on a gloomy, cold day.

Find a running buddy. You are not alone in your quest to run all through the winter. There are other crazy enthusiastic runners who won’t let a little cold keep them inside. Trust me. They are out there!

Change your shoes. If you live in an area that receives significant snowfall, take up snowshoe running. I’ve done it a couple of times in the past but plan to do more in 2017 (fingers crossed for enough snow!).

Snowstorm winter Run |

Channel your inner badass. If you’ve ever gone for a run in frigid temps and developed lashicles, browsicles or a beardsicle, you know that you feel pretty badass afterwards. A frozen badass that can feel their butt but still a badass. Not everyone runs when it’s cold outside. It takes will and determination. It builds grit.

Aren’t those traits you want to have while deep in the pain cave of your next race?

And if you hop on the treadmill every once and awhile because you just can’t put on ALL the layers and feel like a Popsicle AGAIN, no worries. I’ll probably do the very same thing. There’s no shame in the treadmill in the game.

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday and the Coaches’ Corner.

What’s your best winter running tip?

What’s the coldest temp you’ll run in?







22 comments on “Winter Running: What to Wear and How to Power Through It

  1. It’s snowing here!!!…and a 2 hour delay for the boys 🙁 BOOOO!!!
    We are very similar when it comes to getting dressed for the cold. I can only wear fleece-lined pants in extreme temps and really, I shouldn’t even be out there if I need those!! Mittens are a must for me as well. The circulation in my hands is horrible.
    I wish we could do winter runs together!!!! #youraisemeup
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  2. Oh gosh, this was extremely helpful for me. I haven’t run in QUITE some time (outside, that is. The treadmill is my BFF) because I am FREEZING. I just moved from California to eastern TN, so you can understand how this is a huge transition for me!

    I’m so nervous for the snow!

  3. While I am excited for winter running, my 2 year old freaked out this morning in her stroller! She is not a fan of the cold, so looks like we’ll be doing something different this winter!
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  4. I’m one of those rare people that loves winter running! I absolutely hate running in the summer because of the heat and humidity. I live in CT so we have colder weather more than half of the year. I love layering up and going out for a run!

  5. Well I’m jealous winter hasn’t arrived there. It’s -22 here today. I don’t run outside when it’s that cold so I’ve been on the treadmill. But I do run outside during the more reasonable winter running temps an I agree with your tips. I find my thighs get really cold. Windblocking tights really help with that.

  6. Now that I’m in Austin, I won’t have to deal with running in a snow storm, but back in New York I was all about the layers. The key for me was keeping my ears, hands and feet warm, so I tended to doubt up on head warmers, gloves and socks!

  7. I run outside year-round, in Iowa. My go-to is a puffer vest (actually, I have several). For me, it’s the perfect amount of warmth without the bulk of a jacket. I usually do a flannel-lined layer as a base (sometimes with arm warmers underneath). On occasion, I have worn a double layer of tights. And, SmartWool socks are the bomb!

  8. This is a great post. I wear YakTrax but they snap if you run on pavement so that’s kind of a downer. I’ll be altering a pair of old kicks this year so I can wear studs instead.

    And I totally need fleece lined tights on my quads. But when they’re on my calves I sweat like crazy. It’s a no-win situation for me so I suffer with all fleece, otherwise I’m too cold.

    Also. Winter. Boo.
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