Winter Running – What to Wear?

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Winter Running – What to Wear?

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Winter Running Gear

I have been running all four seasons for the past three decades and worked in a specialty Running Store in Saskatoon for 14 years so have used and sold a lot of running gear.

So for those of you new to winter running here are some thoughts from my experience.

Know yourself, are you usually warm when others are cold or vice versa? Some people can tolerate cold weather running with light gear while others need more substantial gear. Something to remember is you create a lot of heat when running once you have warmed up so don’t overdress. You should feel cold when you step outside, if you are comfortable then you will overheat quickly.

  • Basics are:
    running pants that offer a bit of insulation and wind protection, you can get tights or looser fitting, personal choice. If you already have light tights you could throw on a pair of wind pants.
  • **New Point** Running underwear – don’t wear cotton underwear. It will get wet leading to chafing and/or freezing. There is technical underwear, some with wind panels to protect vulnerable parts from the cold wind. Believe me, they are worth it!
  • base layer on top, a snug fitting long sleeve will wick away moisture which is important to keep you dry and warm. Cotton is not advised as it stays wet, you want technical fabric like polypropolene (I like Helly Hansen products) or merino wool (no it does not itch).
  • a breathable wind breaker jacket to (obviously) break the wind. As it gets colder you add another shirt for insulation, polar fleece shirts work really well as insulation. You can also get heavier running jackets if you don’t want to layer as much.
  • a light toque or head band is all you need most times, if it is really cold and windy I might wear a balaclava plus a light toque. Do not run into your local convenience store wearing a balaclava!
  • gloves versus mitts? Mitts will always be warmer. My hands get cold easily so I wear a light synthetic glove in cool weather and when it gets cold I cover it with a light, windproof mitt and this generally works well even down to -25. Some companies sell combinations of glove and mitts, i.e. Asics, Sugoi, Saucony, Brooks.
  • socks, I generally wear an above the ankle compression sock year round which is made by CEP, they keep my achilles tendons supported and a bit warmer. If I want a thicker sock for winter I wear SmartWool socks for warmth and wicking.
  • footwear, you can buy shoes for winter specific running that are wind and water proof (i.e. Goretex) that offer more aggressive treads or studs. You can run in your favourite shoes as well by adding slip on traction aids such as Get a Grips, these will give you great traction on ice. A tip to help deal with the cold is to put a few strips of Duct Tape over the top of the toe box to block wind from blowing through that nice breathable mesh area. That makes a huge difference to your toes and doesn’t mess up your shoes. Some people even screw a few small sheet metal screws into the soles to deal with icy conditions. Be very careful though if you have shoes that have air pockets or gel pockets (i.e. Nike and Asics).
  • It can be quite enjoyable to run through the winter, especially on days where there is no wind and there is a gentle snow falling. If you need glasses there are some anti fog solutions out there but I have yet to find one that lasts for very long in the cold so I use daily contacts. Having said that, sunglasses are recommended in winter too but fogging is an issue. One product I have used is called CatCrap, you smear it on the lens and then polish it. Works okay for awhile unless your breath goes up and then you are fogged. I have seen it sold here at Marks Work Warehouse in the past. An old trick I learned skiing in the 60’s was to rub some dry hand soap on the lens and polish it.

Have fun and we’ll see you out on the trails.