Tell me about cold-weather running togs

I’m working my way through C25K as the weather is getting cooler (hallelujah!), and am beginning to wonder what I’ll wear when it gets too cold for a tshirt and leggings. I’ve browsed around on Sierra Trading Post, and have noticed two things…

  1. There’s no consistent fabric for “cold weather” running clothes. Wool? Bamboo? Cotton? Polyester? Whatever.

  2. They’re expensive.

So… what does one need to keep running in cold weather? I’m hoping to keep it outside, and out of the gym, until the weather is down to 40F or even freezing.

Though a few may disagree, the underlayer for the upper body should be some form of polyester(CoolMax, Dri-Fit, etc.). Cotton gets very abrasive when it gets wet plus you will feel chilled. You don’t need to spend a lot, Target has terrific values. Even down to freezing, all I have needed is a long sleeve base layer, lightweight breathable jacket/windbreaker, tights and gloves. You might also want a fleece headband that covers the ears or a ski hat. Some people might use a sleeveless vest rather than a jacket. Depending on your speed and wind, you may need a sleeveless underlayer beneath the main base layer. You will need to experiment to find what works for you.

Good luck

Also give Land’s End a look.

I got my tights there and my layering jacket there too. They are as cheap as Target but filled a niche I couldn’t find there, namely they had good reflective stuff on them. I tend to run early in the morning and in the winter it’s dark so I want to be seen.

I also bought a pair of thinsulate ear muffs, the 360 kind. They were cheap and that’s almost all I need in most cold weather, although I did get a hat when the temp dropped below 25.

Long underwear tops and bottoms. Not fashionable like tights, but they work very well. Layer over top whatever you need to for more warmth and style.

For cold weather running, you want to layer. You will warm up quickly and you don’t want to be soaking with sweat in freezing weather.

I find that the following works for me:
5 to 10C: long sleeve dri-fit type shirt, shorts
0 to 5C: thin tights, long sleeve shirt
-10 to 0C: tights, long sleeve shirt, windbreaker jacket, windproof underwear
-20 to -10C: same as above, but get thick winter weight tights, gloves and a tuque that covers the ears. Depending on how windy, you may want long johns.
below -20C: as above, with a neck warmer or balaclava. You may need to add an extra layer on top.

To keep water bottles from freezing on longer runs, wear your belt under your windbreaker.

40F is around 4C, so you (depending on your cold tolerance) can probably make do with light tights, dri-fit top and a windbreaker.

The previous suggestions for layering are spot on but you’ll probably just need to find out what works best for you. Hands and feet on some people are much more sensitive to cold while for others, it may be their ears, head or whatever. You may find that the cold is not so bad as the cold + wind, in which case, you’ll look seriously at windbreaker fabrics. Basically, don’t spend a fortune on a lot of different things until you get out there and figure out what’s best for you through experience. Good luck!!

Pre foot surgery, I ran outside year round in Chicago for several years. One thing I found frustrating was the difficulty of figuring out “how cold” it would feel on a given day. If it was 20 with sunshine and no wind, it would feel far lovelier than 40 degrees with horizontal rain. So I finally came up with the following which worked for me.

-In my mind the most important thing is avoiding getting wet, which will make a run miserable far quicker than just cold. So get a pair of lined gore-tex pants, and a thin waterproof shell/jacket.

-Running as low as single digits F, I never needed more than the lined pants on my legs. IMO, if your trunk and head were warm, your legs could be cooler. And it is no problem feeling a little cool when you start off - you will warm up quickly.

-Deciding whether or not to wear the pants was always a tough call, until I reached this decision. On my way to my locker-room, I passed a bank thermometer. I have no idea if it was accurate or not, but I decided if it was 40F or above, I HAD to run in shorts, and if 39F or below, I wore pants. Sure, there would be a day or 2 where my bare legs would feel chilly, but if my top was covered sufficiently it was never a problem. And if I felt chilly at the start of a run, I almost always warmed up shortly into it.

-For the top, I agree with a dry-fit bottom layer to avoid chafing. My preference was sleeveless tees - the same shirts I would wear to run in summer. The only things I needed other than that were a long-sleeved tee and a sweatshirt. Layering one or the other of those over my bottom layer and under the shell as needed would take me down to single digits in rain, snow, whatever.

-I RARELY felt the need for gloves. One the few occasions I would wear them, I would take them off during the run on all but the coldest days. The very thin stretchy ones they sell before marathons are great.

-For my head I had one old baseball cap, and one old knit cap.

I remember hearing something - I think it was from a Scandinavian cross-country skier but could certainly be wrong. They said, “There is no such thing as bad conditions, only bad equipment.” Get a couple of nice pieces of Gore-tex, and you can enjoy the outdoors in just about any weather!

This link has helped me determine how to dress. I tend to err on the side of under-dressing, though, because I’d rather be too cool than too warm.

I’m just a beginner runner, but I was looking at that little thing yesterday and it is INSANE. Do you realize how cold it has to get before Runner’s World lets you wear pants? These people are obviously 1) old marathoners, and 2) from Fairbanks.

Everyone is highly variable as to what they need. I could run comfortably at 40F with just a windbreaker,long sleeve shirt and shorts with wicking underwear. I was also running at under 7 minute mile pace. Your speed is a factor, slower runners are producing less heat per minute. You should feel slightly cool/cold when you start, if you feel warm without running, you are wearing too much. Use the Runner’s World link as a starting guide.

Well, they do seem to keep you in the shorts quite low - at least if you say you like to feel cool. But I’m not sure their recs are entirely out of line with my experience. If you change your preference to wishing to feel warm or “in-between”, or if you take away the sun and add wind or precip, they bring out the tights.

They also recommend gloves at far higher temps than I. I guess I just don’t like the feeling of having my hands sweating inside of gloves.

I ran daily for more than 20 years in upstate New York and Vermont, so learned some hints very quickly.

Layers are indeed vital in cold weather, as you can peel pieces off and tie them around your waist when you heat up, and put 'em back on again if necessary. Pay attention to the wind, as running into one is vastly different than running downwind. One good reason to always stuff a ski mask in your pocket too.

When really cold, wearing a pair of real silk gloves under wool mittens helps a lot. If doubtful about the weather on a long run, take a plastic trash bag with holes cut out for the arms and head in your pocket. Over other clothes, it really insulates well. For marathons and other long races, this helps too while waiting in the cold at the starting line. Then you can just throw it away without worrying about losing an expensive jacket.

On really cold and windy days, I’d spread a little Vaseline on my face to prevent wind burn. Ladies, you might want to do this all around your lower extremities. If you have to make a pit stop on a cold windy day, you will appreciate the insulating quality of the stuff, and it helps avoid friction too (hold the jokes, please).

For the men (and maybe the women too, I don’t know) what you will really want under your sweat pants or running pants, is a plastic bag or piece of plastic wrap around your genitals. This is seldom thought of until the first time you begin to experience frostbite of that region. Feel that pain just once, and you will never forget that piece of equipment again!

Properly dressed, I never ever suffered from any cold problems. The only time I ever skipped a run was when the roads were so icy, even the dogs had a hard time staying on their feet. When it had been icy, I’d shove my poor mutt out the door to see how she faired before I would venture out.

KlondikeGeoff never fails to delight me. We TOTALLY need a whole thread about vaseline and plastic bags.

(collapses into giggles)

The only thing I’ll add is to put your running clothes on 15 minutes before you leave the house; ideally you should be just hot and just starting to sweat when you leave.
Otherwise you’ll either be shivering through the first 15 minutes of your run (until the excess body heat kicks in), or find out 15 minutes into your run that you’re wearing way too many clothes and are too hot.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been anywhere windy enough with little enough shelter that vaseline below the waist has ever felt necessary. I have had it all hanging out long enough to complete my solid-waste business at (a non-windy) minus 15 F, and was actually pleasantly surprised at the lack of issues. And rather than plastic wrap, I’d just go with some nylon wind pants on the outside, though it’s sadly much less entertaining.

Everyone is different so you’ll have to experiment a bit. A few thoughts:

  1. Dry is comfortable - if your clothes get wet they will conduct heat away from your body far faster than if they’re dry and that can be unpleasant or even dangerous (hypothermia). Those expensive wicking fabrics pull moisture away from your body and they dry out quickly so you don’t have a clammy layer next to you the whole time.

  2. Ditch the cotton. IMHO it has absolutely no place in your wardrobe for running. It soaks up moisture and stays wet (see point #1), sticks to your skin (so you’ll chafe like hell), loses insulating ability when wet (unlike things such as wool and fleece which will keep you warm even if soaking) and is just generally bad.

You may be surprised at how much heat you build up running - personally I’ve been comfortable in shorts and a t shirt in cold, driving rain. I’m nice and warm when I’m moving. I do get cold fingers so if it’s really chilly I’ll wear some gloves.

Wear wicking materials next to your skin to stay dry - there are various things like polyester, polypropylene and so on. I like medium-weight thermal underwear, one of my favorite running shirts (for both very hot and very cool weather) is a long-sleeve thermal top from REI. Yes they are more expensive than a junky cotton tshirt but they work far better and they will last a long time, so well worth the money ($20-30). If the wind is getting to you, pack along a lightweight windproof vest or jacket meant for runners (they’re very lightweight nylon). If your legs are uncomfortably cold try some running tights - my experience has been that my legs can take the cold much better than my torso (even when my thighs are numb with cold I’m good). Some lightweight windproof gloves (I have El Cheapo windblock fleece from Target, $10 the pair) are good insurance as is either a light fleece cap or my favorite, a fleece headband - it keeps my ears and forehead nice and warm but lets my basically bald head breathe and vent excess heat so I don’t get too hot.

They do make plenty of running shorts and tights with a lightweight windproof membrane in the front to avoid exactly that problem. While I’m not a big spender if I was getting the old frozen popsicle effect I think I’d shell out the extra few dollars instead of swathing the family jewels in clingwrap :slight_smile: