Dressing For Cold Weather Running

By Rick Morris

Dressing for cold weather running can be a challenge for both short and long runs. If you dress so that you are warm at the start of your run you will probably be over heated at the end. When running in cold weather always remember one word – layers. The layers of clothing will keep you warm by trapping heat against your body. As you generate heat during your run you can remove layers to avoid overheating.

I recommend wearing either two or three layers depending upon the weather conditions. Each layer has its own purpose.

  • Layer 1 – The purpose of the first layer is to wick moisture away from your skin. A long sleeve cotton shirt is a common choice for the first layer. This type of shirt will wick away the moisture, but creates another problem by holding on to that moisture. The cotton soaks it up like a sponge. A better choice would be an acrylic fabric, polypropylene of one of the new high tech fabrics that are designed to keep the moisture away from your skin.
  • Layer 2 – The second or middle layer should insulate your body and keep you warm. This layer should be made from an insulating material such as fleece or heavy cotton. It should also be able to absorb a small amount of moisture so that it can assist your first layer in keeping your skin dry and warm.
  • Layer 3 – Your third or outside layer is there to break the wind and keep rain or snow away from your insulating and wicking layers. This outside layer should be made from a waterproof material such as Gortex or nylon.

During moderately cold and dry weather you may need only two layers. If it is extremely cold, raining, snowing or windy you should wear the third outside layer. One rule of thumb is that you should be a bit cold when you start running. As you run you will begin to generate a lot of body heat which will warm you up. If you are comfortable at the start you will overheat rapidly.

Dressing for cool to moderate weather – 40 to 65 degrees F. – This is the most difficult weather to dress for. A single layer of clothing is the best bet. Wear either a long sleeve or short sleeve shirt depending upon the exact weather and your personal preference. Shorts are usually warm enough for these conditions. If you prefer a bit more warmth, wear lightweight tights. Running gloves and a headband or hat will provide some added warmth, especially if it is windy. If it is raining wear a water resistant outer layer.

Dressing for cold weather – 15 to 39 degrees F. – You will want at least two layers of clothing in cold weather. Start with a long sleeve shirt and heavy running tights. Add a water resistant running jacket for the outside layer. You will definitely want running gloves and a headband or hat.

Dressing for very cold weather – Below 15 degrees F. – In this severe weather you will want three layers. Start with a long sleeve shirt and tights made of a wicking fabric. Add an insulating middle layer and possibly some heavy weight running pants and a middle layer for your lower body. Use a water resistant running jacket as an outer layer. Always wear running gloves and an insulating headband or hat in the severe cold.