The worst part about cold-weather running is deciding what to wear. Avoid immediately sweating through your jacket or freezing your fingers off with this easy-to-follow guide based on the exact temperature.
Climbing out of your toasty warm bed to run, or really, to do anything in the winter is a challenge. When the temperature drops, so does your desire to work out. (I mean, how cold is too cold to run outdoors?) We talked to Katherine Kielar, marketing brand manager at SIX:02 Powered by Foot Locker, for advice on the best exercise clothing and fabrics to help you tackle those chilly fall 8-milers or downright cold short winter runs. "As a general tip for my winter runs, I like to dress as though it's about 20 degrees warmer than the current temperature," says Kielar. So if it's only 45 outside, dress as if it's 65—as you know, your body temperature will still rise during your run, no matter how cold it is outside. [The #coldsweats are totally real.]
Another tip: Start your run moving into the wind and end it with the wind at your back. If you start by running away from the wind, you'll heat up too quickly and it will cause your temperature to drop during the second half of your run (because you are already sweaty/damp—your body's natural cool-down method). Planning to run in seriously harsh climate? Opt for clips to attach to your shoes for running on ice ($39.99; yaktrax.com). The infographic can help guide you to the best clothes and gear options to wear for cold-weather runs—even if temps drop (gasp!) below freezing. (Bundle up? Good. If you still need more motivation, check out the nine reasons we love cold-weather running.)
Base layer: No matter what the temperature, your base layer should be moisture wicking. Avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture, which will make you feel colder. In the winter, Kielar recommends starting with a lightweight base layer shirt that has a high neckline. A tight-fitting shirt with a high neck will keep out the wind while you're running. (Buy it: L.L.Bean Polartec Power Dry Stretch Base Layer, $40, llbean.com)
Insulating layer: The goal of the insulating layer is to keep you warm. Look for comfortable fabrics, like fleece or wool, that allow for full range of motion. A relaxed-fit hoodie or insulated jacket that uses heat-trapping technology is perfect for running, so more layers can fit underneath. (Buy it: UA Squad Woven Full Zip, $60, underarmour.com)
Vest: A vest is a great transition piece as it will keep your core warm but your arms free. One filled with down or another insulated fabric offers warmth without adding bulk, and a wind- and water-repellent treatment will combat the elements. A running vest with a reflective patch also ensures you'll be visible no matter the weather. (Buy it: Nike Essential Running Vest, $80, macys.com) (For more suggestions, check out the best new reflective workout gear to rock this winter.)
Jacket: A jacket is your outermost layer and can be the most versatile. For winter running, Kielar suggests looking for one that is insulated yet breathable. Fitted winter running jackets that are also wind- and water-resistant with reflective capabilities are a necessity for winter workouts. (Buy it: Nike Shield Runner Flash Women's Running Jacket, $140, amazon.com) (BTW, Did you know that running in the cold is actually good for you?)
Tights: A good pair of tights is like a Swiss Army knife for an all-season runner. They can be paired with tanks and tees in warm weather, and layered for when temperatures start to dip. Look for tights that are moisture-wicking and that have comfortable seams—and when you find your Holy Grail, make sure to get them in every color and pattern. Switch up your running look by wearing winter running tights with different patterns and flattering details. (Buy it: Athleta Stealth Tights, $98, athleta.com)
Heat-capturing tights: To keep your legs warm in the winter, look for heat-capturing capabilities such as fleece lining or an engineered fabric. Insulated running tights that are designed to wick away sweat while holding in heat will keep you warm and dry on cold weather runs. (Buy it: Athleta Polartec Sculptek Tight, $118, athleta.com)
Socks: This often overlooked component to running clothes and gear can make a big difference. Look for a running sock made from fabrics that won't absorb sweat, like wool. Winter running socks with padding on the sole softens impact and the fabric keeps feet dry even though slushy winter weather. (Buy it: Smartwool Women's PhD Outdoor Light Micro Socks, $20, amazon.com)
Ear warmers/hat: When temps start to drop, keeping your ears and head covered is especially important. Kielar suggests a running hat, like a beanie, with breathable, sweat-resistant fabric and soft material for a comfortable feel. Choose brighter colors—such as hot pinks or greens—for increased visibility when there is snow on the ground. (Buy it: UA Around Town Beanie, $30, underarmour.com)
Gloves: Cold hands are the absolute worst. Even in moderate temperatures, your hands can still be very cold when you first begin a run, so gloves are a great idea, says Kielar. Running gloves with a snug fit will keep a tight seal against the cold. Look for a pair with touchscreen-compatible fingertips so you'll still be able to control your playlist. (Buy it: Athleta Reflective Run Glove, $42, athleta.com) (Need music ideas? Try these blazing fast tracks to help you burn off that winter chill.)
Neck Warmer: If you're going to be running in below-freezing temperatures (major props), then you should throw on a neck warmer. A lightweight running scarf is ideal so as not to restrict neck movement while also keeping the cold away from your skin. (Buy it: UA Storm Fleece Gaiter, $28, underarmour.com)
Layered up and ready to get started? Here's your guide to cold-weather running.