Dressing for Winter Running | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Frost is the new mascara!

The frost on the grass and snowflakes I saw a couple weeks ago are telling me that winter is beginning to make its appearance here in Michigan.  I’ve had friends a bit farther north and west posting pictures of even MORE snow – so I think it’s time to start talking about dressing for winter running.

News flash – YOU CAN RUN IN THE WINTER!!!!

I know everyone is different but there’s really no reason you need to resign to running on the treadmill for the next 4 months or  stop running altogether until the weather warms up again.  Running is truly one sport that you can do in all seasons – you just need to prepare and dress accordingly.  I only draw the line at lightening and ice.  I’ve even run with the temps and windchill well below zero.

There are just a few clothing and gear modifications you can do that will make your winter running safer and more comfortable.  We’ll start at the top and work our way down.  When preparing for this post, I sent out a request for additional ideas on Twitter and my friend’s responses are included here as well.

Protect your head and face: A hat is essential in the winter as much of your warmth will be lost through your head if you don’t cover it up.  I have a Smartwool hat that I really like and the BondiBand hat in that picture works well too.  The key is to find something that wicks sweat away and will cover your ears.  Hats with holes for a ponytail are pretty awesome for girls with longer hair.  When it isn’t too cold, I’ll use just a BondiBand over my ears – similar to the one I’m wearing as a makeshift scarf because my chin started to freeze that day.  I know a number of friends swear by balaclavas (which cover everything but the eyes) or neck warmers.  Neck warmers or buffs are great because you can pull them up over your mouth and nose if you need the extra warmth or slide them down if you don’t.  Friends with asthma say they need to run with something over their mouths in the winter or the cold are makes breathing more difficult.

Layers, Layers, Layers: Nicki definitely got this one right – layers will make your run a much more pleasant one.  A wicking base-layer over your sports bra, like a fitted long-sleeved top, will often be enough when the temps are in the 30s or 40s.  Most experts recommend dressing as if it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the posted temperature so if it’s 30, dress like it’s 50.  You should also keep in mind wind and windchill (where you might need more clothing) and sun (where you will probably need less).  It’s very easy to OVERdress in the winter and overheating on a run is not fun.  On the coldest days, I have a Nike Element jacket that I LOVE or I’ll put a 3/4 zip top over a short-sleeved shirt.  The zipper is great because you can unzip if you get warm or zip back up if the wind kicks up again.  You will also want to protect your hands – whether that means wearing mittens, gloves, or – like me – shirts or jackets with thumbholes.  My hands get insanely hot when I run and even when it’s below zero, I do not wear gloves but rather pull my hands into my shirt until I’m warmed up.

What about on the bottom? For temps in the 40s or warmer, I’ll still wear a running skirt or capris, but once the temps drop into the 30’s I’m a tights runner.  Some women prefer more of a yoga-style bottom, but where I live, we have snow and I don’t like snow going up my pantlegs.  No matter what you wear, you will want something breathable and wicking.  I have one pair from NorthFace that I like and I think my others are by Asics.  I’ve heard Target even has some decent tights for running.  If it’s extremely windy, I’ve been know to wear a looser pant over top of a pair of tights, but that’s if the temps are in the teens or less.  Mark has some good suggestions for tights in his tweets.

How do I keep my feet warm?  A sock that is designed for winter running is crucial.  I swear by my Smart Wool socks – I have thin ones I wear in the warmer months and some thicker socks for winter.  Some people will switch to compression socks in the winter as they can add as an extra layer over muscles that might not otherwise warm up.  Traction in the snow is also important, so you may want to invest in a pair of trail shoes (which may also help keep snow out and heat in) or YakTrax.  YakTrax are coil grips that go over your regular running shoes and help provide a bit more tread than your regular running shoes will have.  A word of caution – they are NOT good on ice, or on relatively dry pavement, so be very careful where you use them.

Anything else to remember?  Winter also means darker mornings and earlier sunsets at night, so I’d recommend wearing refective gear if you are out around dusk.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.  Watch your footing when you are out because ice can hide under the snow.  The length of your run might also dictate how many layers you’re wearing.  Also – don’t forget to hydrate!  Even though you may be a little cold, you are still sweating and you need to replace those fluids lost.

If you go outside to run and you are a little bit cold – you are dressed perfectly.  You will warm up and be nice and toasty by the end of your first mile.  I encourage you all to embrace the seasons and try some winter running.  Some of my best runs have been through the snowy streets and trails – plus, you get mad props from your friends for running in the snow!

What’s your favorite season or weather in which to run?

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