Although Autumn and Winter fall the same time each year, somehow they always seem to creep up on us. Since I’m not the biggest fan of heading outdoors when it’s cold outside, I’ve had to learn what to wear for Winter running, quickly!
Last year, I finished couch to 5k around Christmas day and I was already being welcomed by temperatures close to 0°C weeks before!
I came across a post on the This Girl Can Facebook page a couple years ago, asking for suggestions of good running clothing to wear in the Autumn and Winter months. It reminded me of this post, originally written back in 2014, and prompted me to update the product recommendations – a now annual tradition.
Because, if and when you figure out what to wear when running in the cold, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your training plan and get the miles logged.
What To Wear When Running In The Cold
There was point in time when I ran on treadmills, and treadmills only. When the weather got warmer I would venture outside under the assumption that as soon as it got cold, wet and chilly I would have to head back indoors.
I soon came to realise that there is no such thing as bad weather… In the right gear, you can still get out and run…and enjoy yourself!
Here are my top tips for what to wear when running in the cold, and what features you should look out for:
1. Wear A Long Sleeved Top
What To Look For:
- slim fit (close to skin)
- optional: brushed lining
Personally, this is my most crucial piece of kit. It’s my mid layer in winter and outer layer in the autumn / spring.
Thumbholes are a must as they keep your sleeves in place and keep the cold breeze out.
A sweat wicking, fast drying fabric is important to keep you comfortable, warm and dry.
I’m currently wearing:
I’m currently loving this thermal textured funnel neck running top* from the Marks and Spencer GOODMOVE range. I love the waffle texture, it has thumbholes and some zippered pockets. It could easily be worn with a top underneath too, if needed.
I also rotate through some old favourites from Adidas, Under Armour and a merino base layer I picked up in Aldi.
The lululemon swiftly long sleeved came highly recommended from the original post (Thanks Beki). I own a few of these from my days working at lululemon london, but I wear them mostly in the Summer.
Should You Wear A Baselayer?
A couple years I got to try out the Primo Warm Seamless Tee base layer from Salomon which I used for Red Bull Timelaps and also tested out while running. The UnderArmour Women’s ColdGear Armour Long Sleeve came recommended by Alexa for when it’s really cold. Now looking at this one, it could be the one I actually have!
Merino wool always comes highly recommended as a good base layer material, however, if you sweat a lot, the merino wool will hold onto your sweat and result in making you feel colder rather than warmer.
Shop Tops For Running In The Cold:
2. Layer With a Running Jacket
What To Look For:
- ventilation zippers
- showerproof / waterproof
In the first few weeks or months of Autumn, it might be a bit too warm for a jacket but for those who are planning to be out there no matter the weather, a jacket is a must.
The mistake I always make though is to overdress for a run; it’s sometimes hard to remember that even though you may be cold as you step out the door or line up at the start line for a race, once you get moving you’ll warm up pretty quickly.
I’m currently wearing:
Sticking with the M&S running outfit, I also have the reflective padded running jacket. I’m wearing a size 10 and it’s so comfy.
Nailing the majority of the things to look for, it’s definitely more of a ‘keep you warm’ than a ‘keep you dry’ jacket.
For real wet weather, I treated myself to the MYSHELTER Rain Jacket after trying it out at adidas runners run club. When it comes to wind and rain, you won’t find anything better. It also went down a storm on my Instagram – I got so many comments and messages about it (oh, and pun intended! haha).
I have also have the UA Armour Down Hooded Jacket which is crazy-warm, light, and still lets you move like an athlete. I mostly use this as a layer when I’m racing cyclocross though, rather than for running.
When you check the weather, don’t just look at the temperature. You should check for the wind chill factor as that can make it feel quite a but colder than the actual temperature. A wind resistant jacket will keep you protected from the wind and help keep you warmer.
3. Full Length Leggings Keep You Warm
What To Look For:
- full length / cropped
- brushed fabric (internally)
- drawstring waist
- pockets (thigh pockets are great for phones)
As with the rest of your kit, you want your pants / leggings / tights / joggers to keep you warm but be breathable at the same time. Sweat wicking fabric will remove the sweat from your body quickly and disperse it.
This will help to stop you from getting cold if you slow down. Also look for extra details like reflective panels or trims to keep you visible in low light.
These leggings from M&S are actually gym leggings, but work perfectly for running. The only thing they don’t have from the list above is the brushed lining. They match the jacket to make the cutest running outfit.
4. Accessories For Cold Weather
Accessories For Cold Weather Running:
- Neck warmer
The game-changer on cold runs for me is keeping my ears warm so ear-warmers are a must!
In my days of run commuting I always liked to have as many reflective items as possible with my bag being the number one. But if you’re not commuting, you won’t need a running bag.
You can also purchase rucksack covers which keep your bag dry if it rains and also come with reflective panelling. They are pretty versatile if you have different bags.
Keep Your Ears Warm WHEN RUNNINg:
MoveVisible LED Band Review
Contributed by Melissa
Visibility when out running is important on darker evenings but I won’t lie I’m not a girl that loves the colour of high-vis jackets or tops which makes the MoveVisible LED Band the perfect middle ground for me.
The MoveVisible LED Band is a running band which fits on your arm and is about making you be seen by cars, cyclists, or other runners, and less about help you see where you are going. The band is lightweight, easy to fit and comfortable to move in especially if you are layering up for the cold winter morning or evening runs.
The band has two settings: constant blue light or flashing blue light, so you can pick between the two depending on the level of visibility you need. I found that the light gave me enough visibility running along lit roads or paths.
If you are running in real darkness like on unlit paths or trails or within a park, I would recommend getting one for each arm to make yourself extra visible, not to mention a head torch to help you see where you are going.
How To Get Warm After Your Run
This is another question I’ve seen asked a lot and it does partly come down to what you wear for your run and your preparation before you went out.
Firstly, wearing a hat might be a good start but the whole “you lose the majority of heat through your head” thing is more a myth than a reality.
In fact, it’s just that our heads (face and chest, too) are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss (The Guardian*).
Next up, ask, did you eat well before, during and after your run? During might not be necessary if it was a short run but before and after are key. Eating itself creates heat (known as thermogenesis), in addition to providing stored energy for future use (ref.).
As tempting as it is to just jump into a hot shower when you get back from your run, it’s better to warm up slowly with layers and a hot drink first.
If all else fails, I’ve been told…
What are your must have pieces of kit for running in colder weather?!
I am training for a half marathon and I enjoyed reading this blog in order to start training! Thank you!
thanks Emma! Which half are you doing?! I think 2022 will be the year I make a return to the half marathon distance!!
Since the national lockdown has been recently announced, running has become super important to me, I want to try a keep as fit and healthy as I can this year, no matter the circumstances. Ive been needing some more clothes for runs and exercise, so this was a great read for me. Thanks! 😀
Agreed! …running gave me a sense of freedom in 2020 when we were heavily confined to the indoors. I also focused a lot on indoor training as I knew it was something I could remain consistent at with all the changes in restrictions! And, workout clothes are the only clothes worth buying that will (should?!) get worn, eh?! 😅
Thanks for sharing such a great guide. I really want to run more in cold weather, but I’ve always been a bit afraid for this very reason – not knowing what to wear. But, now I know! 🙂 Gemma x
Knowing what to wear is just half the solution! The other half is finding the motivation or discipline to step out into the cold and wet for the run! haha! Good luck!
Organic Runner Mom says
I've definitely become the queen of layering living in NH! You definitely need the right gear to get out and run in the cold. Your suggestions are great. I love having a BUFF on too especially on windy days to keep my nose warm!
Elle Linton says
Yes, same for cycling…I like my neck and nose to be warm! also helps the air warm up before you breathe it in making it a more comfortable breathing experience! haha! 🙂
Karen G. says
Great list! I always dread getting out in the cold, but when I'm actually out running in bad weather, I definitely feel a little invincible! 😉
Elle Linton says
YES! Me too!! haha! 🙂 …feel so good after as well! Quite refreshing!
Renee @Bendifulblog says
I need to get some better winter gear. I like to put it off in an effort to pretend winter isn't coming.But as I look out to the snow I realize it's here. I really like a solid pair of capris for winter. I layer up on top and try to move as fast as possible to stay warm 🙂
Elle Linton says
Snow?! lol Winter is defo with you! We don't have snow here in London as of yet, just lots of rain and cold winds! I actually prefer the snow…it's insulating! …layering on top is the most important for me too! and I find I have to be brave and wear a little less than I think I should so I get to a comfortable temperature rather than being too hot!
Oh I need this as I"m trying to motivate myself to get outside for a chilly run!
Elle Linton says
Runners World are doing a great challenge starting after Thanksgiving where you run at least a mile each day! Check it out – perfect way to keep you motivated and get you into the habit!