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  • Writer's pictureEmily Duane

how to: getting dressed for winter running

So, you started running earlier this year and want to keep the great momentum going. Or, maybe you signed up for you first half (WOOOO!) next spring and have to train over winter. Whatever the reason, we're here to demystify how to dress for winter running. It's not as hard as it seems, I promise!

Although, before I get into how to layer up, let me tell you how NOT to get dressed for running in winter. Skin. Tight. Layers. Don't do it, man. Just don't. Lots of super-tight layers won't allow for air circulation, and air is actually what keeps you warm. Yes, it might mean you're running around town looking like a neon Michelin Man, but I guarantee the people who see you will think you're a badass for getting out there despite the cold and snow.

So here are my top tips for what to wear for cold weather running:

Dress for 10-20 degrees warmer than it actually is.

It will take some trial an error to figure out where your comfort level is. But, by starting off feeling a little cooler, you give yourself room to warm up without getting too warm and having to take off layers mid-run.

Wear layers that allow for air pockets.

Like I mentioned, wearing skin-tight layers is something to avoid. Slightly loose layers that allow for air to flow around your body will help trap body heat to keep you warm.

Pick a moisture-wicking base layer.

The trick to managing temperature starts with pulling moisture away from your body to the surface of the fabric where it can evaporate. Wear a moisture-wicking layer against your skin. Sometimes these fabrics are also treated to dry quickly, which also a handy feature. Sometimes base layers are fleece lined - these are amaaaaaazing on extra cold days. 10 of 10 recommend!

Trap heat with an insulated mid layer.

This layer is going to do the heavy lifting to keep you warm for runs in cold weather. There are a lot of options for insulation, ranging from a fleece vest or jacket, to a puffy filled with synthetic or down insulation. Fleece fabric is engineered from synthetic fibers that are almost like a bowl of spaghetti, creating tiny little pockets for warm air to get trapped. If a jacket with sleeves feels too restrictive, a vest is a great option for extra mobility for your arm swing. Synthetic-insulated jackets are designed to perform in cold conditions with stuff falling out of the sky. Often they'll have a waterproof layer on the outside to protect the insulation (and you). It's important to know that synthetic insulation continues to keep you warm, even when it gets wet (from all that sweating you're gonna do!). Down insulation is an option on super cold days. It's super lightweight, and it's honestly the warmest option. However, when down gets wet, it doesn't perform as well, so keep that in mind.

Wear a wind- or waterproof outer layer when the weather takes a turn.

When the weather gets nasty and you don't want to skip your run, throwing a windproof or waterproof shell on top will help keep you dry. Just know that these layers will trap moisture inside, so if you stay wet from sweat you'll probably get cold. Look for jackets with features like mesh vents and pit zips. These will help moisture and excess heat escape.

Cover your head and hands.

So... everyone has heard that more heat escapes from your head, so wearing a hat is super important for winter. This is a wives tale. To each her own... if you like wearing knit hats, go for it. If you just want to keep your ears warm, wear an ear band or Buff. I like to wear a brimmed cap with an ear band, especially when it's snowing. This keeps snow out of my eyes, and my ears stay covered and warm. Once I warm up a bit, I usually take the ear band off. Also, gloves... maybe you want to wear ski gloves. Cool. Maybe all you need is a cheap pair of knit gloves from the Dollar Store... that's fine too. Just make a plan for where you'll put your gloves if you warm up and want to take them off.

Don't forget your socks.

Again, cotton is the worst option, so stick with synthetic socks. On super cold days, you might want to wear a thin pair of Merino wool socks, or layer them over your running socks. Wool is actually great because it continues to insulate even when wet. This is great to keep in mind when you're running through slushy puddles (which is way more fun than it sounds).

Ok... so... those are the basics for what to wear for winter running. Any questions or personal additions? Drop me a note!

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