Winter Running Gear from Head to Toe
With winter temps now hitting us in the face, we’ve been getting asked, “what do you wear for cold weather running?” Jared and Nathan put their heads together to provide a list of the winter running gear they use to run through the harsh Minnesota winter weather.
Don’t be overwhelmed! Some items are worth the splurge, and others you can forgo. This is a collection of our best from years of cold weather running. All of them make some impact during long runs. Here is our winter running gear from head to toe!
Cold Weather Running Hats
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t lose most of our body heat through our heads during cold weather running. We do lose enough (about 30%) that you’d be crazy to run without something on your head.
Nathan: I wear the Craft Zero Skull Hat ($20). This hat has windstopper fabric and a poly backing that make it super thin and warm.
Jared: I use the Pearl Izumi Thermal Run Hat, which is lightweight and warm. Made with a thermal fabric to provide “optimal warmth, dry time and odor absorbance.” $25.
At $20 – $30, a basic balaclava or neoprene facemask is essential for cold weather running. If you have trouble with breathing or freezing in a basic balaclava, try the neoprene facemask. Worn under one of our hats, it keeps heat in and acts as a great barrier against the cold wind in your face.
Nathan: It’s super dorky, but I love running in ski goggles when it’s really cold (and sunny). I own a $30 pair of Scott anti-fog goggles. They block sun, wind and anything else winter might try to get in my eyes.
Jared: I might be convinced to try some goggles so my eyelashes stop turning to icicles!
Winter running Gear Base Layers
Nathan: I’ve run in the same Under Armour ColdGear Compression Mock turtleneck for 4 seasons and love it! The dual-layer fabric has a super soft interior and a fast-drying exterior. Makes me feel sleek! $50.
Jared: The Icebreaker Body Fit 200 longsleeve crew is a necessity piece in my winter running gear closet. Made from merino wool, it’s soft against my skin, keeps my body temperature just right, and doesn’t get stinky after one run. Retails for about $90, but you can sometimes find them on sale at REI. Definitely worth the investment!
Cold Weather Running Mid-Layer
We both essentially do the same thing for our mid-layer level. Just throw on a long sleeve technical t-shirt from a previous race. If it’s really cold, a second 1/4 zip top is helpful and costs about $60.
Winter Running Jacket and Shell
We both wear the Nike Element Shield Max (sadly is hard to find in 2014). An incredible winter running jacket with windstopper, breathability, thumb holes, built in mittens, neck gaiter, hood and extra long back so it doesn’t ride up. Also has plenty of convenient pockets. At $250 it’s definitely a splurge, but we both agree, it’s definitely worth the investment.
Jared: I also occasionally wear an Asics Spry jacket I got at a race last year. It does a great job trapping body heat, blocking cold wind and keeping me dry when it’s raining or snowing. This jacket does the trick, and at a reasonable $80.
Cold Weather Running Gloves and Mittens
Nathan: I use thin liner gloves I purchased at Target, under a Craft mitten from Run N Fun when it’s really cold. In moderate temps (25 – 35 degrees), I use a slightly thicker Under Armour glove. All three pairs cost about $60 total.
Jared: I love the Outdoor Research PL 400 Gloves and Mittens. They aren’t too bulky, yet still provide great warmth and comfort. I wear the gloves until it gets really cold, then switch to the mittens. $25 – $37
Winter Running Gear for your Legs
Nathan: I start with Brooks thermal wind boxers. These are a compression short with a conveniently placed windstopper. $35 from Run N Fun.
Jared: The Helly Hansen Warm Pant is another winter running gear necessity. These are high quality pants that provide all the benefits of merino wool; keeping me perfectly warm and dry under a pair of running tights. Helly Hansen is a Norwegian company that makes high quality products for the harshest environments. They retail for around $90, but I bought mine on Amazon for $60.
Cold Weather Running Tights
Nathan: I run in the Under Armour ColdGear Compression Tights. Basically the same material as the top, but since they are compression, they support my leg muscles when they are cold. $50.
Jared: I love the Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Tights. When paired with the Helly Hansen pants above, it’s a perfect winter weather barrier! I paid $40 for these on the REI clearance rack.
Nathan: Bekah from Mill City Running recently helped me pick out my new favorite winter running gear item. The Salomon “superfast” ski pants are technically cross country ski pants, but are super versatile. They are fitted, breathable and wind resistant. They also have have ankle zips and pockets so I don’t feel self conscious in the grocery store after a run. $80.
Jared: I usually run in just the base layer and tights mentioned above, but when it’s below zero I’ll throw on an extra pair of tights, the REI Airflyte Basic Tight. $45
Outer Pant Shell
Nathan: I have a pair of Craft thick running pants (similar to these). The tag is worn off so I’m not sure the model. They are really thick, and only worn on days below 0. About $70.
Jared: While I usually just run in tights, I also have a pair of The North Face Impulse Active Pants that I love. If you don’t like running tights these are a great alternative. Not too baggy or tight, comfortable, warm and made with The North Face’s FlashDry fabric to keep me dry. $70
Cold Weather Running Socks and Shoes
Nathan: I use REI Wicking liners (like you’d find for hiking) as a base, then a lightweight, crew length hiking sock ($20). I stick these in a pair of Asics Gel Arctic shoes. A true winter running shoe with Gortex and removable spikes for icy days. I don’t use the spikes much, but they do come in handy ($60).
Jared: I always wear socks made with merino wool. These keep my feet warm and dry, even after trudging through an icy puddle. My favorite pair are Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Wool sock, but I also have some made by Smart Wool and Ice Breaker that work great ($10 – $20).
I stick to trail shoes in the winter, regardless of where I’m running. I have had success trudging through snow and across ice in the Montrail Rogue Racer, Salomon Sense Ultra, and Pearl Izumi Trail N2 ($100 – $160). This year I’m going to try out the Yaktrax Run for additional traction. These have (removable) steel spikes and coils to get you across slippery and icy trails ($40).
Winter Running Gear Makes a Great Holiday Gift
With Christmas right around the corner, head to your local running specialty shop and add some of these items to your winter running gear wish list.
Nathan currently lives in Portland, but works in Minneapolis and runs wherever he is. Favorite Minnesota running route is anything that takes him along the Mississippi River.
Nathan's day job is as a senior consultant with Leadership Vision Consulting in Downtown Minneapolis.