Layering for a cold weather run

Aaaah, the summer months, a time of easy decision on what to wear on a run – shorts, light shirt, and maybe a hat.

WHAT? It’s January, oh boy! Different story!

Deciding what to wear now takes a little more effort and often some hesitation. We all seem to have different opinions on whether 32 degrees is ok for shorts, or how many layers of shirts are needed, or when mittens are a must, or should tights and pants be worn? There is no correct answer; we all react to the cold differently. Here are a few points to consider:

1. Dress in layers:

a. Base Layer – this should be light, soft and moisture-wicking (avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture and will keep you feeling cold).

b. Mid-Layer – this should be the one that keeps you warm. It also could be a top-layer, depending upon the temperature and/or your need for warmth. Myself, if it is a mid-layer, I like a long sleeve technical running shirt. If it is the top layer, I like a ¼-zip technical running shirt (the ¼-zip allows me to zip/unzip if I get a bit warm and I need to cool a bit.

c. Outer Layer – this could be one of two types of clothing: either a mid-layer type long-sleeve ¼-zip running shirt or a windproof, water repellant/proof shell. Your choice depending upon the weather conditions: windy, raining, snowing, etc.

2. Shorts/Pants/Tights:

a. Shorts – these will only offer so much protection, how long are the shorts?

b. Compression Shorts – these will provide some warmth and comfort if you are only concerned about your thighs and hamstrings. I do like these for when racing in temps around 30 – 40 degrees.

c. Tights – I prefer tights when doing runs that are more quality based, you get the comfort of compression and warmth without the “bagginess.”

d. Pants – I don’t mean the “sweat” pants from the 1970’s, these shield you from the cold and are probably less embarrassing than wearing the tights at Dunkin’s for the after-run coffee.

3. Socks/Hats/Gloves:

a. Socks – definitely personnel, but wool is a good insulator and will keep you warm even if they get wet.

b. Hats – we have all heard it many times, 99% of your body heat goes out through your head (100% if you are lacking some wool up there). Believe it or not, there are lightweight hats and heavy hats, doesn’t hurt to have a couple of kinds.

c. Gloves (or Mittens) – Hands and fingers are very vulnerable to the cold, so find yourself some comfortable running gloves (or go back to the 1970’s and use a pair of tube socks or gardening gloves); if it’s extra cold maybe mittens, because we all know “thumb in the thumb hole, fingers all together, that’s what we do in mitten weather.”

Again, I did some googling: “Dressing for winter running” and quite a lot of sites came up providing expert advice. has an article: “” written by Amby Burfoot; it includes the chart attached that Rebekah Tregger included in a recent strider post from Saturday’s rainy run. has an article: “” written by Caroline Bell, which I found to confirm a lot of what I’ve come to learn over the years, first being:

1. Dress for temperatures that are 10-20 degrees warmer than what the thermometer reads; another way of stating if you are warm/comfortable before you start your run, you might be overdressed.

A second thing I learned (the hard way):

2. If at all possible, start your run into the wind, have the wind at your back for the second half. Windchill is real, no matter what, you will warm up during your run and if you finish with the wind in your face, it will feel that much colder! Fella’s, depending upon the pants you are wearing, it’s not just your face that will feel the effect of the wind – just sayin’!