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As a runner, there are a few things that are outside our control. The most obvious one is the weather. But is there a way that we can stay a little warmer and more comfortable when running in cold weather? Sure, there is!
Ahead, we will take a look at 13 ways to stay warm when running in cold weather. I will also give you some product recommendations that you may want to use.
You don’t have to use all these tips all at once. You can implement one and two that fit your situation. These are just ideas to stay warm. At the end of the day, each of us will have slightly different preferences. My advice is to mix things up until you find the perfect winter gear for you. Let’s jump right in!
1. Wear running shoes with less mesh
Breathable mesh uppers are usually a good feature for running shoes. But the opposite is true when you’re running in cold weather.
For cold months, choose a running shoe with a water-resistant rating or less mesh. Many of the most popular shoes have a GTX version that’ll help keep your feet dry and warmer in those cold weather.
One of my favorite running shoes with a GTX version is the Brooks Ghost 14 GTX (link to Amazon). It still has all the features that made the Brooks Ghost lineup so popular—balanced cushioning, plush fit, and durability—but it has a water-resistant but still breathable upper that makes it ideal for cold weather.
2. Use SmartWool socks
I know it sounds like a plug for the SmartWool brand but it isn’t. SmartWool is simply one of the best socks to wear during cold weather that I found — simply because it’s their specialty.
SmartWool socks use more than 50% Merino wool which is a very soft type of wool. It has excellent moisture-wicking properties that help keep your feet dry and has good thermoregulation properties.
It’s slightly more expensive than the regular socks, but it’s the best choice that I found when you’re running in cold weather. You can check the price on Amazon.
3. Wear gloves
Have you ever noticed that whenever you feel cold the first thing you try to do is keep your feet and your hands warm and you immediately feel better?
That’s because exposing your hands to cold temperatures makes you feel colder. That said, a simple trick to staying warm in cold weather is by wearing a glove.
In less harsh conditions, you can wear a liner glove like this one from Under Armour. In harsher conditions, you can add another layer of thicker gloves on top of this liner.
4. Wear a jacket or a windbreaker
I generally don’t recommend wearing a jacket or windbreaker when the conditions are tolerable. They’re heavy, uncomfortable and it could feel warm inside a few minutes into the run.
However, when the conditions are intolerable, wearing a jacket or a windbreaker is a must to keep yourself warm. But you shouldn’t wrap yourself up and be too warm either.
As a general rule, you should dress like it’s 10-20 degrees warmer to account for the increase of your body temperature when you run. Choose a jacket with vents and zippers so you can control the temperature in case it gets too hot inside.
The increased breathability also prevents you from getting soaked in your own sweat inside the jacket which could eventually make you feel colder.
A good example of the type of jacket I’m referring to is this one from BALEAF. It has a built-in ventilation system to help you cool and dry. And it has a big hood in case you need to cover your head when it’s raining.
5. Wear multiple layers of clothing
Another option is to wear multiple thin layers of clothing. You can add another sweater on top of a compression long sleeve t-shirt like the Under Armour ColdGear to stay warmer.
That way, you can get the moisture-wicking, and anti-chafing properties of the compression shirt and the extra warmth of a sweater. The same is true for your bottoms — wear compression tights for the anti-chafing properties and wear joggers over them if it’s a bit too cold.
6. Wear a beanie
Though scientists have debunked the old belief that you lose 40-45% of your body’s heat through your head, keeping it warm on cold days is still a pretty good idea.
Wear a moisture-wicking beanie that covers your ears when you run. The ideal material for sports activities is any synthetic fiber like polyester, nylon, and spandex. These fabrics have good thermoregulation properties yet it doesn’t absorb sweat as cotton does.
7. Do a 10-min indoor warm-up
One of the most effective ways to stay warm before heading outside is by doing a 10-15 min warm-up. By doing so, you’re raising your heart rate and improving blood flow which in turn increases your body temperature.
I like doing a quick 10 mins circuit at moderate intensity.
2 rounds of:
- 1 min high knees
- 1 min glute bridges
- 1 min butt kicks
- 1 min lunges
- 1 min kneeling glute kickback
The goal of this exercise is to get your heart rate up, increase your body temperature, and “wake up” your glutes to help you run better. That way, when you head outside, your body is already slightly warm which could help you tolerate the coldness of the outdoors.
8. Run in the mid-afternoon
Maybe you don’t want to wear additional layers of clothing or layering up with a jacket. Then you can choose to run at the time of the day when it’s warmest.
Running in the mid-afternoon, around 2-4 pm, will keep you the warmest during a run. Not only that it is generally warmer at those times of the day, but it is also when your body reaches its peak temperature.
That way, you’re using both the heat of the sun and your body to combat the cold weather. Of course, there are some exceptions. If it rains or there’s a storm during those times, it will be much colder.
9. Break up your mileage
When running in the cold winter months, think about your runs as a way to maintain your fitness rather than increase your fitness.
That said, there’s really nothing wrong with breaking up your long runs to avoid getting drenched in sweat and exposing yourself to cold weather longer.
Say your mileage for today is 8 miles. You can do 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon to avoid getting exposed to cold weather for so long at once.
10. Do indoor workouts for the meantime
You could also do indoor exercises and work on other aspects of your fitness like strength and flexibility.
Several studies have already proven that building strength improves the running performance of elite athletes. That said, the winter months may be the best time to do more strength exercises instead of forcing yourself to run outdoors.
11. Avoid running in higher altitude
It’s a commonly known fact that warm air rises and cold air drops. But does that mean you should run at higher altitudes to stay warm? Fortunately, it isn’t the case.
As a general rule, higher altitude areas are usually much colder and windier than areas close to sea level.
The most basic explanation according to scientificamerican.com is that the higher you go, the thinner the atmosphere gets. That said, there is less amount of matter at higher altitudes resulting in a drop in the total heat content—which is directly related to the amount of matter present.
12. Avoid anything made of cotton
When you run (or do anything that makes you sweat), you should avoid cotton fabrics for all your gears. That is more true when running in cold weather. Cotton will absorb your sweat making you wet much longer. As a result, it’ll feel colder.
As mentioned above, the best workout gear is made of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, wool, and spandex.
13. Drink coffee
Drinking anything hot like coffee, tea, or soup helps raise your body temperature.
When the weather is cold, try drinking a cup of coffee before you run. Not only that it’ll give you a boost in performance, but it will also provide a little bit of warmth before you head outside.
Wondering if it’s okay to drink coffee just before running? I’ve made an article that compiles several pieces of research on that matter. Be sure to check it out.
Recommended read: What to Wear When Running in Winter? (A Winter Gear Guide)