Best Winter Running Gear for Running in the Cold

Running in cold temperatures can lead to improved performance because your body is having to work less to keep you cool. But to reap the benefits of cold weather running, you need proper gear. The best cold weather running gear is made of moisture-wicking fabrics like wool and feature reflective details. Below is the best winter running gear.

We’ve had an unusually warm fall. As I write this, it will get up to 80 again today. But the cold weather is coming. It will dip to 20 in a few days. And running in the cold makes getting motivated to run much harder. But what helps a ton is wearing the best winter running gear to keep you warm on the run.

Whitney running on a track in winter running gear
I love my Brighton base layer for winter running. It helps me stay motivated to run in the cold.

So, that’s what I’m doing here. This article rounds up THE best cold weather running clothes so you can continue to chase those goals instead of being pulled back into your nice and warm bed.

Related: My Top Ten Winter Running Gear Items

I curated this best gear for running in the colder weather for you by trying out different products, scouring reviews, and asking other runners what they like to wear on the run.

Related: How to Stay Motivated to Run in the Winter

I am sharing THE BEST cold weather running gear list for each category. There are a couple of categories in which I share various options for winter running clothing or gear items just because I couldn’t choose. But for most, I’m sharing our top picks for the very best running gear for running in the cold.

So, let’s get moving!

Related: 10 Winter Running Tips for Running in the Cold and Dark

How does running in the cold affect your body?

Whitney in the snow in cold weather running gear
Dress warm from head to toe to keep you comfortable running in cold.

Most runners know that when you run in the cold, it takes longer to warm up. But do you know why? It’s because when you are running in cold weather, your joint tissue may expand in the accompanying low air pressure and your muscles may constrict to keep you warmer.

This results in everything feeling tight and stiff until you warm up your core temperature.

Related: Your 5-minute Running Warm-up

Breathing in cold, dry air can also irritate your respiratory system, making breathing feel harder or even painful.

Finally, the good news: running in cold temperatures can lead to improved performance (after you have done a proper warm-up, of course) because your body is having to work less to keep you cool (through what’s called temperature regulation or thermal regulation), so it has more energy to spend on running!

A lesser need for temperature regulation is a huge benefit of running in the cold!

Related: How to Layer for Fall Running

How do you run in the cold?

To avoid feeling stiff, getting injured, or having it hurt to breathe in the cold, warm up inside before you head out. You can also shed a layer outside once you get warm. And, cover your mouth with a face mask, neck gaiter, neck warmer, scarf, or buff to warm and moisturize the air before you breathe it in.

Get more running in the cold tips here.

Related: 10 Warmest Running Tights for Women

What is best to wear for running in winter?

Best winter running gear collection
Pin this best winter running gear for running in cold for later!

The best thing to wear for running in winter is wool, layers, and Vaseline on exposed skin. Specifically, you will want to wear a hat, base layer with another layer over it depending on the temperature, mittens, running tights, warm socks, Body Glide, and shoes with good traction if it’s slippery outside.

Related: How to Dress for Running in the Cold

How do you layer running in cold weather?

If it is below freezing, you will want to wear a wool base layer with a mid-layer that is heavier and moisture-wicking, and potentially an outer layer such as a windbreaker or water-resistant jacket or rain jacket.

Related: 10 Brilliant Tips for Running in the Cold

Is fleece good for winter running?

Fleece is great for winter running as a middle layer as it is an insulating material. A mid-layer is heavier, traps some air yet lets moisture escape. Great brands to look for are those that include polyester fleece or microfleece such as Thermax, Dryline, Polartec or Thermafleece.

Related: How Cold is Too Cold for Stroller Running?

What should you not wear when running?

Do not wear cotton when running in the winter. Cotton doesn’t wick away moisture and can trap sweat, making your clothes heavy and your body chilled over time. Not what you want on a cold run! You want to wear synthetic blends. These are breathable fabrics that are moisture-wicking, trap heat, and help regulate your body temperature.

Related: 10 Warmest Running Mittens for Women

What is the best base layer for cold weather running?

The best base layer for winter running is something made of Merino wool, polyester, nylon, or Lycra. These are the warmet fabrics for winter running because they trap heat but vent moisture.

I love the Tracksmith Brighton base layer for my cold-weather runs. A more affordable base layer for running is Under Armor’s Cold Gear compression base layer.

Related: Best Running Jackets of 2022

How do you dress for running in cold weather?

Best Winter running gear collection
Pin this best winter running gear for running in cold for later!

Before we get to the good stuff on the best cold weather running gear, here is a quick guide to how to dress for cold weather. The goal here is wearing layers of clothing made of breathable fabric:

  • What to wear running in 40-50 degrees: A lightweight top layered over a short-sleeved base layer tank. Lightweight tights, capris, or shorts.
  • What to wear running in 30-40 degrees: A light base layer with a vest or a mid-layer top, tights, hat, and thin gloves.
  • What to wear running in 20-30 degrees: Thermal or warm running tights, with a base layer and top layer, plus a warm hat, mittens, and thermal socks.
  • What to wear running in 10-20 degrees: Base layer, mid-layer long sleeve shirt, windbreaker, vest, or running jacket, fleece-lined tights or tights with nylon pants over, plus a buff or scarf, wool hat, warm mittens, and longer thermal socks.
  • What to running wear in 0-10 degrees: Base layer, mid-layer thick long sleeve shirt, windbreaker, vest, or running jacket, fleece-lined tights or tights with nylon pants over, plus a buff or scarf, wool hat, warm mittens, and longer thermal socks
  • What to running wear in subzero temperatures: Base layer, mid-layer thick long sleeve shirt, windbreaker, vest, or running jacket, fleece-lined tights or tights with nylon pants over, plus a buff or scarf, wool hat, heated mittens, and long thermal socks

Related: How to Adapt to Running in Bad Weather

The Best Cold Weather Running Gear

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, here’s my must-have winter running gear to make your winter runs enjoyable—rather than something you dread! I am starting from head to toe to keep you toasty warm logging miles this winter.

Best winter running hat:

Lululemon Knit Merino Wool Blend Beanie
The Lululemon Knit Merino Wool Blend Beanie is warm and soft.

Lululemon Beanie: This Lululemon beanie is soft, warm, wicks moisture, and is thermoregulating. It also comes in an array of flattering colors. Price: $54

Turtle Fur headband: My sister tipped me off about the Turtle fur headband. It’s soft and warm. Your ears can brave any temperature! $25

Best running mittens:

ActionHeat 5V Women’s Featherweight Heated Gloves: These heated

ActionHeat 5V Women's Featherweight Heated Gloves
The ActionHeat 5V Women’s Featherweight Heated Gloves are toasty and light.

gloves take the warmth up several notches by adding thin heating fibers into the fabric. Battery-operated with a push of a button, these gloves get warm and toasty within minutes. The battery lasts 5 hours and it comes with a dual

charging cord. Simply plug in the battery to the glove, slip it into the zippered pocket, press the power button on the gloves, and then feel the heat rise. Because I have Raynauds’ and my fingers get so cold so fast, I went with this version which costs $129.99 for super cold (teens and below) days. The Warming Store has many different versions, starting as low as $39.99. 

Smartwool Mittens: As mentioned, I have Raynaud’s Syndrome so my hands get cold fast—and stay that way. And, then I lose function of my fingers, making it very hard to use my phone or open a gel while running—or open the door to my house when I’m done. It’s really annoying. I have found the warmest mittens for cold (but frigid) days—Smartwool mittens. They’re warm and dry, and affordable. $35

Best winter running buff:

Lululemon Women’s Run For it All Neck Warmer:
The Lululemon Women’s Run For it All Neck Warmer is soft and stylish.

I like this Lululemon buff is because it’s soft and extends all the way down your chest to keep it warm. It is adjustable to stay in place and has airholes to help you breathe in warm air. It also stays put and comes in three cute colors. Price: $38

Best base layers for running:

Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer: I am obsessed with Tracksmith’s Brighton Base Layer. It’s attractive, comfortable, warm, wicks moisture, and is easy to layer off because it is so thin. It is the warmest base layer around. The Brighton is made of engineered mesh, lightweight, and seamless. I’ve had mine for several years and it’s held up to all the miles and washes. It comes in an array of sunset and earthy colors. Price: $88.

Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer
I LOVE my Tracksmith Brighton Base Layer. I have a few.

Under Armour Women’s HeatGear Compression Long Sleeve: If $88 is too much for you (though worth it!), a more affordable base layer option is Under Armour’s new Cold Gear line, HeatGear Compression Long Sleeve which is lightweight, moisture-wicking, heats quickly, and dries fast. It also has flat seams so no chaffing. Comes in five colors. Price: $35

Best mid layers for running:

Tracksmith Downeaster Quarter Zip: I love layering the wool Tracksmith Downeaster Quarter Zip over my Brighton base layer. The two fit together so well. The heavier wool fabric can also be worn on its own for cold days that don’t quite need two layers, but a base layer isn’t enough (think around freezing). It’s also attractive, so feel free to wear it out and about! Price: $148

Best outer layers for running:

Patagonia Houdini Jacket: The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is a light windbreaker that truly does work magic. It’s so thin and light but packs a powerful heating punch and is water resistant. I have a couple of these jackets and they were amazing as an outlayer to trap in heat, resist water, and block cold wind. It’s a MUST for windy days. Price: $109

Patagonia Houdini Jacket
The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is also another fave that I have several.

Best winter running vests:

Lululemon Down For It All Vest: The Lululemon Down For It All Vest is a majorly popular winter running clothing choice as it’s soft, warm, fitted, and breathable. It also comes in pretty colors and can be acceptable worn even when you aren’t running! Price: $148

Best cold weather running tights:

Vuori Daily Leggings: It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Vuori. However, I live in the Vuori Daily Leggings. (I just bought several pairs for my friends and sister). With their high waist and soft fabric, they are comfortable and cute—and stay put on the run. They’re also warm enough for chilly days. I chose these to include rather than my Tracksmith Turnover Tights, which I do love, because the Turnover Tights seams come undone quickly and I’m constantly resewing them! Price: $98

Vuori daily leggings
Yet another one I love that I have several of. You can’t go wrong with Vuori daily leggings!

Related: Review of Vuori Running Shorts

Best fleece-lined running tights:

Athleta Altitude Tight In Polartec Power Stretch: Another runner fan favorite in running clothes is the Athleta Altitude Tight in Polartec Power Stretch. The Polartec technical fleece provides thermal insulation that toasty. The stretchy fabric moves with you so you don’t feel bunched and bundled like Ralphie from The Christmas Story movie. Also features a phone pocket on the side of the thighs. These feel like fuzzy socks for your legs! Price: $99

Outer layer joggers: 

ON Waterproof Pants: If it’s a deluge and you need an extra layer to protect you from the water and rain, the ON Waterproof Pants will do just that. They are breathable and flexible. BUT they do come at a premium. Unless you plan to use these a lot—including for snowball fights with your kids or hiking—then I recommend just buying some inexpensive nylon pants like these $20 Nike ones to get you through! Price: $249

Best wool winter running socks:

Swiftwick National Park Socks: If you want thicker socks that are lightly cushioned, warm, dry, thin, and stylish—then these are your socks. The SwiftWick National Park Socks are my husband’s go-to socks for running ultras in the mountainous Western U.S. Get a pair for just $20.

Smartwool: I’m also a big fan of Smartwool socks as they are the one of the best wool socks you can find. Wear the longer ones in the winter. The shorter ones are great for milder temps. Warm, dry and cushiony with no blisters. Price: $18

Best winter running shoes for snow and ice:

YakTrax or Icebug trail shoes

Best light-emitting gear:

Noxgear Tracer 2 Vest: I love how BRIGHT and PRETTY the Noxgear Tracer2 Vest is and it is crazy

Noxgear tracer2
The Noxgear Tracer2 vest is light and changes colors.

lightweight and easy to put on. This vest is a MUST for those early morning or evening runs! Price: $49.95 

Related: How to Become a Morning Runner

Best reflective running gear:

Oiselle reflective Firecracker: I LOVE Oiselle’s reflective line including their Firecracker tights and Firecracker jacket. This is the best reflective clothing for running because it’s patterned all over the running clothing, essentially lighting you up like a Christmas tree. It’s actually really pretty too with lots of running gear options! Price: The Oiselle Firecracker tights are $108 and the Firecracker jacket is $132.

Best winter running shoes:

Saucony Peregrine: Any good trail shoe should work pretty well for running in snow including the Saucony Peregrine which has a tacky and cushioned sole. Price: $90

Saucony Peregrine
Saucony Peregrine trail shoes are tacky and cushiony.

If running in the snow or on icy trails is your reality a lot, then consider shoes with spikes (or adding spikes to your shoes) such as IceBugs or YakTrax. I go into details on gear, including running shoes, for running in snow here.

Related: How to Run in Show

Also, don’t forget this winter running gear.

Best headlamp for winter running:

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp $24.95

Related: Best Runner Safety Gear

Best safety running gear:

Run Angel siren $85

Best anti-chafing running gear:

Body Glide $10.99

I hope these tips along with the right gear will help you continue to crush your training runs and long runs in the winter season to set you up for success in the spring! 

If you want guidance with your winter running training, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

 

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