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Winter Running and Layering Tips

posted 2018-11-08

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Advice for braving the elements and running strong all winter long.


Just because it’s cold, it doesn’t mean running can’t still be fun. It just takes a little planning to make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Here is what you need to do to run comfortably—and happily—all winter long.

Dress for temps that are 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. Of course, this advice varies from person to person, depending on how hot or cold you run (pun intended). As a general rule, though, you warm up as you move. Finding yourself overdressed, hot, and sweaty midway through a run is almost as bad as underdressing and feeling miserably cold.

And now we'll discuss specifics, from head to toe:

Cover your head. If it's under 50 degrees, definitely consider wearing either a hat, head/neck gaiter, or ear warmers to keep your head warm.

Wear a long-sleeve base layer top and tuck in. Base layers keep you warm by wicking cold-conducting sweat away from your skin - and trapping warm, insulating air against your skin.  They should be snug, not loose, so they don't allow sweat to run down your trunk and pool at your waist.  Tuck your base layer into your tights or pants for added warmth and wind protection.

Wear the right jacket. A heavyweight (wind/waterproof, low-breathability, and highly insulated) running jacket is wearable only in unusually frigid temps. Most runners will benefit from a lightweight or midweight jacket.  Lightweight (wind/water-resistant, moderately breathable, and lightly insulated) jackets are of great value because they can be worn over a base layer on cool (or wet) days and over both a base layer and insulating top on frigid days. If you want to minimize layers, midweight jackets have the wind/water-resistancy of a lightweight jacket plus the insulation of a mid-layer top and can be worn over just a base layer.

Cover your hands. If you’ve ever been out on a run when your hands get cold and stop functioning properly, then you know the importance of protecting them from the elements. Lighter gloves/mitts are usually adequate for temps between 20 and 40 degrees. However, once temperatures dip into the teens, thicker and heavier gloves/mitts are a better option.  And carry a pair of charcoal-fueled hand warmers with you in case of a "cold hand" emergency.

Find the right bottoms. For runs in the 40- to 50-degree range, pull out lightweight full-length tights, crops, or capris (or maybe even shorts).  If you’re heading out in temps between 20 and 40 degrees, choose lightweight or heavyweight full-length tights or pants.  Single-digit temps call for full-length, heavyweight tights or pants. You may even consider wearing two layers: tights, crops, or capris under pants.

Wear thicker (and warmer) wicking socks. Synthetic socks, like your base layer top, keep you warm by trapping insulating air, not cold-conducting water and sweat, in the fabric and against your feet.  Thicker socks insulate better because they trap more air. Feet tend to swell less in cold weather, so your shoes can usually accommodate thicker socks in the winter. And be sure and put your low-cut socks away for the winter and pull out quarter-length or crew socks that will keep your ankles warm and give your tights something to grab.

Keep your shoes dry. Starting a run in wet shoes is a sure way to make your winter run less enjoyable than it should be.  Add a shoe dryer to your runner's toolbox and start your runs with warm, dry shoes!

Stop by Fleet Feet today.  We look forward to helping outfit you for a season of enjoyable winter running!

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