I like running in shorts and a t-shirt (or shirtless). It’s freeing. It feels fast. Shorts and t-shirts are also a great way to get frostbite when the temperature drops.

When winter rolls around I find that I have usually forgotten how to dress for my winter running. I need to un-bury my longsleeves, re-match gloves, and pull all the dog hair out of my hats. And then it always takes me a few runs to remember the perfect outfit for various temperature ranges.

After too many years of alternating between freezing and sweating during the beginning of running, here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up to make sure I’m running the right temperature early.

  1. Dress like it’s 15-20 degrees warmer than it is. This may mean you are chilly the first five minutes, but I promise that after five-ten minutes of running you’ll warm up into the perfect zone.
  2. Don’t wear cotton. Sometimes in the summer we can get away with trail running in a cotton t-shirt, but in the winter cotton is tempting fate. If you sweat, or if it’s snowing/raining cotton will hold all that moisture nice and close to your skin where it will replace your body heat with frigid condensation. You may be able to fight it for a while, but eventually the cold always finds a way in. Non-cotton items help wick-moisture away from the skin and help keep you warm even when they are wet.
  3. Hat and gloves are key. There are a lot of days in the winter, today for example, where the sun is out and it’s borderline short and t-shirt trail running weather. A comfortable pair of gloves and a hat allows you to get away with short sleeves on those borderline winter days.
  4. When all else fails, layer! Developing a good layering system can help get you through winter running with few apparel failures because then you always have the correct option for the weather. I usually start with a baselayer, then mid-weight long sleeve, then jacket/shell. On the really really cold days I’ll add in a nano-puff type jacket and a pair of running pants over running tights. Moral of the story: you can always take layers off during the run.

What tricks do you have for finding the right winter running gear?

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