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“Gear” up for winter runs.

After having discussions with fellow runners and what they’re wearing to battle the outdoor coldness, I thought I would give some advice to those who need some help picking their winter running gear.

Hats. Let’s start with hats. I typically don’t wear a “full” hat until the temperature drops below 30°F. Instead I use a headband to keep my ears warm. My go to one is a Nike DriFit headband that I have had for many years. Nike has improved it over the years to be a little warmer and softer, but I tend to sweat a lot so I like this one as it is thinner. We also have some warmer fleece ones that I’ll occasionally wear. If you like hats then I recommend a light weight skull cap. I have an Adidas one that I picked up for this year which has a thin fleece lining.

It helps to protect your neck when it’s really cold. There are lots of neck warmer options out there or you can do what a friend of mine does- cut the sleeve off an old sweatshirt (please make sure its big enough!!!)

This year I added a new addition for when it’s really cold and windy – a balaclava. I found a nice Sugoi version at a local running store and it’s also available on Amazon.

You can see the various ways of wearing this. I usually keep my entire face open. THAT IS NOT ME!! ITS A STOCK PHOTO FROM SUGOI!!!


Jackets. As much as I love jackets, I didn’t invest a lot on a jacket. I use a “shell” that I purchased from The Running Room in Montreal. It’s nothing more then a zippered windproof and waterproof jacket that is super thin with no insulation at all.

There are Velcro cuffs and a elastic cord waist strap to stay snug so it doesn’t move around a lot or get filled up with air when running. There is just enough room to layer under, which at most is two layers of shirts. What I typically do for the majority of my outdoor runs is wear a fleece lined tight long sleeve shirt that is made by Layer 8.
They’re always available at TJ Max for a great price! Hind also makes a very similar shirt. Wearing just one of these and my thin Running Room shell feels perfect at temperatures from 20-40°F. When it gets below 20°F I usually add a second one of these shirts or sometimes I use a non fleece lined running shirt if I think I’ll be too warm. For you newbie runners, I know this sounds like not enough clothing but trust me, after a few minutes you’ll be glad you didn’t over dress. If you’re too warm after about 3-4 minutes of running then you over dressed.

Gloves. For many years I wore socks on my hands for gloves. I thought they worked well until I actually tried a pair of running gloves. Last year I wore a pair of New Balance running gloves which worked well until I lost one! This year I stepped it up a notch an bought a pair of Sugoi running gloves with wind mittens. 20131214-074320.jpg
They are a typical running glove with an added wind mitten that is a thin nylon shell tucked away in the back hand of the glove and easily pulls out. Here is a full review of the Sugoi Wind Mitten Gloves.

Pants. I usually wait until it’s below 40°F to begin running in pants. For guys, I know it’s difficult to do but It helps to pit on a pair of tights. You can always put a pair of running shorts over your tights if you don’t feel comfortable. I use several different types of pants depending on the weather. For temperatures between 30-40°F I use either a pair of loose fitting running pants (almost like a hybrid between a tight and a pair of workout pants) or a spandex type of running pant. I normally don’t wear shorts over mine as it’s too much clothing for me. My jacket or shirt is long enough to hang down without a need to tuck in. When it’s really cold (20° or below) I have a pair of Layer 8 fleece lined tights that I use. Men, piece of advice, wear some tight underwear with these as they aren’t that warm if you know what I mean!

My wife’s favorite tights for when it’s really cold are the Athleta Polartec Power Stretch 2 Tight. They are a bit pricey at $79 but she swears they’re worth it and she’s had two years of wear out of the current ones she has.

Shoes. Those who know me well and follow my blog know I’m into “less shoe” for my feet (although I do test and run in quite a few different shoes). In the winter I tend to gravitate toward a few different models of FiveFingers. I always wear them with Injinji socks and I get a size bigger then I’m used to wearing without socks. For wet days that are cold without snow, I use the Vibram FiveFingers Speed XC. They’re water resistant and I have yet to get a wet foot with them.


When it’s really snowy and icy, the Vibram FiveFingers Lontra is by far the best running shoe made for the snow. Even if you don’t like FiveFingers, you’ll love running in the snow in these.

20131211-222810.jpg I have tried numerous shoes in the snow and even with a pair of YakTrax on a pair of cushioned running shoe, the Vibram Lontras will prevail. Check out my official review of the Lontra.

Socks. I’m definitely a fan of the Injinji socks whether I’m in FiveFingers or regular shoes. I just feel like I have increased proprioception with my feet and I can spread my toes easier. Many of the ultra distance runners claim they get less blisters wearing them. It makes sense. Just be careful if you’re wearing these with a pair of FiveFingers in cold snow. If the socks and toes are too tight, you’ll decrease your circulation to the toes and lose feeling. Of course it’s temporary unless your on a long run (2-3 hours) then it can lead to frostbite.

I hope you enjoyed this review of how I “gear-up” for my winter runs. I’d love to hear what use to fight the cold! Post in the comment section below.

Thanks and happy running!

-Dr. Nick

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