What should I wear for road running in winter
Written By: SportsShoes
Most experienced runners have worked out over time what works for them in different weather conditions and temperatures. However, people who have recently taken up the sport during lockdown and want to continue running through the winter can learn from commonly made mistakes. We’ve previously provided advice for running in the darker and colder conditions inour 9 Tips for staying safe and motivated when running in winter article, but as wearing the right gear is so vital at this time of year, we wanted to focus in more detail on the best clothing.
WHAT TO WEAR WHEN RUNNING IN WINTER?
‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor kit’ is a saying that has been around for years and to a large extent, one that is very true. But we all know that it is easy to talk yourself out of going for a run when the weather is miserable, so a large amount of willpower is also required.
What should I wear? It’s time to step outside and assess the temperature, as a very common mistake is to wear too many clothes, only to get half a mile down the road and then have to start stripping layers off.
DO I NEED TO WEAR A WATERPROOF JACKET WHEN RUNNING?
The first question you need to ask yourself is this - do I need to wear a jacket? If it is raining then it’s probably a sensible idea. If it’s cold & windy, then a windproof layer can make all the difference.
Generally, waterproof jackets are more expensive than non-waterproof, but it is not always about budget. If you are going out in light drizzle and only aiming to exercise for around 30-40 minutes, then most non-waterproof jackets will be fine, generally a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment on the fabric will repel light showers. The drawback of pretty much all waterproof jackets is that they do not breathe as well as non-waterproof garments, so you will tend to sweat a lot more. This also means that sweat is kept within the jacket so you get home soaking wet and then question whether your jacket is actually waterproof at all!
In conclusion, if you are going out for over an hour in wet conditions then a waterproof is probably the best option. If you are going out for less than an hour in torrential rain then you’re also probably best wearing a waterproof. But if you’re running for less than an hour in light rain then a wind proof or water-resistant jacket should be fine.
It’s also important to factor in reflectivity if you are running in dark conditions.
WHAT OTHER RUNNING CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES DO I NEED?
Once you have decided what kind of jacket to wear, it’s time to consider other clothing layers.
- A standard fit long-sleeved top - this will give you a little warmth but no wind protection, but worn under a windproof jacket it should be enough in average conditions.
- A tight fit base layer - something that is body-hugging, but not necessarily compression clothing, will always feel warmer than a loose fit top, because it is designed to sit next to the skin and reduce exposure to wind. Also, if the fabric is touching your skin it will wick away sweat far more efficiently than loose fit clothing that only touches your body sporadically. As you become more confident with your layering you need not worry about been seen wearing only a figure-hugging top, as you should not need to strip down to just this layer.
- Mid layers come in various weights/thickness, from very thin to heavier thermal options. On days where no rain is expected, a combination of tighter base layer and a looser lightweight mid layer may well do the job. It would usually need minus temperatures to require a tighter base layer, thermal mid layer and a jacket so usually two of the three is best.
- You have a choice between wearing shorts, tights, and loose-fitting full-length pants. Do not discount wearing shorts just because it is winter. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing tights, as many of us aren’t, then the options are to wear a pair of shorts over the top, or a jacket with a longer back which provides more coverage. Loose fitting pants tend to sit between a tight and a more traditional tracksuit pant - they are generally made from lightweight wicking fabric, but can flap about in the wind.
- If you decide to wear tights, then you have a choice between standard weight and winter weight. It is unlikely you’ll need to wear the latter, unless you’re running in minus temperatures.
- Gloves - Generally a thin pair will do the job, rarely do you need a thick pair of gloves as once you get going your hands will warm up quickly. Alternatives to wearing gloves - look out for tight-fitting base layers that have longer sleeves, giving you enough material to tuck your hands away. Many winter range mid layers also have thumb loops and built-in mitts to save you having to wear gloves.
- Hats - similar to our advice with gloves, as generally a thin hat will do the job, rarely do you need a thicker fleece hat, unless it’s extremely cold outside.
- Neck gaiters - usually very thin fabric in a tube which bunched up will keep your neck warm, can be then pulled up on a cold day to cover your mouth/nose. Again, unless very cold then it can be one piece of kit too many once you get warmed up.
- Headtorches - fast becoming a must-have in low light conditions e.g. early morning or the darker evening, for running we recommend a lightweight model as some outdoor models can be quite bulky. It tends to be about lumen count and we find lesser models are good to help you be seen by traffic but not strong enough to light your way and help with your footing. A stronger model will both help you be seen by traffic but also light up your path to give you more confidence in your footing and avoiding potholes and kerb edges.
Are you feeling inspired to lace up your running shoes and hit the road? Check out some of our favourite winter running shoes in this guide, or discover a range of running routes, advice and inspiration over on our Running Hub. Need to get kitted up? Our Running Store has everything you need including Running Shoes, Clothes and Equipment.