What To Wear To Run In The Cold

Running in the cold isn’t the same as dawdling in the cold.

Studies have shown runners experience the temperature around them as 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the temperature indicated by a thermometer.

When you run in the cold, you’re also dealing with two separate temperature sources, the outside air and the rising temperature of your own body.

Due to this, clothes should be well-fitted and as minimal as possible.

It sound backwards, I know.

If it’s cold, why on Earth wouldn’t you dress warmly?

But, while it might seem logical to put something warm on to run in cold weather, too much clothing can make you sweat more and actually feel colder.

That’s why just the right amount of clothing is essential to a comfortable cold-weather run, and layering is one of the best ways to get your clothes at that sweet spot.

What to Wear Running in Cold Weather

older couple running in fall
On the basest level, these are the items you should wear for a cold-weather run:

  • Running tights/leggings
  • Midweight base layer
  • Flexible synthetic jacket
  • Lightweight beanie
  • Gloves
  • Lightweight neck gaiter

The important thing when deciding what to wear when running in the cold is to make sure every part of your body is covered to prevent frostbite and chapped skin.

But for real comfort when you run in the cold, you will need to make slight adjustments as temperatures rise or fall, with the best outfit dependent on just how cold it is.

What to Wear Running in 20 Degree Weather

Running in 20 degrees feels like running in at least 30 degrees, which is still below freezing.

The best outfit for a 20-degree run is:

  • Thermal/fleece-lined leggings
  • Windproof running pants
  • Thermal or heavyweight base layer
  • Thin flexible synthetic jacket
  • Windbreaker running jacket
  • Mid- to heavy-weight beanie
  • Gloves
  • Lightweight to midweight neck gaiter
  • Heavy socks

Yes, that’s three top layers and two bottom layers, complete with two separate jackets.

Even at 20 degrees, running in a windbreaker can sometimes get two warm.

By layering up on jackets, you can take off the less breathable layer and still have a warm layer up top.

Same with your bottom half.

By layering windproof running pants over leggings, you can block out the wind and cold, but remove them if you get too warm.

What to Wear Running in 30 Degree Weather

Running in 30 degrees feels like running in at least 40 degrees, which is when things start to thaw out a bit.

The best outfit for a 30-degree run is:

  • Thermal/fleece-lined leggings
  • Windproof running pants (only if the windchill or precipitation is high)
  • Midweight to heavyweight base layer
  • Thin flexible synthetic jacket
  • Windbreaker running jacket
  • Midweight beanie
  • Gloves
  • Lightweight to midweight neck gaiter

Same deal as above.

The extra layers will keep you warm when you first start out, but can easily be removed as you warm up.

What to Wear Running in 40 Degree Weather

Running in 40 degrees feels like running in at least 50 degrees, which is a pretty reasonable temperature for a run.

The best outfit for a 40-degree run is:

  • Running tights/leggings
  • Lightweight to midweight base layer (some people may be more comfortable in short sleeves)
  • Flexible synthetic jacket
  • Lightweight beanie
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Lightweight neck gaiter

In this outfit, most runners will be slightly chilled starting out, but warm to a perfect temp (you’ll have to experiment to see if you’re a long- or short-sleeve person).

If you do get too warm, removing the jacket should bring you right back to your comfort range.

What to Wear Running in 50 Degree Weather

Fifty degrees is the perfect temperature for a long-distance run.

And that’s not just a personal opinion.

Multiple studies, including this one from Sheffield Hallam University, have shown long-distance runners perform best in temperatures right around 50° F (12° C).

This is why marathons are typically held in fall or spring on the cusp of cold weather.

It also means you can look to marathon runners for inspiration on what to wear at this perfect temp.

Most marathoners choose shorts paired with short-sleeved shirts or long-sleeve lightweight base layers.

Others wear cropped or full-length leggings.

Some even opt for thin jackets that can be removed during the race.

Any combination of these clothing items will work.

The essential thing is to not overheat.

To avoid this, stick with layers until you know what combination of clothing is most comfortable for you.

With that in mind, the best outfit for a 50-degree run is:

  • Shorts (either loose or tightly-fitted)
  • Short-sleeved shirt or tank top
  • Lightweight base layer or flexible synthetic jacket

Whether you choose a base layer or jacket, layer it over your short-sleeved shirt or tank top.

If you get too warm during your run, you’ll be able to remove a layer.

If you keep your base layer or jacket on throughout your run, you’ll know you don’t need the short-sleeved shirt or tank top and can just wear a base layer next time.

What about a 60-degree run?

For a lot of people, 60 degrees is jacket weather.

But that’s not the case for a run that feels 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.

When you’re running in 60 degrees, it will feel like 70 or even 80 degrees.

That’s why a perfectly moderate 60 degrees is considered warm weather for runners.

For what to wear running in temperatures of 60 degrees and higher, see What to Wear to Run in the Heat & Sun.

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