Running is an extremely accessible activity that doesn’t require specialized equipment and you can do almost anywhere.
That’s what makes it such a popular choice for fitness and exercise hounds.
If you’re doing it outdoors, however, running does pit you against the elements, which means what you put on your body matters a lot.
Staying comfortable and flexible during a run means wearing proper, weather-appropriate attire.
By knowing what to wear under changing conditions, you can get your runs in regardless of the forecast.
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What Should I Wear Running?
Some clothing items should be part of your running apparel no matter what the weather is outside.
These items include:
The most important item of clothing you’ll need on a run.
When it comes to running, your feet take the most abuse, so they should be your number one priority when you dress.
Quality running shoes with good non-slip soles and an appropriate amount of cushioning (not too much, not too little) can prevent a lot of overuse injuries you might otherwise develop.
For more on running shoes, see:
- Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Minimalist Running Shoes for Beginners
- Trail Running Shoes vs. Running Shoes
- Can You Run in Converse? (Are Converse Good for Running?)
If you’re running indoors…
You still need good running shoes, whether on an indoor track or on a treadmill.
The second most important clothing item you’ll need on a run (at least for men; there’s one clothing item more important for women), a good pair of quality (synthetic) running socks do more work to protect your feet, including keeping them comfortable and dry during a run.
Proper running socks are moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating, which can help you avoid swampy feet and blisters.
A padded running sock can add cushioning and shock-absorption.
For people prone to cramping or with flat feet, a sock with banded compression around the foot or a full compression sock can increase blood flow and reduce pain.
Basically, a sock is a second line of defense between the sole of your foot and the running surface and the right sock can make a world of difference to both performance and recovery.
Some socks we like:
- Brooks Run-In Socks (Unisex)
- All in Motion No Show Tab Athletic Socks (Women’s)
- All in Motion Active Ankle Socks (Men’s)
- ASICS Cushion Low Cut (Unisex)
If you’re running indoors…
You still need quality running socks to keep feet dry and well-supported.
Running Sports Bra
Speaking of keeping things supported… only for women is there a piece of clothing as essential to running as shoes and socks, and that piece of clothing is a good sports bra.
When it comes to activities that get things moving up top, running is an absolute jiggler.
Batten down the hatches with a good, high-impact sports bra to prevent damage to the ligaments in the chest.
Some sports bras we like for running:
- Under Armour High Crossback Zip Bra
- All in Motion High Support Convertible Strap Bra
- Under Armour Infinity High Sports Bra
Running Shorts, Tights/Leggings, and Windproof Running Pants
When you’re running, you need something to cover your lower body, but what you need is highly dependent upon conditions.
In warm weather, loose shorts are the best option.
The legs are constantly working during a run, and warm up quite quickly because of it.
Anything too long or too tight-fitting can cause overheating, so things should be kept loose and short.
Most runners are comfortable in shorts in any temperature above 50 to 60 degrees.
In cooler weather (below 50 to 60 degrees), you’ll want to switch to tightly-fitted running tights/leggings, which help lock heat in, or windproof running pants (as temperatures further drop).
As temperatures reach freezing, you can combine tights/leggings with windproof running pants to add an extra layer of protection.
When running, you need something to cover your upper body, but, again, your best shirt option is dependent upon conditions.
At 60 degrees or higher, most runners are comfortable in loosely-fitted short-sleeve shirts or tank tops. (Many are comfortable in short sleeves all the way down to 50 degrees.)
In cooler weather (below 50 to 60 degrees), you’ll want to start layering and increasing the weight of fabrics.
Midweight base layers are ideal for temps between 40 and 50 degrees, with heavier-weight and thermal base layers ideal as temperatures further drop.
At 50 degrees, you’ll likely want to add a jacket to your upper-body running attire.
A lightweight synthetic running jacket is ideal.
It will keep you warm when you first start out and can easily be tied around the waist as you warm up.
At 30 degrees and below, layering jackets is your best option.
Pairing a lightweight synthetic running jacket with a windbreaker/water-resistant running jacket can help you stay warm in the coldest temperatures and wind.
If you get too warm, you can remove your top-layer jacket, leaving a more breathable, but still warm, layer below.
No matter what time of year it is, or whether it’s the sunniest or cloudiest of days, unless you’re running through the dark or rain, you should always wear sunglasses when you run.
UV light hits your eyeballs even when it’s not making you squint and can damage your eyes over time.
Wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors is one of the best ways to prevent this type of damage.
But running in sunglasses on a cloudy day can also be… well, dark… and literally leave you running blind.
To make sure your eyes are protected and you can still see while you run, it’s a good idea to keep multiple sunglass tints on hand.
Gray sunglasses are best for the brightest days, while brown, amber, orange and yellow-tinted sunglasses both block UVs and enhance vision, helping you see clearer on cloudy days.
General Notes on Running Attire
When dressing to run, some principles apply no matter where you’re running or what the weather conditions might be.
Sticking to these basic rules will help keep you dry and comfortable throughout your entire run.
Running-Wear Rule #1: Avoid cotton.
Cotton locks in moisture and makes it harder for sweat to evaporate.
This makes you hotter in warm weather and colder in cold weather.
Simply put, it’s a terrible fabric to run in.
To avoid swampiness, opt for synthetic, technical fabrics instead, which are designed to wick moisture and breathe.
Running-Wear Rule #2: Don’t dress for the temperature, dress for a run.
When it comes to running, temperature doesn’t tell the whole story.
Research shows runners feel 10 to 20 degrees warmer when they run than they would walking in the same temperatures.
That’s why even moderate temps in the 70s have been shown to reduce runners’ speed and performance.
When you’re running, 50 degrees can feel like 60 degrees, or even 70.
Keep this in mind when choosing what to wear.
Running-Wear Rule #3: Protect the rest of your body.
Running is such a leg- and foot-focused sport, it can be easy to neglect the rest of you when you’re gearing up.
But if you’re going to run outside, you need to consider everything from your head to your toes.
Unless it’s dark or rainy, protect your eyes with sunglasses and wear sunscreen on all exposed body parts to avoid skin damage.
If it’s cold, think about your hands and your face.
These areas don’t get as much blood flow during a run and cold air dries out the skin, so it’s easy for skin on the hands and face to get overly cold and chapped.
Remember, your legs may do most of the work during a run, but the whole of you is exposed to the conditions you’re running in.
Running-Wear Rule #4: Wear bright or reflective clothing.
Many runners think the color of their clothing only matters in near-darkness, but that simply isn’t the case.
Bright clothing helps others see you even in daylight, which is especially important when running on roads shared with vehicles or paths shared with bicycles.
Unless you’re running inside, it never hurts to be as visible as possible.
What to Wear to Run in Various Weather Conditions
While these rules cover the basics of running-wear, there are lots small changes you can make to your running attire to keep you comfortable in any type of weather.
For more on dressing for different running conditions, see:
- What to Wear to Run in the Cold
- What to Wear to Run in the Heat & Sun
- What to Wear Running in Rain or Snow