My cousin Caroline asked me at Christmas how she should dress for running in the winter. So, I've been keeping a mental log of what I wear at various temperatures so that I could make her a list. Then, I thought maybe other folks would benefit from this list.
Sooo, ta-daaa, here is a very general, Steph-specific guide to cold-weather run apparel. I'll link to actual products that I own and like in case you need to do some shopping.
Below 20 degrees: I don't generally run outside in the teens because I don't have a balaclava and my neck gaiter makes me sweaty. My nose gets too cold to be outside below 22 degrees for any length of time without covering it.
22-25 degrees: Headband, jog-bra, heavy or mid-weight half-zip, arm-warmers, vest, gloves, tube-socks on my hands, running capris, running shorts, running socks, shoes.
25-30 degrees: Headband, jog-bra, mid-weight half-zip, vest, gloves, tube-socks, capris, shorts, running socks, shoes.
30-38 degrees: Headband, jog-bra, lightweight long-sleeved shirt, vest?, gloves, capris, shoes, socks.
39-50 degrees: Jog-bra, lightweight long-sleeved shirt, gloves, capris, shoes, socks.
- This seems counter-intuitive, but a vest is better than a jacket. You want to keep your core warm but allow any extra heat to escape so that you don't get sweaty (because that will make you cold), so a vest keeps your chest warm while allowing heat to escape at your pits and elbows. Perfect. If you don't sweat buckets like I do, a jacket would work fine.
- Some people prefer hats and some people prefer headbands but you need to keep your head warm when it is cold. Pick what works for you and what you don't mind carrying if you get hot. Doug prefers a hat, but I prefer a headband. Because I am such a hothead, sometimes I just use the band from my visor to keep my ears warm.
- The same is true with gloves. You don't have to buy fancy gloves - they just need to keep your hands warm. I have some fleece ones from Sears (gift), some brick-layer's gloves from Home Depot (race gift), and some "official" running ones (volunteering gift). Socks also make great gloves in a pinch if, for example, you have forgotten your gloves while on a trip. Not that I've ever done such a thing.
- Sometimes your regular gloves are not enough, but thicker (or windproof) gloves won't keep your hands any warmer because your fingers are too far apart to retain any warmth. That is where the tube socks come in. I wear them over my gloves to keep my hands warm. They are also very handy for the inevitable nose-wiping. I read about this on a running board and it works like a charm.
- I do not notice much of a difference between running tights and capris. I always thought capris were lame, but I bought some because I needed some winter tights and could not find any in my size. Surprise! The capris are actually perfect because they keep your knees/calves warm and you can wear them in a larger range of temperatures than tights. Apparently, you don't get a lot of temperature sensation from your shins because I don't feel noticeably colder in them. If my tights or capris are dirty, I just wear capilene long-johns instead with running shorts over the top.
- While we are on the subject of the shorts, I will tell you that my bottom gets cold when I run. Doug and I used to joke that this happened because my bottom was so far from the rest of my body. Ha! Anyway, I usually wear a pair of running shorts over the top of my tights when it is under 30 degrees. Men also have this problem with their "equipment," so if is really cold or windy, put a base layer under your tights or wear a pair of running shorts over the top.
- The slower you run or walk, the more clothing you need. If I am doing a long run at my slow pace in the low 20s, I will put fuzzy long-johns over my running tights. Very good look, I'm telling you.
- The windier or wetter the weather, the colder you will feel and the more clothing you will want to wear.
- You do not need brand-new running clothes every season. Running clothes are not like regular clothes because they don't go out of style and they don't seem to wear out. Sure, the labels and reflective stuff may wash off eventually if you wash in hot water (I do) or accidentally put them in the dryer, but the actual clothes last forever. I linked to some stuff on the Brooks site that I have in the 2000/2001 version with no apparent wear except that the labels have fallen off.
- Go out a little chilly because as your muscles warm-up, you will feel warmer.
- Layers are important because if you forget to go out chilly or if the wind dies down or the sun comes out, you will need to shuck some clothing to stay comfortable. This is another place where your running vest comes in handy - the pockets. For my run today, I wore my Equilibrium Vest and used the pockets to carry 2 GUs, my ID, $5 (in case I need to stop and have to buy something), my tube socks, my hat, my arm-warmers and my gloves. Granted, I looked like I was about 6 months pregnant with all of that stuff in my vest, but I was quite comfortable despite the gusting wind blowing me off of the sidewalk.
That is all. Hope this helps. Happy Running!