Running in Cold Weather: How to Dress for Success
Frosty air won’t put a damper on your runs if you have the right cold weather running gear to protect yourself from the elements. Here’s what you’ll need.
If you’re a runner, you know your enthusiasm for running doesn’t instantly evaporate when the temperature drops. But running in the cold shouldn’t mean you have to suffer—you just need the right gear.
We've got you covered. We’ll help you shrug off the chilly air, wind, rain, and even snow so that you can avoid a running hibernation. In fact, you may even find yourself enjoying the cold.
Because every runner, every run, and every forecast is unique, it all comes down to using the right layers. Your body will warm up as your run progresses; and overdressing can cause you to overheat. The longer and more intense your run is, the more important layers are—so you can adjust as you warm up.
We’ll run you through the basics of our layering options, so you’ll know exactly what you need—a base, mid, or outer layer, or all of the above.
BASE LAYER: It's Chilly
- Tops and shorts: Depending on your sensitivity to cold, typically either short-sleeve shirts or long-sleeve shirts paired with running shorts or half-tights will get it done for you. When picking your base layer, breathability and moisture wicking are a must. Nike Dri-FIT base-layers are specifically constructed to disperse moisture over the surface of the shirt so it evaporates more quickly. A cotton shirt, on the other hand, absorbs moisture and stays wet for the duration of your run. The ideal base layer allows you to add extra layers without overheating, but also works on its own so you can remove extra layers if things change mid-run.
- Gloves and beanies: While your core and upper body stay warmer during a run, your head and hands can make you shiver when you otherwise feel great. Running gloves are sometimes overlooked when it’s above freezing, but they can eliminate the need for unnecessary layers. Our gloves feature Dri-FIT technology to provide warmth and protection without extra weight. They also feature silicone fingertips for touch screens (so you don’t have to take your gloves off every time you check your pace in NRC). Nike running beanies provide the same Dri-FIT technology to keep your head and ears warm.
TIP: Always Warm Up
No matter how many layers you wear, performing a very light and dynamic warmup before your run will make you feel warmer when you start, and doing it in your gear will let you know if you’re overdressed. The Nike Training Club App has great warmups that’ll get you primed for a run without wearing you out.
MID LAYER: It's Cold
- Long-sleeve tops: When choosing a mid-layer top, besides long sleeves, you need a technical fabric that’s warm, light, and breathable. We have long-sleeve running tops featuring light French terry and polyester fabrics infused with Dri-FIT technology. You’ll get unhindered movement, strategic ventilation, and warmth. Most also feature extended cuffs for your hands and pockets for discreet storage.
- Windbreakers: When the wind really picks up and there’s moisture in the air, it can feel colder than the temperature indicates. Look for jackets that’ll shield you without adding weight. Our windbreakers feature sweat-wicking tech that keeps rain and wind at bay, and most have reflective features. And they can easily be layered down and folded up if needed, so your run doesn’t have to stop.
- Vests: A running vest is a versatile tool to have at your disposal. It can easily be combined with your base layer or with another piece of mid-layer gear. Our running vests feature down insulation in a slim silhouette to stay out of your way but provide warmth. Most of them are water-resistant, and include strategic vents and hidden pockets for storage, so you can focus on the miles.
- Tights and leggings: Running tights need to provide not only protection from the elements, but also compression to encourage proper circulation. Our running tights and leggings do that in spades with our supportive, stretchy fabrics and woven waistlines for a custom fit without restrictions (and don’t forget the reflective features). Did we mention pockets that will protect your stuff from the wet conditions? If you prefer a roomier run, check out our running pants. Nike Therma pants provide the best of both worlds, offering both sweat-wicking and insulating capabilities, keeping you dry and warm.
TIP: Safety First
Be sure your gear has reflective elements. Since daylight becomes scarcer during the colder months, reflective materials help ensure you’re safer and more visible to traffic.
OUTER LAYER: It's Freezing
- Running jackets: We’ve listened to what runners of every experience level need for optimal performance in the toughest conditions. Our running jackets provide the right amount of insulation without hindering your performance (or enjoyment). Knit panels and reinforced key areas help make sure the snow and rain won’t lay a finger on you. The right jacket for you will depend on the severity of the weather you’re facing.
- Hood, Hat, or Headband: You may already know you need to cover any exposed skin when running in sub-freezing temps, but did you forget about covering your face and neck? A running hood, snood, hat or headband will not only protect your ears from the biting cold, but also help keep rain and snow out of your eyes.
TIP: Your Route Matters
Start and end your run near your house or gym. Even with the right gear, your body temperature will dip quickly as your sweat dries, so when your run wraps up, get inside fast and change into dry clothes.
How to Choose Winter Running Shoes
If you’re running in a mild climate with temperatures above freezing and/or some rain, you may be able to rely on your summer running shoes, provided they’re water-repellant. You could also add a waterproof gaiter if you don’t want to invest in a separate pair.
But if you’re running on snowy roads, you’ll need a durable winter running shoe with plenty of traction. And if you take your run off-road, opt for a high-top pair with a GORE-TEX lining.
If you typically encounter icy spots on your winter runs, wear a pair of shoes with a spiked outsole for extra traction and slip-prevention. If you’ll be running through lots of snow, choose a pair with deep lugs and sufficient insulation. Otherwise, pair them with extra-warm running socks (see below for more).
Keep in mind that EVA foam gets stiffer in the cold, so the cushioning in your running shoes won’t feel as soft when the temperature drops. That’s something to be mindful of when choosing a running shoe with the right amount of cushioning (i.e., err on the side of more cushion).
You’ll also want to ensure a perfect fit, since running in the cold can increase your risk of injury. Look for adequate support and a comfortable fit and test your new shoes on a treadmill or sidewalk before you purchase. Make sure to try them on with the running socks you’ll be wearing, and when in doubt, go for the half-size larger.
Don’t Forget Running Socks
5 Tips for Running in the Cold
1.Remove a Layer After Warming UpOnce you’re geared up and ready to go, you’ll feel 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the temperature outside. But to stay cozy during your warm-up, dress for the actual weather, then remove a layer once you start to generate body heat.
2.Pay Attention to the Forecast
In the winter months, wind and rain are likely to affect how you should dress. For example, if it’s 40 degrees outside but it “feels like” it’s 30 due to windchill, you should dress for 30-degree weather, then remove a layer after your warm up. Your remaining apparel should be designed for a 40- to 50-degree day.
3.Anticipate Colder Temps When It Rains
If it’s raining, dress as if it’s about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the actual temperature, then strip off a layer once you get going. When there’s rain or snow, make sure you also wear something reflective to improve your visibility.
4.Cover Your Extremities
Even if you feel warm, make sure areas like your ears, fingers and toes are covered, since these parts of your body are furthest away from your heart and lose heat the fastest.
5.Strip Off Wet Clothes Immediately
Cold Weather Running Apparel FAQ
Is Running in the Cold Dangerous?
How Do I Make Winter Running Safer?
To avoid the dangers of cold weather running, wear proper footwear to decrease your risk of falling, wear fabrics that provide the optimal thermal regulation, and change out of wet clothes as soon as you return from your run.