Running in Winter: What to Wear?

With the cold weather just around the corner, it can become harder to go for a daily run outside. However, if you are well equipped, you will quickly enjoy running no matter the weather.

How to Choose the Right Clothes

​In winter, it’s best to avoid sweating as much as possible. Sweat on the skin will undoubtedly lead to having chills. And once this process has started, it’s difficult to stop it. So what should you do? Avoid wearing heavy jackets made of fabrics that don’t breathe. Avoid cotton and opt for a multilayer approach (like an onion). Here’s a tip: you should shiver a little when you first get out of the house. If you’re not cold at all, you're dressed too warmly...

For the upper body, the ideal combination of clothes would be as such: first, a fitted underwear or base layer made of synthetic or natural fiber such as merino wool. The purpose of this kind of base layer is to push the sweat away from the skin. This garment is very often amazingly thin but very effective.

The second layer can be a more or less thick sweater, depending on the individual’s sensitivity to cold. The garment should also be made of a fabric other than cotton or “polar fleece” as both materials promote the accumulation of sweat on the skin rather than evacuate it.

The final layer is a windbreaker jacket. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to avoid a jacket that is too warm. The goal is to cut down the wind because wind is also a factor accelerating the onset of hypothermia. On the market, you can now find an assortment of jackets with highly effective windproof membranes, i.e. breathable and lightweight.

It has been proven that body heat is lost mostly through the head and feet. Therefore, it’s best to cover our heads with a hat or toque. Avoid one that is too well insulated, which would promote the accumulation of sweat and cause the phenomenon described earlier. Go for a toque that is either thin or of average thickness and made of breathable fabric. There are also hats with windproof membranes. The most important part is to cover your ears; make sure that this part of the toque contains insulating materials.

In very cold weather, the face is another sensitive body part. It is recommended to use a neck warmer.

The lower body is less sensitive to cold. Nevertheless, it’s best to wear pants with a windproof membrane and made with an insulating material, which thickness meets the kind of comfort the runner needs. Running pants are generally close to the skin to minimize air resistance. If, however, you easily feel cold or the temperature is really low, you can wear a base layer bottom underneath your pants.

Feet must not be overlooked. The type of socks is important for the heat efficiency. In our experience, merino wool socks have proven most effective since, even when wet, they retain their heat and insulating properties.

For people who do not like merino wool, even though it doesn’t itch, there are two other options. The first one is to wear two layers of socks. The second one: since recently, there are socks that are completely waterproof while being breathable. It is important that your feet are not too cramped in your shoes, because that would cut the blood circulation and increase the risk of frostbite.

Happy running!

Éric Boucher
Trainer, athlete and physiotherapist