Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations!

In this post, I’m going to explore cold weather running; including the effects that cold, wintery conditions have on your body, how to mitigate against them, and how to properly prepare and dress yourself for run training in cold weather!

Just because the weather turns colder doesn’t mean your run training should suddenly stop as you seek the warmth of the sofa.

Whether you’re actively training for an event, or just in maintenance mode between race seasons, there comes a time when we all need to get the miles in.

Regardless of what the weather is like outside.

As the temperatures drop, the effects on our body – and how we should prepare – change too.

Let’s look at what happens to us physiologically as we run in cold weather, what the effects on the respiratory system are, and what precautions you should take – including some gear recommendations!

Related article: Running In The Snow And Ice: How To Run Safely In Winter Weather

cold weather running guide

How Cold Weather Running Affects Your Muscles

If you jump outside into cold weather to begin running, the low temperature and associated low air pressure can cause your joint tissue to expand. 

Secondly, the invasive feeling of cold weather can often cause us to contract our muscles (bunching our shoulders, for example).  These two factors can lead to restricted movement while running, and soreness after your run.

You can mitigate these effects by doing a brisk warm-up before heading out into the cold – either some dynamic stretches or light cardio work to get your blood flowing and warm up those muscles.

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 1

Running In Cold Air Can Cause Breathing Problems

It’s common to experience some respiratory issues when running in cold weather – especially if it’s a relatively sudden change of conditions for your body.

Restricted breathing, a dry throat, and tight or burning lungs are some of the unpleasant sensations brought on by running in cold, dry weather.

When you run, you are breathing faster and deeper than normal, so these effects suddenly materialize.

You can mitigate these effects during cold weather running by wearing a scarf or buff over your nose and mouth.

This traps some humidity and heat, which means the air you’re inhaling is not so cold or dry. Another method of mitigating breathing problems is to focus on breathing through your nose.

This warms up the cold air more than breathing through your mouth does – the only problem is, of course, that breathing only through your nose can be quite challenging when running!

Finally, I recommend dialling back your intensity if you want to avoid cold-weather breathing issues – at least for the first 10 minutes of your run.

This will allow your respiratory system to warm up somewhat, reducing the effects of the cold air.

cold weather running runner

How Cold Weather Can Improve Your Running Performance

Despite it being harder to persuade yourself to leave your house in cold weather, you may be surprised to learn that the colder air can actually improve your running performance.

What?  When?

How?

It all comes down to temperature regulation.

Running builds up heat in your active muscles, which dissipates to the rest of your body. Your body then has to work to cool itself down, using some energy while it does so.

Cold weather running means that the environment keeps you cooler anyway, so your body has to expend less energy on the process of thermoregulation.

This leaves more energy available for your running efforts – meaning you will typically perform better in a cooler environment, as opposed to a warmer one.

Related article: Running With A Cold

cold weather running snow

Cold Weather Running Skin Protection

Very cold, blustery conditions can wreak havoc on exposed skin.

When at home in the Scottish winter, I tend to put a small amount of Vaseline or Bodyglidon my lips, cheeks, and nose to fend off potential cracked skin or frostbite.  You can also run with a buff covering your lower face, or a face mask, to mitigate the effects of gusts of wind.

I also never leave home without some gloves – see below.

Cold Weather Running Safety Tips

Cold weather often brings hazardous running conditions with it – along with the reduced temperatures, you might experience snow, ice, rain, or sleet. 

Beware of icy patches underfoot, and check the weather forecast before you leave home.

By using an app like Strava Beacon you can share your live location with a friend or family member, in case you need to be picked up.

cold weather runner yeah

Cold Weather Running Gear

Cold weather running conditions require running gear designed to keep you protected.

At least two layers are necessary; the layer closest to your skin should be moisture-wicking, to keep sweat from accumulating and cooling you down.

Next, you want to wear an insulating layer to keep the heat in. In particularly cold or wintery environments, an outer shell is important to isolate you from the harsh elements.

Most heat is lost through your head, so don’t leave home without a hat – it will help maintain your body temperature.

Side note: when running in cold weather, you should be mindful of runner’s nipple – chafing that begins to irritate when running!

Cold Weather Gear – Gloves

Some cold-weather gloves are highly recommended – running with cold and numb hands can be painful, and easily lead to cracked skin if not protected.

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 2Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 3

Anqier Winter Running Gloves

The Anquier Winter Gloves are perfect for runners looking for a lightweight, warming glove. They are soft inside and have a tactile outer surface, and are specifically designed for gripping and using devices such as smartphones.  

They are a great regular cold-weather running glove that will suit almost every condition!

Buy Now On Amazon

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 4Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 5

Zansah Reflective Touchscreen Running Gloves

These ladies gloves from Zansah have reflective strips, making you more visible – crucial for those low-light wintery days!

They also have the touchscreen functionality, meaning you don’t have to remove them to operate your smartphone or watch.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Gear – Base Layers

At least two layers are necessary for running in cold weather.

A base layer is the layer closest to your skin and should be moisture-wicking, to keep sweat from accumulating and cooling you down.

Next, you want to wear an insulating layer to keep the heat in. In particularly cold or wintery environments, an outer shell is important to isolate you from the harsh elements.

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 6Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 7

MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Shirt Base Layer

The MERIWOOL base layer is a great choice for men looking for winter running gear.

It is made from 100% merino wool – which means it’s breathable and efficiently wicks away sweat before it becomes an issue.

Other runners have testified that Meriwool’s products are super comfortable and relatively affordable when compared to other merino base layers of similar quality.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 8Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 9

MERIWOOL Women’s Merino Thermal Shirt Base Layer

The MERIWOOL base layer also comes in a women’s model, in three different colours.

They are made from 100% merino wool – which means it’s breathable and efficiently wicks away sweat before it becomes an issue.

The MERIWOOL range have a reputation for feeling so comfy, and being much softer than other base layers in their price range.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 10Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 11

MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Thermal Pants Base Layer

Continuing the MERIWOOL range, their men’s pants are made from the same 100% merino wool as their shirts.

Their all-natural composition means they are super soft on your skin. 

They also adapt to your environment – they’ll keep you warm when you need it, and wick away sweat as you begin to heat up – all designed to keep you comfortable.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 12Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 13

MERIWOOL Women’s Merino Thermal Pants Base Layer

MERIWOOL’s women’s base layers are all about comfort – the all-natural 100% merino wool means they are soft on your skin with no itch, while their sweat-wicking and odor-resistant properties keep you comfortable and smiling in the cold weather.

Don’t leave home without a proper base layer in cold conditions!

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Gear – Hats and Scarfs

Most heat is lost through your head, so don’t leave home without a hat – it will help maintain your body temperature.

Furthermore, we’ve already discussed how cold air can negatively affect your respiratory system – therefore we’ve picked out the best scarves and buffs to keep you well wrapped!

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 14Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 15

Minus33 Merino Beanie

Keep your noggin warm with this 100% merino, lightweight beanie.

It’s all-natural properties help with wicking sweat away from your body, while not becoming smelly (odour resistant).

With a one-size-fits-all design and over a dozen colours to choose from, you’ve no excuse for letting your head get cold while running this winter.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 16Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations! 17

BUFF Lightweight Scarf / Headwrap, 100% Merino Wool

Buffs are the ultimate scarf for runners – their thin, closed design means no trailing ends or excess weight being carried.

This model is – like most of our recommendations – made from 100% merino wool, our favourite material for cold weather running.

It keeps you warm and wicks away moisture, and will help protect your throat and respiratory system as you run – what more could you need.

Comes in a variety of colours.

Buy Now on Amazon! 

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

5 thoughts on “Cold Weather Running Guide + Winter Gear Recommendations!”

  1. I would like to add one more thing on the increased performance in cold weather. You can run better and even faster in colder temps because per cubic inch of air inhaled there is more oxygen. Cold air is more dense than warm air, therefore the molecules are closer together and you get more oxygen in the same volume of air as you do when you run in warm climates. This is a very well known factor in drag racing cars. One will often see drag racers icing down their intake manifolds in order increase the density of the air entering the engine and therefore bringing in a higher volume of oxygen to improve combustion. The same goes for breathing colder air while running – more oxygen creates more power.

    Reply
  2. And a colder bodies is also able to dissolve more oxygen in the blood. Running in cold weather will unavoidably lower your body temperature, gas dissolution in your blood will increase (also valid for CO2).

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.