Running Fashion Police: How to Dress for Winter Running

This is probably the last week the extended forecast will look as good as this.

Last week, many of us had our first taste of winter weather: cold, wind, gray, gloomy skies. Winters here in Cleveland always feel extra long and when March finally comes around, we have no clue what that bright thing in the sky is.

Also last week, I started a new job. I left one retail establishment for another: the new one is selling a popular brand of women’s athletic apparel. Because of the storms and colder temperatures, including even a little bit of (dare I say it)  snow, my first week of selling women’s active wear for a living was spent talking a lot about cold weather running. We have a few other runners on our team, but I’m the only one doesn’t run for the cover of the gym treadmill when the temperatures dip below 50.

I’ve always lived by the old saying: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

And as I’ve helped outfit our customers this week for the upcoming weather, I thought I’d share how I make it through the colder months running almost exclusively outside. 


There’s nothing to be afraid of. Seriously. I got the idea for this post after talking with a customer yesterday about how she was ready to hang up her running shoes for the winter. Seriously. She was going to quit running because it was cold. I’m not sure what her worry was. Sure you could encounter ice or snow, but it won’t kill you. In fact, where the proper clothing and running in the cold can be downright pleasant!

Be prepared. Take some time to go through your winter gear from last year. If you’re like me, you packed it away last April and have been blissfully running in shorts and tanks for months and haven’t even thought about running in the dark on snow-covered roads. Now’s the time to take the box out, count what you have and see what fits and what may need replaced. Rosemary wrote a couple of great posts about basic tops and bottoms that might provide a good basis for a shopping list!

See a professional. As a runner and consumer, I know that good running clothes aren’t cheap and you don’t want to waste money on something that isn’t right for you. When you’re buying new clothes for the changing season, especially when this may only be your first or second running winter, talk to someone at a specialty store who has been running for a while and has been through it. Know how you like to feel when you run — do you like to feel a little cooler? Do you like being warm and toasty? Knowing that is key, and a pro can help you find the right pieces to suit your needs.

This was taken right before I finished my first 50K last November. I started off the day with a jacket and long sleeve on, but stripped a layer after each loop.

Always dress in layers. We’re not quite to the days where it doesn’t get over 30 degrees yet. Until then, always layer up if you’re starting early. My go-to combination is a long sleeve top and light wind jacket (this year’s Akron Marathon jacket is my favorite) that I can take off if I need to and pack it away in a hydration pack on a long day on the trails.

Accessories are a girl’s best friend. I honestly cannot tell you how many customers I talked to this week about hats, gloves and Smartwool socks. Knowing your body and your running habits are key when it comes to accessories — are your hands always cold? Buy gloves with Polartec lining. Do you listen to music? You may want to try hats and headbands on with you earbuds so you know what’s more comfortable. Do you like to splash through puddles or snow drifts? Good socks (like socks specifically for trail running) will help keep your feet warm and dry.

How do you prepare for the weather ahead? What would you tell a runner who is apprehensive about the upcoming season?

Trail and 100 mile ultra runner who still loves a good road marathon every now and then. Lifetime Northeast Ohio resident that dreams of the mountains out west, but loves CLE too much. Sometimes a vegan, sometimes does yoga, always loves a good craft beer and post race donuts.

Leave a Reply

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


  1. Ok, my winter running concern is slip-sliding away. I’m on the DL for a couple weeks and I know weather will really change when I’m back. Since I don’t have a treadmill at home and don’t want to pay a gym membership just to use theirs for a few months, running outside is the plan. My big worry is falling on ice.

    1. I was afraid about the ice too my first winter running! If you wear minimal shoes, switch them out for traditional shoes. On really bad days, I wear my trail shoes since they have the most traction.

  2. one word: yaktrax!!!

    I also love your statement that there’s nothing to be afraid of if you’re prepared! maybe it’s just me but I think cold weather has a WAY less detrimental effect on my training than hot weather… I’ll take a Minnesota or Pennsylvania winter over an Oklahoma summer any day!!

  3. Love this post! I think it’s kinda funny how many runners start bemoaning the winter weather as soon as the temp gets down in the 30s, when just a few months ago they were whining about the heat. Reflective gear is also a must for winter running, what with our limited daylight hours!

  4. What about breathing in the cold air? I’ve seen people wearing masks. On the few chilly days I’ve run, I do have a different feeling in my chest during and after.

    1. I’d suspect it’s more the dryness of the cold air that’s irritating your throat or maybe your lungs, but it’s something you’ll probably adapt to. (cold air is typically less humid than dry air.) I’ve run outside in sub-zero temps with nothing on my face and I’m fine. I think there’s a lot of old ladies scaring people by telling them their lungs will freeze or that they’ll get sick from being out in the cold. Just like anything it’s an adjustment. If the air keeps irritating you, you there’s nothing wrong with wearing something over your mouth which might help to moisten the air that goes in your throat and lungs. Do what ya gotta do 🙂

  5. agreed with Salty… I think it may be a personal thing because I don’t have trouble with it but I’ve heard from others that they do. I also feel it is something you adapt to (at least somewhat), like adapting to running in really humid air…