Running Fashion Police: Layers and Tights

Polar Vortex
You thought you could pack up your tights and base layers? Think again. The Polar Vortex is coming back for most of you this week! (Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

Winter. (Say it with me like Jerry Seinfeld says “Newman” and insert grumpy, hurumphing sounds.) Yeah. This is the part of the show where the audience revolts and decides that the show needs to be over. Right now, if you please. But alas….the fat lady hasn’t sung, the snow hasn’t melted, and the temperatures seem quite content to live forever as teenagers (at best!).

The longer winter lingers, the harder it is for me to stay resolved to hit the snowy trails and brave the cold. But since I’ve already gone on record taunting Old Man Winter about getting chicked, it’s probably best I wo-man up and show our icy nemesis who wears the tight pants around here. Aside: If you haven’t heard the Jimmy Fallon / Will Ferrell tight pants song, you can watch it here. I’ll wait.

Speaking of tight pants, or “tights” as the cool kids call them, what do you say we pick up where we left off in our winter running gear series? So far, we’ve covered hats and jackets. Today we’ll tackle a couple more staples in the must-have winter wardrobe– base layer tops and running tights.

Base Layer Tops. In the olden days (i.e. the early 90s, pre- Under Armour), I’m guessing that “base layer” was just a fancy term for long johns and their itchy matching shirts. But we’ve come a long way since then, and have many cozy moisture wicking options from which to choose. Here’s what the salties had to say about their favorite winter shirts:

Cilantro: For layering on top, I love this Under Armour top.  You can actually pull the neck up over your face and nose, which has saved me on some super-cold runs.

Mint: Under Armour all the way!  They are tight, fuzzy inside and wicking, so I can stay warm without being bulky.  I usually then throw a long-sleeved tech race tee on top (then my Brooks Night Life jacket).  I have both crew neck and high neck. 

Basil: I’ve been eying the Under Armour tops that Cilantro and Mint recommended, but have yet to pick one up. In the meantime, I often layer up with a couple of long sleeved race tees and/or my Brooks Essential LS Half-Zip.

Tights. Everybody’s talking ’bout our tight pants. We’ve got our tight pants. We’ve got our tight pants on….

cw-x tights run 4
You can wear tights to keep warm or to look … er … sexy? (Photo credit: fourway333)

Basil. I have a few different kinds of tights — a cheap Old Navy pair, a random brand I picked up from TJ Maxx a couple years ago, some new high falutin’ thermal tights by Salomon, and a 15+ year old pair by Reebok. My warmest, coziest ones? Yep–the late 90s vintage Reebok. I actually can’t believe I still have them. Then again, I didn’t start wearing them regularly until about three years ago. When the temps here are 15 or lower (so, pretty much ALL the time), I double up on pants, usually with my trusty Reeboks (which aren’t as fitted) and whatever other pair that’s clean.

Eucalyptus: These Under Armour compression tights are my all-time favorite tights. I hate tights, and they do bunch a little bit, but they make your legs look super shiny and they are REALLY warm. I got them on sale about two years ago and they’re still pretty much new-feeling!

Ginger: I bought a pair of Fila tights from Kohl’s last year and they are very warm, perfect tight fit. I love tights. Target had a few good pairs two years ago, but I haven’t gone back since then as mine are still going strong. Not as warm as the Fila tights though!

Licorice: I love the Oiselle Lesley Tight (full disclosure: I’m part of the Oiselle ambassador team). They changed the material this year so that it’s soft and fleecy on the inside and a bit thicker than it used to be. I haven’t run with them in cold (below freezing) weather, but I’m guessing they would be nice and toasty. They’re certainly incredibly comfortable to lounge around in.

Mint: I have one pair of Under Armour Cold Gear tights left that are a couple of years old that I LOVE.  Unfortunately it seems the trend for tights the last year or so is to be super low cut – which is not cool if you live in cold climates.  I bought three pairs last winter, and all of them are horrible.  I did recently get these Mizuno tights though, and I really like them. They have great extra front panels for extra warmth and have a good fit.

Salty: I have a pair of Brooks utopia tights that I like well enough. They are low cut and I’m constantly pulling them up, but otherwise they do the job.

Do you have a favorite cold-weather running top or pair of tights? If so, share it with us in the comments! Does anyone else sing the Tight Pants song every time they gear up to run outside? No? Just me? Well, okay then.

Recovering corporate hamster-wheeler turned Alaskan hausfrau, mother of two and running enthusiast. Kind of a June Cleaver in tempo shorts...minus the makeup and vacuum. Will run to great lengths to get a moment of peace.

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    1. I hear you. And while I love cute running skirts, I just don’t get the skirts over tights look.

      By the way, I also have some nice Nike base layers that work well too. Key is that they are wicking, snug, and have a thicker warm layer inside.

    2. I guess I have to turn myself into the Fashion Police…..I’m one of the dorky ones who has done the skirt over tights thing one or two times. Or maybe twelve. (Hides face). My reasons were for extra warmth and extra coverage (especially when I have to show my face in the grocery store or preschool pick up after a run). The other excuse was an extra place to store my key, since my favorite, warmest tights don’t have a pocket.
      I wish they had a “what not to wear” show for runners so I could go on it and get a makeover with a ton of new (free to me!) running clothes. I’d endure the humiliation in a heartbeat in exchange for a new running wardrobe! 🙂

    3. The answer is a combination of modesty and warmth. It took a long time (3 years of running) before I was comfortable enough to wear capri tights for runs. Even now, they feel pretty revealing. And the places that get coldest on me are usually fatty pads on my hips and butt. If shorts or a skirt make you feel less self conscious, I say have at it. I certainly do!

  1. When it’s really cold, I wear an Under Armour mock neck base layer with a UA fleece on top. Haven’t yet found a pair of tights that keep my legs really warm. My core warms up a lot faster than my legs do, and when it’s cold and windy, my legs never seem to warm up

  2. Even though I live in Texas (or maybe because I live in Texas and am a wuss when it comes to cold weather), I have three pairs of tights I alternate between. But we do get some days in the 20s and quite a few mornings in the 30s!

    I have one pair of fleece-lined Under Armour tights that I think were my brother’s in the early 2000’s, one pair of Moving Comfort tights (they don’t make running tights anymore, boo!) that are the lightest of the three, and one pair of Saucony tights from 2006 with a flashy orange panel down one leg and with zippers on the bottom (annoying and slightly painful when I’m not wearing long tights) but are double lined in the crotch – very nice feature! Keeping the privates private!

  3. When it’s really cold (under 10 degrees AND windy), I layer merino wool (Icebreaker 260) long johns under my no-name but much-loved running tights. That works down to -20 windchill. Colder than that (about a quarter of the time this winter, sheesh), and I’m inside.

    In defense of the running skirt-and-tights look: I haven’t tried it, but I imagine it keeps your butt warm in extreme cold and/or wind. I’ve seen down-filled miniskirts and they would be awesome for standing around, if your winter coat isn’t quite long enough.

  4. My favorite running tights – aka the pair I will wash in the sink so I can wear them on back-to-back days – are Sugoi MidZero. Super thick and fleecy on the inside – I wear these on the uber-cold days. My only complaint is that they don’t have an exterior pocket, but other than that, they’re perfect!