Jan 5
2013

Running in Cold Weather: My Tips & Tricks

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If you saw the photo I posted on Instagram and Facebook (scroll down to see it), it’s likely that you’re asking yourself, “Why would I want to take cold weather running advice from this crazy lady?” Okay, I kind of see your point. But hear me out. If I’m able to continue my runs when the thermostat drops to 7 degrees F, it stands to reason that I’ve figured out a thing or two about keeping myself warm.

Either that or my brain is partially frozen, which is eliminating any ability to think rationally. For the purposes of this post, let’s pretend that’s not the case.

Typically I don’t venture out in temperatures less than 12-15 degrees F. But the other day I had an “I’m going to go crazy if I don’t run today” kind of feeling, so I layered up and headed out, despite the ominous thermostat reading.

Here’s what happened. It’s like “Lady Gaga meets marathon madness”.

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Am I suggesting you run until every body hair freezes? Nope. However, I am suggesting that you can probably do a whole lot more than you think you can.

Start to acclimate yourself by starting with shorter runs or walks in the cold weather. And, most importantly, dress the part of a cold weather runner. Below is a list of items to consider when preparing for chilly temperatures. Everyone’s body is a little different, so play around with different layers to find what’s right for you.

The specific items listed below are just examples of cold weather running gear. Shop around a little and read reviews to find what’s going to work the best for you.

(Click here to read my other running posts.)

Safety

On dark winter mornings, visibility is an issue. I have seen runners wearing dark colors and not a stitch of reflective gear. In my opinion, they are asking for trouble. Make yourself visible so that motorists and cyclists can see you in plenty of time.

Headlamps

Not only will headlamps help to light your way, but they are an effective way to make yourself visible.

The headlamp has a strap around the head, as well as one over top.
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Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp

Or try this one with just a single strap (that’s the type I use):
Petzl TIKKA PLUS 2 Headlamp

Reflective Gear

A reflective vest is a “must have” running item, in my opinion. I even wear my vest when the sun is shining brightly. If it makes it easier for motorists to see me, I’m wearing it!

This is the vest I use:
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Amphipod Xinglet Vest

Or try this full coverage vest:
Amphipod Full Visibility Reflective Vest

Head

Beanie

(Side note: In Canada, we call this a toque – pronounced “took”. Just a little Canadian trivia to throw out to your running buddies.)

You’ve likely heard that you lose 40% of your heat from your head. Not only that, but your ears will freeze to the tip of your earlobes if you don’t cover them up. Fleece or wool should do the trick.

Here are a couple of options:
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Asics Thermopolis® LT Beanie

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Nike Cold Weather Reflective Beanie

Neck gaiter:

One of the first things to get chilly is my chin. Pull on a neck gaiter so that you can pull it up over your chin. Also, if you find that breathing the cold air hurts your throat or lungs, a neck gaiter will warm up the air as you breathe it in.

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Neck gaiter by SmartWool

Balaclava

Or you could go for the full head balaclava, which easily fits underneath your beanie (toque!).

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Pearl Izumi Barrier Balaclava

Hands

Gloves

My legs, arms, head and tummy may be toasty, but my fingertips will be frigid little icicles. Good gloves are a must for the cold weather.

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Nike Women’s Thermal Tech Running Gloves or the men’s version.

Liners

In really cold weather, you might find that you need an extra layer for your fingers. Slip these liners underneath your regular gloves for added warmth.

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Smartwool liner gloves

Mittens

If you really have troubles keeping your fingers warm, wrap them up in a pair of mittens.

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Lululemon Brisk Run Mittens

Top

Base Layer

This is one of the most important pieces of clothing that you’ll wear, so choose wisely. Ditch the old cotton shirts because they will just make you colder. As you sweat, you’ll get a chill if the sweat stays close to your skin. Wear a base layer that wicks moisture away from your skin. Look for names such as DryFit or CoolMax for good wicking fabrics.

Here’s one option:
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Nike Dri-Fit Knit Long-Sleeve

Or you may prefer something that zips up to your neck:
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Nike Element Half-Zip

Here’s an option for men:
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For men, Nike Wool Half-Zip Running Top

Middle Layer

Depending on the warmth of the base layer and the temperature outside, I may or may not wear an insulating middle layer. This layer will capture a pocket of air that will warm up as you run, keeping you comfortably warm.

Here’s an option for men:
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REI Powerflyte Half-Zip Top

And for women: Cloudveil Polartec Run Don’t Walk 1/2 Zip Top

Outer Layer

On wet or windy days, pull on a third layer to help keep the water from soaking through your clothes. Consider choosing something with a zipper so that you can zip or unzip to regulate your temperature.

An option for women:
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Asics Women’s Storm Shelter Running Jacket

And for men:
Saucony ShadowLite Softshell Running Jacket

Pants

Your legs don’t need as many layers as your upper body. Your legs will be moving quickly (right?), so they will stay warmer than your torso and arms. A good pair of running tights or pants will do the trick.

For women:
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Tighter: Brooks’ Women’s Utopia Thermal Tight

Tights for women:
Nike Women’s Cold Weather Running Pants

Tights for men:
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Sugoi MidZero Run Tights

Socks

When it comes to the rules for running clothes, socks are no exception. Throw out the cotton and buy some socks that will wick away the moisture. Not only will this keep your feet warmer, but it will also help you to avoid blisters, which can form when moisture clings to your feet.

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Drymax Cold Weather Run Socks

Shoes

You should be able to wear your regular running shoes. If you are determined to run on very snowy and icy roads, consider strapping on some grippers.

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Yaktrax Running Grippers

If you have any tried and true running gear, please share it in the comments section. We can never have enough options, right?

Now layer up, and get out to do your thing!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen @ Savory Simple January 5, 2013 at 7:42 am

I am beyond impressed. I get cold just looking at that first photo of you!

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2 Kate | Food Babbles January 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

That picture is just CLASSIC!! Frozen hair? You are hardcore ;) This post is wonderful and you’ve inspired me. I haven’t been running since it got cooler here in the states and we aren’t nearly as cold as you are up North so now I feel like a big whimp. Sounds like I need to lace up my sneakers and hit the pavement now that I know what to wear and how to prepare. Thanks Dara!

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3 Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts January 5, 2013 at 10:04 am

I hurt my foot on Thanksgiving day, and have not been able to run since. I am going crazy!!! Really hoping that I can get out and do a couple of short walks this week. Great post, love all the gear!

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4 Caitlin F. January 5, 2013 at 10:29 am

Wow, great post. If you can run in that ridiculous weather, there is no reason I can’t bear a few miles in 40 degree weather, but maybe I’ll buy some gloves and that cute long sleeve knit for added motivation. ;) Thanks!

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5 Holly January 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

Great post! The weather in Denver finally warmed up to the low 40s today and I went running. I didn’t go that far or that fast but at least I got out and got moving! You are a rock star for running when your eyelashes and hair were frozen!!!

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6 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar January 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I love running in winter! I find it’s such a challenge compared to running in the summer….or maybe I just tell myself that. Great list of gear though! I’ll add some of these to my list for sure! I NEED reflectors!

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7 Karen Petersen January 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm

I’m so proud of you!!!

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8 Selina January 5, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing. I just came back from a run. It was only -4 degrees Celcius so not too bad today. I definitely need to get more reflective gear and something for my dog who runs with me. All she has is a reflective collar. Thanks again.

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9 Kristen January 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I have no idea what to even say, except I wish I had your determination and motivation. I’m so proud of you and who you are and what you’ve accomplished!

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10 Lori @ RecipeGirl January 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Geez, I think you must love running WAY more than I do, lol! You’re definitely rockin’ the running, cold weather and all. Good for you Girl!

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11 bridget {bake at 350} January 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

You are so awesome! As soon as I saw your instagram picture, I was running around the house showing it to my boys. You’re a rock star!

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12 Valerie @ From Valerie's Kitchen January 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

It’s so mild here in Nor Cal that I don’t have too much of a problem with freezing body hair. However, that Nike Dri Fit long sleeve shirt is beyond cute and I must have it :)

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13 Julie @ Swim Bike Running on Empty January 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I’m a recent transplant to Edmonton and have loved running in the cold so far! I have had the frozen eyelash experience; it’s crazy! I am a big fan of the Salomon outdoor winter running shoes, too. Especially for trail running. Stay warm!

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14 carmen January 5, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Totally helpful ideas, thanks Dara!

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15 Liz @ The Lemon Bowl January 6, 2013 at 6:14 am

You are so inspiring!!! I get cold in the gym before Kickboxing class starts so I give you so much credit for taking your workouts outdoors!!

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16 Kankana January 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

I have no words to say! You are a true fighter and so very inspiring :)

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17 Denise @ Creative Kitchen January 7, 2013 at 8:04 am

Your photo totally inspired me when I saw it come through Instagram!! I did make sure to get out and get a run in last week…my first in a MONTH! I just love the frozen eyelashes….so bizarre. ;)

Thanks for showing us how to layer. I highly doubt that I’ll have to do that here in South Florida, but it’s helpful for me to learn what types of garments can keep you warm in case I ever do want to run in cold weather.

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18 Sarah @ Will Run for Pasta January 7, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Majorly impressed! You’re taking that “train insane or remain the same” saying to a whole new level, LOL!

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19 Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen January 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

I always got frozen hair when I lived in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it wasn’t from running, but going to school in the morning with wet hair! I can’t imagine that was very good for me…

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20 Cynthia January 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Thanks so much for writing this post! I always ran indoors if it was below 20 degrees until this year. I ran a half-marathon in below zero weather on January 1 and am now hooked. I looked much like you did in your photo, but felt so proud of the accomplishment, I didn’t care. I loved reading your equipment suggestions. Thanks for writing and providing this support!!!

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21 Dawn September 16, 2013 at 12:04 am

Moved up to Barrow at the end of winter, and am looking for tips as we start to head back that way. Thanks for your blog!

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