The Right Layers for Winter Running

Every year, it seems like once daylight saving time ends, it becomes harder to keep up with a regular running routine. Whether it’s the shorter days, the colder temperatures, or a combination of the two, the winter months are often the most difficult period to stay active.

This, however, does not have to be the case. With the right cold weather clothing and appropriate layering techniques, staying fit throughout the winter can be a highly enjoyable experience full of scenic sights and uncrowded trails. Once you've committed to a winter running program, which may entail either training for an end goal such as a 5K or half marathon in the spring or simply a personal miles-per-month benchmark, the next step will be to build up your cold-running wardrobe. This includes a stretchy base layer that fits tightly against your skin, a fleece outer layer, and protection for your extremities, such as stretchy gloves, headbands, and hats.

But even with the best gear, a failure to properly layer could leave you too cold or, more than likely, too hot. The first rule of winter running is to be sure to feel cold when you first begin your run. The temporary discomfort will pass, and as your body exerts more energy and generates heat, you'll soon be at a comfortable degree of warmth. It may be tempting to bundle up to avoid those first few minutes of cold, but rest assured, you'll be sweating buckets once your body gets up to speed.

A good rule of thumb is to dress for weather that’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.

Staying Warm, Dry, and Flexible

For the most comfortable winter run, start with a base layer that’s fast wicking and lightweight, and rests against your skin. EMS Techwick tops are a perfect base layer and are outstanding when it comes to wicking away sweat as your run heats up. The North Face and SmartWool also make great stretchy tops that are exactly what you’ll need in a base layer.

Over this, throw on a midweight synthetic fleece that fits snugly over your long underwear base layer, but be sure that it offers the right amount of stretch and doesn't restrict any movement in your upper body. An ideal outer layer is the EMS Power Stretch Full-Zip Hoodie, which allows complete freedom and full range of motion while working with the base layer to wick away sweat. Having a full-zip outer layer, as opposed to a pullover, gives you more options when it comes to venting, helping you maintain a comfortable body temperature. If necessary, wear an outer shell, or even a windproof fleece, to block the wind.

As for your legs, some good stretchy tights are a great choice for just about any condition, and can be worn in a wide range of temperatures and precipitation levels.

When getting ready for a winter run, remember the old saying: "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." Your winter running ensemble should be topped off with a stretchy headband or hat to retain heat lost through your head and to protect your ears, as well as stretchy gloves to avoid discomfort in your fingers and hands. Depending on the conditions, you may need additional cold-weather gear to make your winter run more enjoyable. A run through packed snow will require the appropriate traction and winter socks.

There's always the treadmill and the gym, but when you have the right gear, why not get outside, breath some fresh air, and enjoy all that winter running has to offer?