There’s nothing quite like inappropriate or insufficient cold weather running gear to leave you feeling cold, wet and miserable during and after runs on wet, cold Winter (and Fall!) days.
But fear not! As well as a cold weather running gear checklist, this post includes our cold weather running gear guide which explains what running apparel, shoes and accessories you need in order to be comfortable and enjoy winter running, from head to toe – and where you can get up to 40% on Cold Weather Essentials off at REI this October.
The checklist includes all the essential pieces of winter running gear you need if you’re serious about running regularly, and especially if you’re following a training plan for a Spring marathon or ultramarathon and need to get those long runs done in the winter months, no matter how cold temperatures get.
Here at Trail and Kale we test and review all the latest running gear, from running shoes to GPS running watches, waterproof jackets and headlamps.
All the hours put into testing and reviewing running gear means we know a thing or two about what’s worth your money when it comes to winter running gear, and much more.
Visit our Fall/Winter running gear and training tips page next, to ensure you have all the motivation, training tips and running gear needed to make it through your winter training.
The essential cold weather running gear CHECKLIST ✔️
This checklist and guide is in partnership with REI, an ideal place to buy running gear because they stock a wide selection of the latest and greatest road and trail running gear that we rate highly here at Trail & Kale, they have excellent customer service and a simple no-hassle returns policy if something you buy isn’t quite right for you (this is just gold!).
If you need to gear up for cold weather runs, I’ve included a few quick pick gear recommendations which will take you to the products in their online store.
Oh, and another thing you should know about REI… members get great discounts and a 10% annual dividend on everything you spend. For example, you can get up to 40% off in REI’s Cold Weather Gear sale event which runs from 10/9 to 10/23! Learn more about REI membership.
Winter running gear checklist:
- Warm long-sleeve baselayer top | Our pick: Smartwool Merino Long-Sleeve
- 1-2 additional sweat-wicking layers underneath or over the top
- Insulated running tights or pants
- Waterproof running jacket | Our pick: Arc’teryx Norvan Shell Jacket
- Winter running hat | Our pick: On Lumos Beanie
- Running sunglasses | Our pick: Tifosi Veloce Fototec Photochromic Sunglasses
- Running headlamp | Our pick: Biolite Headlamp 425
- Winter running gloves
- High-impact bra (if applicable)
- Your GPS running watch or phone to track your run
- Hydration pack or running belt for carrying water, your phone, snacks and those extra layers, especially on longer road and trail runs
- Running socks | Our pick: Darn Tough, Smartwool or Feetures at REI
- Road or trail running shoes – consider waterproof running shoes for extra warmth and protection from the wet | Our Pick: Brooks Ghost 15 GTX
- Ankle gaiters for trail runs, to help keep debris out of your running shoes
- A change of clothes and shoes if you drive to your running location (so you don’t have to drive home feeling cold and wet).
Adjust what you choose to wear and carry, depending on the air temperature, wind strength and chill, and general weather conditions as well as the length and location of your run.
Depending on the length of your runs and how intensively you plan to train, don’t forget to take plenty of water, gels and snacks – because you will still get hungry and dehydrated even when it’s cold outside if you don’t eat.
Tips for choosing the right cold weather running gear
Winter is coming, and we’re not about to let a little snow and ice slow us down!
But before you grab the warmest, puffiest clothes you own, here are some essential things to know about gearing up for running in cold weather.
A waterproof running jacket is a must-have for running through winter
Every running should have a good quality waterproof winter running jacket to block out the elements when running in cold weather.
Choose a lightweight, breathable winter running jacket with moisture-wicking properties.
A good waterproof running jacket is invaluable for blocking not just rain, snow and sleet, but the biting wind chill. If there is one piece of gear to really invest in, this is it (ok, and your running shoes, of course!).
To be ‘good’, the jacket should be lightweight, breathable and have moisture-wicking properties. Many running apparel brands refer to these as a ‘shells’, because they protect you from the elements but don’t have the thick insulating layers other winter coats have.
This is because for running, you’re better off wearing several thin layers of insulating clothes underneath your waterproof top layer – more on that, later in this guide.
If there is no precipitation, a windproof jacket may be enough, but know that windproof jackets will get saturated if you wear them in the rain, sleet or slow, making them cold, wet and useless in wet weather!
For dark days and nights, wear a reflective running vest to be seen
Reflective running vests feature high-visibility strips and illumination to keep you in plain sight, even when the light is low.
For reflective gear suggestions, visit our Reflective Running Vests Buyer’s Guide to find the best one for you.
Know that waterproof running shoes are not just for wet weather
Wearing waterproof running shoes such as shoes made with Gore-Tex (GTX), helps prevent your feet from getting wet, and therefore also cold, when running in winter.
Waterproof running shoes tend to be less breathable and better-insulated than other running shoe versions, which can really help your feet stay warm when it’s really cold out, even when the ground isn’t wet but obviously making running in warm weather a little toasty for your tootsies.
A merino or synthetic base layer is a great choice for sweat-wicking insulation
If you’re already a runner then you’ll likely know the importance of wearing breathable running clothes that allow moisture (sweat) to escape and help keep your body temperature regulated.
A good base layer top will also help retain regulate your temperature and retain heat because of its insulating properties, Merino wool base layers are particularly good at this.
Layering your running clothes is the key to temperature regulation
We’ve all been there. It’s cold outside and you put on the warmest clothes you can find for your run, only to find that once you’ve warmed up five minutes later, you’re overheating!
Layering a long sleeve top with a vest or short sleeve under your waterproof running jacket will allow you to remove layers to regulate your temperature if you start to get too warm.
Cover up your extremities to avoid pain and numbness
You can lose less heat through your head with the use of cozy winter running hats or headbands that keeps your ears warm, too.
We’re talking moisture-wicking material and ear coverage to help with ice-cream headaches and freezing ears when it’s cold and wet outside, and ideally some reflective detailing, too.
Possibly worse than having cold ears, having cold, numb fingers are no joke, especially when you’re trying to change your playlist, check your pace, or adjust your laces.
Unless you want to rely on having long sleeves to fully cover your hands while you run, it’s a good idea to get some touchscreen-compatible running gloves designed for the cold.
Consider micro spikes for traction when running on snow and ice
If you’re serious about running even when there’s ice and snow on the ground, consider getting traction devices that you wear over your shoes, like these traction spikes available at REI.com, to give you extra grip.
Running in snow conditions can be particularly challenging if you’ll be running on icy and slippery sections, expect your run to take longer than normal, and take extra care not to slip or trip.
A running headlamp to light the way (and be seen) even during the day
Early morning or late-night runs in the winter can be especially dark, but in poor weather such as rain, snow and fog conditions, it can be difficult for other road users to see you, and for you to clearly see the way ahead, even during the day.
A reliable bounce-free running headlamp designed with long battery life, high beam light performance and a comfortable band will light your way and make you more visible to others.
As well as having the right gear for running in cold weather, if you’re also looking for tips to help you with enjoyment and motivation for running in winter, read our tips to enjoy running in cold weather next :).