The golden autumn leaves are beginning to fall and crisp mornings are becoming the norm here in Colorado. As a competitive collegiate runner at University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, I’ve had my fair share of cold winter runs. Whether you love running in the cold or dread it, these are the gear essentials you’ll need to stay warm from head to toe this coming winter.
1. Head Gear
Winter conditions such as low humidity levels, greater temperature differentials at high elevations, frigid wind chill, and freezing temperatures can cause frostbite on exposed skin. Make sure to keep a hat or headband handy to cover your ears with. Below are some great options, all made with breathable materials, that won’t trap in too much heat as you warm up.
Check out: Craft Active WS Skull Hat
Check out: Lululemon Top Knot Toque
If wearing a hat over your ponytail or hair bun drives you crazy, try Lululemon’s Top Knot Toque that has a built in hole to slip your ponytail through and an opening at the top for a bun. It can also dually function as a baklava.
2. Base Layer
If your core is warm, your body will be better able to send blood out to and keep your extremities, like your fingers and toes, warm. To keep your torso warm, look for a base layer made with synthetic materials, like nylon or polyester, because they are fast drying and help wick away moisture from your body. Avoid cotton because it traps in perspiration, draws heat away from your skin, and leaves you feeling wet and miserable. Loose fitting, lightweight shirts are ideal for running because they don’t restrict movement and provide better airflow.
Check out: Brook’s Distance Long Sleeve Running Shirt
3. Outer Layer
Your outer layer is the last line of protection between you and the unpredictable Colorado elements. Ideally, this layer should have a hood, and water and wind resistant features. Most running outer layers nowadays have additional bonuses such as reflective elements, stretchy materials for comfort, vents, or small zipper panels that help better regulate your body temperature.
Check out: Nike Shield 2.0 Running Jacket
4. Running tights
With a properly layered upper body, what and how much a runner decides to wear on their lower half often comes down to personal preference and comfort. In my own running career, I have had teammates wearing shorts in sub 10-degree weather while others were wearing full tights and a pair of sweatpants over them. That said, buying a pair or two of thermal capris and running tights is never a bad investment. Thermal running tights usually have wind and water wicking abilities, are form-fitted, can offer compression support, and often have reflective elements that are great when running during times of day with low visibility.
Check out: Nike Thermal Tight
Check out: 2XU Elite MCS Thermal Compression Tights
It only takes one run with painfully cold, numb fingers to realize how important a good pair of running gloves is. There are many different types of running gloves for various weather conditions on the market. For milder days, a lightweight liner glove–like the one from North Face below– is a great option. On cooler days, it’s nice to have gloves that can transition into mittens like the Asics PR Shelter Mitt.
Check out: North Face FlashDry Liner
Check out: Saucony Ulti-Mitt
Check out: New Balance Endurance Lightweight Glove
Keeping your toes warm and dry is crucial to preventing frostbite on cold, wet winter days. Don’t fall prey to ‘the thicker the sock, the warmer the feet’ mentality. While multi-layered socks such as the DryMax Cold Weather Sock are great for keeping your feet warm while running, thin-layered socks like the Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks can keep your feet warm just as well. Simply put, the best cold-weather running socks are those with moisture wicking properties (remember, avoid cotton!).
Check out: Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew Socks
Check out: Injinji Liner Crew Socks
7. Traction Devices
If you run over ice patches or on slippery, hard-packed snow frequently, you may want to consider purchasing traction devices. There are several different options you could go with, from metal screws that you manually mount into the soles of your shoes, to slip-ons like the Yaktrax coils or metal gripping MICROspikes used for harsher, snowier conditions. For first-time purchasers, it’s best to talk to your local running store to get tips on what traction is best for your typical running conditions, and if you choose a slip-on traction aid, be sure to get properly fitted
Check out: ICESPIKE Deluxe Package (32 spikes and tool)
Check out: Yaktrax Run
Check out: Kahtoola MICROspikes
With shorter days in the winter months, you have a greater chance of running in times of lowlight or no light! Below are some gear recommendations to help you see and be seen while out on the trail.
Reflective Running Vest
Check out: Nathan Bandolier Reflective Running Vest
Check out: Petzl Tikka Headlamp
Personal Identification Bracelet or Accessory
Check out: Road I.D.
LED Armbands or Legbands
Check out: Mace Brand Nite Beams LED Armbands
As the cold weather begins to settle in, now is the time to start experimenting with layering and gearing up your essentials for winter. I’ve learned through my time as a competitive runner that what you choose to wear on cold runs comes down to trial and error. Listen to what has and hasn’t worked well for your training partners and look to local running stores for advice.
Stay warm out there, and happy trails!
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