Winter Running Gear Must-Haves for When It's Too Damn Cold Out

Make your cold-weather run toasty and invigorating with these essential base layers, leggings, socks, and more.

By Megan Gray Jan 03, 2024 10:28 PMTags
shop_winter running essentials_heroE! News Illustration/Photos Courtesy of Amazon

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When it comes to running outside in the winter, I'm a big fan. I find the cold weather invigorating and refreshing, and tend to rack up more miles than I do in the summer. However, I wasn't always this way. In fact, I used to hate moving in the colder months and dreaded it with a passion. My love for this seasonal running only started when I equipped myself with the right gear and got prepared. In order to aid others, and maybe help with tackling a new year's resolution, I've put together a list of the winter running must-haves and essentials so you can start hitting the pavement ASAP. 

Of course, it depends on the outside temperature, but it's good to start with a base layer that's made of a material that can wick sweat away from your skin (avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture). Next, you'll want to add layers, like a fleece or thermal jacket or vest, and possibly a windproof jacket for protection. Finally, make sure to cover exposed skin with gloves, hats, socks, and/or neck gaiters. 

And, if you're not sure how to dress for the temp, follow the 10-Degree Rule, which means dress as if it's 10 degrees warmer than the actual temperature. So, if it's 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside, dress like it's 40 degrees. This means that as your body warms up, you'll be appropriately covered and not overheated. And, if the temperature is too low for you, maybe consider an indoor alternative.

From toasty leggings to a cozy headband, these are the must-haves you'll need on the pavement, trails, and beyond, whether you're a beginner or a pro. So, scroll down to check out my picks and score that new winter PR.

BALEAF Thermal Shirt

Breathable, lightweight, and stretchy, this thermal shirt is sure to keep you protected as a base layer. It even has zippered side pockets and thumbholes. One reviewer reported, "Wonderful for running during the cold winters in Michigan. I used this as my base layer in 20 degree or lower temps, and it did a great job keeping me warmer."

BUFF Adult Original EcoStretch Neck Gaiter

When it gets cold, I reach for my BUFF. I've owned mine for over a decade and it's still the most versatile piece in my running wardrobe (and has held up to tons of washing). It's moisture-wicking, quick-drying, offers UPF 50+ sun protection and can be worn 12 ways (a major bonus when it gets warmer or cooler on your run).

SIMARI Winter Gloves

Gloves are an absolute must when you're running in cold weather. These gloves feature a warm flannel lining and elastic cuffs to block out the wind, and you can even use your smart phone while you're wearing them.

Little Donkey Andy Women's Warm Fleece Running Jacket

This running jacket has everything I look for in a running jacket. Zippered pockets are a must, they're great for storing your gloves if you're not using them and keeping your keys or phone secure. Plus, there's a drawstring at the hood to keep you protected in the elements, thumbholes, and it's made of a brushed fleece that keeps you warm and wicks away sweat. 

BALEAF Women's Fleece Lined Leggings

Made with a soft fleece lining and water-resistant exterior, these leggings will keep you warm and dry. They also feature five pockets and a lot of compression so they'll stay secure mile after mile. This fan raved, "I am really impressed with how warm and form fitting these tights are for running and dog walking in cold weather. The length is perfect and the compression around the waist is very comfortable. I found I did not have to keep hiking the tights up like some other brands I have had in the past."

Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Sock

If it's cold and/or snowing, you want to protect your feet. These merino wool socks will keep your feet warm and dry as you start to move and offer just the right amount of compression for security. One user remarked, "I've tried various brands of wool socks for wintertime running. The experiment is over, and I'll never opt for anything other than Smartwool socks. They provide good cushioning without being too thick, and they keep my feet warm in freezing temperatures. They're more expensive than other brands, but they're well worth it."

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BALEAF Women's Rain Jackets Waterproof Windbreaker

Protect yourself from the elements with this lightweight windbreaker (that makes a great outer layer). It's ventilated, has a lot of zippered pockets, and it's made of a waterproof fabric. Not only that, it can easily pack into the outer pocket, so it's convenient to travel with.

TrailHeads Fleece Ponytail Hat

With a hole for your ponytail, this fleece cap is perfect for keeping your head warm and blocking the sun from your eyes. Plus, it has flaps to cover your ears that can easily be tucked in (just in case it gets warmer).

Tough Headwear Ear Warmer Headband

If you don't want to wear a hat, but still want to stay warm, this fleece headband is a solid pick. It's stretchy to fit over your ears, includes a hole for your ponytail, and won't mess up your hair.

EltaMD UV Sport Body Sunscreen, SPF 50

As we at E! know, it's important to wear sunscreen (even in the winter). Protect your skin with EltaMD's sport sunblock that's water-resistant up to 80 minutes and guards against UVA and UVB rays. It's SPF 50 and, best of all, it won't burn your eyes as you sweat.

BALEAF Women's Lightweight Vest

If you want to stay warm on the road, but don't want to wear a jacket, a vest can be a versatile option. This vest is fleece-lined for warmth, water-resistant against the elements, and features a hood and zippered pockets (so your stuff is secure).

Due North Everyday G3 Ice Cleat for Walking and Running on Snow and Ice (1 Pair)

Running in a winter wonderland can be beautiful, but, man, is it slippery. These cleats easily fit over your sneakers and offer grip and traction over snow and ice. This reviewer reported, "I live in Alaska and they have worked amazing. I'm a runner and these have worked really awesome for my winter running. Love them and would definitely buy more."

What to Look for in Cold-Weather Running Gear

Your first thought may be to bundle up when you're running in the winter, but that's not always the best bet. Layers are actually the way to go, because if you get overheated, you can remove something (for example, tying a jacket around your waist). Your base layer should keep you dry (look out for moisture-wicking and breathable materials), your next layer should preserve heat (like a fleece), and your last layer should protect you from the elements (ie. a windbreaker). It's also good to protect your extremities, like your hands and feet. Overall, you want to feel toasty, but not too toasty, so you can handle mile after mile.

Running at the gym? Make sure you stock up on these must-haves for your gym bag.

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