Wearing Layers: Our Essential Winter Running Clothing for Running in the Cold

Wearing Layers: Our Essential Winter Running Clothing for Running in the Cold

Our pug Frankie loves the snow (except when salt gets in his paws). He looks like a little arctic pug trudging along and running in the cold.

Our other pets turn into tiny couch burritos when the weather gets cold. They both have thinner fur and need to wear super adorable sweaters to look cute stay warm. For real, they hate the cold.

Sam is more of a summer person. He doesn’t mind running when it’s hot. Being a pretty lanky guy, he also gets cold when the temperature drops below 75.

I however, love the snow and cold weather. I live in Wisconsin for a reason and part of that reason is that I LOVE winter. Okay, driving in the snow isn’t my favorite, but other than that, the Ski-Utah girl in me gets excited whenever flakes start falling. I ran my very first race in 11 degrees in January. I don’t mind the cold. One more reason Frankie is my perfect weirdo side-kick.

Exercising in cold weather presents a few challenges. From slippery roads to frozen fingers, how do you dress in layers so you can avoid couch-burrito-dom and get your exercise when the weather’s freezing?

Sam’s an expert at winter-layering, both out of necessity and because he knows how well layering works for running. These are the must-have items for winter running.

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Waterproof Shoes

Wet feet are the worst! In fact, once a few years ago I had a crazy blister foot injury because I walked in icy weather in crappy shoes. Don’t do it! Shoes need to be both waterproof and breathable. You can pretty much fake-it and skimp on other areas, but not shoes!

We are 100% fans of Newton Running Shoes. They’re the only shoes I can run in because I pronate and have flat feet. Sam loves them and even got to model for them a few years back! We <3 Newton! Fortunately, Newton’s Boco II are all-terrain, waterproof and ready to keep you protected (and free from slips and slides). For other vegan running options, check out this guide.


Gloves kind of gross me out. I don’t like how they feel (I also don’t like socks and gloves are like hand-socks–ew!). Unfortunately, I have a weird circulation thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome where my fingers and toes turn white and then blue when they get too cold. It hurts! So I suck it up and wear gloves.

For running, you want fitted gloves, so you don’t have to fuss with mittens or clunky gloves while you check your pedometer or GPS. I like gloves with touch-screen ability since I run with my phone. These Power Stretch Gloves from Trailheads are perfect for running in the cold.

A Good Hat

Most of your heat escapes through your head, so wearing a hat magically keeps your entire body toasty and warm. A fleece or knit hat is great for running. Look for a hat that covers your ears so you don’t need to wear an ear-warming band as well.

On warmer days, an ear-warmer band can be enough to keep the wind out of your ears. Personally, though, I feel when my ears are cold, my whole head is probably cold and I might as well just wear a hat.


Sam loves Darn Tough socks, which offer a lifetime guarantee. However, many of Darn Tough’s socks contain wool. They do feature several wool-free types, though including the Coolmax Micro Cushion and the Thermolite RFL, both of which are great for winter running.

While these socks aren’t cheap, they’re substantial and will last. One area where we really work to reduce waste is with clothing. Cheap, fast fashion is fun and trendy, but it also has huge environmental and human rights repercussions. Pay a little more for products that last years, rather than getting something cheap that will wear out in months. *Gets down from soapbox*

Breathable Long Underwear (Base-layer)

If you want to stay warm while running and outdoor exercise, layering is your best bet. For your body, focus on three layers: Base, Mid and Outer. Your base layer is usually your typical thermal underwear, compression gear or tights. I prefer running in compression gear or just leggings/tights. Sam prefers thermals.

For regular workout wear, like leggings, I’m in love with Nomad’s Hempwear like these Spectrum Leggings.. My favorite store in town, Lillie’s carries their clothing line, but they’re also available online. Their stuff is soft, rugged and awesome for workouts or just casual clothes (it doesn’t look all “hemp wear”). The other go-to for workout gear is of course Patagonia. I know their clothing gets a little pricy, but I won’t wax on again about the importance of quality when it comes to fashion.

Fleece/Insulation Layer (Mid-layer)

For the insulation layer, fleece is usually the go-to. Your mid layer might consist of three or four pieces. For myself, I usually layer over tights-as-bottoms and a regular tank top. I might put a tee, a long sleeve shirt and then a fleece or running jacket. My legs don’t get as cold.

Sam typically layers a tee and track pants over his thermal bottoms and top. He loves Arcteryx hoodies, particularly the Adahy hoodie, which he’s worn practically on the daily for the last three years (and going strong). Of course Patagonia is again, a great option for mid-layer fleece as well.

Waterproof Jacket (Outer-layer)

Is it getting hot in here yet? Once you’ve layered up, you’re probably good to go in most cases. Plan your run so you can circle back and shed a layer or two if you get too hot. If it’s raining, snowing or extremely cold, you may want to include a waterproof top layer.

Okay, I know there are other sustainable brands out there, but once again, Patagonia is one of the best bets. However, there’s a company, Jack Wolfskin that’s received a lot of positive feedback in Europe for their sustainable clothing. In fact, they won the ISPO Award Eco Achievement in 2016 for their great practices.

That’s it! You’re ready to run in any weather! So, gear up and get out there. Oh, and for the record, our pugs have their eye on the Outward Hound Silverton Jackets this winter (although, Tanka and Pee Wee will probably be happier in their blanket burritos on the couch.




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