What not to wear: Winter running edition

Winter running gear from Nike

You’ll see me coming in this ultra reflective gear!

The first time I ran outdoors in the winter, I really messed up on what to wear.  It was early March and there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. It was cold. I put on long, yoga style pants, a tank top, a long sleeve cotton shirt and this bulky fleece zip-up over top of it all. I also wore a warm winter hat and those stretchy gloves you get at the Dollar Store.

At first, I was OK but after I got going I was way too hot. I felt like all my layers weighed 100 pounds and that fuzzy fleece was over sized, bulky and flopped around with every step. When I tried to unzip it to cool down, it flapped open like a cape. Not only did it look ridiculous, but it caught the wind like a sail and totally slowed my pace. The worst part was that the zipper rubbed against my neck and left a big, unsightly scratch. The bottoms of my pants dragged a little in the snow and eventually were wet up to my knees.

That 9 km run was one of the worst I can remember. As soon as it was done, I knew I needed to get some new winter running gear if I was ever planning to brave the great outdoors again.

To help you have an awesome time running this winter, here’s some tips I’ve found super helpful:

  • Dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer than it actually is. If it’s 2 degrees outside, dress like it’s 12. It will help ensure you’re not too hot
  • A hat with a ponytail hole is essential. OK, maybe not for everyone, but for me, this is essential.  On cold days, you’ll lose a reported 40% of your body heat through your head so it’s important to wear one, but there’s nothing worse than a squished ponytail against your neck! Ugh! If it’s not too cold, I also recommend a headband that covers your ears.
  • Ensure you have a wicking layer. It sounds fancy, but all this means is that the layer closest to your body is made from something like DryFit to keep the sweat away from your body. This will help keep you dry and warm.  Cotton is not ideal. Learn from my mistakes!
  • If it’s really cold, you may want an insulation layer.  Something like a microfleece will do.
  • If it’s not that cold (like right now, for example), you can skip the insulation layer and go with just the wind or waterproof outer layer. This layer should protect you against rain and snow but also allow heat and moisture to escape to prevent both overheating and chilling.
  • Try to find an outer layer with a zipper so that you can zip it up to your neck if you’re cold or unzip it if you’re too hot.
  • Wear tights or a running pants. Your legs generate a ton of heat when you run so this part of the winter running attire is a little easier.
  • Don’t wear cotton socks.  They won’t wick away moisture and your feet will be cold and possibly covered in blisters. Instead, get a pair of socks made of acrylic or light wool.
  • If you’re running in the dark, wear something reflective so cars can see you.
  • Worried about icy sidewalks? Check out my recent post with a video from Runner’s World on an easy DIY technique for prepping your shoes for the elements.

So really, there’s no need to retreat to the treadmill this season. Just get the right gear and you will realize how awesome winter running can be.

Still not convinced? Join me and sign up for one of the Nike+ Run Club Defeat Winter training programs. It’s an awesome 8 week program designed to prep you to handle the elements and tackle the weather. There are weekly runs at different clubs throughout the city and friendly challenges with other Nike+ Run Clubs. To find out more about the Nike+ Run Clubs, head over to the Nike Running Canada Facebook page and click on the Join a Run Club tab. And, if you’re ready to Defeat Winter with me, register for the training program here. It’s free to join and it will be a great way to enjoy winter running – whether you’re a seasoned runner, or braving the elements for the first time.

Do you have any tips for winter running gear?

Winter running gear from Nike

Some of my fave winter running gear, including the must-have hat with a pony-tail hole. *Note: most of the gear pictured here was graciously given to me by Nike


  1. Ali November 21, 2012 / 2:33 am

    Sweet toque, eh!

    • Miranda November 21, 2012 / 2:42 am

      I look bald when I wear it. haha

  2. artud2000 November 21, 2012 / 6:56 pm

    The gloves are nice

    • Miranda November 21, 2012 / 7:40 pm

      Thanks! They are the perfect weight too. They keep my hands warm without being too bulky. Only downside is that they don’t work on the touchscreen on my iPhone so I often run with my thumb exposed so I can start and stop my Nike+ app and change my music 🙂

      • artud2000 December 4, 2012 / 3:28 pm

        I got a Nike gloves that work with the iPhone you might should try them, they are the storm fit they are alright. Not as warm as I was expecting

  3. Molly @ A Fresh Start For Molly November 21, 2012 / 9:50 pm

    I’ve been making a list of winter-running gear because I’m training for a half marathon in February. What I have right now is fine but it’s only going to get colder… thanks for this!

    • Miranda November 21, 2012 / 10:02 pm

      No problem! The holidays are coming up so it’s a good time to put some awesome winter running gear on your wishlist 🙂 I always feel WAY more motivated when I have great gear to wear.

  4. Mary November 29, 2012 / 9:17 am

    Great tips and sweet gear! What kind of tights or bottom layers do you wear if it gets really cold (i.e. colder than -10C)?

    • Miranda November 29, 2012 / 11:28 am

      I usually wear my compression tights with a pair of knee high tube socks so that it keeps my calves warm. My butt is almost always ice cold though after returning from a winter run but I actually don’t mind it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.