Cold Weather Running Gear Guide

a runner running in the winter

When the amount of daylight decreases and temperatures start to drop, sometimes motivation to workout quickly follows suit. Less sunlight and colder temperatures doesn’t mean running outdoors needs to come to an end. With the proper cold weather running gear, you’ll be able to brave the dropping temperatures and stay safe while running outdoors. If you’re needing some help knowing what to wear when running in the cold, our Running Experts outline a variety of cold weather running gear for a range of different temperatures and conditions. 

Cold Weather Running Essentials

When preparing to run in cold weather, it’s important to remember to layer. You’ll start to warm up after the first mile and may need to shed layers depending on how you’re feeling. 

Here’s a quick list of the basic cold weather running essentials you’ll want to consider:

1. Running Base Layer Top

a woman wearing a quarter zip running top

Start your layering with a quality base layer that will wick away sweat to keep you feeling dry. Although it’s always important to avoid cotton layers when running, it’s especially important during cold weather runs because cotton will absorb moisture and hold it in—making you colder. This layer can be a short-sleeved or long-sleeve shirt. Another layering choice for your top is a quarter or half-zip shirt. This is a great choice for versatile ventilation during spring and fall runs when you need to dump excess heat.

If you need more information about base layers, our Experts break down everything you need to know in our How to Choose a Base Layer article.

2. Running Tights or Pants

When the temperatures drop, trade-in your shorts for running tights or pants. Tights or pants specifically designed for running not only wick away sweat to keep you warm and comfortable, but they also feature pockets for storage, reflective details for visibility, and a secure waistband. If the temperature dips below 15 degrees, runners often layer running pants over tights for added warmth and wind protection.

3. Running Vest or Jacket

A running vest or jacket helps block the wind yet won’t restrict your mobility. With a running vest, you’ll enjoy greater breathability while still keeping your core warm. If the temperature dips below 15 degrees, it’s a good idea to reach for your running jacket.

4. Running Gloves or Mittens

a runner wearing gloves when running outside

It’s very important to keep your hands covered in cold temperatures to avoid any cold-weather-related injuries. Running gloves or mittens are typically made from synthetic materials to wick away sweat yet offer water and windproofing too. Like all cold weather running gear, gloves and mittens typically have reflective details for visibility in low-light conditions

5. Running Hat or Headband

a runner wearing a hat while running

Don’t forget to keep your ears protected from cold temperatures and the wind. Many runners find that wearing a hat tends to be too warm for temperatures over 32 degrees. That’s where a running headband is a great choice—you keep your ears warm while letting heat escape.

6. Running Buff

A running buff will become your favorite cold-weather running accessory. It’s a great way to protect your neck, nose, and mouth on very cold days. You can also wear it as a headband or hat depending on how warm you’re feeling throughout your run. A running buff is a versatile layer that’s easy to pack into a pocket once you’ve warmed up.

7. Running Socks

When it comes to running in cold weather, don’t forget to invest in a quality pair of warm socks. Darn Tough, Smartwool, Bombas, and Feetures are great brands to check out if you’re looking for a new pair of warm running socks.

Learn more about why running-specific socks are important, straight from our Footwear Experts: Do Running Socks Make a Difference? >

8. Lights, Reflective Vest & Ice Spikes

Winter means less daylight, so you’ll probably be running in low-light if not dark conditions. Having the proper reflective gear and lights make you visible to cars—keeping you safe. If it’s icy on the streets and sidewalks, using Yaktrax ice spikes is a good idea to prevent slipping and injury.

Layering Based on Temperature

a girl running in cold weather layers

There are a few different factors to consider when selecting the right layers to wear for running in cold weather.

  1. Distance and pace of your run: If you’re running long-distances or at a quick pace, you may not need as many layers to keep you warm.
  2. Temperature and windchill: It’s important to look at the windchill temperature. To prevent overheating, you’ll want to take the windchill temperature and add between 5 and 10 degrees. This is the “temperature” you’ll want to dress for. For instance, if the temperature is 35 degrees but the windchill says it feels like 20 degrees, you’ll want to dress for temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees to stay comfortable. 
  3. How quickly your body warms up: Everyone’s body temperature runs differently, so if you tend to feel warm during your runs, you may want to skip the additional layer.

What to Wear Running Temperature Chart

Our Running Experts outlined suggestions on how they would dress when running in cold weather, but it ultimately comes down to some trial and error in order to figure out what works best for you. You always want to be safe when running in cold weather. If the temperatures dip too low, it’s best to run at an indoor track or on the treadmill, or if you decide to run in low-light conditions, wear your lights and reflective vest.

Apparent TemperatureTop



Around 40° FMoisture-wicking shirt
Long-sleeve tech shirt
Shorts, capris, or tightsGloves (optional)
Low-cut running socks
Around 35° FMoisture-wicking shirt
Long-sleeve/half-zip tech shirt
Running vest (optional)
Capris or tightsGloves
Hat or headband (optional)
Low-cut or crew running socks
Around 30° FLong-sleeve/half-zip tech shirt
Running vest
Running buff (optional)
Hat or headband (optional)
Crew running socks
In the 20s° FMoisture-wicking shirt
Long-sleeve/half-zip tech shirt
Running vest
Running jacket (optional)
Tights, fleece-lined tights, or running pantsGloves or mittens
Running buff
Hat or headband
Crew running socks
> 20° FMoisture-wicking shirt (or 2)
Long-sleeve/half-zip tech shirt
Running vest
Running jackets
Fleece-lined tights or running pantsGloves or mittens
Running buff
Hat or headband
Crew running socks

Staying motivated to run outdoors throughout the winter months can be difficult, but with the proper cold weather running gear, it will be more comfortable and fun. If you have additional questions about running, feel free to contact an Expert at your nearest SCHEELS or read our other fitness articles.