How to Dress for Running in Cold or Warm Weather

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 7:55 PM

As Temperatures get colder this winter, here's a guide of how to dress to make sure you're comfortable on your outdoor run!


I was inspired by a recent article on the subject and I wanted to share with you what Kat Pummill wrote a few years back about proper weather layering for cold weather running.



A couple notes I want to add - since hers is written mostly for women, I'm aiming for the men here - but still the ladies can benefit from my additions.

I believe in the 20 degree rule: of course everyone is different and some people carry a colder or warmer body temperature (in terms of feeling) in comparison to the rest of us.


It works like this: whatever the temperature is outside - add 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) and dress for that type of weather, as if you were about to go for a walk in it.


Below 0 degrees - I would recommend running indoors if it must be done, or take the day off as a sign from above.  Temperatures too low can be permanently damaging to your lungs, skin, and eyes.  Take my advice, stay healthy and make the smart move to run inside or not at all.


0 degrees? - dress like its 20 - lower half is thermal tights and a pair of wind proof pants over - upper half is a long sleeve wicking base layer, half zip pullover, a running synthetic down vest or coat, or a vest and wind proof coat. - a wicking balaclava or face shield, running stocking cap, and thermal gloves, mittens, or even two layers of gloves is pretty much required for comfort.


10 degrees? - dress like its 30 - lower half is running pants or tights, maybe an extra pair of shorts for your booty - upper half is a base layer (wicking long sleeve), a half-zip pullover, and maybe a light weight jacket - a running stocking hat and wicking gloves are highly recommended


20 degrees? - dress like its 40 - lower half - lose the extra pair of shorts, just the pants - upper half is a wicking long sleeve base layer and a half zip pullover (lose the jacket) - a running hat and wicking gloves are highly recommended


30 degrees? - dress like its 50 - lower half is some thermal calf sleeves and a pair of longer shorts (shorts back, lose the pants but keep the lower legs covered) - upper half is a short sleeve base layer and the half zip - a running hat and wicking gloves are recommended, but make sure you have some pockets to store the gloves and hat if it gets too warm, and be ready to tie the half zip around your waist


40 degrees? - dress like its 60 - lower half is thinner knee high socks or compression calf sleeves and shorts, shorts can be a little bit less length this time if you want - upper half is a base layer short or long sleeve is up to you, but no need for a half zip - running gloves might be appreciated if you're speed is a little slower on that really long run day


50 degrees? - dress like its 70 - lower half is shorts and compression sleeves only if you need the extra compression - upper half is short sleeve shirt only


60 degrees? - dress like its 80 - you should wear the bare minimum from this point up. Shorts are always required unless you're on a nude beach - upper half is tank top or shirtless depending on your comfort level (ladies - this is good sports bra weather) - leave the hat and gloves in the winter weather box under your bed.


70 degrees? - dress like its 90 - there's really only so much clothing we can take off before we are indecent in public - be fair to the eyes of those around you. - a light running ball cap might be helpful to keep sweat out of your eyes

80 degrees and 90 degrees are the same as 70, but be aware that the warmer it is outside, the slower you should run, and consider walking - heat stroke is a very serious issue if taken lightly.  Above 100 is again a sign from above that maybe it's a good day to take a break or just run inside.  If you choose to run outside, you are risking heat stroke and dehydration - Come prepared with electrolytes to keep you conscious if you start to get dizzy.  Try to run in a place where people can see you so that if you do happen to pass out, you can get medical attention more quickly.


Rain, snow, wind - take those into account also.

Rain tends to cool us down, but I don't think a rain coat is necessary. You will get wet anyways, and surely overheat.

Snow is no big deal until it's accumulates to more than a foot - waterproof shoes might help, gators, or shoes with significant tread.

Ice can be a problem - just be careful not to fall - there are products out there to help with running on ice and giving you traction. Check out your local running specialty store for some goodies to help with that.

Wind is the big issue when deciding what to wear. There are some super light weight running jackets to help with wind - these are clutch and can be worn in anything below 50 as a layering option.  Something each person must experiment with.

The Bare Essentials list:

 - Wicking Base Layers - Tanks, Tees, Sports Bras (if you need them), Long Sleeve Tees - And if you're exercising a lot it's good to have lots of these so as to avoid having to do the laundry EVERY time you run.

 - Half-Zip Pullover - Good to have multiple of these depending on where you reside.  Northerners will need more than Southerners.

 - Light Weight Jacket - This is a MUST HAVE for wind, rain, and cold.  It works great in the 40s, or on rainy/windy days, and in some cases you can skip the half-zip pullover

 - Running Gloves - They come in handy in anything below 40, wind, or rain, it's nice to have the ones that have fingers and an additional 4 finger wind breaker cover that you can tuck away when it's not needed.  A thermal pair might be necessary for the coldest of days.

 - Running Stocking Cap - Another Must Have for anything below 40, and good to have multiple for those really cold areas of the country.

 - Lower Base Layers - Multiple pairs of shorts in different lengths are good to have.  If it's really hot, a shorter pair.  If it's colder: longer shorts.  And thermal tights are key when it gets colder than 30 - I personally like to wear my longer shorts atop my tights.

 - Thermal Socks and Calf Sleeves - Great for when you have a day in the 30s but don't feel like wearing pants - It allows knees to move freely and will even ice them while you run to help aid in pain relief.

 - Pants - Really only needed for running if it's below 20 degrees, but if you're getting down to temps that cold, you will want to start layering up with 2,3, or even 4 layers.

 - Shoes - A required piece of apparel, but consider the breathability of the shoes as the weather gets warmer, and the water resistance when it's wet or cold.

 - For the Ladies, Capris work well when running in temps between 30-70 - depending on compression of the legging when it starts to get warmer before you switch to shorts.  It's good to have multiple ones again for the laundry issue.


Lastly, something to consider is your pace. The faster you're going relative to your abilities, the less clothing you will need as it will help you feel warmer, so for tempo runs or on race day, consider bringing less on course or have options for clothes you don't mind parting with forever to help you stay warm in the starting corrals - then ditching once the race starts. Some races will sweep the course and have a spot like gear check to come get what you dropped, but most races will donate the clothing to charity.  For some this is a good way to get a tax write-off.  Any questions on this matter, let me know!


Have a great run! Go faster and keep smiling!

#RealTriathlon -



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