Gear up for Winter Running

Jul 14, 2021

The key to a successful and enjoyable winter run is wearing the right gear. Cold weather and snow can be fun if you are warm.

Under Layers

It might be really cold when you head out the door on your run, but inevitably you will warm up and be too hot if you are wearing warm gear. Layers are key for winter running. From base layers to fleece, vests and jackets, you’ll want to be able to shed layers as you go. Start with lightweight and breathable under layers, add a fleece, and a vest if it’s really cold. You always want to start your run warm and maintain a comfortable body temperature by shedding layers. Also, have drier layers ready to put back on as soon as you are finished with your run.

Insulated Running Tights

There are a number of styles of running pants on the market today. From lightweight running pants to insulated tights and Gore-Tex shells, there is a style to match the winter weather that you’ll be running in. When in doubt, wear a warmer pair to keep your muscles warm and ready to roll. If it’s really cold, try a lightweight pair of tights underneath looser fitting running pants or waterproof pants.

Windproof and Waterproof Jacket

  A wind and waterproof jacket is key for successful winter running. The hardshell not only keeps water and snow out so you stay dry on the inside, but also protects your sweaty body from a chilling wind. And even if it is not stormy outside a windproof jacket keeps your temperature up by radiating your own body heat.

Beanie, Headband, and Hat

You create your own wind as you run, which makes ears colder than you might expect, and your head radiates heat, so to maintain your body temperature you need to insulate it. Keep your ears and head warm with a wool beanie or fleece headband. A brimmed hat or visor is also nice to keep the sun off your face. Wear a lightweight running hat with a headband on top for the warmest and most protective layers.


Your hands are the first thing to get cold in winter running since you are pumping your arms and moving your hands back and forth through the cold air. Gloves are essential for staying warm and comfortable in the winter. Lightweight gloves or glove liners are best since you’ll be moving and warming up, but waterproof and windproof gloves are essential in stormy weather. There are plenty of running specific gloves on the market, however, many ski and snowboard gloves transitions well to running.

Neck Gaiter or Balaclava

If you enjoy running in extremely cold weather, or while it is snowing a neck gaiter or balaclava is nice for extra warmth and protection from snow and wind. In fact, this extra gear can make storm running comfortable and really fun. Get one that pulls up over your head and with soft fleece around the face.

Shoe Traction Device

All-terrain running shoes like trail runners can be sufficient for winter running, but if the terrain you’ll be running on is snowy and icy, you might want to purchase traction for your running shoes. Traction devices like YakTrax, are designed to fit over your running shoes and give you added stability. You can keep them in your pocket and put them on when you are crossing icy, snow-packed terrain.

Sun Protection

Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you don’t need to wear sun protective gear. Mammoth Lakes is located at 8,000 feet, which means you are closer to the sun and more susceptible to sunburn. Wear sunglasses especially when traveling over snow, always wear sunscreen and lip balm, and consider a hat to protect your face from the elements.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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