What to Wear Running When its Cold and Windy

The thrill of a brisk run on a crisp, chilly morning is a feeling known well by seasoned runners. However, running in cold, windy weather requires appropriate attire to protect against hypothermia, frostbite, and other potential hazards.

This article offers comprehensive advice on what to wear when embarking on a run in cold and windy conditions, with precision and detail being paramount.

Layers: The Key to Cold Weather Running

Layers: The Key to Cold Weather Running

When dressing for a run in cold and windy weather, the rule of thumb is to dress as if it’s 20°F (about 10°C) warmer than it actually is. This helps to account for the heat your body generates as you run.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat off your skin, preventing you from feeling damp and chilled. Choose a thermal layer next to retain the warmth your body generates. A windproof outer layer is critical for windy days, to protect from windchill and keep your core warm. Make sure this outer layer is breathable to prevent overheating.

Bonus Tip: Avoid cotton as it absorbs sweat and takes a long time to dry, which can lead to hypothermia.

1. Protective Headgear and Gloves

Protective Headgear and Gloves

When it comes to keeping warm during a cold, windy run, never underestimate the importance of insulating your head and hands.

Heat loss from these areas can drastically affect your overall body temperature. Opt for a thermal, wind-resistant hat or headband to protect your head and ears.

For your hands, go for thermal running gloves designed to ward off the cold. On extremely chilly days, mittens are a better choice, as they allow your fingers to share heat, offering superior warmth. Each piece of gear plays a vital role in keeping you safe and comfortable throughout your run.

2. Optimal Running Pants and Tights

Optimal Running Pants and Tights

For lower body attire, thermal running tights or pants are your best allies against the cold. They offer a snug fit, enabling efficient body heat retention while allowing full range of motion. They should have moisture-wicking properties to keep you dry and prevent cold-related discomfort.

In gusty conditions, wind-resistant pants add an extra layer of protection against the wind chill, ensuring you can maintain your pace and performance in challenging weather conditions.

3. Footwear Essentials

Footwear Essentials

Your choice of footwear can significantly impact your running experience in cold and windy weather. Shoes with exceptional traction are paramount for stability on slippery surfaces. Pair these with thermal, moisture-wicking socks for comfort and warmth.

In wet conditions, water-resistant shoes or shoe covers are highly recommended to keep your feet dry. Wet feet can quickly become cold feet, making your run uncomfortable and potentially dangerous due to the risk of frostbite.

4. Face and Neck Protection

Face and Neck Protection

Cold winds can cause discomfort and potentially lead to frostbite on exposed skin. Therefore, safeguarding your face and neck is crucial.

A thermal neck gaiter is a versatile accessory that can be adjusted to cover your mouth and nose, warming the air you breathe in.

For more extreme cold and wind, a balaclava offers comprehensive coverage, shielding your face without obstructing your vision or movement.

5. Visibility Gear

Visibility Gear

With shorter daylight hours in cold weather, visibility becomes a significant safety factor. Reflective gear, including jackets, tights, shoes, and even accessories like armbands or hats, help make you noticeable to motorists and pedestrians.

Additionally, a lightweight, durable headlamp can make early morning or late-night runs safer by illuminating your path and making you more visible to others.

6. Hydration and Fuel

Hydration and Fuel

Even in cold weather, hydration is paramount. The dry, chilly air can quickly dehydrate you, which might affect your performance and overall health. Carry a hydration pack or a handheld water bottle, and remember to drink at regular intervals.

Energy gels or bars are also beneficial for maintaining your energy levels during long runs, preventing fatigue and promoting endurance.

7. Adapting to Weather Conditions

Adapting to Weather Conditions

Running in cold, windy weather is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You need to adapt your gear based on specific conditions. The strength of the wind, humidity, and even the exact temperature can all affect your comfort and performance.

Regularly check weather forecasts before your run to better understand what you’re up against. Then adjust your gear accordingly to ensure optimal protection and performance.

Body PartApparelFunction
Upper BodyMoisture-wicking base layer, thermal middle layer, windproof outer layerKeeps body dry and warm, protects against wind
HeadThermal, windproof hat or headbandRetains body heat, protects against wind
HandsRunning gloves or mittensProtects hands from cold and wind, retains body heat
Lower BodyThermal, moisture-wicking running tights or pantsKeeps lower body dry and warm
FeetGood traction shoes, moisture-wicking and thermal socks, water-resistant shoes/shoe covers (if wet)Protects feet from cold and prevents slipping on icy surfaces
Face and NeckThermal neck gaiter, balaclavaProtects face and neck from cold and wind
Safety and VisibilityReflective clothing or gear, headlamp (if dark)Ensures visibility in low light conditions
Hydration and FuelHydration pack, energy gels or barsPrevents dehydration and provides energy boost


Planning and dressing appropriately can make running in cold, windy weather a refreshing and exhilarating experience. Keep in mind that everyone’s tolerance for cold is different, so always prioritize your comfort and safety above all else.

Running in cold, windy conditions doesn’t have to be intimidating. With the right gear and preparation, you can embrace the elements and enjoy your run.

Always remember that your body will warm up as you run, so it’s better to start your run slightly chilly than to overheat later on. Pay particular attention to protecting extremities, and always choose moisture-wicking, thermal, and wind-resistant materials where possible. Above all else, your safety should be your primary concern. Listen to your body and adjust your gear accordingly.

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