I’ve always been a big fan of wearing layers, regardless of the weather. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it stems from the fact that most shirts are a little too short for my extra long torso, and I like the extra coverage of a longer tank-top underneath. But that’s just the beginning of my layering obsession. I never seem to be a comfortable temperature – I’m either too hot or too cold… so layers let me add and remove clothing as needed in order to try and make myself comfortable.
When it comes to running, I tend to run on the hotter side (pun intended), but with temperatures below 20 and windchill making it feel like 0 or lower, it’s difficult even for me to overheat on a winter run. That being said, I still need to make sure I have enough layers to actually feel warm. And with the temperatures holding steady at about 25 or below the last few weeks (with the exception of a warm spell while I was out of the country, of course), making sure I have the right layers on to stay comfortable while running has been extremely important.
My last few runs have all taken place when the temperature has been between 20-25 degrees, but with windchill it’s been anything from a few degrees negative to about 20 degrees, thanks to that fun little thing called wind chill. I say it every year, and I’ll say it again; if it weren’t for the wind, winter in the Northeast wouldn’t be so bad! So what do I wear for a run when it’s in the teens and even single digits? Let me break it down for you:
I like to wear a tank top that has a built in bra when it’s super cold, because it winds up doing double duty. Instead of having to wear a sports bra and tank top, I can kill two birds with one stone. The Oiselle High 10 Shimmel has been my go-to since the fabric is on the thicker side so it keeps me warm but still manages to keep me dry.
Next up is a mid-weight long sleeve shirt. I am obsessed with Oiselle’s Lux Layer, so I wear it as often as possible. It’s buttery soft and manages to keep you warm when it’s cold, but again, you won’t overheat in it.
My final piece up top is actually a half zip I found at Marshall’s this past fall. I was drawn to it because of the herringbone design and its $29 price tag. I didn’t think it was going to be anything special, but it quickly became my favorite super cold weather running piece this winter. It also helps that there is a zipper pouch on the left arm that’s big enough to fit my iPhone 5 which I’ve been taking with me on these icy runs just in case I slip and fall and need to call someone! I have a few other half zips (like this Brooks nightlife) and they are probably my favorite layering piece, since the zipper provides versatility; you can stay zipped up when you start your run, but as you warm up, you can easily unzip to get some air, and then re-zip when you’ve cooled off. I need to get my hands on the Oiselle Lux Layer Side Zip…
This is actually the first winter in my running career where I’ve had to double up on bottoms. When it’s 20 and below and the wind is howling, my thighs need some extra protection. I’m all for burning legs when you’re running, but I much prefer that burning sensation to be from hard work, and not from the freezing temperatures! So for the past few weeks I’ve been wearing a base layer of winter running tights (ones that are fleece lined have been especially wonderful), with my Oiselle Run Pant on top. A pair of running pants on top of tights might sound like too much, but it’s actually been perfect for runs where I’ve found myself in snow, since the pants give my ankles and lower legs a little extra protection.
I’ve also been doubling up on socks, which may sound like a bad idea, but has actually been wonderful. I’ve found that a pair of Injinji toe socks underneath a pair of Thorlos socks have been a perfect match. If you don’t have toe socks, a pair of more compressive socks layered underneath a thicker, looser pair also works. I was worried at first that doubling socks may result in blisters, but since I’ve been wearing two pairs of running socks that are supposed to prevent just that, I’ve been fine. And, if your legs are super cold, you could wear a pair of knee socks or compression socks as one of your layers to help keep your calves and shins warm!
While this section is labeled “Accessories” which may make it seem like they’re optional, they definitely aren’t in these temperatures! I’m talking about gloves, hats/headbands, and maybe the necessary scarf. My hands are really sensitive to the cold, and it’s safe to assume that if my hands are cold, I’m miserable. So I don’t mess around when it comes to running gloves. I’ve been tempted to run in snow gloves, but have opted for thinner layers instead to make sure I can actually move my hands and fingers if needed. After a lot of trial and error, the best combination for me is a pair of cheap gloves (I’m talking the kind you can buy at Target in a pack of 2 for $3), and then a pair of fleece running gloves on top. This gives my fingers the ability to press buttons on my watch, but it also keeps them warm. And in the event I overheat, I have a layer I can take off.
As for the top half, I opt for a headband on most days, specifically a Bondi band. While it isn’t winter-specific, I find the material to be just the right thickness to keep my forehead/hairline warm, and the band is big enough that I can use it to cover my ears. Plus, it wicks away any sweat, and if I do wind up getting hot and don’t need my ears covered, I can easily shift the headband back to expose my ears. I know that a lot of people swear by hats, especially because that’s where you lose a lot of your internal heat, but since I run relatively hot, having the top of my head exposed helps regulate the rest of my body temperature.
In terms of optional/less frequent gear, I’d include a scarf and a pair of sunglasses. I’ve only worn a scarf a few times, and that has been when it was actively snowing or the wind has been exceptionally brutal. It covers those few inches of skin that a mock neck or turtleneck doesn’t cover, and it’s perfect to pull up over your mouth and face when it’s bitterly cold. Sunglasses are also helpful for those mid-day runs when it’s sunny out and there is snow on the ground, leaving you nearly blind. They also act as a great shield from the wind – no one likes having tears pouring down their frozen face! My sunglasses aren’t anything fancy, though, they’re just your typical plastic wayfarer styled glasses you get at a party, or for $5 at the store… and they’re perfect.
So there you have it. That’s how I layer in this awfully cold and windy weather. It’s A LOT of clothing to have to put on and take off, but one redeeming quality is that you don’t sweat as much (at least I don’t, and I’m a serious sweater), so laundry frequency doesn’t have to increase that much. Even though I’ve figured out how to be comfortable on the run, I really can’t wait for it to be at least 40 degrees out again. Maybe I just need to move to California!
Have you been running in these temperatures?
Are your layers similar? More? Less?
What’s your favorite cold weather running piece?