One year ago I started running. Sure, I’d run before, but this was different. I was chasing a goal which for me was unimaginable. I had been tricked into signing up for a race lottery, and now the starting line for my first Half Marathon was staring me in the face. Now for the rub. It was in March. That meant I had to consistently log long miles outdoors throughout the winter. I live in snowy Utah. Meaning lots of days running in 10-25 degrees, often with snow falling thickly on my head. But all this running led to a few things:
- Up-scaling my winter fitness wardrobe with layers that actually work.
- A belief that there ARE the right clothes for every weather situation… you just have to find them.
- A growing love for winter running.
Below is a list of the gear that worked well for my husband and I as we slogged through one of the nastiest winters in Salt Lake’s recent history. (Chris was training for a marathon). Click on a photo for a more detailed review or retail information.
I (Chris) love my Injinis. For those who are unfamiliar, they are toe socks, but not just a silly gag. I’ve never had a blister or sore spot on a toe with them. (Including on my first marathon which was bordering on being a swim.) The wool variants are phenomenal if it is wet out. Your feet will stay warm when wet, and dry out quickly. (I found on a backpacking trip that the wool dried in less than 1/2 the time as the CoolMax. We’d get to camp and my wool socks were dry, in my shoes, whereas CoolMax stayed wet for days.)
When it isn’t wet, I (Alyssa) go for my Wrightsocks. They are double-layered, removing any rubbing and saving your feet from blistering. I have never gotten a blister in a pair of these socks, running or backpacking.
The key in finding a good baselayer is to find one that is highly breathable, allowing the moisture to move away from your skin. For mild-cold temperatures or under a fleece mid-layer, I have loved my Columbia Omni-Heat LS baselayer. It is thin and dries super-fast. I also love that it is stretchy and has thumb loops.
When the temperatures dip and I need a slightly more “heavy hitting” baselayer, my Helly Hanson Dry Dynamic base layer has been my warmest baselayer to date. It is made of two fabrics, bonded together. Next to your skin is polypropylene which sucks the moisture off and dumps it into merino wool which insulates and evaporates the moisture to the environment. I’ve loved it for skiing as well.
For snowy conditions we found that a brushed fleece on top of a baselayer has worked the best for breathability and retaining warmth even when wet. The brushed fleece sheds snow very well (as in the picture) and doesn’t absorb any water. We own a few different brands of them (Columbia, Patagonia R1, North Face) and all have performed awesomely.
I (Chris) love wool, in case that isn’t already obvious. My favorite running shirt(s) are my Icebreakers. I’m always shocked that a thin shirt will keep me warm and dry, only to find that I had my sweat freeze to ice on my back during the run. Beyond that, I get away with washing it less because it resists odor. It is expensive, but nothing matches it for performance.
(Chris) As a man there may come a day when you find yourself wearing tights. It is a hard day, but worth it for winter running. They are incredibly comfortable, shed water, and can’t be beat if you’re doing longer runs.
Adidas Super Nova Tights
I picked up a pair of these guys last winter for a reasonable price and they worked great. I can put on a set of Hit Chilis under them if it is below 20 out.
2XU Compression Tights
I picked up a second (!?) pair of tights this year and wanted to try the compression route. I love the tights, and they are good down to about 30 degrees. Due to the nature of compression design though, it is impossible to layer under them.
We’ve found lightweight, wicking hats or headbands work the best for keeping our heads warm. What is great about a Buff is that it can work as a neck gaiter, headband or hat! They are also great for skiing, backpacking or as a fashion item.
I’ll (Alyssa) be honest: My North Face lightweight running hat is my favorite all-season hat. I use it weekly for hiking, backpacking and running in the summer. But billed-hats are great for the winter too! Not only to they keep your head measurably warm while absorbing some sweat; the bill also keeps the rain or falling snow out of your face and eyes.