The Sprint Diaries: How to Dress for Winter Running

Jess is participating in the Little Rock Half Marathon and is scared out of her mind. She’s never done anything like this, but is chronicling the whole process, blisters and breakthroughs, right here on Little Rock Soirée. See the rest of the series here.  

There’s no denying it. One look at the frozen windshields, the deserted parks, the blue tint of your subzero fingers and toes and you know: We’re in the throes of winter. 

While the northern states sit back and laugh at us (and rightly so), I’m still freezing my little frigid digits off over here. It makes getting outside for a run feel nearly impossible, especially when I’m content to spend my time as close to the fireplace as I can get. 

Step away from the ashes, Cinderella. 

All you need is to dress in the right gear and you’re good to go. I learned all about it when I stopped to talk to Go! Running’s Erin Taylor. To continue the metaphor, imagine she put me in some glass shoes and threw me in a pumpkin.

Well, not exactly, but she did give me some great pointers.

Upper Body:

A good rule of thumb for runners is the 20 Degree Rule: Dress as you would to walk around if it was 20 degrees warmer outside. For a 30 degree day, you’d probably wear something like a thin thermal shirt and a light jacket. This varies a bit from person to person, so if you’re a cold natured person, maybe stick with a 10 degree difference instead.

You might be cursing my name when you first start out, but you’ll heat up soon enough. Just remind yourself that it’s better than getting overheated and sweating through your layers. Then You’ll be super cold and super sick.

Look for fabrics that breathe, especially ones that have little mesh vents around your neck, back and underarms. Make sure your clothing allows good movability (vests are great for this) and is high-visibility if you run in the dark.

But whatever you do, don’t wear cotton. It soaks up sweat and will make you colder, wetter and more chafe-y. 

Lower Body:

Revisit the 20 Degree Rule. Would you walk around in 50 degree weather in shorts? If yes, then wear them on your 30 degree run. 

Fleece-lined athletic tights are straight from heaven, but if it’s really cold, put on a pair of wind-breaking running pants over your spandex.


No, it’s not just an old wive’s tale. You have to keep your head warm. Choose hats that are made from lightweight fabrics that will wick away sweat. They even exist with holes for your ponytail. Go for thermal headbands or ear warmers if you just really hate hats.

A great versatile product is Buff Headwear, which you can wear around your ears, head or even as an active face mask to help battle the cold air. 

By the way, it seems harder to breathe because it is. While the lack of humidity might be great for your hair, your burning trachea is not a fan.


Cold hands are the worst. Find gloves made out of technical fabrics to keep your palms dry and your fingers warm. You can even find gloves with stowaway layers that convert to mittens, kind of like those weird zip-off pants, except way better.


I take that back; cold feet are the worst. Look for running socks that are made from Merino wool. They’ll keep your feet warm and dry without sliding around and causing blisters at the same time. My favorites are from Feetures and I may or may not be wearing a pair right now. 

Ok, yeah, so it’s cold.

The bottom line is this: Always make sure your running attire is breathable, functional, visible and (the best one) comfortable. It might take a minute or two to plan your outfits in the winter, but channel your inner Russell Crowe and Beautiful Mind your way through that outerwear equation.

Merino wool2 ± 20°÷ cozy √(it’s still so cold)

But however cold it gets, just remember: It’s hot in the summer and that’s way worse. 

It’s all about positive thinking, guys.

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