Layering for winter runs and walks

Layering for winter runs and walks

Woman bundled up

You don't need to look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

I’ve been running through Michigan (and Boston) winters for about a decade and a half now. The truth is, I’ve still gone out with one layer too few and frozen my behind off. I’ve also found myself sweating through too many layers, desperately pulling things off and rolling up sleeves and pant legs. But practice certainly makes perfect(er).

There are so many factors that go into what a run or walk will feel like: do you run hot or cold typically? Is it windy? How windy? Is there precipitation? What kind? Is the sun shining or is it cloudy? How far are you going and how fast? Will you be near any large bodies of water? Is any of this going to change? However, there are some rules of thumb that certainly help, and the more experience you gain the easier it is to know what works.

Child in winter jacket

Layering properly for cold weather is a bit of an art form

Layering properly for cold-weather runs and walks is a bit of an art form.

The main rule of thumb for runners to master this is to dress as though it’s 20 degrees warmer than what the thermometer says. So it if happens to be a balmy 30, dress as though it were 50 out because you will heat up as you go. I know that I tend to run very hot, so I actually have more of a 30 degree rule, but you’ll learn how to judge that for yourself.

Walkers, you should dress a bit warmer than the 20 degree rule and focus on warm accessories like hats and gloves since you won't be producing as much heat. Again, you'll learn how to judge this better with a little experience.

The next rule of thumb for everyone is to dress in layers. The different layers have different properties that provide you with unique benefits, but they’re also sheddable in case you ended up misjudging the temp.

Baselayer: This layer is right next to your skin. Because it will be responsible for wicking away sweat, you want to make sure it will do this job efficiently, especially because excess moisture combined with cold is a sure path to a miserable run or walk. Most of us prefer a wool baselayer because it will wick sweat in its vapor form before it has time to condense – super efficient!

Midlayer: This is the layer that will provide most of your warmth. You’ll still want a breathable material, so the moisture can continue to be pulled away from your body. Depending on the temperature and whether or not there’s precipitation, you might stop after these two layers.

Outer layer: This layer will provide added warmth and will also protect you from the elements. You’ll rarely have a perfectly waterproof layer, because then the fabric won’t breathe well, but these water-resistant layers will keep any precipitation out.

Lastly, you’ll also want to be sure you have either wool or synthetic material socks, and something to keep your hands and head warm. You may also want to invest in a pair of shoes that provides some protection from snow and slush you’ll inevitably be running through. You can read more about the benefits of GORE-TEX here.

Investing in a few key pieces will make dressing for cold-weather runs and walks easy. You don't have to suffer through being too cold or too warm or feeling too bulky. We're here to help you find the right pieces to get you through winter!

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