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How To Layer for Winter Running

Women running in winter clothing.
Sergii Kumer/Shutterstock.com

If you love logging miles even when the temperatures drop, you’ll know how important it is to dress up in layers that will keep you warm and protect your muscles, joints, and tendons from injury.

Running is taxing on the body, but it warms you up much sooner than you’d think. What started as a three-piece layer might soon become just one, and that’s why you’ll see plenty of discarded clothes on the side of the road during marathons and other races.

Now, even though you’ll probably want to keep all of your clothes during your morning runs, it’s still important to know how to properly layer for winter running and which items are an absolute must.

Running Undershirt

Man running in a field in a long sleeved shirt.

Starting with layer number one, a running undershirt is the best basis for winter running. It’s the closest to your skin and its goal is to keep you warm and soak up the sweat so that it doesn’t stay on your skin.

Whether you go for a tank, a short sleeve shirt, or even a long-sleeved piece, it depends on you and your body. Some people heat up pretty easily and prefer basic tanks, while others can’t imagine getting outside without their long-sleeved shirts. Choose fabrics like polyester and microfiber that are moisture-wicking and quick-drying, and stay away from cotton as it takes the longest to dry.

Long-Sleeved shirt

Keeps you warm on even the coldest morning runs.

Running Vest

Woman running in a forest wearing a running vest and a beanie.
Karlos Garcaipons/Shutterstock.com

A great second layer is a running vest. Usually made of one or two layers, a running vest helps protect you from unfavorable weather conditions like rain and wind. Choose vests that are breathable and yet water-resistant, so you stay dry for as long as it’s possible. And when choosing your size, preferably size up as that will ensure no restriction of movement, allowing your arms to move freely.

Running vest

Keeps you dry and warm.

Running Jacket

Man running in a warm jacket in cold weather.
Lordn/Shutterstock.com

For those extra cold days when a vest simply isn’t enough, choose a good-quality running jacket that will keep you warm no matter the weather conditions. Size is also very important when it comes to choosing the right running jacket as it needs to allow you to move freely and give your chest enough space to fully expand.

The best running jackets are also water and wind-proof, breathable, come with a variety of pockets and compartments for your most valuable belongings, and even feature some extra details like visibility stripes and neon patches that glow in the dark.

Running Jacket

Keeps you warm and visible on even the worst winter day.

Running Leggings

Man running in long leggings in winter.
lzf/Shutterstock.com

In order to keep your legs warm throughout your run, you’ll need a good pair of running leggings that are insulated to keep you warm, and yet made of moisture-wicking fabric that will keep your legs dry and comfortable.

Additionally, some of the best running leggings have deep pockets for your phone and keys, neon stripes to improve your visibility, and a high waistband with a drawcord so you can customize the fit to your liking.

Running leggings

Keep you warm and cozu during cold-weather running.

Running Gloves

Woman running with running gloves in winter.
Maridav/Shutterstock.com

Your hands and toes get really cold during running as the blood tends to rush away from your extremities. That’s why during the winter, it’s absolutely crucial to invest in a pair of running gloves, even if you end up stashing them in your pockets after a few miles.

They should be soft, comfortable, and have an enhanced grip so you can do with them whatever you’d normally do with your bare hands. Some of the newer models even have touchscreen finger capability so you don’t have to take them off to answer your phone or reply to a message.

Running gloves

Protect your hands from frost bites.

Running Socks

Woman preparing for a run and lifting her running socks.
LStockStudio/Shutterstock.com

Moisture-wicking and rapid-drying socks are essential for runners, no matter the weather. Still, during winter, choosing the right pair of running socks might be even more important than ever due to often changes in temperatures and potential water puddles on your running route.

Choose running socks that will offer mild compression and protect your feet from injury. Compression socks help improve your blood circulation and shock absorption, so your feet aren’t as stressed and swollen after miles and miles of running.

Compression socks

Best running socks that will keep you warm and supported.

Running Headband

Man and woman running in the winter.
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

Not every runner is a fan of beanies and caps, but in order to keep your ears protected during harsh winter conditions, you should definitely wear some sort of protective gear. Headbands are a great option as they’re usually lightweight, breathable, keep the sweat away, and help keep your ears warm.

And if you don’t feel like wearing it, you can always stash your headband in your pocket.

Running headband

Keeps your ears warm no matter the weather.


Running is a great outdoor activity, but come winter, you do need to be more cautious with your clothing and gear. And on the days you’re off from running, there are plenty of other amazing winter activities you can participate in (and also layer up!).

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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