When we think of running in the winter, we think of friends meeting on dark, cold mornings when our beds feel oh-so-warm. We think of how the chilly air feels during those first 10 minutes and how softly yet suddenly the cold wanes, and we feel toasty. The best cold-weather running gear will let you run outdoors regardless of the winter weather.
We think of the way snow falls from a tree as we pass by and the sparkle of the snow as the sun rises. We think of empty sidewalks and muted roads. We think of how the warmth of home hits our face and the ice on our lashes melts when we walk in the door after a great winter run. Running in the wintertime is magical, and the iRunFar team wants you to experience that joy! With this guide, we share some of our favorite winter pieces to help you run safely and comfortably through the winter.
These pieces have been tested by our team over multiple years and seasons, on variable terrain, around the world, and in diverse winter conditions. We are excited to share these recommendations, selected for their strengths and versatility. Whether you need a winter running jacket like the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody or gloves like the Trailheads Convertible Zip Mitts for the very coldest conditions, we have recommendations to keep you warm and comfortable.
You can also skip down to read our recommendations on choosing the right cold-weather running gear for you, our answers to your frequently asked questions about cold-weather running gear, and how we put this guide together.
Best Cold Weather Running Gear
- Best Winter Running Shoes for All Conditions: Salomon Speedcross 6, Salomon Speedcross 6 Gore-Tex
- Best Winter Running Shoes for Packed Snow: Hoka Speedgoat 5
- Best Winter Traction Device for Off-Road Running: Black Diamond Distance Spike
- Best Winter Traction Device for Road Running in Mixed Conditions: Kahtoola EXOspikes
- Best Hydration Pack for Winter Running: Salomon Adv Skin 12
- Best Running Belt: Naked Running Band
- Best Windbreaker Jacket: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell
- Best Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket
- Best Winter Running Jacket: Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody
- Best Hybrid Jacket for Winter Running: Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover
- Best Base Layer Shirt for Winter Running: Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip
- Best Midlayer Shirt for Winter Running: Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody
- Best Winter Running Tights: Patagonia Endless Run Tights
- Best Insulated Winter Running Tights: Gorewear R3 Thermo Tights
- Best Headband for Cold Weather Running: Buff Dryflx Headband
- Best Winter Running Beanie: Sauce Swift Toque
- Best Brimmed Hat for Winter Running: Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap
- Best Gloves for Winter Running: Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove
- Best Gloves for Very Cold Conditions: Trailheads Convertible Zip Mitts
- Best Sports Bra for Cold Weather: Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Racerback Bra
- Best Wool Socks for Cold Weather: Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks
- Best Synthetic Socks for Cold Weather: Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew
- Best Headlamp for Winter Running: Petzl Iko Core
- Best Sunglasses for Winter Running: Julbo Aero
Best Winter Running Shoes for All Conditions: Salomon Speedcross 6 ($145) and Speedcross 6 Gore-Tex ($165)
The Salomon Speedcross 6 and the Salomon Speedcross 6 Gore-Tex are our top picks for general, all-around, variable-terrain winter running shoes. For most winter conditions and sometimes during the shoulder seasons — hello, mud! — runners prioritize shoes with lugs and the traction they provide. These are the best trail running shoes for these conditions, and the Gore-Tex version provides the additional benefit of being waterproof.
These shoes have Salomon’s notoriously grippy outsole that helps with traction on nearly every surface. They are also built with five-millimeter multidirectional lugs to help dig into and generate grip in soft snow. They also adapt well to variable conditions where you may encounter a mix of soft snow, mud, or generally wet ground.
They aren’t the lightest shoes, though this version is about an ounce lighter than the previous one. The tightly woven ripstop upper and durable outsole make these shoes incredibly protective, a feature we think is more important in a winter running shoe than weight. Salomon shoes tend to be on the firm side with a nimble footprint. This is a definite strength when navigating sloshy, slippery terrain.
See why we also named the Salomon Speedcross 6 one of our favorite shoes in our Best Trail Running Shoes guide.
Best Winter Running Shoes for Packed Snow: Hoka Speedgoat 5 ($155) and Hoka Speedgoat 5 GTX ($170)
The Hoka Speedgoat 5 made a big splash when it was introduced in 2022. Its predecessor, the Speedgoat 4, was already one of our trail favorites for its grippy outsole, stability, and ability to perform on aggressive terrain. The newest version kept what we loved while overhauling the upper and replacing it with a better-fitting and more durable knit mesh fabric, shaving weight from the midsole and making the outsole even grippier.
We’ve found that the Speedgoat 5 also holds its own in snowy conditions. We loved the Hoka Speedgoat 4 GTX, the previous Gore-Tex counterpart to the normal Speedgoat, on packed snow — think groomed trails where foot travel is permitted and urban singletrack that gets packed down by trail users. Our team has the new Hoka Speedgoat 5 GTX out running, and we’ll update this guide with our impressions of it throughout the winter.
Like the Salomon Speedcross 6 reviewed above, the Speedgoat 5 has five-millimeter lugs for traction but carries a slightly larger snowshoe-esque footprint and more cushion. As a result, its fit isn’t quite as precise, so we recommend it for more packed snow over slush or icy conditions.
We have found the shoe to be very plush, and the standard version comes at a very reasonable weight.
Best Winter Traction Device for Off-Road Running: Black Diamond Distance Spike ($100)
Not long after this traction device hit the market, the Black Diamond Distance Spike became the go-to choice for the iRunFar team. The design is reminiscent of a mountaineering crampon, with a rubber wrap around the back and sides of the shoes, a fabric toe cap, and a pull tab at the heel to make it easy to put on. The device securely fits on shoes and provides plenty of grip on snow and ice, even on steep slopes.
Considering their traction and toe coverage, with 14 spikes at eight millimeters long, the Distance Spike is exceptionally light. This design cuts the weight nearly in half compared to other traditional full-spike traction devices available today. The spikes are made of stainless steel and are heat-treated for strength, corrosion, and wear resistance.Shop the Black Diamond Distance Spike
Best Winter Traction Device for Road Running in Mixed Conditions: Kahtoola EXOspikes ($65)
With tungsten carbide tips atop five-millimeter lugs, the Kahtoola EXOspikes provide enough grip on soft or slippery surfaces while not being overkill. The EXOspikes have a low profile with tiny metal nubs and a rubber wrap that easily goes over the sole of any shoe. These are a great option if you’re running over slush, a bit of ice, or crusty forest roads.
These traction devices are very light, despite their 12 spikes that are 10 millimeters long, and they afford stability on all kinds of road-running terrain. To learn more about these traction devices, check out iRunFar’s in-depth Kahtoola EXOspikes review and our Best Winter Running Traction Devices guide.Shop the Kahtoola EXOSpikes
Best Hydration Pack for Winter Running: Salomon Adv Skin 12 ($160)
The Salomon Adv Skin 12 is one of Salomon’s larger vests, with 12 liters of space to fit many layers and all the essential gear you need for long, cold outings. It even includes multiple carry options for collapsible trekking poles and is compatible with Salomon’s Quiver (sold separately). However, despite the capacity, it is a light and low-profile pack that fits the body well even when nearly empty. This relatively sleek design allows you to wear the pack over and under a shell jacket in the winter. The latter will help keep your water, food, and phone from freezing.
One complaint with this pack is that the two front pockets that hold soft flasks for hydration are tall and narrow and only really accommodate Salomon-specific HydraPak soft flasks. Soft flasks can be preferable over a bladder as bladder hoses tend to freeze pretty quickly if you’re not careful to blow the water out of them after drinking. Overall, this versatile pack works well for mid-winter endurance races and adventures.
Be sure to check out our Best Hydration Packs for Running guide to see why we named this pack the best large-capacity hydration pack.
Best Running Belt: Naked Running Band ($55)
When you need additional space to carry smaller items, a waistbelt can be an excellent way to add another mini-base layer of warmth and storage where your shirt and tights meet. And despite being only a running waistbelt, the Naked Running Band will accommodate different-sized hydration soft flasks from a variety of brands, as well as other gear, including a headlamp, sunglasses, phone, and nutrition. It also includes silicone grip loops to help carry larger items like poles or a jacket.
While you can fit a bunch of stuff in this belt, if you load it lightly, it fits nicely under a jacket. This is crucial for winter running as it helps keep food warm enough not to chip your teeth!
Naked’s products are billed as extremely light, and this running band is no exception. That’s pretty incredible when you consider it has two liters of storage.
Click our Best Running Belts guide to see why we named this one of the best running belts.Shop the Naked Running Band
Best Windbreaker Jacket: Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell ($140)
The Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell is lightweight and optimal for milder winter days and outings where you may need extra wind protection. The jacket’s material is permeable, allowing it to breathe better than a rain-oriented jacket. That said, it has a water-repellent finish and will provide some protection from a bit of rain. The jacket is made of 100% nylon and 15-denier ripstop material, which helps it strike the perfect balance between providing sufficient wind protection and being a featherlight item for your running quiver.
This jacket has a fairly roomy fit, and you can wear it over a pack or waistbelt. This can keep your food, water, and gear adequately thawed in winter weather.
This jacket also includes a hood large enough to accommodate a winter beanie, a headlamp, or a swishing ponytail; a chest pocket that also doubles as a stow pocket when the jacket needs to be packed away; and elastic cuffs at the wrists to help keep warmth in.
The iRunFar team named this one of the best wind jackets in our Best Running Wind Jackets guide.
Best Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket ($180)
Despite being a fully waterproof jacket, we love the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket for its lightweight and small footprint when packed away. When unused, it will take up minimal space in your running pack or tied around your waist. Other jacket elements include an adjustable hood, a drawcord hem, elastic cuffs, and a chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. And it’s available in sizes from extra small to 4X in women’s and small to 3X in men’s, which is more size-inclusive than we see in many outdoor gear.
This jacket is lightweight and extremely durable and made of a 30-denier ripstop. For the weight, this jacket packs a lot of weather protection. Since it’s waterproof, it’s also less breathable than a water-resistant jacket like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell above, so it can get a little warm if it’s raining and not very cold.
We chose the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket as a top jacket in our Best Running Rain Jackets guide.
Best Winter Running Jacket: Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody ($329)
When we asked our team for recommendations on jackets for this category, several people quickly replied with the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. Since it’s insulated, this was recommended for the coldest days: 20 degrees Fahrenheit down to -20 degrees F. Two people noted that although it would be easy to get too warm while running in this jacket in any weather above these temperatures, the jacket has excellent wicking qualities that help prevent sweat from staying against your skin.
This jacket features a hood with a halo drawstring and elasticity to fit snugly around your head and face. The cuffs are soft and stretchy, which helps contain warmth around your hands and wrists. Our team said it’s thin enough to fit under a shell for additional warmth, while winter biking, hiking, or casual around-town wear is not used for the coldest running adventures.
It easily squishes into a backpack and fits into a larger hydration vest, like the Salomon Adv Skin 12 above. The durable water-repellent finish ensures you won’t get soaked if it starts to sprinkle.
This jacket is ideal for higher-effort runs when the outside temperature is below freezing and for more measured efforts at slightly higher temperatures. It’s also a great all-around jacket for going about town, hiking, biking, and nearly any other activity.
Best Hybrid Jacket for Winter Running: Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover ($139)
For shoulder-season conditions, the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover stands out as a hybrid layer that’s super versatile. It functions well in rain, wind, snow, and a wide range of temperatures. It’s perfect for the classic all-seasons-in-one-day type of weather. This ultralight, thin “shacket” (shirt/jacket) combines fabrics and features perfectly suited to the weather and temperature swings that runners frequently encounter.
The jacket body consists of light, wind-blocking, and water-resistant polyester, while the sleeves and hood are made with thin, stretchy, and breathable nylon. The front zipper reaches halfway down and opens two ways — zipping up from the bottom or down from the top — letting you dump heat if you get too warm. Though the entire jacket breathes well enough that overheating is rare. Like many of our favorite Patagonia layers, this one packs down small and stashes into its pocket if you need to stow it away.
This jacket’s sleeves are nice and long for chilly winter mornings, and its hood stays on decently well, especially if you’re wearing a hat. Gusty winds will knock it down, but that’s to be expected. This jacket provides an outstanding balance between warmth, protection from the elements, breathability, and size.
Read more about this jacket in our in-depth Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover review.
Best Base Layer Shirt for Winter Running: Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip ($95)
Smartwool has a variety of layers for pretty much any activity upon which you embark, and the Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip is a versatile base layer that can be worn alone when it’s not super chilly or underneath a more substantial layer when the weather warrants. It’s a great option when you need that extra comfort immediately out the door, but know you’re likely to warm up. This base layer also works really well under a rain or wind jacket on late fall days when you have a protective layer on top to help combat rain or wind, but you don’t want to overheat.
Wool base layers are ideal for various weather and temperatures because they pull moisture away from your body, retain warmth even when wet, are light on the skin, and dry quickly. The quarter-zip is the winning feature of this shirt because it’ll help you thermoregulate quickly — unzip, and you’ll promptly lose heat or zip it up for those truly cold first miles of your run.
See iRunFar’s Best Wool Running Apparel guide to learn more about this shirt, which we named the best lightweight long-sleeve shirt.
Best Midlayer Shirt for Winter Running: Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody ($159)
One member of the iRunFar team came to wear the Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody via an out-of-the-blue text recommendation from a friend they hadn’t heard from in over a year. She took their advice, and this shirt is now their go-to on medium-cold winter days.
This shirt’s lightweight and breathable sweater-like knit may mislead you into thinking it is a light base layer. Not so. Paired with a vest, it keeps us toasty on 20- to 30-degree Fahrenheit days. It’s soft, with excellent stretch and longer arms to provide extra coverage around your wrists and hands. The downside of the fabric is that it’s more delicate than some others and can potentially snag and tear at the seams if not treated with care.
The hood is minimal, with minimal movement when not in use, and when pulled up, it fits snugly on your head and allows for good peripheral vision and the ability to hear your surroundings. The hood has Patagonia’s signature high neck that will come up over your mouth and nose for extra protection from the wind if needed but also tucks nicely under your chin and functions as a balaclava when you need a little less coverage.
Because of its open knit, this shirt could benefit from a windproof layer on windy cold days, but it’s a gem that our team has used successfully on both mountain adventures and speedy road-tempo workouts in brisk conditions. Another benefit is that this top looks nice enough to transition to the office if you run short on time or space in your run-commute pack. Since it’s 59% merino wool and made with an open knit, you can wear this for days, and it won’t get stinky — trust us, we do this on our fastpacking trips.
Best Winter Running Tights: Patagonia Endless Run Tights ($119)
While they’re known for being breathable and moisture-wicking, we appreciate the Patagonia Endless Run Tights for their mid-rise fit, which moves well and doesn’t shift while you’re running.
These tights are sufficient for a wide range of cool to cold days. They are made of material designed to keep you warm and dry, with mesh panels behind the knees for breathability. The tights have two side pockets for a phone, snacks, or other small essentials and an elastic waistband with a drawcord. The women’s tights are sized to fit waist sizes ranging from 24.5 inches to 41.5 inches, and the men’s version will fit waist sizes ranging from 28 inches to 45 inches. These pants are Fair Trade Certified, and Patagonia is known for its wide-ranging environmental activism as a company, so these are tights you can feel good about owning.
Best Insulated Winter Running Tights: Gorewear R3 Thermo Tights ($120)
Don’t let the most challenging winter weather keep you from running! When it’s freezing and/or stormy, the iRunFar team turns to the Gorewear R3 Thermo Tights to get out the door for a run and stay protected and comfortable while we’re out there.
These tights are the warmest in the Gorewear running collection, with a brushed fleece lining for warmth and comfort. They are designed for cross-country skiing and running and, therefore, move well with your body. Panels of breathable polyelastane allow for natural venting so that these tights stay dry.
These tights zip at the lower leg for easier donning and doffing. There is an easy-access side pocket on the thigh and a small zippered rear pocket for keys and other small valuables. However, their sizing is slightly more limited than the Patagonia tights above. The women’s sizes fit waists measuring from 23.5 inches to 32.25 inches, and the men’s tights fit waist sizes from 27.5 to 40.25 inches.
Best Headband for Cold Weather Running: Buff Dryflx Headband ($17)
Buff neck gaiters are so widely popular among runners and outdoor enthusiasts for their year-round versatility that neck gaiters are commonly referred to as “Buffs” in how tissues are often called “Kleenex.” While the standard Buff neck gaiter may not be your top choice for the coldest, windiest, and snowiest of days, the Buff Dryflx Headband is on the advanced end of the brand’s offerings, touting an ultralight, breathable, and quick-drying fabric.
The special feature of this Buff is that it has 360 degrees of reflectivity. Winter isn’t just cold; it’s dark, and any additional visibility increases your safety. Since this headband is pretty light, it’ll compress to a tiny ball to be stored anywhere you don’t need it.Shop the Buff Dryflx Headband
Best Winter Running Beanie: Sauce Swift Toque ($32)
When the weather is such that a headband won’t suffice, we reach for the Sauce Swift Toque, a lightweight beanie designed for high-output activities in cold weather. The Bozeman, Montana-based brand was started by a former Canadian cross-country ski racer (hence the word toque and not beanie in the product’s name). The performance fabric is comfortable and breathable, and it’s incredibly cozy as well.
We like the versatility of this hat for running. It is lightweight and stretchy, providing good coverage over the ears. It’s also machine washable. Sauce offers many color and print options, from a muted solid black to vibrant patterns and mountain prints. Additionally, you can add a pom or tassel to the top at no additional cost — how fun is that?Shop the Sauce Swift Toque
Best Brimmed Hat for Winter Running: ($42)
Fleece and merino wool pair together perfectly in the Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap to help keep you warm on colder days. This cap includes an adjustable fit and a hidden ponytail hole to ensure a secure fit and maximum coverage in winter’s nastiest weather. The brim is an added perk and does a great job of protecting eyes and face from the elements.
This is a unique product, and the first of its kind that we’ve used — the combination of brimmed hat, winter hat, and headband makes this the ideal topper for winter days that are also sunny and could have light snow as well — keeping your head warm and dry but also keeping the light and snow showers out of your eyes.
To learn more, check out our Best Running Hats guide, where we named this the best hat for winter running.Shop the Buff Pack Merino Wool Fleece Cap
Best Gloves for Winter Running: Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove ($40)
The glove-to-mitten combination is no longer a unique design, but the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove has been a favorite of iRunFar’s managing editor, Meghan Hicks, for several years. Gear editor Eszter Horanyi chose them on her Nolan’s 14 Unsupported FKT run. There’s a reason these gloves were selected in our Best Running Gloves guide and reviewed thoroughly in our Ultimate Direction Apparel Review – they’re really good gloves!
The convertible glove is an excellent design for variable temperatures — think a long run started in the morning where it warms up over time — for those who have circulation issues like Raynaud’s syndrome (when you don’t get enough circulation to your fingers), or for those who want a pair just for reassurance if the weather might turn while out on a daily adventure.
The inner glove is grid fleece, and the over-mitt is a silicone-coated waterproof Cordura ripstop. The mitten part of the glove folds up into the wrist section, which is a nice touch as this keeps the unused mitten portion from flopping about or getting in the way.Shop the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove
Best Gloves for Very Cold Conditions: Trailheads Convertible Zip Mitts ($52)
We recently added the Trailheads Convertible Zip Mitts to our Best Running Gloves guide after using their Primaloft recycled polyester insulation, extended cuffs, and wrist straps that seal in warmth to keep our fingers and hands warm all last winter.
These mitts are great for super-cold weather, which we consider temperatures dropping below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. So far, we’ve tested them in temperatures down to -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and they are still plenty warm for our team.
We love how these mitts make no compromises when keeping our digits warm in the depths of winter. At the same time, if we need to dig a car key out of our pocket, turn our headlamp off, or snap a photo of an epic sunrise, the mitts have a zipper that frees our hands for a brief moment. The only drawback of these supremely warm mitts is that they’re rather heavy and not easily packable, so they’re not the best choice if you anticipate needing to shed layers when the day warms.
But, if you’re committed to running outside when temperatures get frigid, you can trust these gloves to keep your hands warm and dry.
Best Sports Bra for Cold Weather: Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Racerback Bra ($65)
Nothing is worse than a sports bra that gets sweaty and cold during a run, and the Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Racerback Bra is thick and warm enough for the coldest conditions. This sports bra is thicker than most, and the first impression we had was that it was heavy. But it’s incredibly warm and almost doubles as an additional layer for keeping the core warm. The merino wool is soft against the skin, and the material stretches enough that getting the bra on and off doesn’t turn into a wrestling match that threatens to dislocate shoulders. Smartwool has added Tencel Lyocell to the merino to increase its drying time and provide more durability. While this bra is advertised as one for low-impact activities, we used it regularly for running without issue and wore it multiple days in a row without experiencing any stretching or loss of support. Two extra support cups are included, but the bra provides plenty of support for smaller-chested people without them. While it may feel too thick for some people, we appreciated the warmth and support provided.
A back pocket provides enough space for a few small items, and we didn’t have any issues with things bouncing around or being uncomfortable. The ribbed bottom band never felt too tight, and the racerback style didn’t rub or chafe at all.
Best Wool Socks for Cold Weather: Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks ($23)
Designed specifically for running, the Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks are made with a merino blend — with nylon and elastane mixed in — with mesh zones to help keep your feet both warm and dry in colder weather.
The mid-crew style is the perfect length for running in winter — it keeps your ankles covered and protected in a cold breeze, snow, and/or slush. Targeted cushions at the toe and heel help keep those areas blister-free, especially when the feet get wet. The toe is virtually seamless, so you don’t have to worry about blisters in that area, either.
Even though our team has given this sock the Goldilocks description of “not too thick, but not too thin,” they are a proper winter sock. We found them to be a little thicker, so you might not want to pair them with tighter shoes.
We thoroughly covered these socks and all our favorites in our Best Running Socks guide.
Best Synthetic Socks for Cold Weather: Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew ($20)
Drymax tends to design slimmer products for almost all their running socks, so if you have narrower feet or like things to fit a bit tighter with a slightly higher ankle (almost to shin height), we like the Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew.
They have an excellent thermal conductivity rating, helping keep the skin warmer by drawing less heat away from the skin than socks made with other fibers. These socks also have an extra layer of Drymax insulation on the front to provide a bit extra protection to the part of your leg that is more exposed to the wind. The Drymax-specific blend, polyester, and nylon mix creates a wicking and warm sock.Shop the Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew
Best Headlamp for Winter Running: Petzl Iko Core ($100)
We particularly like the Petzl Iko Core headlamp for winter running because of its unique structure that easily fits over a hat, Buff, or even a helmet. The headlamp is designed with a silicone band rather than the traditional stretchy headband common to most headlamps. Because it has a more solid skeleton, it also helps reduce pressure headaches and sore spots that can occur with other headlamps.
With a maximum illumination of 500 lumens (which can reach 100 meters), it produces plenty of light for nearly all running applications, yet it has a minimalist design and is super lightweight. It is rechargeable but is also compatible with three AAA batteries. If you’re in a pinch, it will run for 100 hours on the lowest six-lumen setting or 2.5 hours on the highest 500-lumen setting.
You might want to read our Best Running Headlamps guide, where we rate this as the best headlamp for trail running.Shop the Petzl Iko Core
Best Sunglasses for Winter Running: Julbo Aero with Reactiv 0-3 Lens ($230)
Sunglasses are an important piece of winter gear as they help protect your eyes from the bright reflectivity of light glancing off snow and shield them from the cold winter wind and sleet. We like the Julbo Aero with Reactiv 0-3 Lens for winter running.
Reactiv photochromic lenses get darker or lighter to match changing light conditions. At their darkest, the lens is dark enough for bright days on snow. Meanwhile, they’re clear during the dark of night, an important feature since daylight during winter can be scarce. These sunglasses were designed with running and mountain biking in mind and their breathability minimizes fogging on slower uphill slogs.
While these look a bit more technical than other running-specific sunglasses, we’ve found their sturdiness, durability, and eye protection far outweigh any drawbacks in style.
In our Best Running Sunglasses guide, we named the Julbo Aero one of the top running sunglasses.
Buyer’s Guide: How To Choose the Right Cold Weather Running Gear for You
The Importance of Layering When Running in the Cold
When running in the cold, the most important part of staying safe and comfortable is appropriately managing your internal temperature under changing weather conditions and exertion levels. Staying warm while standing still in cold weather will require much more clothing than walking, and running will require even less than walking. The best cold-weather running gear can help you maintain the correct internal temperature.
The body is only about 25% efficient when it comes to using energy for muscle contractions, meaning that for every unit of energy used to contract a muscle, three units of energy are released as heat. The faster we run, the more energy we use, and the more heat is created, making us warmer. Having layers to take off during a run can help maintain a steady body temperature as you warm up. Conversely, if you’ve done some strenuous efforts and are doing a cool-down jog, you’ll want to have extra layers to put on to compensate for your body generating less heat and cooling off.
Carrying a lightweight shell, like the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell, can make adding and removing layers easy as your run progresses.
Layers are also essential to protect against changing weather conditions. Temperatures can drop drastically during the winter and become dangerous if you don’t have extra layers to protect against them. An additional layer, like the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover, is an excellent insurance policy against rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.
Safety Considerations When Choosing Cold Weather Running Gear
Cold-weather running can be dangerous without the proper clothing and equipment. Hypothermia and frostbite are very real issues that need to be considered when gearing up to head outside in the cold, and there are some basics to running in the cold that all trail runners should be aware of.
When skin is exposed to freezing temperatures for too long, frostbite can occur and cause permanent damage. The speed at which frostbite happens depends on the ambient temperature, wind chill, and body parts that are exposed to the air. Frostbite is most common on fingers, toes, the nose, ears, and other parts of the face. It occurs more quickly in areas of the body without much blood flow to keep the skin warm. Frostbite can be identified by skin that has turned cold and red before turning numb, hard, and pale. Minor cases of frostbite are often referred to as frostnip and can be treated by gently rewarming the skin. You can learn more about preventing and treating frostbite on the trail.
While frostbite can happen quickly, hypothermia generally has a slower onset and can be much more dangerous. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). Symptoms of mild hypothermia include shivering, dizziness, hunger, nausea, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, issues talking, and confusion. As it worsens, it can result in increased shivering followed by a lack of shivering, lack of coordination, slurred speech, poor decision-making, drowsiness, weak pulse, and slow, shallow breathing. Ultimately, hypothermia can result in loss of consciousness and death.
Having the best cold-weather running gear to keep you warm and dry in the cold is critical. It’s also important to make good decisions when running in the cold. If you feel a part of your body going numb, you need to take action immediately, whether adding an extra layer, such as the Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody, to warm your core or just heading home. And while shivering is an amazing biological adaptation for staying warm, it’s a sign that your body’s temperature needs to be attended to.
Choosing Waterproof Versus Normal Running Shoes in Cold Weather
There are two primary schools of thought regarding using waterproof shoes in the winter. When you’re running through puddles or mud, they can keep water out and keep your socks and feet dry, which will help keep them warmer. Waterproof shoes are also inherently warmer than non-waterproof ones because of the material of the uppers. But waterproof shoes are also less breathable than normal shoes, so when your feet sweat or water gets into them from around the ankles, there’s no place for that moisture to go, leading to wet and clammy feet.
Feet get cold when the insulating layer around them, namely your socks, gets wet, and it doesn’t matter if they get wet from the rain or sweat. One technique winter athletes use to keep their feet warm is to wear a vapor barrier sock underneath their socks. Vapor barrier socks trap sweat next to the foot and keep it from getting the insulating sock wet. While this might sound counterintuitive, vapor barriers, which can be as simple as a plastic bag on your feet under your socks, are a great way to maximize the effectiveness of waterproof shoes, keeping your insulating sock dry from the inside and the outside.
Choosing the Right Jacket for Cold Weather: Waterproof, Insulated, or Non-Insulated
The key to staying safe and comfortable during winter runs is to maintain a steady body temperature and to keep from getting wet, and different conditions call for different types of jackets. Each jacket style has inherent benefits and drawbacks and can excel under specific circumstances. When it comes to a jacket that can do it all, we found that the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover was an excellent option for many weather conditions.
Fully waterproof jackets will keep you dry from any precipitation and block the wind, but they often aren’t very breathable and can leave you soaked from your sweat, especially during intense efforts. If you’re considering your options for a waterproof jacket for running in cold weather, look at our Best Running Rain Jackets guide. Our testers settled on the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket as the best waterproof option for cold-weather running.
Insulated jackets can come in an array of materials, and some are made to be waterproof as well. A non-waterproof synthetic jacket is an excellent option for staying warm under dry conditions. Synthetic insulation will remain warm even when wet, so while it’s still a good idea to try not to sweat through it, it can handle a little moisture. Our team tested an array of jackets for this guide, and when it came to choosing our favorite insulated jacket, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody came out on top.
We also appreciated the light weight of the Black Diamond Distance Wind Shell and used it as a windbreaker shell for runs where we were confident there wouldn’t be any precipitation.
Choosing Gear for Staying Dry While Running
Sweat and condensation are enemy number one when running in the cold and can quickly take you from comfortable to hypothermic. The goal of the best cold-weather running gear is to keep you both warm and dry. There are many ways to maintain an even body temperature, including moderating your effort, adding or removing layers, or increasing ventilation. One thing is sure: if you start to sweat, you need to do something about it quickly. The same goes for getting cold. A little prevention can go a long way toward avoiding a dangerous situation.
Clothing that breathes well is important to stay dry. Synthetic materials and wool are great options to wick moisture off your skin and help it evaporate into the air. Wearing layers also makes adjusting your insulation on different body parts easy. Removing a hat or unzipping a jacket can let your body offload heat and keep it from sweating excessively. Several tops designed for winter use have front and underarm zips to help a warm body vent.
Wearing a pack when running in the cold can keep sweat from evaporating from your back. Using a waistbelt like the Naked Running Band to carry keys and snacks can keep the clothing around your core, wicking moisture efficiently and preventing a sweaty back.
Why Wool Is a Good Choice for Cold-Weather Running Gear
Merino wool is a go-to material for many people who exercise in cold weather. This lightweight fiber is an insulating and breathable product of merino sheep. Its properties allow it to trap air to provide insulation while transporting moisture from your skin before it can turn into droplets and dampen everything. Modern merino clothing is soft and comfortable throughout a range of temperatures and has the bonus of not getting stinky after a single run. It comes in various weights and can be used as a base layer, mid-layer, or both. We also loved the Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap for our cold weather runs. Most modern wool clothing blends merino wool with something like Tencel, nylon, or polyester to make it a more durable material and decrease drying time.
You can read more about the gear that made our Best of Wool Running Apparel guide to learn more about the unique properties of wool.
Choosing the Right Cold Weather Running Gloves
A lot of runners struggle with keeping their hands warm. Fingers already receive relatively light blood circulation compared to other parts of your body, and when your body starts to get cold and needs to conserve heat, it’ll reduce blood flow to your extremities, including your fingers. This helps the body keep warm blood in the core, protecting vital organs. For people suffering from Raynaud’s syndrome, their bodies overreact to cold and shut off most blood circulation to the fingers, turning them numb and white. Cold hands can occur at a relatively warm temperature for those suffering from Raynaud’s. You can read more about managing Raynaud’s syndrome and keeping extremities warm.
Having the right gloves can make a big difference in comfort, whether you suffer from Raynaud’s or not.
Normal five-fingered gloves come in various weights and can provide anything from a little extra warmth to ward off the chill to protection against truly arctic conditions. When temperatures get extremely cold, mittens keep your fingers much warmer than regular gloves. As with all gear for cold weather running, you want to ensure you’re not sweating too much and getting the insulation wet from the inside.
Convertible gloves, like the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove, are an excellent option for managing the warmth of your hands. They consist of a lighter pair of five-fingered gloves with a mitten cover, which can provide a lot of extra protection when it starts to get cold. When temperatures rise again, or your hands get sweaty, you can pull the mitten shell off to provide more ventilation and temperature control. You can check out some of our favorite gloves for running in our Best Running Gloves guide.
Choosing the Right Hat for Cold Weather Running
While the idea that we lose half of our body heat through our head is a myth, a covered head can make a big difference in staying warm. Hats are also an excellent option for regulating body temperature since they are so easy to take off if you start to get hot, and they stash easily in a pack or a fist until they are needed again. Our team loved the Sauce Swift Toque for running in cold weather. Not only did it provide plenty of warmth, but it was easy to store.
Winter hats come in many styles, but the key is to choose one that has some insulation for your noggin and blocks the wind. Some winter hats come with a brim, like the Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap, and extra material to cover your ears since they are often one of the first parts of a body to get cold.
Why Trust Us
We at iRunFar don’t hesitate to run and fastpack in cold weather. Many of our testing team members are based in locations where winter temperatures can get frigidly cold, including Alaska, Idaho, Colorado, Minnesota, and Montana. We’ve spent decades experimenting with different cold-weather running setups and developed systems that keep us warm and dry in the worst conditions. Our testing team goes out in various temperatures, ranging from just a bit chilly to downright arctic. We’ve tested gear options extensively so that we can provide the best recommendations for running in a variety of cold weather conditions.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. Most products will likely remain the same when we update any buyer’s guide. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cold Weather Running Gear and Running in Cold Weather
When is it too cold to run outside? Is it safe to run in cold weather?
While as runners, we like to think of ourselves as tough and ready to run in any conditions, there are temperatures where it’s simply a better idea to move a workout inside or just sit in front of a fire with a cup of hot cocoa instead. Even the best cold-weather running gear can’t protect against everything.
Running when it’s freezing out can damage your lungs, especially if you’re working hard. If it’s below 17 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to avoid breathing hard or gasping during your workout. It’s even more important to listen to your body during cold-weather runs, and if you feel your lungs getting irritated by the cold, you’ll want to stop and get warm as soon as possible.
Cold temperatures can also lead to frostbite, especially on bits of skin exposed to the elements. The speed at which frostbite occurs depends on the ambient temperature and wind chill. Keeping facial skin covered with some warm material can help reduce the chance of frostnip or frostbite and allow you to stay out in colder temperatures.
You’ll also need to pay extra attention to keeping your joints warm when running in extreme cold. A good pair of insulated tights like the Gorewear R3 Thermo Tights can protect your knees from the elements and help warm your ankles and feet during the coldest of cold runs.
Read our science article on cold-weather running to learn more about staying safe while running in the cold.
What’s the best jacket for running in cold weather?
Choosing the right jacket for running is highly dependent on the conditions. You’ll want a jacket that can block the wind and provide insulation to trap heat next to your body to help you maintain a steady core temperature. You also want a jacket to be as breathable as possible to keep your base and mid-layers from getting soaked in sweat. If you think that sounds like a stretch for any single jacket’s functionality, you’re not wrong, and most runners will end up with an array of jackets to suit different conditions. A jacket with a full zipper, vents, and pit zips can be workable in various temperatures by allowing you to increase airflow on your body and regulate your core temperature during a run. Our team found the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody to be a highly versatile jacket that we could use in various cold-weather conditions.
Do I need a waterproof or Gore-Tex running jacket to run in the winter?
A good waterproof jacket is important if you live where most of the winter precipitation comes down as rain. We chose the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket as our favorite waterproof jacket and were able to adjust the layers underneath it to keep our core at the right temperature. If you run in snow frequently, you’ll have to worry less about incoming precipitation getting you wet from the outside since if it’s cold enough, the falling snow won’t melt on you. You might be better off with breathable layers in snowy climates than a full waterproof jacket. Gore-Tex jackets are an excellent waterproof and breathable option, but they cost significantly more than other options.
What are the best shoes for running on snow and ice?
Finding the right shoes for running on snow and ice can keep your feet warm and help save you from a nasty spill on a slick surface. To help you find a purchase on snow, you’ll want a shoe with good lugs that can grip the soft surface. Our testers found the Hoka Speedgoat 5 to handle better on packed snow than the other shoes we tested. Sticky rubber can also improve traction on slippery surfaces. When it comes to pure ice, especially when it’s off-camber, there’s not much that most shoes can do, and you’ll want to start considering using traction devices, like our favorite, the Black Diamond Distance Spike. Having a set of traction devices can allow you to use whatever shoes you want on your winter run but with extra grip. You can read a full review of iRunFar’s favorite traction devices to help you choose the right ones for your running conditions.
One thing to consider when running in the cold is the type of socks you will wear and if it’s worth getting a shoe that’s a half-size or a full-size bigger. Generally, cold feet aren’t a direct result of freezing temperatures but of poor circulation. Trying to shove your foot with a thick sock into the same shoe you use for summer running can reduce circulation to your feet and make them colder than if you just went with regular socks.
Do I need to wear waterproof or Gore-Tex running shoes in the winter?
Waterproof and Gore-Tex running shoes are great at keeping moisture out if you’re not going through water or snow higher than the top of the shoe. They are also warmer than regular running shoes. The downside of fully waterproof shoes is that they are less breathable than normal shoes, which can result in damp socks. Gore-Tex, which is waterproof and highly breathable, alleviates some of the issues with sweaty socks by allowing moisture to escape. Our testers turned to the Hoka Speedgoat 5 for most of their winter running. This shoe also comes in a waterproof Gore-Tex version currently being tested by the iRunFar team.
Should I wear traction devices to run in the winter?
If you’re consistently running on snow and ice, you’ll want a pair of traction devices handy for safety and running comfort. Traction devices can be helpful both on softer-packed snow and on ice. Even on softer surfaces, they can make running easier by taking the fear of slipping out of the equation. They’re functional on decently steep grades, but once you start getting on steep, hard snow, you’ll want to consider upgrading to proper mountaineering crampons. Our testers chose the Black Diamond Distance Spike as the best off-road traction device due to its grip and ease of use. They can be a bit much for mixed-surface running, and our testers turned to the Kahtoola EXOspikes for runs that went from ice to snow to dirt to pavement and back again. Most traction devices are lightweight and can be stowed away in a pack if you go on a mixed-surface run. They can help you get across a stretch of ice or hardpacked snow that will send anyone in regular shoes back to the trailhead and are a worthy addition to any winter running pack.
I am always cold when I run. How do I stay warm and dry while running in cold weather?
It might seem that the way to stay warm is to layer on as much clothing as possible, but there’s more to it than that. To keep warm, you have to stay dry. Once your insulating layers get wet in cold weather, either from precipitation or sweat, the clock is ticking until you need to get out of your wet clothes to keep hypothermia from developing.
Layers, breathable clothes, and effort regulation are the main pillars for successful winter running. You want to constantly adjust your layers and effort level to run the fine line between staying warm enough to be comfortable and starting to sweat with your current set of clothing. Having layers to remove and put on can allow you to adjust your effort without sweating or getting too cold. Choosing breathable clothing that wicks moisture from your skin and helps it evaporate can keep sweat from soaking everything you’re wearing. The Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody is a great mid-layer option for those who tend to get cold and need extra insulation on cold days.
Keeping extremities warm in the winter can be challenging, and fingers are often the hardest body part to keep comfortable. Having the right gloves for the temperature can make a big difference. You can read about our favorite gloves for running in our Best Running Gloves guide, including one of our favorite pairs, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Flip Glove.
I am always hot when I run. How do I stay cool and dry while running in cold weather?
Some people simply run hotter than others, and you’ll see these people running in shorts, a singlet, and a light pair of gloves while the rest of humanity is walking around in down jackets and heavy winter hats. Layers are the key to keeping your body at the right temperature, and you’ll want to be diligent about removing them as you get warm so that you don’t sweat through your insulation. Once you’ve gotten a layer wet, you’ve pretty much made it useless if you get cold and need to put extra insulation on. Beginning with a wicking base layer, like the Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip, is a good start to maintaining a comfortable core temperature. You can start a run with more layers and end up stripping down to a single one as the run continues. If you must wear a jacket to protect against precipitation, you’ll want to consider a breathable Gore-Tex jacket with lots of vents to help release heat and moisture.
How do I layer my clothes for running in cold weather?
Layers can be put into three broad categories when thinking about using them for running — base layers, mid-layers, and outer shells.
Base layers, like the Smartwool Classic All-Season Merino Base Layer 1/4 Zip, go at the bottom of the pile of the clothing you’re wearing, right next to your skin. They should be breathable and wicking so that they can move moisture away from your skin, allowing it to evaporate instead of staying wet. Most base layers are relatively lightweight and made of merino wool or synthetic material.
Midlayers provide insulation during cold weather runs and can be made of a variety of materials. These layers are where you can really dial in comfort. If it’s relatively warm out, a thin wool layer can suffice as a second layer on top of your base layer. Adding a fleece or thicker synthetic layer can add more warmth. Our testers love the Patagonia Capilene Air Hoody as a warm mid-layer. You’ll want to ensure you’re not sweating through this insulation layer when running in the cold.
An outer shell, or jacket, is an important layer to protect you from the elements. They can block the wind, keep precipitation from getting your other layers wet, and trap warm air against your body to add extra warmth. A non-breathable outer shell can lead to excess sweating, and you’ll need to be careful with your effort regulation when wearing one. We found the Patagonia Airshed Pro Pullover a great hybrid shell option that protects from wind, rain, and snow in many different temperatures.
Should I wear wool when I run in cold weather?
Wool is an excellent option for running in cold weather because of its ability to insulate and wick moisture away from your body. The unique fibers grown by merino sheep, mainly in Australia and New Zealand, allow sweat to evaporate from your body before it turns into liquid drops. Unlike cotton or other materials that hold onto liquid, wool can keep you much dryer and help you avoid that clammy feeling associated with other materials. Wool also stays warm, even when wet. While wool shirts and socks are the best-known garments from this material, wool tights, hats, underwear, shorts, bras, like the Smartwool Women’s Intraknit Racerback Bra, and socks like the Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks, all make for comfortable and functional pieces of running clothing.
Read more about merino fiber and our top choices for clothing pieces in our Best Wool Running Apparel guide.
How do I choose the best gloves for running in cold weather?
There are endless choices for running gloves, and personal preference plays largely into what will work for you. The hands are often the hardest part of the body to keep warm while running, mainly because of lower blood circulation levels, and the right gloves need to fit correctly. Gloves that are too tight can reduce blood circulation even more and make cold hands even colder.
Good gloves for running will wick moisture, provide insulation, and be dexterous enough to let you perform basic tasks. For frigid temperatures, mittens may be the best option. Not separating the fingers into different compartments can keep your hands much warmer. Convertible gloves, which can switch between glove and mitten modes, can provide both the dexterity of gloves and the added protection and warmth of mittens. When it came to running on the coldest of mornings, our testers turned to the Trailheads Convertible Zip Mitts for their warmth and dexterity.
What are the best socks for running in cold weather?
When choosing socks for running in cold weather, you must also consider shoe sizing. It may be tempting to throw on thick socks to combat the cold, but this often leads to even colder feet than if you just wore your normal, thinner socks. Cold feet are often a result of the lack of circulation as a body starts to reduce blood flow to the extremities to keep its vital organs from getting too cold. Putting thick socks on and shoving them into normal-sized running shoes can worsen the circulation through your feet. If you’re running consistently in temperatures where you want thicker socks, you’ll probably want to buy specific shoes that are a half size or more bigger.
Sock material is also important. As with all cold weather running gear, you want them to be wicking and breathable so they don’t absorb water and get wet. Many of our testers swear by wool for socks for running in the cold. They especially liked the Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Socks. In our Best Running Socks guide, you can read more about the socks the iRunFar team tested. We also found the Drymax Cold Weather Running Crew to be a great synthetic option for the cold.
What hat should I wear to run in cold weather?
A hat is an easy piece of gear to use in your warmth layering system. Even a small, lightweight hat, like the Sauce Swift Toque, can help your body retain heat when it’s cold out. If you get hot, hats are easy to take off and provide your body with an efficient venting option. Hats are helpful to block the wind, wick moisture, and provide some insulation. Some winter hats, like the Buff Pack Merino Fleece Cap, come with brims to shade your face from the sun. Others have extra material to provide better coverage for your ears. Our Best Running Hats guide covers several hat options for cold-weather outings.
Call for Comments
- What do you use to keep warm in the winter?
- Do you live in a climate or have hobbies requiring specific winter gear?
- Use the comments section to share your favorite gear for winter running, too!