Winter Running Gear

Advice from a Michigan girl on what to wear when running in freeeeeezing temperatures

Winter Running Gear

Many people think I’m crazy. Not only do I love to run, but I love to run outside. All year long. In Michigan. We’re gearing up for what the news stations are calling a “Wicked Michigan Weather,” with 12” of snow expected tomorrow, and I’m excited to get out and run.

Tanya in her Winter Running GearIt’s thrilling to me to know that most people are bundled up in their homes, not wanting to step outside in the cold. That used to be me. I’ve always hated the cold and the snow. But then I became a runner, back in spring 2009 after my middle child was born, I remember asking a running friend what I was supposed to do once it started to get cold. I had a good routine, and ran every day after work, except Fridays, and enjoyed a long run on Saturdays. I didn’t have a treadmill at the time, and didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I wanted to train for a 25K race the following spring, but knew I had to run over the winter. She looked at me and said, “Buy winter pants and some YakTrax, and keep running.” That’s what I did, and I haven’t looked back since. I finally have a good winter running wardrobe that will keep me comfortable no matter what the temperature is, and I want to share that with you. I’ve included some links to what I have, but there are many different brands (TJ Maxx actually has an awesome selection of winter running gear, and it’s very affordable!)

No matter your pace or your distance, if you’re new to running or experienced, you need to dress appropriately for the cold winters. Keep in mind these suggestions are coming from a Michigan girl. No matter what, the key is layers. Thin layers are best! You don’t want anything thick and bulky. I know thin doesn’t scream warm, but trust me – it traps in your body heat.

I like to dress according to the “feels like” temperature. Forget 40 degree and above temps–that’s a whole different season and post.

No matter what, if it’s snowing I wear a visor, and if there is a lot of snow or ice on the roads, I wear my YakTrax. YakTrax slip right on over your shoes. The ones meant for running are the best because they have spikes under the toes. I’ve gone through many pairs of the regular and pro YakTrax, and they just aren’t as good for running. Definitely get the running ones.

20-30 degrees: One pair of running tights, regular running socks, base layer top, light weight running jacket. Always tuck your base layer top into your running pants, or it will ride up and your stomach will freeze! If it’s low 20’s I may throw on a second pair of running tights, especially if it’s windy. I always wear a Bondi Band or Active Band as well, which I can pull over my ears if needed.

10-20 degrees: This is the trickiest temp for me, because even in the high teens I can warm up within a mile and risk getting too warm. The body part that gets the coldest around these temperatures is my thighs and bottom, so I throw on a pair of tight running/bike shorts before my two pairs of pants. Yes, I have three layers on here, but they are all thin. I switch to wool socks for these runs. Just one pair will keep my feet toasty warm and dry. On the top I have my usual base layer and running jacket, but then I add on a heavier running jacket. I add on my running gloves, and a Buff that I can pull up over my face if needed. I add on a second layer over my ears, so I have on both a Bondi Band and an Active Band. Both are light weight, but keep my ears nice and warm. I do not like hats, as they make me too warm when running.

Below 10 degrees: At this temperature, I keep everything the same as I would for a 10-20 degree warm, but I add a few more layers. On top of my base layer top and running jacket I throw on a fleece vest because my stomach needs the extra protection. I then wear the thicker running jacket as usual on top. So the only difference on the top is a hidden fleece vest. The bottom stays the same with the three layers, which is still plenty because you’re out there moving. I’ve found at this temperature, my Buff just doesn’t cut it anymore. The moisture that collects on the inside from breathing will freeze, and it’s no fun running with cold, wet, frozen material either up against your mouth or around your neck. At this temp, you need to add a face mask. Many runners love their baklavas, but I just can’t do it because I don’t want the top of my head covered.
I tried making a Buff out of fleece material, because they make fleece Buffs and I wanted to try it without spending a lot of money. I didn’t like it at all. It got hot and itchy. My friend recommended this face mask, which is awesome! Underneath my running gloves I add another pair of cheap knit gloves. Believe it or not, my ears are still good with the two thin layers.

One last bit of advice – if you’re running in the dark, be sure to make yourself visible! I have a reflective vest, snap ankle bracelets, reflective running gloves, a blinky light for my back (I put it on the collar of my jacket), and a headlamp.

Stay safe, and happy running!


I’m Tanya, and I am an early 30’s mom to three boys – D (’05), M (’09), and T (’11). I was once told that being a mom to all boys makes you a princess in your own house, and I can attest to that! I wouldn’t change it for the world…read more

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About Tanya

I’m Tanya, and I am an early 30’s mom to three boys – D (’05), M (’09), and T (’11). I was once told that being a mom to all boys makes you a princess in your own house, and I can attest to that! I wouldn’t change it for the more More Posts