Well, that escalated quickly! Just last weekend, as we ran to build running community and raise money for the Regional Food Bank during Fleet Feet Albany’s Fourth Annual 24 Hour Fight Against Hunger, we were comfortable wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Now, cooler temperatures have appeared and sleet and snow will be our companions for the next few months. There is, however, no need to despair. With a few adjustments, you can run through the winter and be in great shape come springtime.
Man, not this again…
Successful winter running boils down to two ideas: have the right gear for the conditions and stay motivated. I’ll address the first consideration now and take on the motivation question later (like, next week, maybe…).
To make winter running more comfortable, choose the right apparel for the conditions. I recommend dressing like it is 20 degrees warmer to prevent overheating. Then again, I don’t mind feeling a little colder in the beginning of a run to avoid the sweatbath later. If you prefer to be toasty at all points, you’ll need to be prepared to remove a layer or be sure that you are running in apparel with zippered vents. Getting warmer during your winter run is fine as long as you have a warm dry place to shelter after you have completed your run. You don’t want to overheat, stop, and then get chilled. This will undermine the “fun factor” of winter running quite a bit.
Not a good place to stop Yeah, better
We’re fortunate now to have so many options when it comes to high-quality cold weather gear. Back in the old days there were really two options –– cotton sweats and newfangled nylon wind suits. When it got cold, you wore the sweats under the nylon and hoped for the best. Now, we have all sorts of winter running options that can contribute to very comfortable runnning.
Ah, the good old days
As with summer running, cold weather running is all about moisture management and regulating your body temperature. It all starts with a good base layer. Any material that touches your skin needs to wick moisture away. There are two ideal materials that accomplish this wicking action: technical fabrics (synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, or Lycra) and merino wool, a natural fiber that is light, soft, breathable, and warm.
Personally, I like merino wool because the smaller scales result in finer fibers and zero itching. Merino wool blend clothing also have the advantage of being antimicrobial, which means they don’t retain odor. This super soft, breathable, and durable fiber is now ubiquitous in performance running apparel. Icebreaker, Craft, and Kari Traa are several apparel manufactures who specialize in creating very comfortable base layers.
However, if you’re a technical fabrics devotee, Fleet Feet has you covered, offering a wide range of excellent base layer options. Remember, as well, that underwear should also be synthetic to avoid unpleasant chafing. Finally, we also carry an effective detergent to keep you smelling fresh –– thank you WIN!
If it is very cold, you will probably need an additional top layer. Here a long sleeve technical shirt can be useful. Just about every running company makes a synthetic or merino wool quarter zip than can be used for layering or worn on warmer days over a technical short sleeve. If you listen to music while you run, most of these long sleeve quarter zips have cord management systems to prevent earphone tangles.
There are several options for protecting your legs from the winter elements. Running tights are one popular choice. They are more fitted and there is usually less threat of chafing. Some tights are made with a light thermal lining for colder temperatures. If conditions get extreme, you can wear some running pants with wind shielding material over your tights for comfort and warmth. New Balance has some running pants and tights that use Polartec Power Wool that keeps you warm while wicking away moisture. Mizuno’s Breath Thermo fiber generates heat when it gets moist and also wicks moisture; they make an entire line of cold weather clothing that incorporates this futuristic material.
NB Tights with Polartec Mizuno Breath Thermo Running Pants
Now that we’ve got your body’s covered, you’ll need to go to extremes – your extremities. Next time, I’m going to give you the downlow on running jackets, gloves, hats, and socks.What is your favorite piece of cold weather running gear? Tell us all about it in the comments.