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Everything You Need for Cold-Weather Running, According to a Year-Round Runner

Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

With gyms closed and kettlebells in scarce supply, many people took up running to get their exercise fix during the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Times called it a “back-to-basics exercise boom.” It makes a lot of sense — running is naturally an outdoor, socially distanced activity that requires no special equipment. However, as the weather starts to cool down, a simple T-shirt and shorts combo may not be enough to protect you from the elements. As someone who has been running year-round for a decade now, I have a pretty good idea of how to stay comfortable outside even when the temperature drops below freezing — and even when there’s snow on the ground.

Layering is key to running in any temperature. Once you have a foundation of layering pieces (which I describe in more detail below) you’ll be able to mix and match them depending on the weather. Add in some accessories, and you’re ready to run in whatever conditions winter throws your way.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you will warm up while you’re running. To account for that, runners generally dress how they would if it were 20 degrees warmer and they weren’t running. You may feel a little chilly at the start of your run, but once you get going, you’ll be glad you didn’t throw on those last two layers.

Base layers

Base layers work like insulation, fitting close to your skin to lock in body heat. Like all of your running gear, base layers should be made from moisture-wicking material that pulls sweat away from your body. This is usually a synthetic blend or wool, which naturally wicks moisture and helps regulate temperature. Avoid cotton, which soaks up sweat and can leave you feeling wet and cold.