I am a year-round runner. Polar vortices and full-on downpours don’t deter me. And I’m not even especially crazy: Through trial and error and a stint working in a specialty running store, I’ve simply built out a running wardrobe that’s ready for any weather. And in the right outfit, bad conditions are almost irrelevant.
I’ve done this by organizing my arsenal of gear around temperature, moisture management, and layering. First up: In deciding what to wear, temperature is the most obvious factor to consider. Personally, I warm up very quickly on a run, so I follow a rule of dressing as if it’s 20 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. This means I accept feeling cold for the first five minutes of my run as a trade-off to overheating on the first mile of a several-mile run.
Next, you’ll want to manage moisture. This includes both the sweat coming off your body and any external moisture like snow or rain. You want to keep your skin as dry as possible to help regulate your temperature. I sweat a lot, so moisture-wicking fabrics — such as synthetic blends of polyester, nylon, and spandex — are allies in my war against chafing. If you want to keep it all-natural, choose wool, which actually wicks moisture well, but avoid cotton, which will leave you feeling soaked.
And finally, layering. All running outfits are built out of some combination of three types of layers: base layers, to keep sweat away from your skin; middle layers, to insulate you from the cold; and outer layers, to protect against elements like rain, snow, and wind. I might wear all three layers on an ice-cold day with biting winds but only a base layer on a mild day. But I have tried-and-true combinations for every kind of weather in between, and they are as follows.
Mild days (50 degrees to 65 degrees)
When the temperature dips below 60 degrees or the wind starts to blow, I’ll reach for a short-sleeved shirt for some shoulder coverage. I’ve worn Lululemon Swiftly tops (this one as well as the long-sleeved and tank-top versions) on everything from casual jogs to full marathons. They are soft to the touch, lightweight, and sweat wicking, and they come in new colors every season. This “relaxed” style has a loose fit, so it looks more like a casual T-shirt than a skintight running shirt.
These shirts are so comfy and come in such unique colors that I’m tempted to wear them even when I’m not running. The fabric feels like jersey and just glides over the skin. The almost drapey fit makes them incredibly comfortable.
Yes, it’s a tank top, but since it’s made from merino wool and is thicker than the tanks I wear during the summer (more on those below), I actually prefer to wear this top when it’s chilly. It’s also got a high neckline, which looks surprisingly stylish for a running shirt and gives you more coverage on windy days.
This may be completely psychological, but I think when the weather’s verging on too cold for shorts, fitted styles like these are warmer than loose ones since they allow for less airflow. These are thin enough, though, that you’ll never overheat. I also love the generously sized pockets, which fit my phone, keys, and some energy gels.
Thicker than the Lululemon shorts above, these might not be appropriate for the hottest days, but they’re perfect for this in-between weather. As the name suggests, they have tons of pockets for carrying everything you need and more. These are out of stock in a few colors, but you can try the longer version as the weather cools down.
When I worked at the running store, most people didn’t believe running socks were worth more than $10 for a single pair when you can get a six-pack of cotton socks for the same price or cheaper. And I get it — when I started running, I felt that way too. But over time, like most of my customers, I realized that specialty socks are worth every penny, for one reason: They prevent blisters. A wet, sweaty sock creates friction and rubs against your foot, leaving you with painful open blisters. Suck it up and buy socks made of moisture-wicking material, and that won’t happen. When it’s neither too hot nor too cold, opt for mid-weight socks, like this Bombas pair. They’re soft, come in fun colorways, and offer support around the arch. They’re also moisture-wicking, so you don’t have to worry about blisters.