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Run4It Journal  •  Running Gear •  12.10.2020 •  7 min read

What to wear when running in cold weather

Running in cold weather can be a pleasant experience with the right preparation (and a bit of grit and determination)!

If you find yourself sliding into hibernation-mode, follow our top tips for cold weather running below, to stay warm, and keep your training on track.

Research shows exercising outside in cold weather has a whole host of surprising health benefits, including helping your body burn more fat, and building resilience – the kind you can use in the late stages of a long run.

So, what can you do to ensure you enjoy your run and reap these benefits?

The importance of choosing the right clothing

Materials matter. As is true all year round, you should avoid cotton at all costs. Cotton soaks up moisture, takes time to dry, and will make you feel cold and weigh you down.

Instead, opt for technical, breathable fabrics and layer your clothing in what’s known as the ‘layering system’ to trap body heat in, whilst allowing sweat to escape.

Why is it important to keep your body warm in winter?

It's for comfort primarily, as wearing the right clothing and accessories can mean the difference between an enjoyable run and a miserable one. However, it's also due to the physiological stresses cold temperatures place on the body. The cold has a significant effect on the body and its systems:

  • Your body exerts more energy when it's cold out, fighting to conserve heat and maintain its internal core temperature (by reducing the circulation to the extremities and skin surface). Running in the wrong gear/not enough layers will result in increased energy expenditure and can leave you feeling more tired and hungrier than usual.
  • Cold weather can also cause muscle stiffness throughout the body (as the muscles lose heat and contract) meaning the muscles must work much harder to complete the same tasks they complete easily in milder weather. This can result in increased soreness.

Hence, it’s very important to warm up properly indoors before heading out and important to wear the right clothes to keep warm outside.

Best for cold days: layer, layer, layer

The key to dressing for cold weather running: layer, layer, layer.

By creating an outfit from several layers, you can adjust and adapt to changing weather with ease, removing layers when necessary. 2-3 layers of technical running clothing will trap body heat between them, while wicking away sweat, keeping you warmer than a single thicker and heavier layer.

Find the perfect balance, and those long winter miles will be transformed into happy and cosy ones!

The 3-layer system

The ‘3 layer system’ consisting of a light base layer, versatile mid layer and outer layer (a softshell or waterproof jacket) has proven to be a winning combination for running in cold weather!

Runners in base layers making coffee

Base layers

Base layers are fast drying, lightweight, close fitting and usually thermal. They fit close to the skin because it improves temperature regulation. Base layers can differ in their thermal qualities so you can choose what level of warmth you prefer. You will usually need to wear another item of clothing over the top of a base layer, like a mid layer.

Mid layers

Mid layers are slightly looser fitting than base layers. They are designed to provide additional warmth and trap more warm air. These tops will tend to have more features than a base layer as these will be often worn without something over the top.

Runner putting on a running jacket
Outer layers

To withstand harsher conditions, you may require a running jacket. A jacket should fit close to the body to allow sweat to escape and stay as breathable as possible. There are a lot of different options available when it comes to running jackets: from fully waterproof jackets, to water and wind resistant jackets, to light protection jackets.

What about tights?

If you're anything like me, you may find running shorts more comfortable than running tights year round. I tend to wear shorts in all seasons, even on very cold and windy days. We don’t have the same concentration of thermoreceptors in our legs as we have in other parts of the body, so our legs tend to be less sensitive to cold. That said, it's still advisable to wear tights in cold weather as they are designed to help regulate body temperature and keep the muscles warm, allowing them to operate efficiently and lowering the risk of injury.

Tights vary in thickness and warmth like other clothing. Warmer tights have brushed fabrics which help trap warm air and keep our legs insulated. But don't worry, if you are concerned about overheating, you can opt for tights featuring breathable mesh panels (usually placed behind the knee or the calves). Also, if you're out running in cold and gusty winds, you might want extra windproof protection that some tights can provide.

Running wearing Running Tights

Be prepared for all types of weather

It goes without saying, the UK weather is unpredictable, and more often than not you’re going to have to contend with the elements. Winter sun and crisp cold air, blustery winds, snow and ice, freezing rain. Everything is possible! So it's best to check the forecast and dress accordingly,

Whether you are looking for clothing to beat the chill or offer protection from severe weather, we've got you covered.

Run4It weather collections

Our weather related collections pull together the best products from industry leading brands Ronhill, GORE® Wear, Brooks, Nike and more. Designed to help you run comfortably and strong in various conditions.

Best for cold days

Stay warm in cold weather without overheating with technical, warm, low bulk layering pieces, designed to beat the chill.

Best for rainy & windy days

Stay warm and dry in wet, windy weather, with jackets offering different levels of protection from the elements.

Best reflective running gear

Stay safe, stay visible. Highly reflective products specifically designed to give runners the greatest chance of being seen by road traffic and pedestrians.

Don't forget hats and gloves!

Remember to protect those extremities. Your nose, ears and fingers are first to feel the freeze, and you lose most heat from your head. So covering your head and hands will help keep you warmer. Gloves, hats and headbands come in a variety of different fabrics and thicknesses. If you are particularly susceptible to the cold, merino or windproof gloves and hats will provide extra warmth and protection.


Opt for technical, breathable fabrics and layer your clothing in what’s known as the ‘layering system’ to trap body heat in, whilst allowing sweat to escape.

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