Dressing up for cold running

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes

If you are anything like me, you are ready to do anything to avoid the treadmill, even if it means facing frightfully cold temperatures and grievous winds. We’ve had a pretty mild winter so so far in central Pennsylvania, but this week we are finally hitting single-digit temperatures (it had to be the week I have three 80min runs scheduled). Here is how I like to layer up to face the winter.


If the temperature is above 15F, I feel fine running in shorts (sure, I’ll be freezing before I start, but I won’t feel any cold after the first half a mile). For colder temperatures, I’ve found a good pair of thermal tights to be enough once I start going. I invested in two pairs of high-quality 2xu thermal compression tights,  and I am not disappointed at all. They have lasted me two winters already.

Should you wear underwear under your tights? It is up to you. I normally don’t if it is above 20F. However, when it is very cold or windy, I do appreciate an extra layer of protection in that area (and I refuse to wear shorts on top tights, that is just plain wrong and it should not be done under any circumstances). Normal underwear can be uncomfortable under compression tights and I don’t own any thongs, but regular athletic briefs work just fine. I use Adidas Climacool briefs.

One thing I haven’t figured out is what socks to wear. Regular running socks are fine if it is dry, but they can be awful if it it is cold and they get even a little bit wet. On the other hand, wool socks do a great job protecting from moisture and cold, but I find them bulky and itchy and, after a few miles, they start annoying me every single step. What I do is wear regular socks and try to avoid fresh snow and puddles, but I know I should probably invest the time to figure out a better solution.


I use two things to protect my torso: a long-sleeve thermal under-shirt, and a water-and-wind-resistant outer shell. When it is really cold or windy, I add an additional layer consisting of a tank or a tee or both.

The point of the under-shirt is to preserve my body temperature. Make sure you get a good thermal one,  and avoid cotton (humidity and cold are not a good combination). I prefer compression shirts because they are less bulky for layering up. I prefer crews or turtle necks for additional protection. If lived somewhere colder, I would consider buying a 2xu thermal compression shirt to match my tights. For now, I’ve done just fine with  Under Armour Coldgear® Compression under-shirts, which are much less pricey.

While the under-shirt keeps you warm, the outer shell is there to protect you from the elements. If you have a good thermal under-shirt, you don’t need a heavy, bulky and overly hot outer shell. What you really need is something to protect you from the rain, snow and wind. Preferably you want something very light and breathable. The combination of water-resistant + breathable is what makes the good ones expensive, but it is totally worth it IMO.  I prefer bright or reflective ones for added safety.

I have a few different outer shells and I rotate them. My favorite ones are a hoodie jacket I got from a Chocolate Run, and an old Pearl Izumi cycling wind-breaker I got as a present. I’ve been wanting to buy a proper running wind-breaker for a while (like this one) but I haven’t found the perfect one yet that will make me want to spend the cash.


As usual, accessories tend to be as important as the main pieces. When the temperature is below 25F,  I cover my ears with either a beanie hat or a headband. If the temperature is below 15F, I also cover my head, either with a beanie hat or a hoodie or both. If the temperature is below 5F I also cover my mouth and ears with a face-mask or a balaklava. As for gloves, I think any pair will do. It is not like cycling when the wind makes it important to have really good gloves.

Winter is beautiful, it is my favorite season to be outside, and cold temperatures can do wonders for your pace. So, don’t let a little cold and wind stop you from enjoying the season!!

(Also, see this nice article for more tips on how to run safely in sub-zero temperatures.)


Author: brunosalcedo

Can't spell Bruno without a run. I do game theory between long runs.

5 thoughts on “Dressing up for cold running”

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