Days are short and temperatures are low, but with the right gear, winter runs can feel like a treat instead of torture. Plus, crisp air and the crunch of snow under your sneakers can be a great antidote to too much socially distanced inside time.
Here is our cold-weather running kit, including our favorite base layers, a bright vest to keep you visible and more.
Temperature regulation is key when you’re working out hard in the winter. Too warm and you’ll sweat out your base layers. Too cold and your muscles (and mind) will never start firing. The Patagonia Houdini helps fight misery in both directions. It’s wind- and water-resistant, helping you maintain your core body temperature without causing you to overheat. It packs down into its own clementine-size chest pocket and weighs a mere 4 ounces (for a women’s medium), so you can bring it along as an insurance policy if you’re not sure how your run will unfold. $99
Stay visible to traffic on runs during shorter winter days with these tights from Smartwool. Reflective elements wrap around the upper leg to light you up 360 degrees. The Merino Sport Fleece Tights are toasty enough for subfreezing runs thanks to a material blend that places soft merino wool next to skin and more durable polyester on the outside to protect against the elements. The women’s version has a high rise, perfect for tucking in tops and preventing gaps, and the men’s has a DWR coating. $110
Cold air seems to find all the cracks in your armor, but these crew socks, which hit above the ankle bone, help fill the gap between shoes and tights. A trademarked elastic sewing pattern keeps the cuffs from sliding down, so you’ll stay covered even after you start moving. Like other PhD socks in Smartwool’s line, the Run Cold Weather Mids are made with a merino wool blend for great temperature regulation, and light cushioning helps protect your feet and keep them warm when pounding the pavement. $21.95
Did we mention the benefits of temperature regulation? The front zip on the Nike Element Half-Zip Top lets you dump heat when you warm up, while thumb holes let you pull the sleeves over cold hands. Plus, the pullover is super soft and full of thoughtful details like reflective tape that helps you stay visible at dawn and dusk. $65
We like wool as a next-to-skin layer for its warmth, weight and odor resistance, and the thin-but-toasty Oasis crew from Icebreaker covers all those bases and more. It’s cut long to prevent bunching and riding up and has a UPF rating of 20 for those days when it’s warm and sunny enough to just wear a base layer. $95
Ear warmer, hair tie, snot rag—a Buff is a multipurpose wintertime necessity, which can fill so many needs at once. This stretchy wool version has the added versatility of being stink-free and subtly colored, so you can wear it all the time for a long time. $29
Traction can mean the difference between a good run and a nasty fall on icy days or snowy trails. The light-but-durable Kahtoola EXOspikes have 12 cleatlike nubs that claw into ice and slick trails to help keep you upright. A stretchy harness slips over your shoes and, because it’s an open web, snow won’t ball up underneath. $59.95
Your favorite pair of road runners should work just fine on cold-weather runs, though make sure the tread is in good shape for days when sidewalks are wet (experts recommend replacing your shoes every 300–500 miles). For slushy trail runs, we like something like the HOKA Challenger ATR 6 GTX, which is grippy without being clunky. The shoes have a waterproof GORE-TEX membrane to seal out moisture, as well as HOKA’s customary cushioned sole and 5mm of drop. $140
Help other vehicles and runners see you on dark and dusky runs with the light, minimalist Amphipod Xinglet. Its 360 degrees of super-bright reflectors will make you visible to passing cars and pedestrians, and it adjusts easily to accommodate layers. Nice touch: It’s free of batteries or bells and whistles, so it won’t easily fail on you. $29.95
One of the most confounding things about cold-weather exercising is keeping your extremities warm while your core heats up. Avoid coming home with ice-cube fingers by throwing on a pair of lightweight, wind-stopping gloves like these fleece ones from REI Co-op. They’re touchscreen-compatible, if you like running with music or podcasts, and they’re small enough that you can stick them in a pocket if you heat up. $34.95
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.