Winter Jogging - What clothing do I need?
October 5, 2006 1:41 PM   Subscribe

What clothing should I wear for winter jogging?

I took up jogging this summer. Nothing heavy - I run about 3 miles once or twice a week. I'd like to keep it up during the winter (I live in NY about 30 miles from Manhattan).

What clothing do other winter joggers run in? Pants or shorts? Sweat-wicking shirts? Hat? Sweatshirt?
posted by bingwah to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
My main concerns when jogging in the winter are gloves and something to keep my ears warm. Everything else just ends up being a piecemeal collection of sweats, trackpants, etc. Others will offer advice on larger articles of clothing, but definitely start by getting yourself a couple pairs of nice jogging gloves and at least one good "athletic" beanie or headband.
posted by saladin at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2006

I find that layering is key- put together a set that includes a primary (sweat wicking, preferrably microfiber) layer, insulating layer (fleece is good) and an outer windproof (and ideally waterproof shell). These should all be close fitting, but not restrictive, and permit some degree of airspace between layers.

In your climate, you may only need the insulating layer on your upper body, and an extra pair of tights on particularly cold days. Augment with the appropriate hat, gloves and socks, and try different layer combinations according to the weather of the day. Start with a short run near your house, and then go back in to add or subtract layers if you are too warm or cold. You can also strip down a layer mid-run if you need to.

No particular brands are better than others- look for durability, quality of materials and, most importantly, what works best for you. One tip, though- it is better to wear one good warm pair of socks than layering two. Anything that cuts off circulation to the toes can promote frostbite.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:15 PM on October 5, 2006

Almost certainly less than you think you'll need.

My work travels have sent me to some pretty cold places and I can usually get by with a set of long-sleeved/legged thin insulated underwear (are those tights?), shorts and a t-shirt, gloves and a wool hat.

Even well into the thirties I would just go in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt and gloves. In the twenties I add a hat and in the teens I break out the tights. I'm sure everybody's tolerance to cold is different, though, and adjust for wind, naturally.

I found a good indicator is that if I don't feel way too cold at the start of the run, I'll be way too hot by the end. I run about 40 minutes, so maybe that rule won't apply for shorter runs.

The above advice about layering (and the socks) is a good idea. If you go to a real-life running shop you'll spend too much but likely get decent quality stuff. I've never bought a bad Pearl Izumi product, though I've bought plenty of unneccesary (and spectacularly overpriced) Pearl Izumi products.
posted by mragreeable at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2006

I've run into the upper teens (Philadelphia) wearing a wicking base layer, an insulated top (this one--I really like Hind, and Pearl Izumi too), and running shorts. I find that I don't need tights, and hats/headbands bother me, but everyone feels heat differently. Of course, I don't mind cold bright red legs at the end of a run. A good wicking baselayer is crucial, though.

Maybe the Runners' World Dress the Runner program would be informative... I find it's generally on the money.
posted by The Michael The at 3:09 PM on October 5, 2006

Also, unlike Saladin, I tend to find that I don't need gloves; my hands are always plenty warm. Maybe his are cold. And you know what they say: cold hands, cold heart.
posted by The Michael The at 3:10 PM on October 5, 2006

Before moving to Atlanta, I ran year-round in Philly, and about the same distance too.

I wore a long-sleeve wicking shirt, a zip-up fleece (opens for ventilation), and wind-proof gloves. A hat usually made me too hot too soon. I started running in shorts, which got great reactions. Eventually, I accepted that my kneecaps were freezing in the 20 degree weather, so I got a pair of nylon trackpants. All it took was something to keep the wind off. The real enemy was wind. Make sure your fleece is windproof or wear a shell. It's no fun being blown backwards and being cold.

Don't forget to wear something reflective or retroreflective on all sides. You'll probably be running in the dark, and drivers seem to notice less in the snow.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:13 PM on October 5, 2006

Another (former) wintertime Phila PA runner, now cyclist. Thin nylon/polypro tights for the legs, long sleeve T (I love wool now, but polypro is OK), vest or jacket, hat and gloves. Oh, yeah, I like Pearl Izumi, just to be contratian, but Sportwool and Ibex really do it for me.
posted by fixedgear at 3:25 PM on October 5, 2006

Hats, hats, hats. Preferably several, such as an internal headband and external knit hat. This setup will preserve loads of body heat from being dispersed through the head.

Make sure your shirt or fleece jacket has pockets. You'll want to pull off the hat after a few miles.

In the (relatively) mild winters of New York, you'll have days when you can get by with shorts down below. The legs require less covering when it's warm and the wind is mild.

When checking the temp before departing, don't forget about the wind chill! Try to get a feel for the clothing you need for each numerical windchill-plus-temp condition. Saves on a lot of guesswork.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:50 PM on October 5, 2006

I've run in the upper teens in NYC. I wear thin CuddleDuds long underwear under Adidas tight running pants (made of some stretchy cotton blend). Regular cotton socks.

Then on top, I wear CuddleDuds shirt, tshirt, longsleeved cotton shirt. Old chenille socks on my hands. Scarf. Fleece hat.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:57 PM on October 5, 2006

Just about everyone has mentioned "wicking" clothes. Definitely, definitely, definitely listen to them. The last thing you want is for moisture to get trapped close to your body when it's 12 degrees out.

Aside from that, I second Runner's World Dress the Runner.
posted by jknecht at 3:59 PM on October 5, 2006

I used to run the Hudson River path a few times a week in the dead of winter -- beautiful, esp. when the river is iced over near the piers.

Anyway -- wicking undershirt (North Face) and stretchy thick fleece (Gap?) with a zip-up neck worked for me. They don't tell you, but the whole wicking thing doesn't work unless the clothes are tight. Otherwise you're releasing warm water vapor into the air gap between your tight t-shirt and your loose fleece sweatshirt, and you end up getting parboiled from the inside. (My opinion only, YMMV.) I used to come home with frost on the outside of my fleece, but I was all toasty and dry inside.

Also -- I strongly reccommend a scarf of some sort to keep the dry cold air out of your lungs. If you've never had asthma before, breathing heavily when it's 20 degrees out will freezer-burn your pipes and make you wheeze. There are plenty of lightweight, washable fleece scarves out there -- wrap one on, and you're good to go!
posted by turducken at 4:16 PM on October 5, 2006

It's amazing how little insulation you really need, even in freezing weather. I like to wear knee warmers because I have joint issues and that seems to reduce them in winter. I wear something like leg warmers or pants over them in cold weather. Surprisingly, this is even more of an issue on the bike than when running. A jacket with a zipper that you can open when you get warm is nice and gloves should be breathable or your hands will feel funky. A light skull cap should be sufficient. You can pay huge bucks for the jacket and pants, but frankly the cheap stuff is not that bad. If running is important to you and you have coins to spare then go for the nicer stuff that breathes and insulates. Basically, look for the sales at the local sporting goods store. What people said about a wicking layer is very important. Body Armor is nice, but you can get similar performance for 1/3 the price. Just remember to wash the polyester stuff in the hottest water possible as it gets a funk easily. It wicks well though.
posted by caddis at 6:03 PM on October 5, 2006

hat and gloves were most important for me when it got cold. Also, be aware of the weather when you go out. You want to be cold when you start out. After about .5 to .75 miles, you should feel the warmth kick in.
posted by mmascolino at 7:54 PM on October 5, 2006

Lots of good answers here. For days with high windchill, I also use underwear with a windproof panel to prevent my gentlemanly area becoming frosty.

(and for potential answerers who, like me, have no idea about winter in NYC or degrees fahrenheit, the questioner appears to be talking about running in lightly sub-zero celsius temperatures)
posted by Busy Old Fool at 10:56 PM on October 5, 2006

Response by poster: Tons of great advice. The winters in this part of NY are not that bad. It's rare that it'll dip into the teens(fahrenheit). It's usually in the mid thirties (so around 0 celsius), but last winter was very mild.

I'm also concerned about the cold air doing damage to my lungs but as someone suggested, a scarf should take care of that.
posted by bingwah at 7:11 AM on October 6, 2006

Additionally, as you become more accustomed to winter running, your lungs and passages will develop a greater tolerance to the cold air. When I first started, it played havoc with my chest, but over time I became conditioned to it.

Agreeing with the other posters, the full combo of layers should only be worn on the coldest days- I usually only use the full kit when the temp (without windchill) is well into the 20s. On warmer days, delete the insulating layer and just use the primary layer under the shell, or wear a sweatshirt and shorts over your tights.

All of this will be dictated by your own comfort level at different temperatures, however, and there will be trial and error involved.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:01 AM on October 6, 2006

For winter running, the problem is not keeping warm but managing moisture. As everyone has said above, layering is really important. You want to get the sweat away from your body (so it doesn't have a chance to get cold) whilst keeping your upper body warm and keeping freedom of movement/feeling light.

The best advice I ever got about warmth was from a New Zealander at 5am on the side of a glacier. He said it doesn't matter about your legs. If you keep moving, your legs will stay warm. Keep your head warm (hat!) and your upper body warm (thermal underlayer! windproof shell!).

When it's cold I go out with a balaclava, long-sleeve microfibre fleece, windproof shell and short running shorts. If you prefer running bottoms, consider getting a pair of Ron Hill tracksters, the running pants beloved of fell runners.

(Kind of off-topic, but if you're running low in inspiration during the Winter months check out either Richard Askwith's Feet In The Clouds: A Tale of Fell-running and Obsession or Dean Karnazes's Ultra-marathon Man).

Remember: The hardest part is getting your shoes on and getting out of the front door.
posted by xpermanentx at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2006

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