AMR Gears Up: Dressing for Winter-Weather Running

Welcome to Another Mother Runner Gears Up our gear testing column! We are going to have #motherrunners put key running gear—capris, headlamps, socks, bras, etc.—to the test, then deliver the results to you so you can grab the gear that works best for your running and body. 

AMR Gears Up: Dressing for winter weather - it's all about the layers!

No doubt you’ve heard some version of the oft-quoted comment attributed to either an explorer or as a Norwegian proverb, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” While the quote has merit, we will be the first to support you if you opt to sweat it out on the treadmill instead of torturing yourself with a tempo run in dangerously bitter temperatures. For that matter, curling up with a steaming mug of cocoa sounds rather nice as well! Marshmallow dreams aside (hot chocolate is also a yummy recovery drink for after a chilly workout), these layering tips will help make your next winter run all the more comfortable, enjoyable, and safe. 

How many and what layers you wear depends upon just how cold it is, and if there’s wind or precipitation. While runners in the mountains of Colorado might opt to have every possible bit of skin covered from head to toe during winter outings, a mother runner in more mild zones might find a vest, long-sleeve tee, and capris suffice. The general recommendation is to dress for about 10 to 20 degrees warmer than what the thermometer says (but don’t discount wind chill!). Consider this your mix-and-match guide to layering essentials.

Start with a soft-against-the-skin base layer for your top. Wool is a good fabric because it keeps you warm even when it’s wet (from sweat or precipitation). Avoid cotton in cold weather: It cannot wick sweat fast enough, making it next to impossible for you to stay warm. Look for pieces with flat seams to help prevent chafing. If you heat up quickly, opt for a half-zip tee to allow for some ventilation. The next layer to consider is an insulation piece, something to provide more warmth. Vests can be good for adding warmth without bulk, or a thin fleece or pullover also works. The top layer should have wind- and water-resistance with breathability—you want sweat (yes, you still sweat in the cold) to evaporate, so you stay toasty.

For the following suggestions, we reached out to BAMRbassadors from New England to the Pacific Northwest for their favorite winter running pieces. The upside is all of these pieces are available now, meaning you may even be able to find some of them on sale (hint: now is the time to stock up for next winter!).

Jacket: Saucony Women's Vigor

Review: This wind and waterproof jacket protects you from the elements (it has bonded seams) with reflective pops for visibility, plus is breathable. Plus, it offers enough stretch to accommodate extra layers when needed. Our tester in New Hampshire has been wearing hers for more than two years for protection from blizzards, sleet, and rain.

Price: $140

Grab it here:

Nylon Vest: Asics Lite-Show

Review: AMR co-founder Sarah received this vest in a curated box from Mercury Mile, and it’s become her go-to piece for winter running. “Living in Pacific Northwest, a lightweight nylon running vest is my ideal garment for our winter weather. In rain, it helps keep me dry without making me feel clammy. In chilly temps, a vest keeps my core warm. Because I run hot, I wear a vest even when running in the teens.” This particular vest has a slim fit, with a drop tail, zip pockets, and 360 degrees of reflectivity.

Price: $75

Grab it here:

 Insulated Vest: Brooks Cascadia

Review: According to our tester from “cold and snowy” South Dakota, the Brooks Cascadia Thermal Vest is a must-have during the winter months. She says this is her favorite layer because it keeps her warm on the run, and also looks great with jeans. However, it’s out of stock for the season. That said, you may be able to find it at independent retailers (like REI).

Price: $80

She grabbed it here:

Base Layer: Pettet Endurance Project The Milo

Review: Pamela from Massachusetts loves this long sleeve V-neck for its toasty warmth, moisture-wicking abilities, and the fact that it isn’t the least bit itchy. It has a stylish, slim fit, with a longer hem and extra-long sleeves to keep wrists and hands warm.

Price: $60

Grab it here:

Tights: Athleta PrimaLoft Ridge

Review: Mary from Ohio, who says 10 degrees F is her lower limit for running outdoors, raves about the warmth and coziness of these tights, calling the zipper pockets “a huge plus.” How cozy are they? Well, the waistband is brushed on the inside for extra softness.

Price: Normally $98, BUT THEY ARE ON SALE RIGHT NOW FOR $53.99!

Grab it here:

Tights: Sugoi Midzero Tights

Review: Colleen, our Michigan based tester, says these tights are super warm without being too bulky. She wears them as a single layer down to about 5°F and says she stays plenty warm thanks to the brushed interior finish that wicks away moisture and holds in heat. They have a small interior pocket for your car key or a GU packet, and a rubberized band at the ankle to hold them in place and keep the snow out.

Price: $85

Grab it here:

Socks: Smartwool PhD Run Cold Weather Mid Crew

Review: Again, depending where you run, you may be able to pull on your favorite Balega no-show socks and call it good. But for extra warmth, Stephanie from Colorado chooses these Smartwool beauties. With a no-slip fit and comfortable in any weather wool, these socks will keep your feet (and ankles) happy. When she needs more warmth to the knee, Stephanie grabs her Smartwool Women’s PhD Ski Medium Socks (wear them under your tights to prevent them from collecting snow). 

Price: $21

Grab it here:

Winter Hat: Pink Badass Mother Runner Running Beanie

Review: Our audience may be biased, but several testers said these beanies, made by BoCo Gear, are their absolute favorites! 

Price: $22

Grab it here:

Gloves: Head Sensatec Touchscreen Ladies Digital Running Gloves

Review: Deanna from Nebraska loves these gloves because they are warm and priced right. In fact, she has no less than three pairs in her car at all times just in case. With special pads on fingertips, you can change podcasts on your phone or turn on Strava without exposing your paw to the elements! 

Price: $17

Grab it here:

More Essentials: Saucony Peregrine 8 ICE+

Review: With a special Vibram outsole and a water-resistant upper, these super-grippy shoes keep feet dry and, most importantly, rubber to the road in ice, slush, and snow. These shoes allow you to run without adding cleats through nearly all winter white stuff. Mother runner Heather from “cold and snowy” South Dakota swears by them.

Price: $150

Grab it here:

More Essentials: Kahtoola Nanospikes

Review: Colleen, who runs outside through Michigan winters, calls these spikes 100% necessary. “They keep me confident and safe on ice, snow, or whatever else falls out of the sky. They are very easy to pull on and take off, and they stay in place no matter what. I’ve run up to 14 miles on them (including speedwork), and they have been amazing.” (SBS also is a fan, saying they keep her upright on frozen fog--a Portland specialty--and on ice-crusted snow.)

Price: $50

Grab it here:

More Essentials: Buff Multifunctional Headwear

Review: With hundreds of styles and a variety of fabrics, our testers from across the country appreciate the versatility of Buffs, calling them their “all-time favorite piece of winter gear.” Wear them as hats, neck warmers, headbands, over your mouth to protect lungs from cold air: Like Survivor contestants show, there's no limit to the possibilities!

Price: $20

Grab it here:

Check out all of the Gears Up Columns Here!

Did we miss your favorite winter running layer?
Disagree or agree with the reviews?
Let us know in the comments below; it takes a #motherrunner village to be outfitted in the perfect gear!

3 responses to “AMR Gears Up: Dressing for Winter-Weather Running

  1. I live in Michigan, like one of your testers and I run unless the wind-chill is below 10degrees. I prefer merino wool tighja and found Ridge Merino comet tights have the right amount of compression for a nice long hilly run while having benefits of merino. I also use merino long sleeves (I own a few different brands) and a vest. Plus I need a Merino headband because otherwise the sweat drips from my hair and of course that’s bothersome and cold!
    I also use UA digital running gloves instead of the Head gloves. I used the Head brand for a while but the digital fingers stopped working on screens.
    Thanks for the great recommendations for cold weather gear!

  2. Thanks for the warm tights suggestion. I have been looking for a back up to my Saucony Siberius tights for awhile. The Athleta pair not only are on sale, but there is a 6% rebate through ebates 🙂 Looks like winter wants to hang on this year.

  3. I’ve been wearing UA Cold Gear tights for years. I’m in Buffalo, NY and wear them as a single layer down to 20 degrees. 20 degrees is my personal limit!

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