Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

January 21, 2015


Winter running: Gear up so you can go for a run all year long!

Article revised on 29 November 2018

Running enthusiasts, do you ever find it hard to stay motivated when the mercury is falling lower and lower? Continuing to practice your favourite sport with the arrival of frigid temperatures certainly has its advantages, like being able to enjoy fresh air all year round, but it also brings certain challenges.

What’s the solution that will enable you to enjoy running outside even when it’s cold out? Dressing appropriately! Here are a few practical tips to help you choose your gear, so your next winter running session can be as pleasant as possible.

Winter running essentials

Head, face and neck

Toque – Did you know that a significant amount of your body heat is lost through your head? Make sure you grab your hat before going outside for a run!

Hood – It can provide protection for your head and neck in really cold temperatures.

Sunglasses – They protect your eyes from the glare of light reflecting off snow.

Bandana or neck gaiter – A must-have! It can also be used to cover your mouth to retain heat.

Lip balm – It can also be applied to your nose and cheeks to prevent windburn and chapping.

Upper body

In the wintertime, layering is recommended. Each layer has a specific function:

  1. Base layer – This layer is next to your skin. Its primary role is to wick sweat away to keep your body dry and warm. (I never go outside in the winter without my merino wool cardigan!)
  2. Mid layer – This layer adds insulation. It may be made of down or a synthetic fabric, such as polyester. Its role is to trap body heat and promote the evacuation of moisture.
  3. Outer layer – This layer effectively protects you from the elements, without trapping your body heat.

Gloves or mittens – Wear mittens when it’s really cold outside. You’ll find them warmer, because they allow your fingers to share heat.

Lower body

Tights – When it’s really cold outside, consider wearing a layer under your pants.

Running pants – Choose pants with a waterproof-breathable coating to retain the heat generated by your legs.


Socks – The important rule to follow? No cotton socks! Invest instead in good wicking socks that you can wear under wool or polar fleece socks when the weather is very cold.

Shoes – Opt for waterproof trail running shoes (with a Gore-Tex type membrane).

Crampons – They’re optional but very practical, as they provide better traction on icy surfaces.

A few tips to ensure comfort

  • Slip heat packs into your mittens and/or footwear when it’s really cold outside. You’ll be glad you did!
  • Make sure you always stay dry! If your clothing gets damp, you are at greater risk of hypothermia. As soon as you finish your run, get back inside and quickly take off your damp garments.
  • Don’t overdress, because you will generate heat while running. It’s normal to be a little chilly when you’re starting out. As a general rule, dress for weather 15 degrees warmer.
  • Always have your cellphone with you. It can come in handy if a problem arises. Also plan an alternative running path in case the snow has not been adequately cleared from your regular one.

Good running gear is a smart investment! Go to a specialty running store to ensure you get the gear that best meets your needs.

Have a good run!


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