8 essential pieces of gear for outdoor winter running

December 15, 2014

Winter running is a great way to stay in shape over the holidays, but you'll need the right base layers, socks, headphones and other gear to stay warm.

While you may be tempted to skimp on some fancier gear for outdoor running, the items on this list are crucial for comfortable, productive runs this winter.

8 essential pieces of gear for outdoor winter running

Base layer

A good base layer is the most important piece of winter weather gear. A long-sleeve shirt and a pair of running tights made out of synthetic, moisture-wicking fabric will prevent chills and keep your skin dry. Your base layer should fit snugly and should never contain cotton.


A jacket with reflective detailing that's both windproof and breathable is the best choice for an outer layer. If you would like to run in the snow, a jacket that sheds precipitation will help keep your mid and base layers dry. Although it may be tempting to buy a heavy running jacket, consider buying a lighter weight jacket and supplementing with mid layers depending on the temperature.

Mid layer top

Fleece, wool or synthetic tops that can be layered over a base layer and underneath a jacket will allow you to create a running outfit suitable for almost any temperature. Buy several items of different weights, and be prepared to layer them over one another as necessary.

Wind layer pants

If you're exercising in windy or snowy conditions, a windproof pair of pants that can be layered over running tights is crucial. Never wear these pants without a base layer or chafing can result.


Any hat that keeps your ears warm to prevent frostbite and doesn't trap sweat against your scalp is suitable for winter running. A simple wool knit hat will work for most runners, but there are plenty of synthetic hats made specifically for athletes.

Wool socks

Moisture-wicking socks are important at any time of the year, but wool-blend socks are essential for winter runners. Wool socks keep your feet dry and diminish the chance of blisters. They are warm enough for cold temperatures, but thin enough to wear with a pair of running shoes.

Headlamp or LED lights

Most outdoor runners are forced to run in low light conditions for much of the winter. While a reflective jacket is a good first step in remaining visible to cars, LED lights are a good additional precaution. Many LEDs can be easily attached to a jacket or worn around the wrist or ankle. Trail runners should swap an LED for a headlamp, which will illuminate uneven paths while providing additional visibility.


For daytime running, a good pair of sunglasses can help reduce the glare from the snow and protect your eyes from the wind and precipitation. Photochromic sunglasses, which adjust the tint of the lenses according to light levels, are a nice bonus found on many pairs of sunglasses marketed towards runners.

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