Dress for Success: Guide for Cold Weather Running

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With holiday traveling just around the corner and cooler temps on the horizon, thinking about what to wear on your run can be an extra hurdle - but don’t let it be!  I like to tell myself that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear.  Weather is the one variable in running you have no control over, so it is important to be prepared to run in all conditions as it will make you mentally stronger!  Try to keep your conversation about the weather positive and light to maintain that mental strength.

Winter in Austin is especially special.  We have a constant flux of warm fronts and cool fronts making the weather very unpredictable throughout the months of November - February.  Before you complain about the constant change in temps, take a minute to remember July & August and be grateful to not have the blasting unforgiving summer heat day after day.  One benefit of summer running was that your clothing choice was always the same - shorts and a tank top, so you really didn’t have to think about it too much.  However, now that the weather is cooling off getting dressed to go for a run requires a little more thought.


Many runners tend to overdress in cooler temps, but remember that when your body is working and moving you warm up very quickly!  There is a general rule of thumb that you can add about 15 to 20 degrees to the temperature outside and that is what it will feel like for you.  For example, if the outside temperature is 40°F, it will feel like 55°F - 60°F.  This conversion depends on your body size and run intensity as well.  If you are doing a short, easy run, it will only feel about 10-15 degrees warmer, whereas if you are doing a run with pace work, a race, or a long run, you will be working harder and you should add about 20 degrees.  Your body size is also a factor as smaller body mass will only add about 10 to 15 degrees while a larger body mass should add about 20 degrees to estimate what it feels like when running.

Dressing in layers is especially important in Austin winters, as the temperature at the start of a long run might be dramatically different from the temperature at the end of a long run as it can warm up quickly sometimes.  If you wear a layer, have something you can easily tie around your waist or shed as your body warms up.  I always like to look at what the temperature will be in the second half of my long run instead of the start.  Your body will warm up and so will the weather.

Once you are finished with your run, it is SUPER important to change into dry clothes or get into a hot shower as soon as possible after you finish running.  Your body temperature can drop quickly when you are wearing wet clothes in cooler temps.  Ladies - change out of your wet sports bra into something dry ASAP! It is also a good idea to have a warm hat or headband for wet hair.  My personal favorite is to have a lightweight merino wool buff on hand when I finish a cold run.  I also like to have a fleece or wool long sleeve or layer to wick away the moisture and keep me warm after finishing a run or race.


Wool is the best material for winter training as it insulates even when wet.  Having a thin wool layer can sometimes be the perfect item for a cooler temp run.  Numb toes are almost inevitable on some really cold days, but I like Smartwool running socks to insulate my toes.

Many ways to wear your buff!

Many ways to wear your buff!

Wind and humidity affect how the temperature feels when you are running as well.  Wind will cut through your clothing and make the temperature feel colder than it is, so if there is >10 MPH winds, dress on the warmer side to compensate for wind chill.  Humidity also plays a factor.  In warmer temps, moisture in the air makes it feel warmer (we are used to this in our hot & humid summer months). But, the inverse is actually true for cooler temps.  When it is cooler, the moisture in the air can make it feel even colder and keeps the cold trapped in.  If it is a sunny dry day, it will feel a lot warmer on the run than on a moist overcast day in the same temperature.

While running, your core will warm up, but your extremities will be cold. So think about your ears and hands when layering up for a run.  During the cooler months you will also experience a runny nose and can feel tighter or stiffer in your joints than normal.  A nice warm Epsom salt bath can do wonders after a long cold run.


Here are some items to add to your wardrobe for cold weather running:

  • Running tights
  • Long sleeve tech or wool shirts
  • Running gloves or mittens
  • Headband or buff to cover ears/neck
  • A light windproof running jacket
  • Running socks—tech fabric or wool blend
  • Chapstick
  • Sunglasses

Here are some simple tips to help you make your apparel choices throughout the next few months :)

Written By: Jackie Howard

Written By: Jackie Howard