Cold Weather Running- Tactics and Gear
By: Rory Closz - RRCA certified Level 1 coach and RUN MKG Member
When the temperature in West Michigan starts to plummet, the wind picks up and the rain and snow feel like you’re going through a glacial carwash it can be tempting to say “forget it” to outdoor running and instead hop on the treadmill for all your winter mileage. If you’re still interested in getting some outdoor miles but aren’t quite sure how to bundle up for it, here’s a post for you! Here are the basics that I stick to: merino wool is my go-to fabric for warmth, wind-blocking is always helpful for knees, elbows, fingers and toes. Just for fun, we'll go in the order of the old kindergarten song: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!
Head. Pop a warm hat or headband to cover your ears from the elements. Personally, I have a couple of different thicknesses I like to choose from: my Arc'teryx Bird Head Toque is good for when I’m doing faster workouts and get a bit of heat pouring out the top of my head, and my Turtlefur Jace Beanie is good for my longer, slower runs (plus it’s got a pom, so it’s super fashion-forward!). Both beanies are made with merino wool, which makes them warm and breathable.
I tend to wear a neck gaiter to help keep my face relatively warm and out of the snow and wind. You can’t go wrong with the original BUFF®. They’ve got plenty of styles, plus merino wool!
Shoulders. (And the torso, really, but that doesn’t go with the song). I wear a base layer t-shirt, then a long-sleeve shirt, then a quarter zip, then a jacket if I feel it’s necessary. I mix-and-match the layers depending on the conditions, but usually the base layer is my Rabbit EZ Tee Short Sleeve because it’s super-soft. My long-sleeve is usually a long-sleeve race shirt. My quarter zip is my Run Muskegon OGIO Endurance Quarter Zip, because I can unzip if I get too warm in the torso. My Patagonia Houdini® Jacket zips up into a little ball, is great for wind blocking, and is mildly waterproof as well!
Knees. I stick to a couple of simple rules when dressing for a run: 40 degrees is shorts weather, 50 degrees is short sleeves weather. But when it does get down below 40, I’ll reach for a pair of leggings: R3 Partial GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Tights are great for when the wind is howling and you don’t want to feel it. (To keep it modest, I wear my Path Projects GRAVES PX over my leggings) These can be a bit pricey, so for a couple of years before I bought into the windstopper I was rocking a pair of TJ Maxx Baselayer Leggings underneath some Adidas track pants. A little heavier, but they did a great job until I was ready to go for the GOREWEAR.
Toes. (And Hands). On my feet I’m a big fan of Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks. Darn Tough does a great job with sustainability, and they have a lifetime guarantee. I’ve sent in lots of socks over the years and gotten a redemption code for a brand new pair each time! I’ve also worn Smartwool, Bombas and Balegas. Just make sure they’re wool if you want toasty toesies on your run.
I have really finicky hands and fingers, so I wear double layers of gloves. A merino base layer glove I got from TJ Maxx goes on first, then my Sugoi Zap Wind Mitts go on over top. I like the mittens because I’m able to stick some hand warmers in there and move them around as needed to different parts of my hands.
Shoe Choice. There are a lot of opinions when it comes to winter running shoes, and the best way is whatever works best for you. Here are some options that people in my running circle use. Shoe Screws: these are small screws that you literally screw into the bottom of your shoes to provide traction on the ice and slush; many people use an old pair of shoes they don’t care too much about for this. Yaktrax: these clamp onto the outside of your shoes like little bear traps and provide traction against snow and ice; they can mess with your run form a bit until you get used to the difference in the feel. Trail Shoes: my go-to method is to wear my trail running shoes in the winter; they provide a bit more traction than normal road shoes, and I don’t have to mess around with screws or bear traps.
If you’re tired of the treadmill when it gets cold, give winter running a try! We have a ton of people who run outside year-round at Run Muskegon, so there are many different options to try. But, like everything running-related: test it out, then do what works best for you!
Rory’s Winter Running Wardrobe:
Hat: Arc'teryx Bird Head Toque; merino wool Buff
Shirt: Rabbit EZ Tee Short Sleeve; Long Sleeve race shirt
Jacket: Patagonia Houdini® Jacket
Legs: R3 Partial GORE® WINDSTOPPER® Tights; Path Projects GRAVES PX
Socks/Gloves: Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks; Merino Wool base layer gloves, Sugoi Zap Wind Mitts
Shoes: Saucony Peregrine ISO
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