As the new year approaches, so do the coldest days of winter.
Running in the winter can be an intimidating adventure to embark on and the best winter running gear can make the difference between a frozen-nosed suffer-fest and a surprisingly comfortable PR on your favorite route.
Want to know how a winter PR is possible? Check out our in-depth guide to running in the cold.
If you are planning on running in the cold this winter, keep reading to find the best winter running gear to keep you safe, warm, and motivated through the season.
Running Shoes For Winter
Remember, for winter running you want a shoe that is waterproof-breathable, high-profile (sides that go high up on the ankle and have no mesh near the sole) with a wide-deep tread.
Our top picks are extra high-top (all these shoes come in low-top versions). They look like hiking shoes and they are great hiking shoes as well, but these trail running shoes will keep the elements out and your feet dry while running in the winter.
Dry feet mean warm feet. And, warm feet mean more warmth overall.
The warmer you are, the more efficient your muscles. The more efficient your muscles, the better you run.
When it comes to winter running gear, shoes might be the most expensive things you purchase.
However, the right shoes can mean the difference between pure winter running ecstasy and complete torture.
Get the right shoes so you can actually enjoy running in the winter this year.
Best Men’s Winter Running Shoes:
When it comes to winter running shoes, Salomon is not messing around. These burly shoes feature a full waterproof-breathable inner with an extra easy-zip outer cover. The high ankle fits snugly and comfortable to keep debris out so you don’t ever need gaiters. They get their name from the spikes around the outer sole. The same model can be found without the high top or spikes through the link below.
• Keep in mind, Salomons tend to run on the narrow side.
• The Hokas shown below are much better suited for wider feet.
• Deep wide tread w/metal spike for extra ice traction
• Easy Zip ankle guard to seal out cold weather
• Reinforced toe
• Bright colors for visibility
Here at Crux Range, this is our favorite all-around shoe. The waterproof-breathable membrane provides protection in the winter while the high top brings comfort, warmth, and protection. These shoes perform well in any condition. From scree to snow, to dirt, the Uragano will keep your feet on the ground and warm.
• Light-weight bullet-proof construction
• Sticky wide tread
• Integrated lacing system for easy on-off
Hoka OneOne has quickly become known for being the brightest, sometimes goofiest looking, most burly shoes out there. All their shoes feature their signature oversized sole and bright styling. However, don’t let the aesthetics fool you. Hoka brings it when it comes to performance.
The Speedgoat WP features a fully waterproof membrane with soft high ankle protection. These shoes will keep you dry and visible.
As an added bonus, Hoka is one of a handful of outdoor companies focused on sustainability and ethical production practices. You can find their full line of Vegan shoes here.
• Vibram sole with multi-directional tread for extra grip
• High-sides with waterproof material
• Fully-waterproof membrane with soft high ankle
Best Women’s Winter Running Shoes:
Like their bright red cousins shown above, these shoes are made for adventure. They are made with the same super tread soles and fully waterproof membrane. We couldn’t find the high-top ones above in womens (oversight by Salomon?). And, asking around we didn’t know any women who had tried the high-tops so didn’t want to recommend them here. We do know someone who runs with these all winter in coastal Oregon and she says they are one of her favorite winter shoes (she runs them with Dirty Girl Gaiters) after the Hokas listed below.
• Note: These do not have the outer-sole spikes like the red high-tops above.
• Remember, Salomons tend to be run on the narrow side
• Deep wide tread
• Extra toe lugs for traction
• Full waterproof-breathability with seamless tongue
As we mentioned above, these are our friend in Oregon’s #1 inclement weather running shoes. Hoka makes people happy. Plain and simple. Try Googling reviews. You’ll have a hard time finding any really bad reviews for these shoes. They keep you warm, comfortable, and looking good no matter your pursuit.
• High profile with soft high ankle
• Fully waterproof-breathable membrane
• Multi-directional deep lugs for traction and debris shed
Brooks has been in the trail running game since it started becoming more mainstream over a decade ago. These shoes are one of our all-time favorite trail shoes. I have literally gotten a pair of these every year since their inception 14 years ago. For winters and bad weather, the GTX model gives you extra protection with more versatility than a high-top. If you live somewhere with moderate temperature fluctuations you will be able to run this single pair of shoes all year long.
• Brooks quality construction
• Fully waterproof-breathable
• Moderate tread/lugging for sure step on any terrain
Now that your feet are warm and dry you’re going to want to keep all that moisture and mud from getting in around your ankles.
This is where running gaiters come into the game!
The beauty of these little ankle widgets is in their simplicity. Basically just a stretchy tube that covers your ankle and upper foot, gaiters can mean the difference between complete weather protection and total fail.
Gaiters are a small piece of cold weather running gear that can make a big difference.
As an added plus, they tend to be affordable and you can use them for hiking as well.
Best Running Gaiters:
Personally, these are my favorites. Some people don’t like them because of the zipper and the foot loop. However, the zipper is offset for comfort and if you are wearing long socks or leggins it’s not an issue anyway. The INSTAgaiters are water-resistant, stretchy, and super-durable. These gaiters can do anything.
• More rugged than other running gaiters
• Get one set of gaiters for any situation
• Zipper for easy on-off
Dirty Girl Gaiters is a homegrown company from Arizona. Started by an Ultra-runner, the company is rooted in passion for the sport. Find unique prints you won’t find anywhere else.
• Simple, unique, and affordable
• All proceeds are donated to charities and runners
• Hand-made to last
Best Leggings For Winter Running
There are lots of different running tights out there.
For running in cold weather you are going to want something windproof with a bit of thickness to it.
Try not to get leggings with mesh ventilation areas. This feature is great in warm weather or the gym, but for winter the best gear keeps the cold air out as much as possible.
When it’s really cold, try wearing your running tights with a larger-looser pair of windproof outers. This seals your warmth in while keeping the cold out.
We suggest some sort of soft-shell material. Soft-shells are highly breathable compared to a completely waterproof shell, this prevents moisture build-up inside.
Best Women’s Thermal Running Tights:
When it comes to outdoor gear Arc’Teryx is synonymous with quality and performance. The RHO AR winter running tights are no exception. This winter layer is plush on the inside-sleek and strong on the outside. Maybe because they are a Canadian company, Arc’Teryx knows what you need when it’s cold. Check out the customer review we pulled from the Arc’Teryx store. If these leggings perform for someone on foot patrol in Yellowknife in -52 weather, chances are they will work for you too. As you will find in most reviews, they do tend to fit a bit large so plan accordingly.
• Weatherproof outer w/plush inner
• Side zip pocket (upper-mid thigh right)
• Highest quality available
After the Arc’Teryx, these are our favorite mid-weight base layers. The wool gives them a more natural feel and the integrated wind-proof front panels keep cold out better than some of the other all around synthetics. The only drawback–being 38% wool makes them slightly heavier and slightly slower to dry. But, the insulating abilities are much better than full synthetics in our opinion.
• Full-zip side pocket
• Effective front wind-proof panels
• Natural feel
Similar to the Smartwool tights above, these warm winter leggings have integrated front wind-proof panels for extra protection. They don’t have the extra pockets that the Smartwool has and lack the natural feel. However, if you are looking for a more affordable full-synthetic running tight, North Face is a great option.
• Wind-proof front panels
• Soft interior
The Peak Mission Tight is a versatile running tight with moderate insulation and lots of comfort. They might not be warm enough for harsh winter running on their own, but in a good layering system, these tight could be indispensable.
• Microterry inner for durable softness
• Made with anti-odor materials
• Certified Fair Trade sewn
Best Cold Weather Running Tights For Men:
We cannot say enough about how cool these tights are. As far as the best winter running gear goes, the Arc’Teryx RHO AR are the cream of the crop. Windproof, super comfortable, large pocket, soft inner, ultra-durable, and warm as hell. What more could you want? I got a pair of these a few months ago and they changed my life. I wish I had these back in the day running in Calgary winters. Not convinced? Check the customer review we pulled from the Arc’Teryx website. As you will find in most reviews, they do tend to fit a bit large so plan accordingly.
• Super warm
• Zip side pocket
• High-quality construction
As mentioned above, these tights perform well and feel great. With integrated windproof panels, the Smartwool tights keep the cold out while keeping you warm and comfy inside. With a wool-polyester blend, these running tights have a much more natural feel than their competitors. The only drawback, being 38% wool makes them a bit heavier and takes them a little longer to dry when wet.
• Effective front wind-proof panels
• Natural feel
Patagonia has been around for a while. They make great products that last and perform. These running tights, while not our top pick, are a great alternative for warmer weather. Wind resistant and comfortable, they will keep you warm in moderately cool temperatures. If you are going to be running in more extreme cold or want something you can wear skiing and sledding as well, go for the options listed above.
• Soft inner lining
• Fair Trade Sewn
• Odor repellent material
Upper Body: Winter Running Jackets & Layers
Use layering to keep your upper body warm and dry in cold conditions.
Layering does a few things: It gives you options when the weather changes. And, laying allows you to move moisture away from your skin so your inner layers stay warm and dry.
Using layers with zippers and flaps will add ventilation options to dump moisture buildup. Maintaining warmth while running in cold weather requires getting moisture as far away from your skin as possible.
Layers are the easiest way to accomplish this.
Here we have given you the best winter running gear for a bullet-proof 3-layer combination to keep you comfortable and moving all winter long.
3-Layer Upper Body Winter Running Combo:
Helly Hansen: This company makes some good looking outdoor equipment. Don’t let their looks fool you though. Their garments perform well and are built to last. This merino blend layer feels soft and natural next to your skin.
Patagonia: Patented Capilene from Patagonia was one of the first performance fabrics on the market. The material continues to perform well in all tests. Capilene wicks moisture well and dries quickly. These lightweight layers are a staple in any layering system.
Smartwool: Another Merino wool blend, Smartwool makes super comfy layers that perform decently in the field. As far as base layers go, get a full synthetic like the Patagonia if your adventure is going to keep you from a shelter for a day or more. Merino feels good and wicks well but takes longer to dry.
Patagonia Micro Puff: Patagonia’s ultra-light (the entire jacket weighs in at 0.7 oz.) puff jacket is made from their patented prima loft synthetic insulation. Even when it’s damp, the micro puff continues to provide warmth. This is a great mid-layer that can be used as an outer layer on warmer days. Available in hooded or high collar.
Arc’Teryx Stryka & Vertices: A balaclava style hood gives this mid-weight base layers loads of versatility. Pull up the full neck warmer to cover your face when the wind starts ripping around the ridge. Pull over the hood for full protection and another layer of warmth under your helmet or outer hood. A longer torso style helps keep heat from escaping. These two styles are essentially the same garment, minus the breast pocket. Stryka being the men’s version, Vertices the women’s version.
Under Armour ColdGear 4.0: The ColdGear series from Under Armour is specially designed with the winter warrior in mind. They code the warmth of their garments from 2.0-4.0, 4.0 being the warmest rating. The shirts shown above are 4.0 but you can find the same style in any weight rating on their website.
Patagonia Houdini: Literally the lightest (1.2 oz.) windproof water-resistant packable shell you can get, the Patagonia Houdini packs a ton of functionality into a tiny package. Personally, I have had this jacket for over 8 years. I use it for everything from running to multi-pitch climbs to biking around town. The only drawback, it’s a bit fragile. You can easily get tiny holes from running against the wall on a corner pitch or taking a header while running in the snow. Other than that, an amazing garment.
Mountain Hardwear Kor Preshell: By Preshell, they pretty much mean light soft-shell. This jacket is similar to the Houdini but slightly more burly (coming in at 4.9 oz.). Some of our contributors have switched from the Houdini to this jacket due to the added ruggedness while still being light and functional.
Marmot ROM: One of the first companies in the soft shell game, Marmot has had a long time to formulate a winner. The ROM is a standard in heavier soft shells. While much more weatherproof than the Houdini of Kor, the ROM remains light (5.8 oz.). If you are looking for a little more protection, the ROM is the better choice.
Hands: Running Gloves
For gloves, follow the same principles as above. Go for windproof materials and think about layering when possible.
You can find super-thin base layer gloves to go under your main glove.
This might seem like overkill. But when it’s -30 unprotected-damp hands will chill instantly. Tying your shoe or fumbling with your keys will mean cold hands for the next 20 minutes.
Save yourself the hassle, try a thin liner under your thicker outer glove.
To be honest, most of us here at Crux Range get our liner gloves at the dollar store. You can find a thin pair of knitted polyester gloves for a few bucks.
If you’re looking for higher quality, check our suggestions below.
Neck & Face
Keeping your neck and face covered when it’s seriously cold out will help prevent frost-bite.
Opt for a balaclava style when you can, this will give you more flexibility as the weather changes.
Again, just make sure you get something synthetic and breathable.
Don’t forget about your ears. Try for something that covers your ears decently or can be folded down over your ears as needed.
Remember, one of the biggest hazards of running in the winter is visibility. Any collection of the best winter running gear should include some visibility tech.
Try to increase your visibility by choosing clothing with built-in reflective components.
We recommend at least one running light of some kind as well. A headlamp is versatile and works perfectly. Be sure to aim it down so as not to blind passing drivers.
Conclusion: The Best Winter Running Gear For 2020
Well, that’s everything! The best winter running gear of 2020!
Our hope is that this shortlist of gear for running in the cold has given you an idea about which type of gear is going to work best for you.
Of course, you don’t have to get the same gear we are using. However, check out the links to understand the type of gear we are recommending.
Between all our contributors here at Crux Range we have nearly a century of outdoor experience. Our aim is to share everything we’ve learned with you so you can get out and enjoy your passion in comfort and style.
What will you be wearing this winter?
See you out there!
Find anything useful? Let us know. Post your own suggestions. Help other readers make the right choices!