Happy Winter! 

Yesterday it was -17 degrees out when we went for our morning run and I’m often asked how I dress for that kind of weather. So I wanted to take a few minutes and chat about cold weather running. I will share with you exactly how I layer, and then in a separate video, I’ll tell you about how I prepare and actually facilitate that kind of a run. 

There are two main reasons I dress this way:

  • Comfort: When I start running and I’m feeling chilled to the bone, I tense up which makes my run feel hard and less enjoyable. I tend to run cold and much prefer to feel warm because that relaxes my muscles and eases my mind. My idea of comfort is hazy, hot, and humid weather near the ocean. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist here in Vermont, especially in the winter, so I’ve learned how to adapt. This helps me stay consistent with my exercise through the frigid winter season. 
  • Safety: Freezing temperatures can be dangerous. Just being cold for too long can drop your core temperature and lead to hypothermia. In adults, hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Thus, exposing yourself to the elements for extended periods of time can be life threatening. 
Listen and watch the video to see exactly how I layer: 

Keep reading for the items I wear to stay comfy and safe while running in extremely cold weather, and get the links to the exact or similar products.

  • Note: Some of the items I’ve had for years and are no longer part of the company’s line but I shared the link to  a similar item that I would use to replace the one I show you in the video
  • Note: I am not an affiliate for any of these companies/products but love them and hope you find items that work for you too

Top of Body Base Layers: 

The first layer, underwear is standard, wear whatever you’re comfortable in. I use a sports bra, underwear, and then I put on a fleece lined tank top, which I love and found on Amazon. I had one from years ago that pretty much disintegrated. It took a long time to find a replacement, but I finally found it this year!!! Whoo Hoooo, I bought a few of them because they are truly a winter staple for me!

Tech wear always feels a little bit cold to me when it’s directly on my skin and I prefer fleece and cotton. After my fleece lined tank, I’ll usually put a really thin cotton Tee. I love the feel of a Life is Good shirt. They’re really soft and feel good on my skin. 

Next, depending on how cold it is, I might add in a very thin layer over the T-shirt. I found Cuddle Duds a few years ago and they also became a staple winter layer. They make great PJ’s too!!! They are reasonably priced and can be found both online at Amazon or at your local Kohl’s.

Once my base layers are in place I take into consideration the windchill factor. On those really cold days that are windy, I have another windproof shirt by Craft, which I also use for skate skiing. The front is windproof front and then has a knit back. This version has a really long, but very loose turtle neck that come up very high, keeping my neck covered. It allows my head covering to tuck right into it, which I love, because there’s zero exposed skin! 


Top of Body Outer Wear: 

It seems like a lot of layers, but I’m all about running comfortably and safely, so I keep on layering. Next is a light or mid-weight jacket. I have a number of choices for this, you can use your favorite go-to jacket. But I always finish off my top with a knee length, insulated jacket. I have found that running in below zero weather, I get seriously cold. My thighs tense up in the cold even when I wear multiple layers on my legs. I discovered long jackets only two years ago and don’t know how I ever survived a run without one! It’s made a huge difference in motivating me to get out there and keeping my body toasty warm.


Bottom of Body Base Layer:

Now let’s talk about what goes on the bottom. I start with regular underwear, whatever you are comfortable with is fine. I cover those right up with a thin base layer made by Craft. They are made for cross-country skiing, but work very well for running too. They lay tight on the body, but are very forgiving, so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing much of anything at all. I chose a style that comes up relatively high, which is nice for tucking in my layers so no skin will ever be exposed. That’s my biggest thing! 


Bottom of Body Outer Layer: 

I layer a fleece lined pant over the base layer for added protection and warmth. The ones in the video are Craft as well, but I also sport a pair of lined New Balance tights, which are also amazing. Both are very light and very soft. That fleece lining is really great, and they’re also windproof. Those two layers tend to keep me pretty comfortable on the bottom once I’m warmed up. Caveat: I do my warmup with the long jacket to keep my thighs warm and my shoulders from tensing up. Some days I find it’s cold enough to do my whole workout with all layers.



I’m here in Vermont and hardly go a day without sporting a pair of Darn Tough Socks. They make them in a heavyweight, mid-weight, or light-weight. And they come in different heights up the ankle. I prefer a mid-weight so my sneakers don’t feel too tight. If my shoes feel too tight, they feel cold and the extra sock weight defeats the purpose. However, the heavyweight socks make great “around the house” socks! I choose the high ankle socks for winter because they easily go over my undergarment, without bunching up, and keep my skin from being exposed. 

I have one pair of sneakers that I’ll use all winter. They have a pretty aggressive tread to meet the conditions of the outdoor surfaces. Ice happens here. We have dirt roads, so that packed ice can be pretty slippery. I wear  Altras and work well in the wintertime. They have a wide toebox, great to accommodate my wool socks, and the tread keeps provides good traction.

On particularly icy days, when the tread is not quite enough, I add Stabil cleats to provide more grip to improve my running experience. I’ve also used Yaktracks in the past. Both are easy to slip on and slip off so that I can have these ready at any given time. That is how I keep my traction on the super icy days. 


Neck & Head:

Now let’s talk about what I wear from the neck up. I usually have on a loose turtle neck, and put on a thin, yet effective face mask that can cover the forehead, mouth & nose. This one in the video is from Under Armour and tucks easily into the turtle neck. Once I’m warmed up I prefer to keep my nose and mouth uncovered for easier breathing. My husband has a fleece one, which is has been too heavy for me, because I like to wear a hat over the face mask. 

One of the things I found over the years is it can be very easy to feel constricted, which I find uncomfortable. I don’t want to be super tight and locked into anything. I want to be able to move my body and feel as natural as possible. So I top it all off with a wool hat, this one is from Athleta. I have lots of different wool hats. Many of them are fleece lined. The one in the video is not, but it is one is super forgiving and warm. It comes down really low and keeps any wind from ears. It provides ample coverage, which is just the ticket… and who doesn’t love a huge pompom????

Lastly, I finish off with a sturdy pair of fluffy mittens by Kombi. Mine are ages old! The reason I prefer mittens over gloves is because my fingers keep each other warm when they are all packaged together. Most of the time I pull my thumb in too, because when I run, I’m holding my “mugs” in my hands, which is a ChiRunning thing. If you don’t know the ChiRunning technique, take a look at that, it’s life changing!


Test & Record: 

It’s taken me a long time to “perfect” my cold weather running attire, but I have a good handle on what I need to wear in order to stay comfortable and safe while running in the cold. It was well worth the time it took to test items and notice which combos work best for what temperature. I encourage you to do the same and make notes so you can easily remember those combos. 


  • When you start running in extremely cold temperatures, begin with too many layers than too few to be safe from hypothermia.
  • Stay motivated by feeling good and taking care of your body in the cold. When you start out warm you’ll tend to stay warm, which is why these layers are so critically important. 
  • Check out this video on How to Structure Your Run for Safety & Comfort in Extremely Cold Weather where I’ll tell you how to perform that actual walk/run so that you can maintain a comfortable and safe body temperature along the way.

Hi, I'm Sarah!

I help struggling runners ditch excuses so they can get consistent, feel good and love running again. 

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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