If you’re a runner, there’s no reason you should let the winter months put a stop to your favourite exercise. Sure it’s cold, often wet, usually muddy, and the mornings and evenings are darker, but winter running is all about kitting yourself out with the right gear. As the British author and fell walker Alfred Wainwright famously said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”.
Aside from the dark mornings (I’m an early bird by nature so much prefer to get out early doors), I love running during the winter months. There is nothing more invigorating than heading out just as the sun’s rising, when the world still feels asleep, and there’s no one but me and my dog on the woodland trails – it is bliss. Admittedly, it is harder to get motivated when it’s absolutely chucking it down, but the hardest bit is getting out the door. Once I’m out there, as long as I’ve got on a waterproof jacket and a baseball cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, I actually don’t mind the rain. In some respects it makes me feel even more awesome!
The lovely people at Dare2B have sent me some of their running clothes to try out and so I have compiled a kit list of the running apparel that’s keeping me going this winter as well as a few tried and tested old faves.
1. A Waterproof Jacket
One thing we’re used to in this country is the changeable weather. One minute there’s sun, the next it’s raining, hailing, snowing you name it, we get it all and so a waterproof jacket is an absolute must for any seasoned runner. Now, I must admit that I am prone to only wearing black and dark coloured clothes when I run (well it’s super slimming isn’t it!), but that’s really not ideal at this time of year when the light isn’t so good. And so this lightweight reflective fluro yellow waterproof jacket is perfect in so many ways – you certainly aren’t gonna miss me in this!
Besides the fact it is probably the brightest colour on the planet, the jacket also features reflective trims on key areas to make you more visible to traffic. This garment technology is known as Bio Motion and works by highlighting the areas that move the most – essentially you end up creating your own flashing reflective light. Talking of which, at the back of the jacket there is also an attachment to fit an LED light – they really have thought of everything!
So what else is good about this jacket? Well it’s…
And it also has:
- Lots of vents for airflow
- A large zipped pocket at the back
- A zipped chest pocket
- A quick-adjust neck cinch to keep out the cold breeze.
I’ve yet to find a jacket that is totally waterproof and doesn’t make you sweat, but in terms of being seen and giving a protective layer that isn’t too heavy this one works really well.
You could have the brightest, most light reflective jacket in all of the kingdom, but if you’re running in darkness you should really be thinking about getting yourself some lights. It’s not just about you being seen, but also to help you see too – you’d be surprised how many runners suffer injuries from tripping on potholes, sliding on leaves, or falling off kerbs simply because the light wasn’t good. There are a few different choices when it comes to lights and ultimately it boils down to personal preference and what feels most comfortable/least annoying to you.
I use an across body light harness, which has a forward facing light with two different intensities and flashing options as well as a rear red light that can also be set to flash if you choose. It can be recharged by USB cable and has three lights that load up to let you know once it is fully charged. And once it is fully charged, I would say it can easily keep me going for roughly four evening runs, possibly more. The harness simply fits over your shoulders and then clips at the chest, and it can be adjusted for comfort. My only beef with it is that once you have it on, it’s not the easiest to get off and on if you want to strip off any layers mid-run, but it’s a small price to pay for the benefits of this type of light.
Other light options include; head torches, beanie hats with built in lights, and of course you could always hold a small torch. Having a light on your head is great in that it really makes you stand out and directs light where you need it, however I personally found wearing one uncomfortable and it seemed to be forever slipping down. And likewise, holding a torch is great for directing light where you need it, but it’s annoying having to hold something when you run. Like I said, it’s personal preference.
Winter running is all about the layers. When you first set out you’re going to be freezing so you need lots of lovely warm layers. And likewise, afterwards you will very quickly cool down and you’ll be so, so grateful for the extra warmth. However, during your run as you increase the intensity, you’ll be surprised how quickly you warm up and you’ll want to shed those layers as quickly and as easily as you possibly can.
I usually like to wear a long sleeved base layer underneath a t-shirt and then a zipped jacket over the top. I prefer a zipped jacket to a hoodie, because it’s easier to get off, especially if you’re wearing a hat. This merino wool/polyester zipped jacket is a great example of what to wear as a midlayer. It is made from a really soft and stretchy material, which means it doesn’t restrict movement plus because it is so lightweight when you need to take it off and tie it around your waist it hugs to your body and doesn’t flap about when you run. The Woolwic Plus panels also help to wick away moisture from the skin so you don’t get that horrible sweaty dampness that can often occur when wearing layers.
The jacket also looks super stylish, which I am totally down with. I know it’s not about how you look when you run – jeez I mostly sport a rather fetching beetroot red sweaty face, but as the saying goes when you look good you feel good and this is definitely giving me all the feels. I also love a pocket and as a dog owner and someone who runs avec pooch, pockets are everything. I need somewhere to put my phone, poo bags, treats, and a tissue (anyone else’s nose constantly run during this time of year!?!?) so pockets are a must have for me. I have run with a waistband before to stash stuff like this in, but with the dog’s running harness round my waist as well it can end up feeling really bulky and I’m forever fiddling with it to get comfy. So yeah, pockets are important. This jacket has two decent sized zipped pockets, which fits in everything I need.
Underneath the jacket I’ve been wearing this pink Dare2B wool t-shirt, with a long sleeved top underneath. Now, the great thing about this t-shirt is that because it’s made from a mixture of Merino wool and polyester it keeps you warm while at the same time wicking away the sweaty moisture, meaning not only do you feel comfortable for longer, but you’re also far less pongy. It also washes really well and dries super quick too.
There’s nothing worse than having cold hands is there? That horrible sensation of when your hands are so cold you can barely feel your fingers and if you’re out in it too long it can actually start to get really painful. So a decent pair of gloves is an absolute must for cold weather running in my opinion.
Now, you could of course wear a bog standard pair of woolly gloves, but I much prefer wearing sports gloves instead, and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, they’re not too warm. I know this sounds crazy considering the whole point of wearing them is to keep your hands warm, but you soon warm up and sweaty hands aren’t nice in the slightest. You want warmth, but you also want stretch and some kind of moisture wicking element to them. It’s also really useful to have those bits on the fingers that allow you to still use your phone, so look out for a pair with that particular feature.
5. Neck Gaiter
I would recommend wearing a neck gaiter (sometimes they’re called a buff, snood, or neck bandana) in the winter, especially if you have short hair or if you wear your hair tied up when you run and your neck is exposed.
I own quite a selection of different neck warmers now, but there’s one feature on this fleecy neck gaiter from Dare2B that I absolutely love. I’ve noticed that over time my neck warmers get a bit baggy from where they’re stretched over my head to get them on and off. This one however has a rather nifty toggle that allows you to cinch it right in so that it fits snugly around your neck. The beauty of this is that it’s large enough to slip over your head without risk of overstretching, and once it has been adjusted it keeps out all those cold wintry breezes – it’s brilliant!
Neck gaiters also double up as an emergency make shift mask should you feel the need for a post run coffee, which of course most of us do ?
6. Decent Footwear
If there is one thing you should spend your money on, it’s trainers. Decent, well fitting, fit for purpose running trainers will help you avoid injury, will make running more comfortable for you, and in all honesty will ensure you keep on running and enjoying it. If you’ve been running for a while I’m guessing you’ll have already found the trainer brand that best suits your feet. Ever since I had a biometric test at one of my local sport shops, where they video how you run to see whether your feet pronate, I have been an ASICS girl. I’ve worn them ever since and I’m now on my fourth pair – I just know that they work for me. I always opt for a hybrid pair, as it’s versatile in terms of being able to use them on and off road. My latest pair also has some amount of Goretex in them, which helps a little with the muddy fields and trails I stamp through, but even then they’re not 100% waterproof as I have found out. Which is why having a thick pair of running socks is also a good idea, and ideally in black as white just gets ruined.
9. A Good Selection Of Hats
I’d say that 9 times out of 10 I wear a hat when I run. Now, I’m not gonna lie for the most part it’s to hide the state of my hair – what can I say, I’m lazy and don’t see the point of spending time making my hair look decent when I could just bundle it up and hide it under a hat.
Unless it’s super duper cold, in which case I would wear a knitted beanie or bobble hat, I tend to wear a baseball cap as I like the fact my ponytail can fit through the gap at the back. Another benefit of this style of hat is the peak, which is great at protecting your eyes from rain and snow and also from shading you from the glare of that early morning winter sunshine, when it decides to make an appearance.
Hats are usually quite cheap and you definitely don’t need anything fancy, so it’s worth having a selection to choose from. Plus they can get a bit whiffy after a while so it’s good to have a couple of spare ones while the others are in the wash.
8. Good Quality Leggings
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of running leggings out there, so how do you know which ones are good for winter running and is there really that much difference between one pair of leggings versus another?
Well aside from what they look like, because of course that totally matters, if the temperature does drop you might want more than your usual Lycra. One option is to wear a base layer underneath your normal leggings, however I find that can get a bit uncomfortable. An alternative is to invest in a pair of thermal fleece lined leggings to keep those leggies of yours warm and toasty when you’re running. They still have stretchy Lycra in them, but give you that extra layer of warmth and stops that horrible cold but warm itchy feeling that can sometimes happen when it’s really cold.
The only other thing I’d mention when it comes to leggings is that some designs come with reflective strips or patterns and these are absolutely brilliant for helping you to be better seen. To look at them in the daylight you wouldn’t even realise, so don’t worry about them looking weird, but when car headlights shine on them you’re gonna be lit up like Blackpool illuminations!
There’s not doubt that winter running at times can be pretty hardcore, but that is part of the adventure and I love it. The kit list above gives you an idea of the basics you’ll need to ensure you’re warm enough when you head out for a run during the colder months. So go get yourself kitted out and get ready to have your own winter running adventures.