If winter’s chilling temperatures have already put a damper on your 2024 fitness goals, fear not: The best winter running gear is more than capable of defending you against the freezing cold, unpredictable precipitation, and low-light conditions we’re experiencing. Whether you’re adding some winter miles to your workout routine as an aspirational new year thing or gearing up for spring’s marathon season, sub-optimal weather unfortunately comes with the territory. So, brace yourself for some of the worst conditions you can face as a runner: slick roads, black ice, trails lined with snow and full of slushy, muddy puddles, and toe-numbing temperatures.
You don’t have to let Jack Frost win this battle, though. There are a ton of excellent running brands churning out gear that will keep you on your toes even in the single digits. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to get you fitted for the season by rounding up the best running gloves, jackets, beanies, tights, shoes and everything else you need to show winter who’s boss. You may even find yourself looking forward to getting out in the wet and muck to see what you’re really made of. Read up below on how to choose the right layers for your expedition, and then peep our top picks for the best winter running gear of all from brands we know and trust.
The Best Winter Running Gear, At a Glance
Running Shells and Jackets
The outermost layer of your winter running apparel, your shell or jacket, will be the first line of defense against the dropping temperatures. It’s the most important layer for weatherproofing yourself against the wind, rain, snow. Ideally, you’ll want something lightweight enough that it doesn’t feel like an albatross around your neck on mile 10, and with some Gore-Tex material or other hardy rainshell to keep you dry and protected against the wind. Because as any runner knows, the worst part of winter running is more so the gusts and less so the actual chill.
Fleece and Midlayers
Midlayers are going to be your second-string defenders. Performance fleece will work wonders in this department, as will thicker merino wool crewnecks or even a cotton hoodie. Some of these options are thick enough to wear on their own, but if you can see your breath in the air when you step outside, you might want to layer up with some jackets from above.
Base Layers and Tees
Just like a rock-solid foundation, starting off your winter fit with a great base layer or comfortable tee is absolutely essential. Ideally, it will absorb your sweat, lock out the cold, and keep you comfortable in all kinds of weather. Keep in mind that this will be the only layer directly sitting up against your skin, so peruse our guide below on how to find the right fabrics for the job. If you love wool, stick with wool. If you want something more cool to the touch, check out mesh and other similarly silky options.
Running Pants and Tights
When the mercury drops below 45 degrees or so, we always lean on running tights and running pants to get the job done. Sure, wearing shorts is probably the optimal choice for mobility, but if you’re going for a longer trek, you don’t want to lose your range of movement or efficiency because you’re absolutely shivering.
Winter Running Hats
Ever been running in the winter and noticed steam coming off of your head? A proper hat will keep all of that warmth up top to ensure your dome doesn’t start to freeze when you start sweating. We love a standard beanie, maybe one with a fleece headband sewn in, but there are also a number of caps, headbands, and earflap caps that will also do the trick.
Winter Running Gloves
The best running gloves utilize modern materials to keep your hands warm without trapping sweat, go on (and pull off) easily, and—ideally—let you use whatever phone, smartwatch, or fitness tracker is keeping tabs on all those miles.
Winter Running Accessories
Part of running in the winter is seeing and being seen in low-light conditions. Whether that means you’re running at dawn or dusk, in the pitch black or just on a cloudy day, having some hi-vis gear and light-lens sunglasses will greatly improve your experience.
How to shop for winter running gear
Get to know your materials: Our favorite material for running in the winter has always been, and always will be, merino wool. Thanks to its inherent moisture-wicking properties and superior temperature regulation, the natural fiber is probably the best material you can buy for cold-weather runs. This writer keeps a long-sleeved merino base layer at the ready for almost all winter conditions and temperatures. Wear it alone on warmer days or use it as the foundation for layering when things get bleak. Beyond merino, there are a number of materials that absolutely dominate the cold, so don’t think you have to shell out the big bucks and only cop merino apparel.
Fleece is an excellent material for all of your outdoor adventures throughout the winter, but for running we’d suggest steering clear of fluffy, plush fleece. It’s not the most natural of moisture-wicking materials and if you’re not careful, can leave you feeling cold, damp, and clammy as all that sweat and humidity clam up close to your body. Instead, focus on performance grid fleece and buy from brands that specialize in running gear. This way, you’ll get all of the warmth fleece can provide without feeling like you’re running in a sauna. Just remember to wear a base layer underneath, especially in windy conditions.
Speaking of wind, even the slightest of breezes can cut through cotton, wool, and fleece. Consider buying some wind-blocking gear, even if you don’t go out on super blustery days. This can be as simple as a lightweight, packable windbreaker, but can also be a jacket or tights outfitted with paneling that keeps gusts out and prevents your sweat from hardening into thousands of little icicles.