What to Wear Running for Any Temperature or Weather Situation, According to the Experts
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night should stop you from getting your daily run in. But even if you’re not a novice runner, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out exactly what to wear when the weather report is anything other than 50 degrees with low humidity and no wind. So we reached out to the experts—Gretchen Weimer, global vice president of product at HOKA ONE ONE, and Coach Annick Lamar, manager of runner training and education at New York Road Runners—to get their advice on the best ways to prepare for any weather or temperature conditions that are less than ideal. Here’s what they had to say.
General Tips & Tricks
1. Opt for Tech Materials Over CottonCotton absorbs moisture like a kitchen sponge and can feel heavy very quickly. In the heat, this makes it harder for your sweat to evaporate and you’re more likely to overheat. In the cold, wet cotton can cling to your body and make it very difficult to stay warm. There are a ton of performance or tech fabrics out there that are tailor-made for just about any weather condition. Next time you’re shopping for new running gear, rather than simply paying attention to price or style, both Weimer and Lamar suggest taking the time to determine exactly what purpose each piece was designed for—high heat? Temperatures below freezing? Very humid climates?—before you add to cart.
2. Follow the 10 Degree Rule
A great rule of thumb to remember when choosing your running clothing is to dress as if it was 10 degrees warmer than what the thermometer says. So rather than pulling on some fleece-lined leggings when its 35 degrees out, dress like it’s actually 45 degrees and try a lighter pair instead. “The 10-degree rule accounts for your body heating up during exercise and it will help you select the right amount of clothing for your run,” says Lamar. “You should head out the door knowing you may be slightly cold for a few minutes, but you will be comfortable once your body starts to warm.”
3. When in Doubt, Layer Up
This is especially true for longer runs or places where the weather can change on a dime. “Layers, layers and more layers! Layering is key when it comes to changing weather conditions,” says Weimer. “You’ll want to make sure all clothing selections are lightweight (should they need to be taken off and carried) and breathable (so you can keep them on for longer without overheating).” While you can always stick hats or gloves into pockets and tie a jacket around your waist, some may prefer investing in a running backpack. As for those who find carrying extra gear to be too much of a hassle, Lamar suggests shortening your running loop so you can pick up or drop off layers as you pass by your home or car. For example, “for a ten-mile-long run, run your favorite five-miler twice and swap out gear as needed when passing by your home at the halfway point.”
4. Go Loose in Summer and Tight in WinterThere’s a reason those fleece sweatpants aren’t keeping you as warm in winter as a pair of body-hugging tights. According to Lamar, “In colder climates, wearing running clothes that are close to your skin will trap heat and regulate body temperature.” On the flip side “loose fitting layers allow the skin to come in contact with the air and aid in evaporation and cooling thermoregulation,” if you’re running in hotter climates.
5. Add Gloves Before Sleeves, and Sleeves Before Pants
It may feel silly to wear gloves with a short-sleeve tee and shorts or crops, but realistically, your hands will get cold before the rest of you as temperatures start to drop. Next to feel the chill will be your arms. Last, but not least, your legs, which are working hard and so will warm up faster and stay warm better than almost any other part of your body.
6. Know Your Limits
Although there is no universal set of numbers that dictate exactly when weather conditions are no longer safe or manageable for most runners, those limits definitely exist for everyone. Running outdoors at 1 p.m. when temperatures are over 100 with high humidity just isn’t safe (nor is it fun, to be honest), and neither is a jog through a 15-degree windstorm, no matter how brief. “Runners need to recognize that air temperature alone is not the only factor to consider when deciding if their environment is safe for running,” advises Lamar. “Wind speed and humidity also play a factor in determining the true conditions in which a runner is exercising.” If you find yourself at odds with the weather throughout large chunks of the year, it might be a better idea to invest in a treadmill or gym membership.
1. What to Wear in the Rain
Hat + Rain Jacket + Wool Socks + Reflective Gear
According to Lamar, there are just two pieces necessary for running in the rain (in addition to your regular sweat-wicking, temperature-regulating clothing): a hat and a jacket. She isn’t talking about a typical rain jacket, however. “Running jackets are specifically created to allow sweat to evaporate while keep rain out. One-hundred percent waterproof rain jackets are ineffective for runners because once sweating starts, the waterproof material fails to allow for sweat evaporation and cooling.” Wool running socks are also a good idea and can help keep your feet warm without chafing, even if they get wet. Weimer stresses the importance of wearing something reflective, too, even if you’re running during the day. “As the rain gets heavier it’s harder for drivers to see you if you run near a road. I cannot stress the need for reflectors enough, as too often people don’t take this precaution.”
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2. What to Wear in Cold Weather
Hat + Shell Jacket + Base Layer + Gloves + Tall Socks
“The last thing you want [in cold weather] is wet clothes clinging to your body making it near impossible to stay warm,” says Weimer. Avoid traditional sweatpants or other cotton pieces and instead opt for materials that have been specially created to keep you both warm and dry. Lamar is a fan of wool and wool blends because they “allow the body to retain heat while the natural properties of the fabric wick sweat away making it ideal for cold weather running.” As for the actual individual items, remember both the 10-degree rule and the layering tip. “Runners need to be very careful not to overdress in cold temperatures,” says Lamar. “If a runner becomes too hot, their body will initiate sweating which is useful in hotter climates to cool the body. In colder climates, however, this evaporation means a loss of body heat at faster rates.” Layer a wind resistant shell jacket over a body-hugging base layer up top and stick to full-length leggings (be sure to consider whether or not you really need that fleece lining, though). In truly frigid temperatures, she recommends covering as much skin as possible to prevent any unnecessary heat loss. “While many runners know to put on gloves and a hat, areas that are often missed are the ankles, the wrists, the neck and the face.” Tall socks, neck gaiters and, rather conveniently, face masks can all help cover these areas.
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3. What to Wear in Hot Weather
Loose Tops + Shorts (Both in Light Colors)
The key here is to choose pieces that are breathable and wick sweat supremely well, especially if you live somewhere humid,. Weimer also suggests looking for something with built in UPF, as it’s more likely you’ll be running during daylight hours. As Lamar suggested, loose layers allow for better air flow around your body and will make it easier for sweat to evaporate, even in humid conditions, so we suggest leaving those spandex capris for cooler days.
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4. What to Wear in Windy Weather
Wind-Resistant Jacket + Base Layer + Gloves and/or Hat
“Wind can easily increase the heat loss of a runner’s body, so be sure to add layers that reduce the effects of wind chill,” says Lamar. This means investing in a good windbreaker and base layers similar to what you’d wear on any cold day. You may also want some gloves and a hat (beanies work better here than anything with a brim) if it’s very cool and windy. (Pro tip: Start your run heading into the wind if possible to make the second half feel a little easier and prevent your body from losing too much heat late in the run.)
5. What to Wear When It’s Humid
All the Moisture-Wicking Materials
High humidity makes it harder for sweat to be evaporated off your skin as you workout, which means it’s more difficult for you to stay cool and comfortable. “Recognize your body will be working harder in humid conditions than non-humid conditions,” says Lamar. “And know that in cold climates, humidity can actually make the air feel cooler.” Both she and Weimer say this is when sweat-wicking technology can be incredibly helpful, and suggest looking for performance-based tops made specifically for this occasion.
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6. What to Wear in the Dark
OK, so dusk isn’t exactly a weather condition but it’s still important that you dress appropriately—which in this case means wearing reflective gear. As Weimer mentioned for running in the rain, visibility is key if you’re running near a road or on a path shared by both runners and cyclists. Invest in a reflective vest you can throw over any of your regular running clothes, a handheld flashlight or even a headlamp to keep yourself visible.