Winter Running–How to Dress at Different Temperatures

dressing for different temperatures winter running

Years ago I read that 55 degrees is the ideal temperature for running. And even though I am a warm weather girl to my bones – I completely agree that for long distance running low 50s is the best weather for the sport.

Running in the winter is tough. It’s hard to even get out of bed when it’s cold. But when you finally get out from under the warm comfy covers it’s difficult to know how to dress for your run.

It’s cold.

But you’re going to get hot and sweaty.

What’s a runner to do? #RunnerProblems

Well. Your local Monican is here to help. This is how I dress at different temperatures for your own personal reference. (Keep in mind that I cannot handle cold weather, but heat up fast when running.)

Surprisingly, one of the most common mistakes runners make is overdressing in the winter. You’re just a half a mile into your run and suddenly regretting all those clothes! So plan plan plan!

Quick Tip: Check the temperature prediction at the start and finish of a run to get a good idea of what to expect and how much it is going to warm up/cool down as you’re running.

The #2 most common mistake is not covering your extremities. Feeling your fingers and ears slowly freeze off and fall to the ground is kinda the worst.

Running in 70 degrees or higher –

Try to be as naked as possible without offending the old ladies down the street. I am not very brave so I usually do running shorts or a running skirt with a short sleeve or tank top.

how to dress for winter running

(RER tankMoving Comfort Skort )

Running in 60 – 70 degrees –

Remember even if it’s close to 60 degrees you’re going to heat up. I usually do a short sleeve tee and compression socks to ward off any chill.

how to dress for winter running 70 degrees

Running in 50 degrees –

Gearing up for a run in the 50s depends on how long you’re going out. I would still wear shorts and short sleeves for a race because I feel like I get hot quickly at races (it’s a longer distance and I want to keep my body cooler). But for a training run at home I’d wear capris.

how to dress for winter running capris

Running in 40 degrees –

Get out the fur coat!


I was really cold at the Runner’s World Half in PA and the temps were probably right around 36 to 40 degrees. I did capris and a long sleeve tech tee for the 10k but shorts and a short sleeve for the half marathon since I would be running long and getting too warm.

winter running gear

(New Balance Long Sleeve – Brooks Capris)

For the half in that weather:

what to wear for half marathon

Again, if I’m at home I’d wear capris and probably my Brooks Running Vest Added bonus of the vest = hides any happy/freezing nipples.

Running in the 30s –

This is cold to me! I do capris and layers depending on the temperature and what distance I’m going. Long sleeves for sure in this weather unless it’s a super long distance 18+.

rainbow bright runner cold weather gear (376x501)

Running below the 30s

I had to run in freezing/snowy weather in Maryland and it was unpleasant. I did long running tights, wool socks, long sleeves, ear covers, gloves and a neck gaiter.

cold weather running clothes

If it is raining or snowing a water resistant layer on the outside is a good idea. Bonus points if it’s brighter than the sun.

brooks yellow nightlife jacket for winter running

Dressing for Running in Winter:

1. Check the temperature at the start/mid-way and end of your run. Dress according to the temps half way and the end not the beginning.

2. Dress in layers so you can remove clothes if it’s too much rather than bake yourself.

3. Make sure your extremities are covered in cold weather.

4. Dress according to your body and the distance you are running – there is no one right way.

its raining


  1. says

    I live in Minnesota and our temps are frequently below zero with windchills dipping down to -30 to -50. I like to run with my ski goggles on – keeps my eyes from freezing (;

  2. says

    I went running in ~20 degree temps today and I think I did a pretty good job of layering so that I didn’t feel like I was roasting by the end. It’s such a tricky science! I’m going to refer to this in the spring time when it starts to warm up and I have no idea what to wear hahah

  3. says

    I haven’t ventured out to run in the cold yet mostly because we have had constant snow and due to the fact that I am coming back from injury I am too afraid that I’ll slip and fall and re-injure myself. It has been too long of a recovery road for that!

  4. katie says

    20 degrees sounds tropical for us Minnesotians right now! I ran this weekend with temps in the lower teens with the wind chill at around 0 degrees. Victory = no treadmill!

  5. says

    This is my first winter running in the cold and so far, I’ve been dressing pretty good. After about 2 runs where I dressed too warm and had to take a layer off, I’ve been doing pretty good at dressing appropriately! Except my fingers! I need warmer gloves. :/ And I have been wearing toe warmers and it is MAKING ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD!!!! I’m actually loving running in the colder weather – it’s making me run faster since I am in a hurry to get back to the heat! 😉

  6. Lesley says

    Because I refuse to do all my running indoors in the winter, I’ve had to brave some pretty cold temps up here in NW Wisconsin. Through trial and error, I am slowly getting the hang of what to wear for cold weather runs. People think I’m crazy but if you’re dressed for the conditions, it’s really not that bad. Getting out the door is the hardest part. Once I’m moving, I’m good. My coldest run of the season so far was about -24 with windchill. I was dressed for it and not one bit cold, though. (although maybe a bit numb, haha).

  7. Jessi says

    I’m joining in as another Minnesotan. I did my long run in 0 degrees and had a nice icicle collection going from facemask. One got too long and screwed with my stride so I unfortunately had to break it off and start over. Might have to go with Mary’s idea of goggles to save the eyelashes. Even at 0 I still feel like a sweaty mess when I’m done.

  8. Megan says

    Winter running tips from a SoCal girl?!

    I just can’t.

    I realize you travel frequently but running a handful of times in below freezing weather does not make you qualified to give out winter running tips.

    Sorry, but, I just can’t.

    • says

      You’re right, I can’t give legit tips to runners in Minnesota (or the like) but it’s still winter here and that does require a change in gear for locals too. We all have a different scale to which we measure cold and mine doesn’t go as far as others :) Just trying to help.

      • Rebecca says

        As a cold weather runner (WI!!) I’m thoroughly inpressed with Monicans ability to handle the cold! I feel like she was pretty right on with what I do although I wouldn’t be ballsy enough to just wear shorts in 40 degrees!

  9. says

    Oh, goodness, I still think I might be cold. But I’m one of those peopel who is cold all the time. I am sticking to the treadmill until it hits 40 but will keep these in mind for next year. Maybe I’ll be brave then.

  10. says

    Running below 30? Unless it’s a race, that’s called the treadmill for this Texas gal. 😉

    To be fair, while y’all have gorgeous summer weather, I’m slogging through miles in the 80s and 90s.

  11. says

    Ooh I totally agree with that 50 degree running is the best – I feel like any run from 50-60 is my ideal temp! However, even living in Chicago, I refuse to run if it’s below 40. TOO cold! Treadmill time:)

    • Melissa S. says

      Me too!!! I have plenty of clod weather gear, but have become a wus!!! And Chicago weather sucks!!! This time last year I was running in shorts and a long sleeve because we were still in fall mode! Hopefully spring will come early for us!!!

      Monican~ I think its cute that you think 50-60 require compression socks to ward off a “chill”! I also know that 50 to you is like 30 to us in the midwest!!! Thanks for the great post- even if some people think you are not “qualified” to give cold weather running advice!!! You did run through a Maryland winter, so you do remember what we go through :)

      • Adrianna says

        with you both! it’s my first winter back here in a few years and it’s already so wet and freezing…blah.
        maybe January will grant us outdoor runs :)

  12. Rochelle says

    Im in Sacramento, it gets cold, but those Minnesotans make me feel like a baby! Start of my marathon last weeekend (CIM) was 25 degrees, tooooooo cold for me. end was 34 and still too cold. But i dressed well (2 shirts, capris, and knee high compression). Brooks head warmer and gloves saved my life!

    This was an unusually cold marathon here, and the water stations had ice all over the ground…how is this prevented in colder climates that host marathons and half marathons?

  13. says

    When it’s around the 50s, I tend to run with a tank top and arm warmers, and then either shorts or capris. My shoulders might start out a little chilly, but as I warm up I’m usually about at the perfect temperature. Sometimes I throw on gloves, but they don’t usually last long. 75* is about my ideal temperature!

    A couple weekends ago I did a 5K race at 25 degrees. I had on a base layer shirt and fleece zip-up long-sleeved shirt, fleece-lined tights, wool socks, my warmest shoes, gloves, a hat, a “neck gator” as you called it (mine was a headband I repurposed hah), a heating pad, and two hand warmers. I still didn’t warm up until mile 2. I don’t do cold well. As soon as I finished and could leave, I went to the gym and the steam room there.

  14. says

    Great tips, Monica! I wish my “winters” were like yours. I’m from PA, and right now it’s around 20 degrees and snowing like a mother. I truly hate running in the snow, but it’s better than being on the treadmill. I usually wear tights, two pairs of socks depending on how much snow is on the ground, wicking base shirt, a fleece zip up, gloves, headband, although sometimes a hat. I warm up really fast so this usually works for me.

  15. says

    At this time of year, I run in tights, a long sleeved top, jacket, and with ear warmers and gloves. I always wear lightweight gloves, though, which are easier for pulling on and off to take photos, etc. And they don’t ‘cook’ my hands!
    I can’t wear anything around my neck when running, even though I always wear scarves this time of year when not running! I usually start out with my jacket zipped right up, then lower the zip as my run progresses.
    It works for me! 😉
    I also run in light trail shoes, as they give more grip on frosty or snowy roads: my Nike+ Lunaryfly GTX are perfect for winter road runs! And they’re goretex= dry feet! Bonus!

  16. Cassie says

    Canadian girl here! I think the coldest race I’ve ever run was somewhere around -31 celsius. My fleece lined tights came in extra handy that morning, as well as my wool socks (I prefer SmartWool)! I dressed pretty well for the weather, but the only other thing I wish I had worn was an extra layer of shorts or something overtop of my tights – my booty was freezing by the end!

  17. Suzanne says

    Great advice!
    I think my favorite/ideal temp is 40 degrees in the winter. In the summer, I like a nice 72.
    For me, wearing a hat is almost always too much, so I prefer the ear cover. That thing was literally my best friend during marathon training.
    In 30 degrees I usually wear a long sleeve plus a light jacket and capri’s or pants and am fine. I’ll wear gloves at first but at some point I’ll end up ripping them off, so I make sure to have pockets in the light jacket (even though the lumps the gloves make look weird!)

  18. Rob Runs says

    My last race was so cold (19F) that the water in the cups at mile 7 was frozen – I did wore capris, a t-shirt, and a jacket for that bad boy. Most times in the winter the jacket comes off unless it’s windy or wet. After a few years of running I’ve learned that I really love running in the winter – I think I feel best when it’s 30-40F. Maybe I just run faster because it’s cold and I want to get back home.

    My most important tips are gloves, gloves, gloves. And I recommend Breath Thermo socks by Mizuno, they keep my tootsies toasty warm in the winter!

  19. says

    I have the worst time picking out clothes before I leave, but my general rule is to get dressed and then take one thing off. I tend to wear too many layers, thinking I’ll be colder than I really will be. Also, tolerance to the cold can come and go! When I lived in DC, I could run in 50*F in a t-shirt and shorts and be fine. Now that I’ve lived in Australia for awhile, I need long sleeves at that temp. Weird.

  20. Casey says

    You have to pry me from my treadmill in the winter. I hate running out in the cold (and im always afraid of ice!). I also only have one good pair of shoes and I dont want to ruin them.

    I did do a run this past spring when it was about 40F out and a chance of HAIL! luckily it didnt hail but I ended up so hot with my layers! Unfortunately my bib was over my zipper for my shirt so I couldnt take it off, but I stuff my gloves and hat in my pockets

  21. says

    My 10 year old daughter and I ran a Santa Run 5k in Maryland on Saturday in the snow :) I LOVE running in the snow and would rather run in 30 degrees than 50 – but I get super hot. I usually wear running tights, my normal anklet socks, a long sleeve wicking shirt and a light running jacket. I always start with gloves but they quickly come off. And I usually wear a headband/ear cover thingy. (Saturday we both wore Santa Hats too!)

  22. Nikki B says

    Also, what is cold to one runner may not be cold to another runner :)
    I live in Dallas, I run in 90-100 degrees for several months out of the year. For me, a 40-50 degree run is FREEZING (but in a good way) and I could never get away with short sleeves! In the summer, I run in my sports bra and shorts or one of those sheer, mesh tank tops made by Brooks. Almost nekkid!

  23. Nathalie says

    If it’s below 60 degrees, I’m hittin the treadmill at the gym. I’m socal girl as well 😉

    who lives in pasadena…..

  24. says

    Yet another Minnesotan here! It has to be under 30 degrees before I can even wear a jacket of any sort (other than a thin windbreaker) to run because I get so overheated.

    Overall, I don’t have to add a ton of gear other than base layer/long underwear because of my overheating problem.

    I am in love with my Bondi Band ponytail running hat. It’s paper thin, but keeps my ears warmer than you’d think. Plus, it’s so small that it folds into any pocket super easily if I need to pull it off. Also, Yaktrax are a must for icy/snowy running conditions!

  25. Sarah says

    Anything below 60* and my ears get cold and give me a major migraine. So yeah, I’m that girl in June with her ear warmers on. Gotta do what you gotta do!

    Maybe I’m just running so fast I create a lot of wind chill 😉

  26. says

    Thanks!! All of these helped! I have to run 1.5 miles in like -30 temps!!! I am going to wear an under armour turtle neck long sleeve with jogging pants and wool sock. ( hopefully my northern face fuzzy gloves are not too warm or too cold!) I hope I dont freeze off so I am going to wear mybuner armour hat!( Or not because it is so small that it let’s cold air in my head and ears!) BRR!

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