A how-to guide for dressing to run in winter

When first-time runners look at winter running gear, they are often amazed by how thin and lightweight it is, says Brainsport fit specialist Colin Federow.

“They say ‘How is that going to keep you warm?’ Well we’re forgetting the factor that we’re generating heat,” Federow says.

“Whatever the temperature is outside, add 10C to it and that’s what it’s going to feel like when you’re running … If you dress for -20C because that’s the temperature, you’re going to be too hot by the time you get running because it’s going to feel more like -10C.”

Colin Federow displays some of the winter running clothing available at Brainsport

Federow spoke with the Brainsport Times to share some tips about how to dress for winter running.


For both pants and tops, layering is key. Federow recommends people wear one to three layers on their legs and torsos depending on the temperature and whether they tend to feel hot or cold when outside.

On the legs, this could involve running tights or running pants with thin wind pants over top. On the coldest days, some runners may put running pants over running tights and then put wind pants over both. Another option for exceptionally cold days is insulated wind pants, which offer an all-in-one option for colder temperatures.

Similarly, on the torsos, runners on the coldest day can wear a base layer of wool or synthetic fabrics, a middle fleece layer and a wind-breaking layer, which can be a thin material or a more insulated jacket, if you tend to be cold when outdoors. Federow likes to wear a base layer with a one-quarter zip, which he can unzip to let heat escape when he overheats.


Toques are important for keeping the head and ears warm and balaclavas can seal heat in on the face on colder days.

When it comes to keeping hands warm, Federow recommends mittens over gloves.

“Mitts are just going to keep the fingers a lot warmer and you don’t need those big seal-skin mitts to keep your hands warm like people think when we’re walking outside,” Federow said.

“You’re generating heat when you’re out running and that’s what’s keeping the hand warm. If you go into gloves, the fingers are isolated and there’s just not enough heat from one finger to keep it warm over the long haul so gloves usually aren’t the better option.”


Ankle socks don’t cut it in the winter. Look for socks that go at least up to mid-calf so you don’t have exposed skin around your ankles.


Winter running isn’t just done in the cold; it’s often done in the dark. Most running gear features reflective elements around logos and zippers, which can make runners more visible to oncoming traffic.

Some runners also like to wear headlamps for morning or evening runs. The more lumens a light has, the brighter it will be.

“Headlamps not only light up the ground for you, but they also provide light to others, for runners or vehicles to see you,” Federow said. “The more visible you are, the less likely you’re going to get smoked by a car or something out there.”

Running gear is for running

If you attempt to spend a whole day outside in running clothes, you’ll likely be uncomfortably cold Federow warns.

“The gear’s designed to be run in and that’s what’s going to keep you warm,” Federow says. “A lot of running gear doesn’t have thermal properties to it, it’s just really thin materials to try to trap that air in while you’re out exercising, and then once you stop, because it’s wet, those things just start to freeze and now you’re in the trouble zone.”

With those tips in mind good luck layering up and enjoy some cold-weather runs.

— Andrea Hill (Editor, Brainsport Times)