What to Wear Running: How to Dress for Any Type of Weather

Natalie Cecconi
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Spring & Fall

In a given year, the temperature fluctuates between hot and cold, often going from one extreme to the other. And that’s why you need to dress appropriately for the occasion.

Taking a temperature reading often isn’t an option when you’re getting ready to head out the door. But you can use several other factors to help you determine whether to dress warm or cool.

Proximity to water can be a great indicator of what to wear when training in the spring and fall. The ocean, lakes, ponds, and rivers usually get cold in the fall. So if you’re preparing to run along the water, you need to layer properly, particularly on the extremities.

Dress in breathable fabrics like lightweight merino wool or synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin. For clothing, you might want to opt for light colors. Dark colors tend to absorb sunlight rather than reflect it back.

Avoid cotton when dressing for cold weather runs. It is very porous and often retains moisture.

But even if there is no body of water nearby, it may still be cool. Distance can render your body vulnerable to the cold.

Cool: 40-50 °F

This is considered to be the ideal temperature for running. You need to dress in layers so you can easily peel off or add as your body temperature changes. The thin or breathable clothing allows moisture to escape from the skin keeping you dry.

For longer distances, or if the weather is particularly hot, you should carry a bottle of water with you. Hydrating before you start running can help keep you from dehydrating later on.

Moderate: 50-60 °F

(10-16 °C)

These temperatures are great for running during the day.

These are typical spring and fall days or summer days when it might be hot during the day, but it’ll cool off in the evening and at night. It’s also good for late fall and winter days after the sun is up and it’s not too cold yet.

If you exercise after work or school in an area where it’s still pretty warm, but the sun has gone down and it’s cool enough to keep you warm, you’re probably dealing with moderate temperature.

You need to wear clothes that allow sweat to evaporate and for your body to keep it cool.

Try to avoid lighter colors and instead wear darker ones. Outer layers should also be lightweight. If you want to look like a ninja while running even when it’s still light outside, choose fitness gear with reflective details.

If your route takes you into a shady area, wear a hat or visor to help keep the heat and sun out.

Summer

Don’t you just love those early morning summer runs when the air is crisp and it’s not too hot or too cold out?

However, things can happen. It’s not always going to be cool and sunny in the morning. Another great thing about running is that you can change your running activities and plan completely different routes every time you get out their in the fresh air.

So what do you do when the summer weather isn’t as pleasant as it was planned to be?

You know that it’s the right decision to get out the door and run, but what do you wear?

Some of the warm-weather runners we coached have had some bad experiences with the weather and developed a fear of running in unfavorable weather. Because of that, they’ve lost a few stops on their running outfits.

Here’s a quick summer running gear guide that will help you get dressed for any type of weather.

Pleasant: 60-70 °F

It’s a nice cool to warm air temperature, with a light breeze. You can wear a solid T-shirt with shorts.

You won’t have to worry about putting on too many clothes at the start, but you’ll definitely want to have a light jacket handy in case the wind changes directions later in the run.

Warm: 70-80 °F

You need a strategy for when it’s hot, which means a specific combination of your base layer, mid-layer, outer layer, and accessories will help regulate your body temperature. You’re going to want to have at least one or two pieces that are sweat-wicking or moisture-wicking material, as it will keep your body dry, which will help regulate body temperature.

Base Layer: One of the first things that you can layer up with is your base layer, which is the layer that you build upon, or start with, and that you wear closest to your skin. For cold-weather running, your base layer should be of a material that is thin and made out of synthetic, which is going to wick moisture away from your body and keep you dry, which is key for regulating your body temperature.

Mid-Layer: Your mid-layer is comprised of a thicker material, which will help keep the perspiration that you create while running warm. As a mid-layer, you are going to be looking to add an extra thermal layer that is still thin enough to wear as a mid-layer but with the durability of something like fleece or down.

Hot: 80-90 °F

(27-32 °C)

The important thing here is to keep your body temperature down by removing excess layers when necessary. Long sleeve shirt, lightweight jacket, shorts and cotton socks can make a lot of difference. Runners in this temperature are usually fine, but some individuals can still overheat and get dehydrated. They should carry extra water and take more frequent rest breaks in the shade during warmer months.

Very Hot: 90+ °F

Very hot days require lightweight clothing that’s suitable for high temperatures. When it’s brutal outside, the last thing you want is clothing like thick jackets and sweaters weighing you down.

Keeping it light will reduce sweat and fatigue, help you remain comfortable, and also keep you cool.

Be sure to wear a hat or visor to protect your face from the sun. In terms of footwear, try to limit the amount of sneakers you wear. Wear minimal shoes that provide a lot of air circulation. Because you’ll want to run as fast as possible, clothing should be made of lightweight cotton shirts, shorts, underwear, socks, and shoes. The accessories you add in this category should be lightweight and breathable. Look for gloves, scarves, backpacks, and hats made with lightweight, water-resistant, and breathable materials (such as light-colored mesh fabrics).

Winter

Temperatures can be chilly, even freezing, as well as very dry and windy during this season. In addition, the daylight hours are quite short. Luckily, most winter wear also works perfectly for other sports as well, which is why we are able to embrace the multi-sport philosophy.

Cold: 30-40 °F

Layering is always the key to staying comfortable. You need to have on layer for warmth and another for wicking away any excess moisture. Naturally, you will also want to wear layers that are breathable and that can keep your skin healthy and dry.

It’s a good idea to figure out what works for you before you go out and buy new clothes if you’re not sure. Start with a base layer: a t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, or running shirt. They are typically made of thin, wicking fabric that helps pull moisture away from your skin to keep you cool and dry.

If you’re running in the cold, layer on a long sleeve shirt. When you warm up, you can take it off and put it in your pack. You don’t want to wear the same thing while you’re sweating as when you’re cold, and you won’t want to freeze out either.

Don’t forget a wool hat and gloves. Wool will retain body heat. It keeps you warm even if you sweat. This is especially important when the temperature is below freezing.

Very Cold: 20-30 °F

Wear:

  • ❍ A base layer to wick moisture away from your skin
  • ❍ Mid-weight layer for warmth and comfort
  • ❍ Finishing layer (if necessary) for extreme cold

You want fabrics that are soft and that don’t add weight or bulk, so choose thin-first synthetic materials like Capilene. Make sure the layers you wear will be warm after 15-20 minutes of non-stop movement, even if they’re not necessarily warm at first.

Mittens are better than gloves, so you can operate your phone and headlamp without taking your hands out.

Wear a buff to cover your nose and mouth to keep out wind and trap warmth.

Make sure to wear warm footwear made with a protective upper that will keep your toes warm.

Hardcore Cold: 20 °F and below

Cold weather gear is warm, winter clothing that provides a layer of protection that traps in your body’s heat, as well as moisture and wind. It will keep you from freezing when temperatures sink below freezing, but it’s important not to overheat if you’re going to sweat.

Typically, the best calories you can eat are those you burn yourself. So it’s a good idea to generally wear very tight and thin clothing when out running in the active winter months.

The best clothing for picking up the burn is going to be a base layer, followed by layers on top as you please.

Rain

You’ve planned a run on a day when there’s a slight chance of rain, and you know you have to go because it’s part of your training program.

Or, worse, rain is on its way and you haven’t prepared because it was supposed to be a nice sunny day.

What to wear running on a rainy day doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re going to be out there for less than an hour, layers can be your friend. I sometimes run with a quick-dry long sleeve and a light hoodie. Use your layers to control either the temperature or the moisture on your body.

A pair of moisture-wicking socks made with a synthetic or wool material will help your feet stay dry. For your hands, an inexpensive pair of lightweight fleece gloves will do the trick.

Cold Rain

Y Day Running Clothes:

The first mistake a lot of runners make is not dressing for cold weather. When the temperature is low, even the most breathable fabrics feel clammy.

In your cold running weather clothing, it is really necessary to layer. First, you need tech gear to wick moisture from the skin. At the same time, this has to be protected from moisture, hence a windproof and waterproof layer over the top.

Some people go with a reversible running jacket. This allows you to unzip and reverse the jacket when the temperature drops.

When buying cold-weather running gear you should get spandex that is wind and waterproof. Also look for tech-fabric that is lightweight and wicks away moisture.

A running hat with a full head cover is a must because many of your body’s heat dumps at the top of your head. A running mask is another great way to keep your face warm. Don’t forget to slip in a set of thin gloves.

Also, make sure your entire ensemble is reflective so that drivers can see you for maximum safety.

Warm Rain

Many of us run through rain at one time or another. When I lived in California, the probability of rain was high enough that I always had a rain jacket accessible at the office.

I found that the light breathable ones work best. I would often put the rain jacket on over a lightweight running jacket, sweat pants and a base layer. This worked fine during the summer as out temperatures were mild and there wasn’t much wind.

One time, I thought I would be clever and leave my rain jacket at the office. I was running home on a similarly rainy day and noticed the winds were picking up. I got soaked through from head to toe running through a puddle that splashed right up my coat as I ran past it.

The shorts I was wearing underneath were never the same again.

So whenever the weather isn’t ideal, I try to either run indoors or be prepared to change into dry clothes.

Snow

Especially if you run in some mountainous terrain, there’s always the risk that it’s going to snow. If the temperature is near freezing, and it’s snowing, you’re going to slow down drastically and be at risk for injury.

If you know it’s going to snow, consider staying indoors and getting your run in on the treadmill inside. If you have to run outside, make sure you dress appropriately for the weather.

Good options include: A long, heavy-duty running jacket, a puffer jacket with a zipper that folds over and cuffs, and a neck gaiter or a neck warmer. Also, a thin hat or balaclava will be a huge help. Breathable gloves and a pair of winter running pants can also be a big help. Don’t forget a thin and form-fitting cap under your knit cap to keep your head warm.

If it’s just below freezing, you can go with a neck warmer and a pair of Form-fitting gloves or mittens.

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