How to stay dry, warm, and not overheat: a runner's guide to layering

Running in winter involves changeable weather including snow, ice, rain, and wind, not to mention constantly feeling like your digits might drop off. Follow our expert guide and stay toasty warm (without overheating) throughout the winter months.

How to stay dry, warm, and not overheat: a runner's guide to layering

If you don't want to retreat to the gym to get your run in, this is the ultimate guide to staying dry, warm, and not overheating and it's all down to one word: layering.

The basics

As much as you want to bundle up to stay cosy and warm as you head out the door, resist! With the right gear you’ll stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

Overdressing on your winter run will lead to overheating and far too much sweating. Once the sweat meets the air and cools it (and you) down, you'll be left feeling cold and damp. Layering up using technical fabrics will wick the moisture away from your body, keeping you warm while still allowing your skin to breathe.

Base layer

This is the layer the sits the closest to your skin, so it's really important that it's sweat-wicking to keep your skin dry and the cold sweat moving away from your body. Base layers tend to be free from buttons, zippers, and pockets to keep it snug against your skin and make layering possible.

Look for polyester fabrics with anti-odour technology or breathable and naturally antibacterial fabrics such as merino wool. Avoid fabrics like cotton which aren't breathable and absorb the sweat, once the moisture hits the air it will quickly leave you cold and damp.

Mid layer

The mid layer is designed to keep you warm while continuing to move the sweat away from your body. A good mid layer will have mesh panels for ventilation and won't be skintight.

Outer layer

The outer layer is all about keeping the elements out. It needs to be waterproof and windproof to keep out rain, snow, and sleet (hello British winter). It's still important that this layer is sweat-wicking to cool you down without making you cold. Look for jackets with reflective detail and if you're running in below 0° outer layers with added insulation are a good idea.

Which combination is best?

If it's below freezing

  • (Ladies, always start with a sweat-wicking high impact running bra).
  • Next wear a sweat-wicking base layer. Make sure it's breathable!
  • Then add an insulating mid-layer.
  • If you find you're still cold, add some thermal running tights instead of your usual leggings or shorts.
  • Then add a wind and waterproof outer layer.
  • Finish with warm but sweat-wicking gloves made from fabrics like fleece and a lightweight hat so you don't get too sweaty.
  • If a hat makes you too hot but your ears are getting frosty, invest in an ear warmer. Your ears will stay cosy but you'll avoid overheating as the air can still escape from your head.
  • Finally, if it's seriously cold add a fleece neck warmer or buff. You can wear it up over your mouth until you warm up to stop the frigid air burning your lungs.

If it's above freezing

  • (Ladies; bra!).
  • Start with a moisture-wicking base layer and top with an insulating outer layer.
  • Look for a thin waterproof windbreaker with mesh ventilation to keep the elements out while still keeping you dry and comfortable.
  • Add in a hat and gloves to keep out the chill.

Good to know

Still feeling a bit chilly? It's ok to feel cold as you head out the door. Just remember that as soon as you start running you'll quickly warm up and you won't overheat. For a quicker warm-up start your run with some dynamic stretches. And don't forget, lip balm is your best friend – go for a non-petroleum based product to stop your lips from drying out more. Now you have no excuse to not get out and run!

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