person running on snow covered ridgeImage

Winter Running Gear Buying Guide

When trail running in the winter you face a range of conditions. From rain and gale-force winds to freezing temperatures and snow and ice.

Choosing the right winter running gear for the weather is key. It can make the difference between an enjoyable run and going home early.

It can be tempting to put on all your layers when the temperatures drop. But it's best to start colder as you'll warm up once you start the run.

When choosing what to wear on a winter run first, you'll want to check the air temperature. Also, check the 'feels like' temperature which considers wind and humidity. The type of run you'll be doing will also impact which gear you'll choose. During a slow run, you'll be generating less heat, so you'll want to wear more layers.

Running leggings & Shorts


You'll want your shorts or leggings to be comfortable, lightweight, and dry rapidly. Synthetic fabrics are the best choice as they dry quickly. Although cotton is comfortable, it absorbs and retains moisture. Cotton clothing takes a long time to dry which can become uncomfortable during a run.

Running shorts come in a range of lengths. The best inseam length for you is personal preference. Long shorts provide good coverage and protection, especially over longer distances. Although many prefer the minimalism of short shorts.

There are two main types of running shorts when it comes to liners. Shorts with integrated underwear are common. This ranges from briefs, boxers, or longer compression shorts. Shorts with liners offer comfort and friction management. For extra thigh protection choose shorts with integrated compression shorts. Shorts without liners mean you can choose which underwear or compression shorts you wear underneath.

Leggings should feel comfortable and snug, like a second skin, without feeling confined or restrictive. As with shorts choose breathable synthetic fabrics.

On cold days, you will need a warmer pair of leggings. Insulated or thermal running leggings are the best choice. Insulated running leggings are breathable and lined with an insulating layer like microfleece. Thermal running leggings ensure warmth while wicking away excess moisture.

Short Sleeve Running Top


As with leggings, it's best to choose synthetic fabrics for running tops. Technical tops are lightweight, breathable and won't chafe the skin.

Your short sleeve running top should fit close to the body without being skin-tight. Overly baggy technical tops can make it more difficult for a technical fabric to do its job of cooling you.

Long Sleeve Base Layer


Your long sleeve base layer should be thin, sweat-wicking, and technical. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon expel water quickly keeping you dry. For extra comfort, merino wool is the best choice for a natural fibre base layer. Although it is costlier, it is the best choice for staying both warm and dry. It's odour-resistant, insulating and wicks sweat. It is best to avoid if it is heavily raining as it will take longer to dry out compared to a synthetic fabric.

Your base layer should fit closely against your body without feeling too tight.

Windproof Jacket


Wind while running makes you cold especially when you're sweating. A windproof running jacket will protect you from cold air, helping you feel warmer.

Windproof jackets don't have a membrane like waterproof jackets making them very breathable. They are thin and portable, meaning you can use them year-round. Windproof jackets will usually have water repellent treatments that protect you from light rain.

Waterproof Jacket


In heavier rain, a waterproof running jacket will protect you from the weather.

When choosing a waterproof running jacket some features you should look for are:

  • Waterproof seams
  • Waterproof zips or a waterproof flap over the zips
  • An ergonomic hood and an integrated visor will keep water from your face
  • Specific use pockets to hold items like phones, cards, and keys
  • Reflective bands allow for better visibility in low light
  • Ventilation holes/panels under the arms or at the back

Your waterproof jacket should fit comfortably over your other layers.

Insulated Jacket or Gilet


Once the temperature drops an insulated jacket is the best way to stay warm. Different jackets offer different levels of insulation. It's important to remember that once you start running your body will generate heat. Some people don't need an insulated jacket or choose to wear one pre or post-run.

A gilet can be a good choice to keep your core warm without overheating.

Features to look for in an insulated running jacket are:

  • Hood - this is a personal preference you can choose between detachable, roll up or no hood at all.
  • Vents to allow for breathability
  • Reflective strips for visibility



Fabric choice is important when choosing running gloves. You want them to feel warm enough yet breathable. Thicker fabrics don't always mean warmer hands. Gloves that are too bulky may feel uncomfortable.

Some running gloves have an inner layer you can remove so you can adjust to the temperature. Some people prefer mittens as fingers can move freely inside them and can feel warmer.

If you take your phone on a run, you may want a screen-friendly pair of gloves.



Beanies are a good choice for a winter running hat, keeping your whole head warm. On especially cold you may prefer a balaclava which will cover most of your face, head, and neck. On warmer winter days a headband is a good compromise. Keeping your ears warm while allowing heat to escape from the rest of your head.

Moisture-wicking fabrics like merino, polyester or nylon will keep you dry and warm.

Neck Warmers


Neck warmers are simple fabric tubes that offer an added layer of protection against the cold. They tend to fall into three fabric categories: lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. The thicker the material, the warmer the neck gaiter.

Synthetic materials like polyester wick moisture and dry fast, while natural materials like merino can insulate when wet. Some neck warmers include treatments for odour resistance or UV sun protection.

Extra features like contoured fits or drawstrings can be helpful, although they also take away from the simplicity of the standard tube design.

Running Shoes


Running in winter usually means dealing with wet and muddy conditions, while frozen ground and snow can provide extra challenges. Winter running shoes won't differ that much from standard running shoes. Your preferred shoe feel won't change because of the seasons.

Keeping your feet dry in the winter is important. A shoe with an integrated waterproof membrane will help keep your feet dry. GORE-TEX membranes are the most common. Some brands have their own versions like The North Face's FUTURELIGHT.

Trail running shoes with a reliable grip are a must for winter running. You'll need to look for larger lugs - 5mm or more. These can dig deep snow and soft dirt creating a solid footing where other shoes would slip.

In extreme snow and ice, you'll need ice spikes to maintain traction on slippery patches.

Head Torch


The main things to look for in a head torch are:

  • Brightness - measured by lumens, 300 is enough for winter running
  • Beam distance - adjustable is ideal
  • Long battery life
  • Weight - the lighter the better
  • Ease of use
  • Secure fit

Weatherproofing is also important in the winter. Head torches have ratings depending on their ability to withstand water and dust. IPX4 means your head torch will be splashproof which is usually fine for running.