When you move to Vermont in Autumn and sign up for a spring marathon, you expect a lot of your training is going to be in sub-zero temperatures, navigating ice patches, snow drifts and frostbite. Then, a crazy-mild winter happens and your coldest run is 32 degrees with a dusting of snow on the ground.
I’m not complaining (really, I’m not), but it does mean this winter running gear guide is a little later in the season than I originally planned. Also, I’ve always loved those icicle eyelash insta photos…but maybe next year. (Or maybe March, who knows!)
The best thing about this winter running guide? I’ve organized a huge giveaway of lots of my favorite running gear for one lucky reader! Entry for a prize pack of 5 winter running essentials worth more than $130 is at the end of this post.
Disclaimer: Some of the products in this guide were given to me for review. Others I bought myself and just love. I only ever review products I like and use regularly. Additionally, some of the links for products are affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Let’s start with the basics
For cold weather running, think thermal. You’ll need thermal tights and a thermal base layer to keep you warm. In these photos, I’m wearing an Under Armour Women’s ColdGear crew top, as well as Spandits! thermal tights in their Hashtag pattern. Basically, these layers have a little fuzz on the inside, making them a slightly thicker material and trapping air, which helps keep you warm.
When it gets ridiculously cold, layers will be your friend. Each layer of clothing provides space where air is trapped, keeping you toasty despite the environment. The best layering fabrics are warm and thin, so your movement isn’t inhibited when you run. Silk and fine-spun wool are great options. When you’re running in snow or rain, a weather resistant shell like this New Balance Shadow Run Jacket can also come in handy (and bonus – it acts as another layer to keep you warm).
There are so many options for upper body layers – tops, vests, hoodies, shells – but if you’re only wearing a pair of thermal tights, your booty is going to get chilly. You can still layer your lower body, though. Try a pair of shorts over top of your running tights, or a running skirt will also do the trick.
Ice, ice, baby
Are there any winter running guides that don’t quote Vanilla Ice at some point? One of the biggest reasons for runners to turn to the treadmill instead of their outdoor route is treacherous conditions. Whether it’s snow, ice, or a combination of both, the idea of slipping and breaking a bone is enough for many runners to head indoors instead. I was so excited to receive these Kahtoola NANOspikes (included in the giveaway!) which slip on over your sneakers to provide traction in icy conditions.
I tried them on my HOKA One Ones, because those shoes have some serious sole. I figured if the NANOspikes could fit on Hokas and be comfortable, they’d work with every running shoe. I admit, I was nervous before my first run in these. Getting them on the shoes took a little muscle and then when I tried them on, they felt tight and I worried they were going to pinch me and give me nasty blisters.
Turned out I had nothing to worry about. They took a little getting used to – at first I was almost trying to change my footfall to ‘protect’ my feet, thinking they would rub the wrong way. After a few minutes when I realized they felt okay, I started running more naturally and if it wasn’t for the clattering on the sidewalk, I would have forgotten they were on. Then I hit the snow-covered trails and was so happy to be running where I’d had to avoid before I had these spikes. These are a game changer. If you are worried about icy areas, or you want to continue trail running in winter, I can’t recommend these enough.
No one wants cankles (Cold Ankles)
My ankles are always the one place I forget about keeping warm. However, I have an arsenal of socks and sleeves I will definitely wear when it gets cold enough. Just like for layering purposes, wool is a great material to look for in winter running socks. I have a couple of pairs of these Darn Tough Vermont Socks, which are warm but thin. I also love my Bombas, since they have tabs that come up over the bottom of my tights. For when it gets super chilly, you can layer with compression socks or sleeves under your running tights.
Gloves with selfie power
If you’re a running blogger, or Instagrammer, you don’t want to freeze your fingers off getting the ubiquitous shoe selfie (or risk frostbite for anything more creative). Even if you could care less about photos on the run, if you have a touch screen GPS watch like mine, you want to be able to quickly use your watch with taking your gloves off first. That’s why you need these TrailHeads Power Stretch Running Gloves (included in the giveaway!), which have touch-screen enabled material on the thumb and forefinger, so they stay on while you use your smart phone. Wicking, thermal and wind-resistant, these gloves are a must-have.
I like warm hugs!
I also like my warm Hygge. What the hygge is a hygge? It’s a Danish word (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’) which basically translates to cosiness, but really it means creating a warm, cosy, feel-good atmosphere. The Spandits! Hygge (included in the giveaway!) is a thermal neckwarmer in the awesome patterns and colors Spandits! is known for. You can scrunch it down around your neck, or pull it up over your nose and ears when the temperatures really drop.
Having a layer of fabric over you mouth and nose when you’re running in very cold conditions is important – it acts to warm the air you’re breathing in, protecting your throat and lungs from the icy temperature.
In these photos, I’m wearing the TrailHeads Power Ponytail Headband (you can check out a past review of that here). I am not a fan of beanies and skull caps when running – they tend to slip off my head, or else they have to be so tight to stay on that they give me a headache. I find the thicker headbands for winter work well – if it’s not too cold out, I’ve also run with a thin headband (like a Bondi Band ) to keep my ears warm, with a running cap over top.
The eyes have it
I remember unpacking my custom, prescription Oakley running sunglasses when we moved in to our new place. I have a memory of looking at them in my hands, thinking, “I need to put these somewhere safe while I’m still unpacking, so a certain toddler doesn’t discover them.” And that’s the extent of my memory, unfortunately, because I have torn my place apart looking for those sunglasses several times since then.
But winter time is just as important as sunny summer days for wearing sunglasses while running. In fact, the glare from snow and ice can be even harsher on your eyes than in the middle of summer. So I improvise with my regular sunglasses and yes, I feel like kind of a hipster doofus, and no, they are not as comfortable as glasses specifically designed for running, but I am not a squinty, headachy mess at the end of my run, so it’s a small win for me.
Skin is in
Even with all your layers and accessories, you’re still going to be exposing some skin to the elements. And because you don’t want skin cancer, or bizarre tan lines (YES, you can still get sunburn in the winter – all that reflection and glare is UV rays heading toward your face), you need to use a sunscreen, like this awesome Block Island Organics SPF 30 Face Moisturizer (included in the giveaway!). It protects you from the sun, moisturizes your skin, it’s vegan and it has NO nasty chemicals!
And speaking of moisturizer, I am addicted to the None of Your Beeswax Salve, made at the Touch and Go Farm in Bridgewater, VT (included in the giveaway!). You can use it on your lips, hands and feet. I’ve been slathering it on my hands pre-run, so the heat from wearing gloves really lets it sink into my skin. I bought this salve as a Christmas gift from Tita, the woman who makes it, at a small provisions store in Vermont. As soon as I got home, I wished I’d bought some for myself as well, so I was thrilled when my mother-in-law gave me a jar for Christmas. I love it and I reached out to the farm to ask if they’d offer a jar for the giveaway. You will love this stuff!
Okay, my friends, are you ready to WIN the Fine Fit Day winter running gear prize pack? There will be one winner selected at random via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Entrants must have a US mailing address to receive their prizes. Each merchant will be shipping the prize directly to the winner. Giveaway runs from 2/5/16 to 2/12/16. Winner will be notified by email. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the post! GOOD LUCK!