Helpful Tips

What To Wear Running in Cold vs Warm Weather

Athlete runner

While the late summer and fall seasons are perfect for doing many miles in just your t-shirt and shorts, the rest of the year might not be so welcoming to the lack of proper clothing. Most new runners, depending on when they start with their training, are faced with one unavoidable question – what to wear running in cold and warm weather? While the warmer runs are somewhat easier to tackle, they still have their do’s and don’ts. Running in the cold, on the other hand, is a little more serious and proper layering of your clothes is something you always need to look for.

Since most people have trouble figuring out what to wear when the temperatures drop, let’s start with clothes that you should choose when running in the cold…

Cold running clothes layering

Nowadays, the terms “layering” or “layering system” are gaining more and more popularity. In its essence, laying means opting for a few (2-3) lighter layers of clothing rather than a single layer which is thicker and heavier.

These layers of clothing will create pockets of heat between them which will insulate you better from the cold air outside. Moreover, they will also transport moisture and sweat away from your skin and will allow the vapour to leave. The more moisture your bottom clothing layer traps, the colder and chillier you will feel when running. These special running clothes which specialize in removing sweat and vapour and not keeping moisture in are called “technical clothing”. They have all the materials which have those above-mentioned properties which are often referred to as “tech” fabrics.

Another good part of layering is that you can remove the top layer when you warm up or feel like you’re overheating. You can put the clothes you’ve removed around your waist or can simply plan looping runs that bring you back to your starting point where you can leave the layers of clothing you don’t need anymore.

Here are some of the essentials when running in the cold:

  • Running tights (or thermal leggings) acting as a base layer
  • Mittens or running gloves
  • Long-sleeve technical shirts (either blend or wool-made) acting as a base layer
  • Windproof jacket
  • Running socks (woold or tech fabric blend)
  • Running pants

If you are running in an extremely cold area, you should invest in a heavier and thicker long-sleeve base layer shirt. If you are running in a chilly region, you can use the base layers for the only layer. For instance, the thermal leggings are often good enough once you are warmed up.


In the cold, warming up is essential to your success, even more so than in warmer climates, as your body will need more time to get to its normal operating temperatures. Click here to go to my article dedicated to warming up for various types of workouts.

What to wear when it is warm

One of the biggest disadvantages of running in the warm is definitely overheating. Improper clothing, lack of adequate hydration or simply overworking your body can all lead to overheating. That never feels good and can be really damaging to almost any of your body’s systems.

This is why when you run in warmer weather, you should wear as little as possible. Running by itself heats your body by a lot and you need to keep your body’s temperature stable at all costs. If the weather is really warm, a t-shirt (tech blend materials) should be good enough with shorts or light leggings for your legs.

If you have a hydration pack or belt, you can also put that on as it is extremely important to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

After you’re done choosing your running gear and clothing, it is time to figure out a good way to create a perfect running plan for you! Now, let’s summarize the advantages of dressing right for your run…

Advantages of proper running clothing

While there certainly can be some major disadvantages if you wear too little or too many clothes in colder or warmer climates, dressing for the exact climate you are going to run it will always improve your run and make you feel better at the end of it.

As I said, one of the main risks of running in warmer places is overheating, especially if you don’t replenish your water sources.

Dressing properly when its warm will allow your body to “breathe” better and cool itself down effectively. This will maintain your core temperature constant which will increase performance and will keep your muscles and joints healthy. The opposite applies to running in the cold. The advantages of multiple layers of clothing there are mostly related to warming up your body faster and not letting that heat get away easily, otherwise, you might work in sub-optimal body temperatures which can damage your joints and muscles in the long run.

Apart from clothing, it is always good to have a great waterproof fitness tracker with you to have a good reading on your heart’s efforts.

Final Words

Knowing what to wear running in cold or warm weather can prove extremely useful to your body and your running success. The rule of thumb is that it is better to feel slightly warmer than slightly colder than usual. When you are warm, you can always remove a layer or stop to cool down but it is way harder to warm up if you are cold and you don’t have the proper clothing on you.