WINTER RUNNING LAYERING GUIDE: COLD & WET WEATHER
When running in the wet, windy, cold and changeable British weather, staying warm and dry without overheating can be a difficult balancing act.
To easily adapt to your environment in changeable weather, you will need a technical ‘layering system’ that wicks away sweat and allows you to comfortably run in varying temperatures and unpredictable weather conditions.
You should always layer-up as though it’s 10°C warmer for cold weather running, but it’s important to take the wind chill factor into account too (wind removes heat faster from the skin, making it seem cooler).
Why is a ‘Layering System’ Needed for Running in Unpredictable Weather?
2-3 layers of technical run clothing (also known as a running ‘layering system’) trap pockets of body heat between them to insulate your body, unlike a single thicker and heavier layer.
Layers of technical running clothing also transport sweat and moisture away from the skin, allowing vapour to escape on the outside; non-sweat-wicking cotton clothing, instead, traps moisture and sweat vapour, which can leave you feeling chilly, clammy and uncomfortable.
You should feel slightly chilly in the early minutes of your run before you’re properly warmed-up, then you can remove layers to avoid overheating.
How Many Layers do I Need When Running in Cold Weather?
- If it’s 10-12°C outside, it feels like 20°C on a run. Wear running tights or running shorts with a long sleeve running top. For weather protection, take a lightweight waterproof that’s easy to stuff into your pocket or tie around your waist.
- If it’s 5°C outside, it feels like 15°C on a run. Wear running tights with a technical base layer and warm or lighter-weight long sleeve running top with a waterproof and windproof jacket.
- If it’s 0°C outside, it feels like 10°C on a run. Wear thermal running tights or compression tights with a technical base layer, long sleeve top and weatherproof jacket.
- If it’s -2°C or below outside, it feels like 8°C on a run. Wear winter-weight running tights with a base layer, long sleeve top and waterproof and windproof jacket. Protection for head and hands is advisable too.
What Wet and Cold Weather Running Clothing Should my Layering System Include?
- A lightweight, tight-fitting base layer or compression top (to insulate and wick away moisture).
- A looser-fitting insulating long-sleeved running top, to trap a layer of warm air and to continue transporting sweat vapour to the outside of your layering system.
- A running jacket (also known as an ‘outer shell’) to block out the rain and wind while letting moisture and vapour escape the layering system, helping you stay drier and comfier for longer.
- Depending on the temperature, add technical running tights orcompression tights under your running shorts. Naturally, winter-weight tights are slightly thicker. For extra comfort and warmth, look for running tights with brushed lining and wind protection.
- In especially cold conditions, add gloves and a cap (to shield the face from rain) or beanie/headband (in chilly and windy weather).
- On darker morning and evening runs, especially for autumn and winter running, it’s important that your running clothing has reflectivity and high visibility so that you stand out in those shorter daylight hours.