Dress For Cold Weather Running

Southern Idaho in the Winter offers runners and walkers a great deal of comfortable weather which means you don’t have to head to the  treadmill all season long, especially if you’re training with BOISE Run Walk during the Winter Robie Creek program. Technical fabrics especially for Winter wear can allow you to run or walk comfortably without wearing lots of heavy clothing so that you can train effectively on natural and paved surfaces and be ready for late Winter and early Spring events. The key to outdoors running and walking in the Winter is to select the proper clothing. Here are suggestions for running and walking safely and comfortably during the colder and wetter Winter months.

winter-runningHead and Neck
On cold days you can lose a great deal of body heat from your head. It's important to keep your head covered from the cold and wind with a hat made of thermal fabrics such as fleece or wool, and you can easily tuck your hat into a pocket if you feel overheating. For your neck consider a Neck Gaiter worn by skiers which can be extremely valuable on  frigid and windy days. These come in designs that can protect your neck and face and you can pull them over your mouth to warm the air you're breathing, especially helpful when you first start your run.

Protect your lips
Chapstick or Vaseline will protect your lips from chapping and you can apply these to your nose and cheeks  to prevent windburn and chapping.

Upper Body – Layers!
The key to winter running dressing especially with your upper body is to wear two or three layers. Layers can trap body heat and allow sweat to move through to the outside air (wicking). Body moisture is wicked away from the first layer to your second and third layers and then evaporates. Here are suggestions on how you should layer your upper body.

Wicking Base Layer
The layer closest to your body should be made from synthetic  wicking material, such as DryFit, Thinsulate, Thermax, CoolMax or another good technical fabric. This base layer fabric will wick sweat away from your body keeping you dry and warm. It's very important to make sure you don't wear cotton for this base layer because once cotton gets wet, you'll stay wet. When it's above freezing (40 degrees) and dry, you might get by nicely wearing just a long-sleeve base layer.

Insulating Layer
Your second layer is needed for colder temperatures and should be an insulating material such as fleece. This insulating layer must continue wicking moisture away from the skin rather than trap the moisture. The insulating layer should have the perfect balance of trapping some air to keep your warm yet release enough vapor or heat to avoid overheating. Fabrics suggested for your second layer are Dryline, Polartec, fleece, Microfleece, Thermafleece and Thermax.

Wind and Water-proof Outer Layer
This layer can protect you against wind and moisture (rain, sleet, snow), but at the same time allow both heat and moisture to escape to prevent both overheating and chilling. It's a good idea to wear a jacket with a zipper for this layer, so that you can regulate your temperature by zipping it up and down. Suggested outer layers include Gore-Tex and nylon. If it's between 10 and 40 degrees you can usually get by with a wicking base layer and an outer layer.

You can lose as much as 30% of your body heat through your extremities so it's important to cover your hands. On cold days, wear gloves that wick away moisture. When it's extremely cold, mittens are a better choice because your fingers will share their body heat.

Tights/Running Pants
Your legs generate a lot of heat so you may not need as many layers there. A good pair of tights or running pants made of synthetic material such as Thinsulate, Thermax, Coolmax or polypropylene should work great. If the temperature is  below 10 degrees you may want to consider two layers on your lower body… a wicking layer of tights, and a wind-proof layer such as track pants.

Your feet should stay warm as long as you keep them moving and dry. Avoid puddles and slush. When running on wet surfaces wear a running shoe with as little mesh as possible since that's where the water will seep through. If you are running in the snow which many runners enjoy, think about trail running shoes. Trail runners are more water resistant or  water-proof and can give you more traction from the aggresive tread. In very snowy or icy conditions, YakTrax Ice Grippers are very popular which slip over your shoes for added traction.

Most people recommend you never wear cotton socks in cold or warm weather when running because cotton won't wick away moisture, leaving your feet wet and prone to blisters. Instead be sure to wear a good pair of wicking socks made of fabrics such as acrylic, CoolMax or SmartWool.


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