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Clothing for Winter Running

Dressing for winter running is like dressing for cross country skiing. Dress in layers. Dress to stay dry. Perspiration moves more easily through two thin layers than it does through one thick layer. A well-designed layering system will keep you warm and dry and yet allow freedom of movement. Many people today know about layering clothing.

1. The Base Layer

Start with a base layer that's light and breathable. This will keep you dry, comfortable and chill-free. You need a good, breathable base layer–a long-sleeved shirt and lightweight tights, that can wick moisture away from the body so it can evaporate. It's important to wear synthetic, wicking materials rather than absorbent fabrics (such as cotton). They will get wet, stay wet and feel heavy. Select long sleeve shirts and long underwear made of polypropylene. This material will wick away moisture and allow for evaporation. This should keep you warm and dry. Breathable fabrics wick perspiration away from your skin and pass it on to the next layer. One wrong piece, and the layering system breaks down. leading to unpleasant running in heavy, damp clothing. For moderate winter temperatures, one layer should be enough. You may want to add a vest.

2. The Thermal Layer

Not everyone feels that they need this layer. Polar Fleece/Arctic Fleece have made this an additional layer for warmth without weight. When the temperature drops below 0 degrees C., add a second layer. The outer shell on the upper body will protect you from the cold, wind and snow yet will still allow perspiration to evaporate. One layer on the legs should be fine.

Even a two-layer system won't keep you warm when the wind is howling and the temperature drops below minus 18 degrees C. You need a thermal layer between the base layer and the outer shell. This layer continues the moisture-transfer process but traps air to keep your body's natural heat from escaping.

3.The Outer Shell

This is an asset on colder winter days. A shell prevents the wind from traveling through to the skin. A windproof breathable shell is best. A wind-proof suit made of a fabric such as Gortex may be used 12 months of the year.

Another layer can be added on very cold days. A hat, balaclava or neck gaiter will also help to keep you warm.

As your body generates heat when you run, dressing too warm can also cause you to get chilled as the increase in perspiration will result in wet clothing.

Running Gear Checklist:

Polypropolyene-type underwear (top and bottoms)
Gortex or some other breathable running suit that can break the wind.
Balaclava and perhaps a face mask
Wind-proof mitts (better than finger gloves)
Thorlo/Coolmax socks
Reflective vest
Water bottle
Energy food (Power bars)
Remove rings from fingers


More runners overdress than underdress. A good rule of thumb should be that if you feel chilly during the first two kilometres of your run, you are dressed for the weather. If you feel nice and warm right after heading out the door, you are going to get too hot and sweaty later on.

All of this comes at a cost, of course, as some complete outfits can be priced over $400. But when you have to consider their durability and the fact that you are not going to freeze. Remember that a good looking jacket can be worn for nonrunning events too.

Fariyal Samson - Women in Motion September 1.2000