Which ultramarathoner’s must-haves for winter running are best?

Training through the winter months doesn’t have to leave you relegated to the treadmill. You’re likely spending a chunk of your time within stuffy interiors during December, January, and February, so why not treat yourself to a bit of fresh air? 

Don’t let the snow, sleet, or ice keep you inside. Winter running is a great way to strengthen your body and build fitness in the off-season.

We spoke to an ultra-marathoner who trains outdoors year-round to find out the must-have essentials to stay safe, warm, and well-equipped to tackle inclement weather.

Here’s what she told us you’ll need: 

The right outfit to head out into the cold

Check your smartphone’s weather app and prepare your run gear the night before. Dressing for the cold requires a bit of experimentation. Too many layers and you’ll feel like a sweaty Michelin man barreling down the road; too few and you risk frostbite. 

A great base layer

Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew - Women's

Women’s and Men’s Under Armour Base 4.0 Crew

A base layer is an essential component of cold-weather running. Without fabric to wick away the sweat you produce, you’ll be left soaked in moisture — which leaves you vulnerable to hypothermia.

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A windproof shell

ARSUXEO Winter Warm UP Thermal Softshell

ARSUXEO Winter Warm UP Thermal Softshell

Wind can quickly turn a comfortable run into a grueling ordeal. Strong gusts whip through the thin fabric and increase your risk of frostbite. A windproof jacket protects your upper body from biting winds. In freezing weather, consider a pair of tights or pants with windproof panels to protect your exposed legs.

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Neckwarmer

Buff Lightweight Merino Wool

Buff Lightweight Merino Wool

Choose a neck warmer made of stretchy fabric so it’s possible to pull it up over your face as needed. If you struggle with exercise-induced asthma, the thin layer of Merino wool material helps to warm the air before you breathe it in and prevents coughing fits.

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Gloves or mitts

Marmot Men's Windstopper Glove

Marmot Windstopper Gloves

Some runners find themselves quickly peeling off this layer of protection, while others have extremities that never seem to warm up fast enough. Opt for a glove and mitt combo in ultra-chilly weather.

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Warm socks

Smartwool Merino Wool Performance Socks

Smartwool Merino Wool Performance Socks

Smartwool socks are one of the best brands for year-round runners. The material has the incredible capacity to cool in the heat and provide warmth in cold weather. Opt for socks that cover up to at least your calves for winter running.

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Warm tights

Under Armour Women's ColdGear Compression Leggings

Under Armour ColdGear Compression Tights

The greater the surface area you’re dealing with, the harder it is to keep warm. Choose tights that are thick and lined with fleece. Runners with a thicker base may find it necessary to wear a base layer under tights on frigid days.

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Winter-ready tools

SPF lip balm

Banana Boat Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Lip Balm

Banana Boat Sport SPF 50 Sunscreen Lip Balm

Cold weather is extremely drying, and your lips are at risk of becoming chapped if they’re not coated in a protective substance. Your lips are equally as susceptible to sunburn as the rest of your body. Choose a balm with sunscreen to prevent skin damage. We like to toss a budget-friendly option in our running pack and re-apply as needed.

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Water

PYFK Upgraded Running Hydration Belt with Water Bottles

PYFK Upgraded Running Hydration Belt with Water Bottles

It’s cold, so you might not notice your thirst signal as you would on a hot summer day, but you still need to hydrate. Any amount of dehydration translates to decreased performance. If you’re struggling to remember to drink, set reminders on your running watch. 

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Sunscreen

EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen

EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen

It may be darker and colder, but the absence of hot weather doesn’t mean your skin is any less vulnerable to harmful UV rays. You can still burn when exposed to winter sunlight. 

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Safety accessories

Visibility gear

Tracer360 Illuminated and Reflective Vest

Tracer360 Illuminated and Reflective Vest

Runs on dark mornings and in the darker evenings are an accident waiting to happen if you dress in black. Enhance your visibility by wearing reflective clothing, adding adhesive reflective strips to your person, or wearing flashing lights. Be mindful of the color of clothing you choose, too. Wear bright hues, regardless of the time of day you train. In snowy conditions, drivers should be able to spot you without trouble.

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Traction device

Yaktrax Diamond Grip All-Surface Traction Cleats

Yaktrax Diamond Grip All-Surface Traction Cleats

Don’t let icy conditions stop you in your tracks — or leave you on your butt. Invest in a pair of removable traction aids to help you get a grip in icy winter weather. Be cautious running on slippery surfaces that have been coated in a fresh layer of snow; even the best ice cleats may struggle on this type of terrain.

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A positive attitude

Your best weapon against the dreary days of winter? A bright outlook. Running in the snow is tough. Manage your expectations and quit glancing at your watch to check on your pace every few minutes. Even the fittest runners will discover they clock in at a slower pace in cold, snowy weather. Shift the focus from speed to effort and go with the flow. 

The ability to adjust on the fly

Winter weather is unpredictable. Runners who intend to train year-round need to be able to adjust their training as needed. Do you have a speedwork session scheduled the day after a snowstorm? It might be wise to swap the intervals for an easy day. 

Don’t feel obligated to finish a run if conditions take a turn while you’re out and about. Safety first: If visibility is poor, consider taking the day off or hopping on the treadmill. Encountering icy road conditions? Stick to a route with sidewalks and avoid high-traffic areas.

 

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Steph Coelho writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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