For any runner, comfort while running it of the utmost importance, and that means that you have to dress the part (literally!). Some tips, such as dressing for a temperature that is 10-15 degrees warmer than the temperature outside, are well-known. But sometimes it can be a little unclear what exactly that means for different temperatures.
If you’ve found yourself in the conundrum of what to wear for a run, and wish that there were some sort of chart that matched temperature to clothing, we’ve got you covered! Simply figure out what season you’re in and what the temperature outside is, and you’ll know what to wear.
Spring & Fall
As anyone can tell you, spring and fall are some of the nicest times to run. Anywhere from 50-60 degree weather is ideal for running. You won’t be too cold, you won’t be too hot.
At the same time, you do have variations in temperature. What you would wear for 40 degrees probably doesn’t work that great for 60 degrees, so it’s important to have different options available.
Cool: 40-50 °F
With the temperature in the 40s, you’ll likely need two layers to start off with. Figure out what base layer works (find the best base layers for running here) for you, and what kind of outer layer you like. I prefer a tank for a base layer unless it’s very windy, and a zip-up jacket. With that, I can cover my neck if needed, or unzip it if I get too hot.
You’ll likely also want running tights that go all the way to your ankles so that your body doesn’t have to work as hard to stay warm. If you’re afraid of getting hot, you could always opt for slightly shorter tights.
I personally try to make either the top or the bottom of the outfit is slightly more breathable than the other, so that I don’t have two “warm” options, meaning that I’ll wear a long-sleeve shirt and jacket on top and capris on the bottom or a tank and jacket on the top and ankle-length tights on the bottom.
Depending on how cold it is, you might also want to consider a vest—avoid down, as it will become soaked and stick to you as you sweat—and running gloves—either fingerless or normal. Whatever is going to be best for you.
No matter what option you go with, it’s important to always make sure your clothing is as flexible as possible to deal with variety in the temperature. I have one jacket in particular that I love because it has thumb holes that I can use if I need my hands slightly covered, but I don’t have to use them.
Moderate: 50-60 °F
Unless it’s windy, you’re probably fine with just one layer when it’s in the 50s. You can opt for a t-shirt and capris/tights, or a wicking long-sleeve shirt and shorts. Those are my go-to combinations.
If it’s in the very lower 50s, or if you run cold, you could always do a long-sleeve shirt and tights. Or you could consider adding a base layer with plans to shed one during your run, which might be more comfortable. This recommendation comes with a caveat: you‘ll have to figure out what to do with that layer you shed, whether it’s throwing it over your shoulder, sticking it in a running pack, or something else.
I personally like having the long-sleeve running shirt, because then I know that I’ll be warm enough at the start of my run, and I can also push my sleeves up and down as needed throughout my run to regulate my temperature.
Pleasant: 60-70 °F
This is my favorite weather to run in! I tend to run cold, so I’m grateful for days that are in the 60s. They are the perfect combination of warm enough, but not too hot. You can opt for a breathable short sleeve shirt (or running tank, if you’re like me) and mesh-paneled capris or shorts with calf sleeves, which is my go-to.
Depending on how cold or hot you tend to run, you might want to wear a little bit more or a little bit less. Obviously, the amount of wind and sun will also impact what sort of clothing you’ll want to wear to be comfortable.
Warm: 70-80 °F
When it’s in the 70s, you’ll be perfect with a lightweight tank and running shorts or capris. You might be surprised by the suggestion of capris, but they will feel just fine if the fabric is mesh and breathable and is designed with vents in order to let in the breeze, which will help the sweat evaporate.
Hot: 80-90 °F
When you check the weather before your run and it’s hot and humid and in the 80s, your best bet is to choose a tank top that is breathable, lightweight, and made from a synthetic fabric that wicks moisture.
Similarly, you’ll want running shorts (here are the best men’s running shorts – and women’s shorts) that are made from a fabric like polyester that helps evaporate moisture. The last thing you want is your clothes sticking to you and making you feel gross!
Very Hot: 90+ °F
If it’s extremely hot, you’ll probably want to run in the bare minimum amount of clothing. That might be a sports bra for women and shirtless for men. As you shed the clothing, though, be sure that you are protecting yourself from the sun. And make sure that you are drinking enough water during your run when it is so hot, as you’ll get dehydrated extremely quickly.
Cold: 30-40 °F
Once the temperature dips into the 30s, you’ll probably need three layers: a tank top base layer, a long-sleeve shirt, and a zip-up winter running jacket. You’ll likely also want something to cover your ears, whether it’s a headband or a hat, and you’ll need gloves, especially as the temp approaches freezing.
Vests or hybrid jackets with vest-like bodies and movable sleeves will give you the warmth that you need without the bulk. You’ll be able to comfortably move your arms without making your body work extra hard to stay warm.
You’ll want thick tights, and I personally wear shorts overtop of my tights—no matter how goofy it looks—because it keeps me warmer. You’ll want to make sure that your legs and back side are as warm as possible because you’ll lose a good portion of your heat from there.
Very Cold: 20-30 °F
When it gets to be very cold, you’ll need to run in as many layers as possible. While a fleece headband might have been fine in the 30s, you’ll likely want a hat (also called a running beanie) in the 20s. Make sure that as much of your clothing as possible is wind-resistant.
It’s most important to ensure that your extremities—feet, ears, hands—are covered, as that’s where you’ll lose heat the quickest. Mittens could be a better choice than gloves, because they keep your fingers warmer.
You might even consider insulated running shoes to keep your feet nice and warm. But don’t change up your moisture-wicking socks for fleece or wool. Your toes will regret it later. Your feet might stay warmer, but they also might sweat and swell, causing blisters and overall discomfort. Don’t stray from your normal moisture-wicking socks.
Hardcore Cold: 20 °F and below
When it gets this cold, you might want to consider running on a treadmill. I know it’s the bane of a runner’s existence, but it might be worth it in such cold weather. If you do decide to run outside, remember to cover your nose and mouth, as the air can get very cold.
Similarly, you’ll likely want to wear leg warmers or calf tights and put on a heavier jacket to make sure that your core stays warm. You’ll also want a thicker hat that has fleece inside and two pairs of gloves.
Finally, you’ll probably want two pairs of tights and two long-sleeve shirts—maybe even a thicker one if it’s really cold. You also might want to look into trail-running shoes so that you have better traction for encountering snow and ice.
In essence, when you run in hardcore-cold weather, you’ll want to think in 2s. If you don’t have two of an item, there’s a good chance that you might not stay warm enough when you’re running.
While we all wish that we could run when it’s the perfect temperature and weather outside, the reality is that some days we are going to have to run in the rain.
You should consider wearing a hat with a brim, as this will keep the rain out of your face. Similarly, avoid the newbie mistake of wearing too many layers, as it will all get wet and you’ll have more heavy, wet clothing that you’re wearing.
You might consider making a rain poncho out of a garbage bag by cutting arm holes and a neck hole. Having this extra layer to shield from the rain can make a big difference in how wet you get.
Although it’s always important to look where you’re running, you should be especially observant when it’s raining, as stepping into a big puddle will get your shoes and socks completely soaked.
Finally, when you finish your run in the rain, be sure to come home and change out of your wet clothes as soon as possible. Being wet increases your possibility for hypothermia. And don’t forget to dry out your shoes–but not in the dryer or in front of a heater, as it will change their shape and damage their foam.
At the end of the day, whether the rain is warm or cold, it’s all about having layers so that you can take on any amount of rain, wind, and different temperatures.
If you’re going to be running in a cold rain, you might consider a waterproof rain jacket. Often they can trap sweat inside, so you might still end up as a drenched mess at the end of your run.
But if you’re okay with that, a waterproof jacket will keep you warmer and more comfortable in the rain. This is especially essential with a cold rain because you’re going to getting colder much more quickly if the rain is soaking your clothing, particularly if there is some wind.
Our favorite running rain jacket is GORE Wear’s R7 Shakedry
Warm rain is obviously going to be more comfortable than cold rain, but be sure that you do not overdress. If it’s 70 outside and the rain is warm, dress for 70-degree weather. The rain will just help to keep you cool!
You may not even need rain gear in warmer weather, especially if you’re going to be outside for 45 minutes or less. In that case, it might be better to focus on staying comfortable in breathable clothing.
If there is snow, you’ll definitely want to wear trail running shoes with extra grip to improve traction. Add on a set of MICROspikes or Yak Trax (or make your own!) for even better grip.
Also, be smart about where you’re running. Try to find roads that are clear. Colleges and universities are great places to run, as they have their own maintenance departments and aren’t dependent on the city or town.
Roads near schools are also great places, as these roads often get plowed more quickly so that teachers and students can get access to the school with minimum difficulties.
Knowing what to wear running is just another way that’s it is clear running is a very individualized sport. While it’s great to know basic guidelines for different temperatures, you’ll have to try a couple options yourself to figure out what works for you.
And since we all have a tendency to make sure that we stay comfortable, chances are you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. I know I sure did!