Winter Running Gear

Living and running in winter on the West coast is much different than running in the snow in the East. You never quite know when and where the snow will hit and how long it might be staying for. Where the two coasts do have similarities though, is up in the mountains. Whether you're climbing on the snowy trails or hopping along an un-plowed sidewalk in a snowy east coast city, we all know the struggle. It's cold, we're wet, and we still want to run long. A good attitude will get you far enough, but below we've outlined some of our favourite gear to help you stay a bit more cheery and safe during the winter months, wherever you are.



Winter hat (a good beanie, toque, headband, or ear warmers)

  • Katrina - I have a beanie that's similar to this one that I like for really cold days. On warmer winter runs I prefer either a ball cap or a simple buff so my head can let out some steam.
  • Jenny - I run with a 'buff' over my ears for most of the year, I find without one I get post run ear aches that last the rest of the day. My favourite is the traditional Canadian Buff.

Gloves - gloves with both a mit and glove combo are ideal but really, any hand protection is good here. You know how hot you get!

  • Katrina - I love something with a mit and glove combo. I own some fleecy gloves as well that are great when the temperature sits a bit below zero because you can be warm to start, and then take them off and hold them when you're hands get sweaty.
  • Jenny - I prefer hot over cold hands and have found that combo's aren't always warm enough. I can always trust my mitts to keep me warm. I use a 1-seam, 1 layer mitten so no wind can sneak in and I can layer a light glove underneath, if need be.  I keep them on until my hands sweat and then I usually wont need them again until after the run ends. 

Warm, flexible, breathable coat

  • Katrina - I have this North Face coat and it's fantastic. It allows me to move freely while also keeping me warm. Depending on the temperature, layering with a windbreaker is a good option too.
  • Jenny - I use the waterproof Norvan SL. Great for rain, wind, and great for snow! 

Long sleeve and other layers

  • Katrina - A good breathable material is key here. Layering up with packable layers that you can stash in your pack are the best, in my opinion. The uphills can get really warm, but when running the downhills when you're sweaty and cold, you will need to be able to grab and put back on those warm layers.
  • Jenny - Depending on what your winter climate looks like, your layers will need to look a little different. When I was running in Edmonton in -25 C, I liked a tight, wicking tank top under a warmer, but still wicking long sleeve, followed by a less breathable jacket. On the west coast I will still use that same layering system for high elevation winter runs, but low elevation usually only requires a light long sleeve and the above mentioned rain jacket. My go to long sleeve in BC is the Lululemon Swiftly LS.

Lined tights - something that's a bit thicker....maybe

  • Katrina - I like these tights. But I wear a variety. It really depends on the weather you're running in. If you're going long on an adventure day and are not sure what it'll be like in the mountains, the more protection, the better. If you're going out for a 10 km run and it's above zero, you might just need your regular long running tights.
  • Jenny - Depending again on elevation of the run (cooler temps up top) and rainfall, I will either wear my Lululemon tech fleece or my water resistant, brushed pants from NewLine Sport.

Good socks!

  • Katrina - You need good socks and you need to pack a spare pair with you on long days. My favourite brand of the moment is Balega. I like their Enduro socks because I find they have an ankle sock with a higher than usual ankle (important for me so my shoes aren't rubbing against my skin)! Another great brand is Drymax. They have an awesome trail running sock that I ran my first 50 km race in! If it's wet out, I like to stash an extra pair in a ziplock bag to keep them nice and dry.
  • Jenny - Good socks are key, regardless of the weather. In winter I prefer either a warm sock typically designed for cross country skiing or my compression socks from LilyTrotters, which also create increased warmth.

Trail shoes that are made for the snow (or just plain excellent trail shoes)

  • Katrina - As a die-hard Inov-8 fan, I have two shoes that I like for the snow. I wear the X-Talon 210 shoe and the Rocklite 290 and they both serve their purposes. Right now I fancy the Rocklite 290's because I find they have wicked tread and work with both the snow and the ice (especially paired with Microspikes). The X-Talons are good when things aren't overly snowy but get reaaaaal muddy. 
  • Jenny - I can say this is an area Katrina has figured out better than I have. I tend to rely on my socks and micro spikes and carry on in my Nikes, either the TerraKiger or Wildhorse, depending on the distance. Both are breathable so they won't hold in water, but therefore neither offer great insulation. 

MICROspikes (we find nanospikes to be total garbage on the trails, especially in the snow and ice)

  • Jenny - the main feedback I hear for microspikes and have found to be true myself is that the wet west coast snow tends to ball up on the bottom, so micro spikes require some extra attention at times as you may have to bang off some of the snow, but I find with a more forceful leg swing or stomp the snow will come off easily on the go. 
  • Katrina - what Jenny said ;)

Hydration backpack (with extra bottles)

  • Katrina - Your hydration tube might freeze. Having extra bottles in your pack are highly recommended (I carry two 500 mL bottles)! I love my Salomon 12L pack that fits plenty of extra stuff from water bottles to clothes and I also have a smaller Nathan VaporAiress hydration pack that I love for shorter distances, where I only need to carry a few things.
  • Jenny - Packs are an extremely worthwhile investment and it can take a few tries to find the right one. I have used a Salomon in the past and now use a Nathan Sport, there are differences we can highlight in another post but I am comfortable in either!  I am yet to find a perfect solution as I have previously had the nozzle of my water bottles freeze up as well, but these are much easier to warm up and defrost than the hose of a hydration pack. To pack enough water I have at times packed the hydration pack and then used it to refill bottles along the way without any use of the hose. 

Extra stuff (for longer runs)

  • Don't forget the 10 Essentials!
  • Battery changing device
  • Hand warmers/toe warmers
  • GPS device
  • Second layer or insulating vest
  • And, as we mentioned, you can never go wrong with a second pair of socks/gloves in a ziplock bag!