The prospect of running in the winter to anyone new to the sport is far from enticing. However, ask any seasoned runner and the chances are they'll explain in great depth about why it's the best time of year to cover some serious mileage – and that's not just those training for a spring marathon.
The key to winter running is getting the right kit. And by that, we don't just mean something warm. The chances are once you've covered off a few miles your temperature will have risen to point where the cold is less of an issue anyway.
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To tackle running in winter you'll need to make sure you're prepared for anything the weather can throw at you as well as ensure you can be seen in the dark.
Here's our guide to the ultimate kit to turn a reluctant session into a successful training run.
Best kit for the cold
Tracksmith Waffle Baselayer
One of the fundamental pillars of a winter running strategy is layering. That's because it may feel unbelievably cold when you step out the front door, but cover off some miles and your body heat will soon climb. When that happens you want to be wearing something that not only keeps you warm but offers a high level of breathability as you start to sweat.
Aside from being one of the nicest looking pieces of running kit you'll find, the Waffle base layer is made from merino wool, a natural fabric that not only insulates but also helps to regulate temperature and wick away sweat.
- Read more: The best running and hiking base layers
In the cold, the clever waffle pattern both traps warm air against the skin and allows excess heat to escape when you start to turn up the effort. Not only that but merino is also quick drying and helps to fight off odor so you don't need to wash it as much as your synthetic kit.
For those long training runs where you're maintaining a steady pace throughout this merino beanie from On is the perfect option to keep the heat in.
As with all merino products it not only keeps you warm but also doesn't falter when it gets wet, whether that's from sweat or the rain. For speedy sessions, the level of warmth is going to be a bit too high, but if you're looking for something to get you over the first couple of chilly miles that you can stuff in a pocket, you'll find it indispensable.
Buff Polar Reversible
If you haven't heard of Buff you've probably already seen someone wearing one. At first glance it's little more than a tube of cloth that acts as a sort of minimal scarf, however, the design that's gone into these incredibly versatile pieces of kit makes them a necessity for any winter runner.
The reversible polar buff takes the standard version and develops it for the harshest of winter conditions, incorporating a two-layered tube made of polyester fiber on one side and fleece on the other. It can be worn as a scarf, a headband, a hat, a wristband or a mask to protect the nose and mouth.
Being double-sided means that you can also switch around the fabric that touches your skin to adjust for differing weather conditions. Simplicity, as they say, is the ultimate sophistication.
Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Insulated Jacket
Whereas some running jackets are designed to protect you from the rain, the ColdGear Reactor Insulated Jacket has been developed to focus on ensuring your body is insulated against the cold.
That Coldgear technology adapts to your activity level to ensure you stay incredibly warm whilst still being both breathable and comfortable to run in. That design includes special knit fabric on the sleeves, side and back panels to focus warmth on the main areas that need it.
- Read more: The best running jackets
There's also a heap of nice little features like raglan sleeves, a four-way stretch construction, an interior hook closure on the front zip and reflective detail for night running.
We've been using it for a few months now and it's our go-to jacket for when the temperature is at its lowest. It isn't waterproof though, so if you're heading out in the rain and the cold you'll need to layer up with a thin waterproof jacket.
Best kit for rain
Soar All Weather Jacket
Light years away from what you might imagine a rainproof jacket looks and feels like, this revolutionary outer from Soar is made from a super-soft fabric that is as comfortable as a regular running top. In fact, you can even wear it on its own next to your skin on warm, wet days. The outer is double-treated with DWR so the raindrops are repelled rather than absorbed.
It looks stylish too, with a diagonal reflective strip on the shoulder, plus discreet reflective seams for visibility, and it can easily be worn off the track to keep you warm post-session.
Gore R7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Hooded Jacket
With Gore, you know the jacket and tech-forward fabric won’t let you down when you’re on a 20-mile run and torrential rain hits. This is a more traditional wet-weather jacket, and the Shakedry name really does mean you can do that – a little shake of the garment and the droplets are flung away.
The breathability is second-to-none, and it packs down into its own front pocket so you can easily stow it away if the sun makes an appearance. It also features an inbuilt visor on the hood which stops the rain streaming over it and down your face.
Under Armour Outrun The Storm Tights
Props to Under Armor’s product-namer – these are the ideal pair of tights if you’re looking to step out in a storm and, hopefully, run faster than it (good idea for a training session, that).
The special fabric is designed to be lightweight and stretchy whilst still offering water-repelling technology to keep you dry in the toughest conditions. There's also strategically placed mesh insets across the tights to ensure that there's enough ventilation to keep you from getting too sweaty.
Inside there's an elasticated Speedpocket to store your smaller valuables in whilst anti-odor technology will stop those microbes from causing a whiff.
Sealskinz Thin Mid Socks
A light sock ideal for spring through to autumn, this is also 100% waterproof, so can handle flooded roads, deep snow and overflowing drains. Trust us, once you've tried waterproof socks in the winter, you'll never look back.
- Read more: The best socks for runners
Combine them with a pair of waterproof shoes and your feet will stay dry whatever the conditions, with no danger of wrinkly wet skin forming blisters. Merino wool lining also ensures that they'll stay breathable, even when you're forcing out the last few laps of your Tuesday track session.
Aqua 100% Waterproof Armband
This is so waterproof, you can go surfing with your phone inside it and it will be totally fine. It features two levels of protection: a zip-seal into which your iPhone 7/8 or Galaxy S8 slots, then a snap-lock closure on top of that.
The seams are bonded with corrosion-resistant adhesive – as a result, you can stick your phone in and not worry about leaks or drips finding their way in and you having to store the phone in a bag of rice when you get home to dry it out.
Best running kit for the dark
LED Lenser Neo Headlight
Your primary concern when hitting the streets at night is to make sure you can be seen, especially by vehicles and cyclists. Unless you're planning on hitting the trails in the dark or your running route is in an area severely lacking any light this entry-level option from LED Lenser is the perfect choice.
- Read more: The best headtorches for runners
Offering an excellent balance between comfort and function, the Neo has up to 90 lumens across a 16:9 field of view and includes a red safety light on the back for anyone coming up behind you.
It features three different light functions: Power, Low Power and Blink, is impressively lightweight and can also be rolled up into a compact bundle and stuffed into a bag or pocket.
Proviz reflective jacket
Although some brands offer reflective options, Proviz is a company that specifically designs kit for that purpose, offering some of the most carefully designed gear out there for the safety-conscious runner.
For us, the Reflect360 jacket is one of the bests examples. The front of the design is made entirely from a reflective material that glows bright white when a light shines on it meaning any vehicle in the distance can spot you instantly.
Aside from the obvious safety aspects, it also has two side pockets, rear, side and underarm mesh for breathability, windproof protection and a lock zip design.
Even without the high visibility color and reflective design, the FlipBelt is a fantastic piece of kit that should be a part of any runner's armory.
The whole belt is essentially a big tube that allows the wearer to store objects like a phone or keys without the need for a backpack. That 360 design also means that you can distribute the weight effectively so you don't have all your items held in one specific compartment. It's a feature that makes the Flipbelt one of the most comfortable options out there. The fact that it's also an exceptionally effective safety product is just a really nice bonus.
Perhaps one of the most strangely named products we've found but one that does exactly what it says on the bottle. Safety Skin is a gel that you apply to any part of your skin effectively turning it into a reflective surface. The idea is that instead of buying loads of new expensive running kit you can just carry on with what you've got and let your naked skin do the safety work. It's also safe for use on the skin and the hypoallergenic wax base is both rain and sweat resistant.
The only issue is that you obviously need to have areas of the skin showing, so if you're clambering out into a blizzard for a run and want to stay safe, you'll have to do it in a T-shirt and shorts.
If you're really serious about staying visible on your night runs then there isn't going to be much out there that makes you as noticeable as the Noxgear Tracer.
The 40 Lumens of light from two CREE LEDs is distributed around the body making you visible from 1/4 mile away. That full body harness is also incredibly lightweight so you can wear it over the top of a weighty running jacket in the winter or a vest in the summer.
Not only that, but you can also select multicolored flashing modes – great if you're planning on doing the odd 5k at a warehouse rave – and the battery life will keep you going for up to 40hrs.
Asics Light-Show Jacket
It may not be the brightest piece of kit on the list but the Light-Show jacket is very light piece of running kit that has more than enough reflective detailing for those runners in the city.
The light knit fabric design is one of the thinnest you'll find in a winter jacket which means it may not cover you for the coldest days but does the job if you're the kind of runner that just needs an extra layer of protection from the wind and cold.
Great breathability, 360-degree reflective strips, mesh underarm panels and sweat-wicking properties all go to make this a great all-round option for safety, warmth and comfort.