My 13-Step Layering Routine For Running In the Cold

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I’ve been running in the cold for years. Pre-COVID-19, I’d do a daily 5.5 mile run from my Brooklyn apartment to Vogue’s office building in the Financial District. I’ve run through all sorts of depressing climes, from freezing rain and sleet, to snow. In my early days of running in the cold, without any sort of knowledge of what to wear, I’d pile on whatever I could find in my closet. The mashed-up outfit usually consisted of a t-shirt, three long sleeve shirts, two hoodies, and if it was particularly frigid, I’d wear my old puffer coat from high school. Thanks to my piled-on gear, for a while, I was the butt of many jokes made by my run club teammates.

Fast forward a year later and I’m still running every morning through the same elements, albeit more protected and looking less like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I’ve learned how to streamline my running uniform so it is simple, and well, not as bulky. So where to start? Support! While I don’t wear a bra in my everyday life—something I once documented for Vogue, I do indeed wear a sports bra to run. I rotate between standard bras, like a stretch piece of cotton support from Fruit of the Loom, and a more high-tech version from Nike or Lululemon.

Next comes the start to my epic layering routine. I like to look like Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and prefer pieces that are mostly black. First, I wear a base layer. My fellow runner and professional run coach, Jes Woods, who casually runs 100 mile races (yes, 100) says this is the most important step. “You want this to be tight and wicking material, so avoid cotton. Cotton is going to get wet and damp quickly and stay wet and damp,” she says. “If the temperature is in the 30s or colder, you can start to layer on top of the base layer with an insulating top and/or a jacket.” I swear by Uniqlo’s Heattech long sleeve shirt, which allegedly does the things that Woods says. My colleague, Beauty and Living Editor prefers a hood-embedded version from Patagonia.

After the all-important base layer, I typically wear a thin zip-up. I like Nike’s iteration of this item because it has thumb holes that allow the sleeves of my shirt to act like a half-glove. After that, I put on a fleece zip-up, which I’ve dubbed my “insulating layer.” If I am truly bracing for the cold, I wear a Hanes hoodie—black, of course—on top of that. To keep my body heat radiating, I top it all off with an insulating black puffer jacket, far from my bubble silhouette that I was wearing years ago.

Dressing your bottom-half is way more simple. I exclusively wear black running tights, usually with pockets for my phone, keys, and credit card. If it is truly frigid out, I will wear a pair of fleece-lined running tights. My favorite socks are thin and made from wool, which prevents moisture. I rotate between shoes: a pair from Swiss-manufactured label On, and another by UnderArmour. Both of these have good grips if the ground gets slick. But if this isn’t a “leisure” run, I choose a pair of Nike’s Next %s so I can get back home in record time. Wearing them makes you feel like you’re flying, flying past all of that cold and straight into a heated apartment.

Accessories are also important, and your appendages must stay warm. Having cold hands can detract from a good run, even if the rest of your body is warm. I wear running gloves but sometimes I wear a pair of wool mittens over them. (You can slip hand warmers in them, too). Next, I like to wear a dickie collar, in the form of a fleece. My go-to is the “DikDik” by Matek, which is a brand that is actually geared towards skiers. Finally, for headgear, I like to wear a snood-like cap that protects my face, too. If it’s dark out, I recommend wearing a hat that is highlighter-hued.

As for my final, 13th step to running in the cold? That comes down to what I’m listening to. I have the Ukrainian girl group Via Gra on repeat, but I also swear by Nike’s audio guided runs. They offer every themed run possible, from 10ks narrated by Olympians to meditations and 30 wake-up jogs. Of course, there’s even “A Cold Run” guide that will help you get through the run in no time. On that note, see you at the very cozy finish line.

Jackets

Hanes pullover EcoSmart fleece hoodie

$25$15

AMAZON

Patagonia better sweater jacket

$139

NORDSTROM

L.L. Bean trail fleece full-zip jacket

$60

L.L. BEAN

Alala Athena running jacket

$195

CARBON 38

Base Layers

Falke ergonomic sport system wool-blend top

$140

NET-A-PORTER

Uniqlo HEATTECH cotton crew neck long-sleeve T-shirt

$25

UNIQLO

Odlo natural + kinship warm base layer with face mask

$115$81

REI

Patagonia Capilene air base layer hoodie

$149

REI

Sports Bras

Fruit of the Loom built-up tank style sports bra

$11

AMAZON

Zella body rhythm sports bra

$25

NORDSTROM

Outdoor Voices powerhouse bra

$78$24

OUTDOOR VOICES

Nike swoosh sports bra

$30$21

NIKE

Socks

Bombas tri-block ankle sock

$12

BOMBAS

Thorolos outdoor athlete ankle socks

$17

DICK'S SPORTING GOODS

Athleta PhD ultra light micro socks by Smartwool

$16

ATHLETA

Rockay accelerate anti-blister running socks

$17

AMAZON

Sneakers

Bedlam 3 running shoes

$150

BROOKS RUNNING

Nike ZoomX Vaporfly next running shoe

$250

NIKE

DQ Cloudflyer waterproof

$180

ON RUNNING

Adidas by Stella McCartney Boston mesh and primeknit sneakers

$220$88

NET-A-PORTER

Hand Warmers

REI co-op polartec power stretch gloves

$35$25

REI

L.L. Bean wicked good hand warmers

$30

L.L. BEAN

Zippo 12-hour hand warmer

$22

REI

Carhartt waterproof insulated glove

$27

AMAZON

Accessories

Carhartt visibility color enhanced beanie

$15

AMAZON

Minus33 merino wool expedition balaclava

$40

AMAZON

Athleta flurry reflective headband

$28

ATHLETA

Matek the dik-dik

$70

MATEK