Running clothes and gear are not cheap. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are newer to the sport, and see all the expensive gear that comes out season after season.
Winter running is no different. Between jackets, vest, hats, gloves, mittens, pants and so on, you can easily go for broke if you jump at every piece of gear that you see advertised.
But dressing for winter running takes some finesse. You need to wear enough layers to stay warm, but not too much where it’s cumbersome or weighs you down. (I shared my clothing tips for winter running here).
The truth is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to run through the winter, but you do need to ensure you have the necessities. So where should you spend your money and where/how should you save? Below are my recommendations. (Keep in mind that I live/run in NYC so my winter may be different from yours!)
- Gloves/Mittens: I started long distance running when I was stationed in Texas and deployed to Iraq. My first winter back in NYC was a huge shock for me. I did a 15k in Central Park one winter day and can remember actually crying after the race ended because of how cold and numb my fingers were. I had worn the thin gloves that I used while I was in Texas. Lesson learned. I have no qualms these days with spending the money for a thick, insulated pair of gloves and/or a warm pair of running mittens. Protect your extremities!
- Outer Layer – Jacket: Other than your shoes, this is probably the most expensive piece of running gear you will own. In years past, I assumed a few thin layers would do the trick, but my core always felt cold. I had nothing to protect me from wind, rain or snow. This year, I bit the bullet and purchased the Saucony Reflex Jacket. At $110, it’s not cheap, but it’s wind and water resistant. So far it has kept me warm on 10+ mile runs in 20 degrees and rain+sleet in 30 degrees.
- Hat: Again, for years, I assumed that a non-running cheap earwarmer would do the trick and keep my head warm. It didn’t. I was losing so much heat from my head. Once I started sweating, the band got wet and cold. My trick these days (thanks to Jess!) is to wear a running hat with a winter hat on top. It keeps my head and ears toasty warm without being bulky.
- Good Pair of Tights: Your legs will only have one layer so ensuring that it’s a good, protective layer is vital!
Ways to Save:
- Use What You Have: A lot of your summer or fall running gear can be used in the winter. They work just fine as layer pieces. Short and long sleeve shirts, shorts or capris work on the warmer days. Layer your socks too. (Although in really cold areas, you may want to consider a pair of wool socks). Use these as layering pieces to keep your core warm.
- One good piece: If you run 5 days per week, there is no need for 5 jackets. Purchase one (or two) good ones and use them over and over again. I have one heavy duty jacket, two pairs of tights, gloves, mittens and two hats that are my staples for this winter.
- End of Season Sales: Amazon and some running sites (such as RunningWarehouse) often carry last year’s line of clothes for a fraction of the cost. Or I get in the habit of purchasing ahead. Look to buy next year’s necessities when the brands put them on sale at the end of this season.