Winter Running: Unorthodox Advice

8. The Buff — Gear Junkie readers know that the Original Buff, a polyester headwear piece, is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. A Buff really comes into its own in the winter for running. I bring at least two with on each run, including one on my head and one in a pocket as backup. A common technique I employ is to start with the Buff worn as a balaclava and with a small beanie or skull cap over the top. As I heat up on the run, I take off the hat and stow it away. At the same time, I pull the Buff up onto the top of my head, moving it from the balaclava configuration to a floppy hat. I use this technique over and over again. It works!

the original buff.jpg

The Original Buff

9. No ‘Cool Down’ Finish — Don’t slow down for the last mile. Keep running strong until you’re back near your home or the start of a run. You will freeze if it’s cold and your sweat is soaking through your base layer on top.

10. Sweat it Out — At home, standing outside my front door at the end of a run, I often remove my hat, gloves and jacket and just “chill out” for a minute or two. Even if it’s 10 degrees F outside, I’ll pause and let my body take a stab at regulating my heat. I finish almost every run — no matter the temp — sweaty and hot. If I step straight indoors after a winter run, the heated air inside is overwhelmingly too hot, and my body sags and sweats as I work to pull off layers and sweat drips on the floor. My advice: Cool down outside. Let the sweat stop. Then head indoors to change clothes, relax, or shower off. After a hard winter run, you deserve it.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of A version of this post ran originally on Gear Junkie’s blog on

Posted by Turi - 12/20/2010 10:25 AM

Excellent. Best real-world winter running advice I’ve read. Holding gloves in your hand does work surprisingly well as “partial layering,” I’ve found that as well.

Posted by Volker - 12/20/2010 12:06 PM

What hydration bag is the wearing on pic 2?

Posted by Editor - 12/20/2010 01:18 PM

It’s a The North Face hydration pack. Prototype, I believe. Not sure if it’s yet to market.

Posted by Volker - 12/21/2010 03:08 AM

Thanks! And thanks for the article

Posted by Icespike - 12/21/2010 07:02 AM

Awesome advice…great point on starting out cold for sure, and we are big fans of the Buff too!

Posted by Fiola - 12/28/2010 12:35 PM

Great post. Going through the same hard cold conditions on runs in Switzerland in preparation for Huairasinchi – and do pretty much the same as you have described above! : ))) cept I go inside after the run and usually cool down by opening all the windows and doing some core and strength exercises.

Posted by Mark Griffith - 12/28/2010 12:44 PM

I usually run in Seattle where none of this matters, but I am in Utah visiting family and its COLD here. Just had to buy me some gloves (I usually run with my hands balled up in my sleeves). Trying to finish my 1000 miles before the year is out.

I’ll try out the buff today as well. One additional point : Don’t run early in the AM when its dark cause its just colder :)

Posted by Brian - 12/28/2010 12:54 PM

With your suggestions it’s never too cold for a run here in the US, no matter where you live! However, I’m not so sure about the dude running in your photo from the Antarctic Ice Marathon…

Posted by chuck Largent - 12/28/2010 02:48 PM

The idea of carrying a second hat is one I use a lot. Putting a cold sweaty hat back on after having it stored in my pocket is not fun, a thin scull cap that is dry feels so good ! I carry a small water bottle too, even in winter.

Posted by Andrew J. Smith - 12/28/2010 07:09 PM

Good advice here. I run in the winter here in northern NY all the time where wind chills frequently drop well below zero. I layer with a tech shirt, followed by a Smartwool Microweight long sleeve, topped off with a Nike FitStorm jacket. Mittens are great and warm, and I wear them when winter cycling; you probably don’t nee them when running, however. They’re too warm. Use very thin glove liners followed by a pair of thinnish gloves; chances are you’ll take the gloves off unless the wind is howling. Mittens usually get way too hot within the first mile and are bulky. BTW, I use mittens all the time when hiking, shoveling snow, walking, etc. They are the warmest! Also, balaclavas are nice, but I prefer a 2-piece…neck warmer and hat; more versatile.

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Posted by Russ - 12/29/2010 12:02 AM

Thanks for the info. In addition, I’ve applied patches of duct tape to the front of an older pair of underwear for that frostbite issue. It’s worked like a charm for over 20 years.

Posted by Miguel - 12/29/2010 02:24 AM

Gaiters and spiked shoes – like inov-8 Oroc – make winter running fast, safe and warm

Posted by Nick - 12/29/2010 08:46 AM

Solid advice Stephen. From past cross country years I’ve switched out a pair of socks (usually thin) for gloves or mittens. May look a bit strange but it works as a very light, breathable and ball-able mitten. Everyone has got them and usually in different thicknesses. It also helps to physically note what clothing combo works at what temp, it eliminates extra thought which can become resistance to winter running.

Posted by Editor - 12/29/2010 11:20 AM

Nick, I like your point about noting what clothing combo works at what temp, as it eliminates extra thought which can become resistance to winter running. Great point. It pays to have a winter running “uniform” ready to go at all times. For me this just means adding or subtracting a layer from the top (and sometimes bottom) depending on the temp of the day.

Posted by Jason - 01/01/2011 12:10 PM

Great advise. Here’s a awesome tip for keeping your toes warm I learned last year running in Fargo, ND. Tape a strip of “Duct Tape” over the tops of your shoes between your laces and tip of your shoe. This small layer of wind protection on your toes will keep them warm. Then when you jump on the treadmill, just rip off the tape and your shoes are ready for warm weather running.

Posted by Mia Anderson - 01/21/2011 12:11 PM

Thanks for the info, I pretty much do all you said but there was some extra tips I can incorporate

Posted by Dave - 11/30/2012 11:46 AM

Excellent advice. As someone who suffers from horrible circulation in the hands, I will add something to the “clenching your hands” section: I’ve found it is good to clench and un-clench my fists as I run – it keeps the circulation going. If I just clench, it can often make my fingers colder, because I’m actually reducing circulation a bit more that way. Keep them moving, and it will aid in the veinous circulatory system in your fingers and hands. It’s hard to keep this in mind as I run sometimes, but if my fingers are starting to freeze, I’ll remember to start moving my fingers around a bit more as I run.

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