The Low Road: 12 Essentials for Winter Running

During the months of cold and dark, many runners will pack away their track shoes and take to their treadmills, letting nature win by forcing them to hide inside. Serious road warriors know that this is the perfect opportunity to take back the streets for jogging through some of the most challenging terrain, better conditioning themselves for the warmer months, and attaining that sweet winter runner’s high that is part bracing cold, part conquest of will over the brutal elements.

Outfitting yourself as a winter runner takes trial and error, since the only way to determine whether or not a base layer or set of socks is going to work for your particular environment is to field test them, sometimes with disastrous results. Our goal is to give you a set of gear that has already been put through its paces, culling weak pieces and replacing them with quality materials that will make your run successful mile after freezing mile. Each of our 12 winter running essentials has been hand-picked so that all you need to focus on is your target heart rate.

Icebug Zeal RB9X Running Shoe

Icebug Zeal RB9X Running Shoes

Using a lightweight nylon textile upper complete with quick drying mesh to keep your feet dry throughout your jog, the Zeal also has exceptional treads that are as deep and broad as waffled hiking boots, but made specifically for taking on roads and trails. Let your foot rest comfortably in the impact-reducing midsole that envelopes your arch for better support with every step.

Purchase: $138+

Salomon Trail Gaiters

Salomon Trail Gaiters

Salomon is one of the best names in trail running gear, and their ankle gaiters make the perfect coverage for keeping wetness, slush, and slop from sneaking in over your shoe. Even if your trail is covered in snow, these offer secure, light, comfortable shielding along with added protection and padding for your ankles should you step wrong during an outing or bump a rock hidden under the snowpack.

Purchase: $35

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini

Smartwool PhD has again come out with an active sock for the winter wanderer that uses merino wool to ideal effect. High impact areas are given special attention for enhanced wear over time while the moisture-wicking body is simultaneously breathable and warm. Exceptionally durable for how slim they are, the Ultra Light Mini is an investment in complete comfort.

Purchase: $16

Rhone Gotham Seacell Running Tight

Rhone Gotham Seacell Running Tight

An oddly incredible combination of nature and technology, these tights use Icelandic seaweed combined with cellulose fiber to make a material the dries quickly, retains heat, promotes calcium and vitamin E transfer to your skin, and feels soft and amazing on your body. The Seacells slaughter the bacteria that cause odors, particularly in high moisture areas, like the marsh between your legs.

Purchase: $119

Mizuno Breath Thermo

Mizuno Breath Thermo

An ideal compression top for those who want a little extra help with getting blood to their extremities, the Breath Thermo technology boasts creating heat from your body’s own sweat, and from our perspective it has done a great job of regulating temperature so that you don’t even think about it during a full marathon. With eye-catching colors it works equally well alone as when worn as a baselayer with overshirts.

Purchase: $70

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech 1:2 Zip

Lululemon Metal Vent Tech 1/2 Zip

Fabric on this pullover is mapped to the parts of your body that sweat the most, offering increased breathability under your arms and down your back so that even at top speed, you’ll still not feel overheated. With Silverescent technology to kill bacteria, it requires less washing than comparable tops and can operate as your outer layer or sandwiched between layers for added insulation.

Purchase: $88

Arc'Teryx Incendo Hoody

Arc’Teryx Incendo Hoody

If you need an absolute top coat for those especially windy or wet days, the minimalist build of the hoody from Incendo makes it easy to layer but still capable of cutting down wind shear. The hoody offers a broad motion range and won’t become a swampy mess when you kick into high gear. Built light and smooth you can quickly pack it down and away conveniently should the fire in your belly be enough.

Purchase: $135

North Face Runners 2 Etip

North Face Runners 2 Etip

Wear the Etips alone or layer them up, as a midweight fleece glove they’ll give you lots of warmth that won’t cause your palms to be sweaty and unusable. With touchscreen capability standard, you’ll never need to juggle your gloves and phone while you check your GPS or change your music to something a little more inspiring. Additional grip patterns on the palms ensure you’ll also never drop your water bottle.

Purchase: $30

Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Run Beanie

Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Run Beanie

This cap will protect your head from the elements with reasonably good water protection, but where it will impress you is with its ability to use your own body heat to keep you from losing warmth. Broad and flexible on the sides, it fits comfortably over workout headphones without jamming them into your ear, wicks away sweat from your brow, and reflects light for better road safety in the early evening twilight.

Purchase: $30

Salomon XR Energy Belt

Salomon XR Energy Belt

Load it up with fluid, protein gels, energy bars, or tuck your hand warmers into it, the XR Energy Belt has plenty of room for everything you’ll need as you head out for a wind sprint around the block or to pull off 26 miles without missing a step. The buckle can be customized for an ideal fit and the mesh body breathes well and won’t weigh you down. Even has space for your phablet, should you be an iPhone 6+ or Galaxy Note user.

Purchase: $52

Garmin Forerunner 225

Garmin Forerunner 225

Colorful and easy to read even with sweat in your eyes as you hit the wall, the Forerunner 225 lets you work without a chest strap but will still give you one of the most accurate heart rates we’ve ever seen from a wrist model. Interface it with Garmin connect and it becomes a route GPS and pathfinder along with pedometer and overall health monitor. It will track steps taken, calories burned, and even your pace without the need for an extra foot pad sensor.

Purchase: $300

Clif Shot Bloks Fastpak

Clif Shot Bloks Fastpak

Never again will you need to choose between gels and bars with the Shot Bloks line of consumables from the makers of Clif bars. With a simple squeeze you’ll get additional nutrients in an extremely small package that can be accessed without breaking stride. These won’t add much heft to your pockets, but are packed to the gills with lots of energy and protein in several satisfying flavors. They’ll give you plenty of nutrients while not making you feel tired or overfed. They’re even USDA certified as organic.

Purchase: $2

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