5 Cold Weather Trail Running Essentials
Because winter would be a whole lot bleaker if it meant running on a treadmill every day
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
It’s easy to write off trails during winter, with snow, ice, and temperatures so cold they make your lungs hurt. But if you layer up right, heading to the mountains in winter can be a near-magical experience. We asked these pro runners who live in colder climates about the gear that helps keep them on the dirt (or mud or snow) all winter long.
Kahtoola Microspikes ($56)
Maggie Guterl, Ultrarunning World Champion
For Western States 100 top-ten finisher and world champion Maggie Guterl, trail running in winter starts with her feet. “Being confident in your traction makes running on snow, or even ice, doable,” says the 37-year-old who logs multiple loops in state parks near her home in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, throughout winter. “I wear microspikes on almost every run. They’re so light, I don’t even notice that they’re on, and they have a great grip on slippery leaves, mud, and icy patches.”
Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 ($150)
Mike Wardian, Record-Setting Marathoner and Ultrarunner
“The Speedgoat’s grip is what makes it a really good piece of footwear,” says marathoner, ultrarunner, and Hoka athlete Mike Wardian. To set records like the fastest Leadville 100 and Pike’s Peak marathon double, Wardian trains hard year-round. He keeps his technical skills sharp in winter on the rocky Potomac Heritage Trail near Arlington, Virginia, known for its surprisingly gnarly and technical descents. “The soles have a lot of lugs, but they’re not so big that they slow you down,” Wardian says. “That means I can get into a nice flow without worrying about slipping on frosty rocks and logs.” He’s come to love the overlay, which offers good protection from wind and rain in the typically wet Mid-Atlantic winters.
Buff Thermonet Headwear ($27)
Jon Fegyveresi, Ultrarunner and Thru-Hiker
As an ultraunner, AT and PCT thru-hiker, and ice researcher at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in New Hampshire, Jon Fegyveresi is very comfortable with extreme cold. His work and training regularly require him to run in subzero conditions. No matter his kit for the day, he’s always wearing this Buff. “I get colder much faster without it,” Fegyveresi says. “The stretchy material lets me readjust easily as my temperature changes on uphill versus downhill efforts. I can keep it around my neck, turn it into a hat, or wrap it around my wrist when I’m warm.”
Marmot Neothermo Hoodie ($125)
Eric Orton, Founder of Mountain Running Academy
“This hoodie is the most valuable and versatile piece of clothing I have for winter,” says Eric Orton, ultrarunner, coach, and founder of the Mountain Running Academy in Jackson, Wyoming. “On dry, cold days, I use it as a soft-shell outer layer, with the hood on during my warm-up. When temps dip especially low, it becomes an optimal midlayer with an outer shell,” he says. Given its breathability combined with its just-right thickness, this item is the one piece of gear that Orton relies on all winter.
Altra Wasatch Rain Jacket ($199)
Meghan Arbogast, Running Coach and Ultrarunner
You might not think Meghan Arbogast’s hometown of Cool, California, just three miles from the Western States 100 course, suffers from a winter problem. And you’d be right. At 1,500 feet of elevation, Cool rarely sees temperatures dip below freezing. But conditions can be wet and sloppy, so Arbogast turns to this rain jacket to make getting out every day (somewhat) comfortable. “It’s lightweight and has a slim fit, which means there’s less bulk under a hydration pack to prevent chafing,” she says. “I also like the front zip pockets for easy access to gloves and phone, plus the packable hood.”