The Best Women’s Winter Running Apparel of 2023
We tested more than 70 items to find the most effective pieces to keep you warm and dry on the run this winter
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Layering goes a long way when it comes to running comfortably in the cold, but so does having high-performing technical apparel. Who can forget the revelation of swapping out an old cotton sweatshirt for a dedicated running jacket during their first winter of serious training? Today’s gear is so advanced, we look for more than just insulation and moisture management in our winter apparel: we expect each piece to feel soft and luxurious, allow us to carry as much as we want, and never slow us down. These items are up to the task.
How We Test
Number of testers: 4
Number of products tested: 72
Total miles: 600+
Coldest run: 5 miles in 6 degrees Fahrenheit
Worst run: pushing a jogging stroller with 20 mph wind gusts blasting ice pellets
Most consecutive hours spent in test apparel: 12
Over 14 weeks, we tested more than 70 pieces of women’s winter running apparel from 25 brands. “We” are four runners of varying ability levels—from a beginner notching ten miles a week in Santa Fe to a Boston qualifier averaging over 40 miles a week on the roads of New York City. One of us wears extra small clothing, two of us wear small to medium, and the fourth wears mediums and larges. Every piece of apparel got worn at least once, and we tested our favorites on multiple runs in varying conditions. Ultimately, we whittled the list down based on which products we found ourselves reaching for over and over again—the ones that made us reluctant to test other items because we just didn’t want to run in anything else.
Reviews: The Best Women’s Winter Running Jackets of 2023
Rabbit Cocoon ($125)
Weight: 12 oz
Pull on this sleek, compressive top and prepare to feel like a running ninja. The thick nylon-spandex traps body heat on par with some lightweight fleeces (minus the fuzziness next to skin), and is just as breathable. The Cocoon is ideal for wintery days when you want every inch of skin covered, thanks to thumbholes that keep the sleeves pulled down past your wrists, a turtleneck that can stretch up over your face, and a tight-fitting hood. We especially appreciated it on blustery runs when the coverage provided protection from the wind and the wetsuit-snug fit reduced its resistance. Reflective seams and a durable water-resistant finish on the nylon-spandex fabric make this a solid layer to wear alone even in low light or wet conditions.
Bottom line: A snug top for the runner who wants to keep as much skin covered as possible.
Brooks Canopy Jacket ($130)
Weight: 5.7 oz
This ultra breathable shell weighs only 5.7 ounces, but its 100 percent recycled-polyester ripstop shocked us with incredible weather proofing. After running for an hour in sleet and snow, one tester delayered and found herself completely dry. A bevy of thoughtful features make the jacket a workhorse: two zippered pockets for carrying essentials, two snaps that keep the front of the jacket in place even if you unzip it for extra ventilation, a cinchable hood that stows away, and a nifty flap that turns the whole piece into a (flimsy, but easy to wear) backpack when you fold it. The jacket’s cut—neither slim nor boxy—works well on a range of body types.
Bottom line: You’ll reach for this light, breathable, and weatherproof jacket in all seasons to keep you dry and comfortable.
Norrona Falketind Octa Jacket ($219)
Weight: 7.9 oz
We relied on this super toasty outer layer for the coldest days, thanks to its airy yet insulating lining created from hollow, octagon-shaped polyester yarns, plus its well-tailored collar. One tester actually got too hot if she wore this over anything heavier than a tank top in above-freezing temps. The outer face fabric, made with recycled nylon Pertex, is wind- and water-resistant (with PFC-free DWR), and the two mid-torso pockets are roomy enough for stashing gloves and a hat. The whole piece is stretchy, with the lightweight fleece side panels particularly flexible, so you can move freely and easily fit more than one layer on underneath—though we never needed to do so.
Bottom line: The solution for runners who want to be toasty warm on the coldest days without wearing a zillion layers.
Ultimate Direction Women’s Ventro Jacket ($200)
Weight: 10 oz
Not sure how much insulation you actually need on any given day? This miracle jacket never made us feel too hot or too cold in temps ranging from 10 to 60 degrees. Thank the premium recycled polyester called Clo Eco Vivo, with strategically placed holes that the brand claims improve breathability by 30 percent without sacrificing warmth. We can’t attest to that specific claim, but we can say that several testers ran comfortably in this shell well beyond the point when they’d normally be stripping off the layers they’d panic-grabbed before leaving the car. Stretchy fleece panels on the sides of the slim-fitting jacket are also perforated for extra ventilation without letting cold air in. As if being the ultimate thermoregulator wasn’t enough, the Ventro also has mitten flaps that fold out of the sleeves for whenever you’ve underestimated how cold your hands can get. That leaves more room for keys or smaller items in the oddly-shaped pockets, which we wish zipped up and down instead of diagonally.
Bottom line: If you’ve never invested in dedicated winter running gear before, this versatile jacket is a smart place to start.
Houdini Pace Hybrid Vest ($170)
Weight: 4.9 oz
We like vests for runs when we need some wind protection for our torsos, or are looking for more pockets to carry gels, gloves, or phone—but don’t want to add a full jacket. This one is particularly light, at just under five ounces, with a flattering, streamlined cut. Its wind-blocking power is augmented with a touch of insulation from knit polyester yarn that kept testers comfy without getting drippy with sweat. The water-resistant recycled polyester fabric is soft but durable enough to withstand run-ins with tree branches or the nails of overexcited dogs.
Bottom line: You’ll reach for this vest often for extra protection without weighing you down or restricting your movement.
Reviews: The Best Women’s Winter Running Bottoms of 2023
Janji Winter Groundwork Tight ($98)
Weight: 9.9 oz
Too many running tights are, well, tight—so compressive that we have trouble picking up our knees on trails, and find ourselves constantly hiking up the waistline to avoid the dreaded muffin-top effect. These leggings were blissfully different. We put them on and then forgot about them, basking in comfort from pre-run to post-run. Janji designed the knit nylon fabric with just the right amount of stretch, so they’re snug but not confining. A super-tight weave reduces fabric microshedding in the wash, giving the tights an extra level of durability and an environmental-friendliness we approve of. We also loved the Groundwork’s laser-cut hems that delivered a seamless feel around the ankles, and its five secure pockets—two on the thighs, two small ones inside the waistband, and one on the lower-back that’s enveloped for confident stashing of a phone, keys or cards. And these are thin enough to run in from fall through spring—unless you run hot, like one of our testers, who reserved them for cooler months.
Bottom line: Want a pair of thin running tights that let you move comfortably while supporting a brand that’s committed to sustainability? Buy these.
Title Nine Mad Dash Reversible 7/8 Running Tights ($99)
Weight: 9.5 oz
These leggings have a particularly roomy fit through the waist that manages to still feel snug (read: no pinching, but also no slouching). They’re made from a double layer of polyester-spandex fabric, which produces a thick, warm feel and makes the tights reversible—black on one side, patterned on the other. Plus, the Mad Dash is also cheaper than most other tights of such warmth. There’s a small stash pocket on the high, wide waistband, and a side drop-in pocket where even the largest phone fits nicely. Two of our testers found themselves wearing these more than twice a week during winter’s darkest days. “When I didn’t know exactly what I needed on a given morning, I just threw these on and trusted they would keep me comfortable and look good,” said one. They also never stunk or lost compression between washes, making it easy to wear them multiple times in a row.
Bottom line: You’ll reach for these thick, uber-comfortable tights over and over again because they hold up to multiple wears in a row without washing.
Oiselle Eight Track Pants ($98)
Weight: 12.6 oz
A sleeper hit with all our testers, these cozy sweatpants are the aprés-run staple you didn’t know you were missing. The nylon-based knit has a bit of spandex for stretch but mostly feels smooth and soft. Two deep hand pockets will carry whatever you need, before or after a workout. Ankle zips make it easy to pull the pants on or off over shoes. A relaxed but not-too-loose fit equals pure comfort without slouchiness, and easily pulls on over workout shorts and sweaty legs.
Bottom line: More comfortable than the drawstring cotton sweatpants you’ve been wearing since high school.
Reviews: The Best Women’s Winter Running Base Layers of 2023
Nathan Women’s Dash Long Sleeve Tee ($50)
Weight: 4.59 oz
This tee’s nylon-polyester-spandex fabric is so soft we could sleep in it. That’s also what makes it perfect for fall and winter running. It provided a great balance of stretchiness, warmth, and breathability, whether we wore it alone on 50-degree days or under several layers in freezing temps. We also found this shirt to be particularly stink-resistant, and it dried quickly enough to comfortably keep on for hours after a run when needed.
Bottom line: This do-it-all long sleeve shirt should satisfy any runner, whether on the road or on the couch.
Oiselle Wazzie Wool Briefs ($36)
Weight: 1.6 oz
These mid-waisted, full-coverage bikini briefs don’t budge, bunch, or bind—even under the tightest of tights. Where they really shine is during the chilly post-run window before you have a chance to change out of your sweaty clothes: the merino-spandex blend kept us so dry after some workouts that we felt comfortable sitting down to answer emails for hours before hitting the shower.
Bottom line: The running underwear of your dreams, if you dream of being warm and dry during and after your runs.
Reviews: The Best Women’s Winter Running Accessories of 2023
Ibex Glove Liner ($50)
Weight: 1.4 oz
We love the simplicity of these highly breathable, 94 percent merino wool gloves (the other six percent is Lycra elastane, providing a comfortable stretch). Our most hot-handed tester kept them on without discomfort for an entire 6-mile run on a 32-degree day, which she said was “a first.” She continued to reach for them in varying conditions, from an icy road race in 12 degrees to warmer afternoons with severe windchill. If you’re looking for more warmth, they’re thin enough to fit comfortably inside mittens on sub-zero days. With a wide range of unisex sizing, you’re likely to find a pair that fits perfectly.
Bottom line: A simple pair of natural-fiber running gloves for goldilocks hand temperature from a brand we trust.
Tracksmith NDO 2-in-1 Mittens ($58)
Weight: TK oz
Sometimes gloves just aren’t enough to keep your hands warm. When that’s the case, add mittens, like Tracksmith did in this stylish 2-in-1 set. Other brands make glove-mitten hybrids for running—Tracksmith raises the bar with a wind- and water-resistant softshell mitt lined with merino wool, plus a pair of lightweight nylon gloves to wear underneath. Wear the gloves alone in warmer conditions, and add the insulated shell mitt when temps drop.The mittens stick together with internal hidden magnets, and the glove liners are touchscreen-compatible.
Bottom line: Your search is over for the ultimate winter running hand protection for any conditions.
Patagonia Winter Duckbill Hat ($49)
Weight: 4 oz
Sizes: one size (adjustable)
This hat —a cross between a baseball cap and a beanie—came through for us on runs when we would have otherwise been blinded by precipitation. The duckbill does its job as an umbrella for your face, while the insulated crown (made from Patagonia’s R1 fleece, which is amazing at regulating temperature) and flip-down earflaps keep your noggin warm. Best of all, the crushable brim is made from 100 percent recycled fishing nets, and the crown is 87 percent recycled polyester with a durable water repellent coating that’s PFC-free. An adjustable closure strap and ponytail pass-through in the back sweeten the deal.
Bottom line: Combines the best elements of a fleece beanie and a weatherproof baseball hat.
How to Buy
Assembling a winter running kit is deeply personal, but everyone needs a few essential staples. Start with a long-sleeve base layer on top and full-length pants or leggings on the bottom. Selecting a long-sleeve top is easy: just look for something that feels good against your skin in a moisture-wicking synthetic or merino blend. They come in varying weights; you’ll likely want several to keep you warm—but not hot—in different temperature ranges.
For your bottom layer, there’s more to consider: you have to decide how compressive or loose you want pants or leggings to be, how thin or insulated you prefer the material, how many pockets you want and where you want them, and what kind of waistband works best for your body. Bottoms with weather-resistant finishes can be a boon for consistent training in adverse conditions, but may be heavier and bulkier than is ideal for most runs.
Add midlayers, jackets, and accessories as needed for insulation and weather protection. In terms of outerwear, sometimes a half-zip fleece or windbreaker is all you need atop your shirt, but on days with precipitation we suggest a water-resistant shell. We love multi-functional, lightly insulated winter running jackets that provide weatherproofing with breathable warmth, plus other benefits like pockets, hoods, reflective trim, and built-in mittens.
More 2023 Gear Guide Reviews
- The Best Trail Running Shoes of Winter 2023
- The Best Road Running Shoes of Winter 2023
- The Best Home Gym Equipment of 2023