Running in the winter can be truly miserable: the cold, the wet and the dark unite to make it a very tough time.
But the right kit can make it far less painful, and keep you from heading to the treadmill or giving up entirely.
The best winter running gear serves a number of needs: keeping you dry from the rain while ensuring you don’t get wet with sweat, ensuring you’re warm without getting too hot, and otherwise contending with the various problems that the season throws up.
Our picks satisfy all of those and more. Our testing was made up of hours of runs in the rain and wind, and these choices made sure that running stayed a delight, in the face of the cold, wet, dark outdoors.
We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
New Balance Impact Run Heat tight: £65, New Balance
Tights are a winter running staple: you can pair them with just about any outfit to make it suitable for cold weather, layer them up to keep warm without adding too much bulk, and they look very cool. New Balance’s do all of that – somehow managing to feel comfortable in both warm and cold weather, and across long and short runs. Made from wick-way fabric, they’re have useful details like a very clever pocket built into the sides to carry your phone or any other valuables without it feeling bulky.
Tracksmith Bislett pants: £135, Tracksmith
If you want something more rugged and less revealing than tights, running trousers are for you. Tracksmith’s are more substantial, warming and waterproof than many other running trousers we’ve tried, but they have nice zips on the side that make them easy to take off once you get too warm. Add to that interesting little features including a snug phone pocket to retro stirrups that keep them from riding up, and you have trousers that work both for the run and relaxing.
2XU Pursuit AC Shell jacket: £120, Wiggle
This jacket is probably the best-looking thing we tested, and of course it’s functional and feels very warm. We think this is the best thing on this list for wet weather: it seems to repel water away like magic even on the rainiest days, so you can wear this and feel totally dry. The cut and material also lends itself to wear as a normal rain jacket too.
On weather shirt: £100, Sigma Sports
If you’re looking for something more than a T-shirt, but less than a jacket, this fits the bill perfectly. What’s especially fantastic about the top is that it is extremely flexible: it seems to keep you warm but not too hot when it is nicer outside. It has longer sleeves that can wrap around your hands like gloves or roll up, and it can work both as a top over a base layer or as a shirt. It’s a little expensive for a shirt – but then you’re getting far more than just one top.
Tracksmith Brighton base layer: £70, Tracksmith
It seems almost miraculous that anything you run in could be both so warm and so comfortable. But this base layer is that miracle, and that’s before you get onto the clever design, which keeps your arms warmer than your core and looks so nice that covering it up feels a shame. Fitting snugly under anything – from racing singlets to heavy jackets – you might also find yourself wanting to wear this as a top when you’re not running.
On running pants: £135, Runners Need
On’s running trousers combine everything you might want out of a pair of bottoms: part sweater material, part waterproof, they feel soft and keep you warm and dry while not making you feel hot, sweaty or restricted. They have the most relaxed fit of any of the running trousers here, and stretchy panels that make them move with comfort, making them perfect to wear over shorts or tights or on occasions when you don’t feel like such an athletic fit.
Aftershokz aeropex open-ear wireless and waterproof bone conduction headphones: £149.95, Amazon
Running in winter means running in the dark, and most likely wearing a hat, which can make using traditional headphones uncomfortable and dangerous. Aftershokz gets around both issues by sending the sound through your bones rather than your ear, which means they sit comfortably on the side of your face and leave space so that you can still hear cars coming or whatever other dangers might be lurking on your run.
Ryzon Sydon athletic jacket: £195, Ryzon
Cold weather, winter running jackets can run into a number of problems: sweaty because they are not breathable, crinkly and noisy from waterproof material, and tending to be either pointlessly thin or cumbersomely thick. Ryzon’s jacket is none of those: it will keep you warm but not hot, protected from the wind and rain but still with space to breathe, comforted but unrestricted. And it looks fantastic, with a slick, athletic fit that almost makes you want it to rain so you can wear it.
Beryl front/rear light 40/18 lumen: £19.99, Evans Cycles
Winter isn’t just chilly – it can be depressingly, dangerously dark, too. Beryl’s light can be stuck just about everywhere, lighting up your ankle, back, arm or head as you run. It’s unfortunate that such kit is required, but it could be just the thing to give you safety and peace of mind as you run along in the dark of winter.
Ryzon merino socks: £18, Ryzon
It can be hard to find running socks for the winter: many tend to be made with a focus on small and thin. Ryzon’s merino performance socks are nothing like that. They take the warming, cosy feel of merino wool and put it into socks that are big enough to keep you protected while not bunching up or becoming uncomfortable.
Lululemon surge light tights: £88, Lululemon
Lululemon’s tights are profoundly comfortable, and the least thermal-like of any on this list. They’re the best for wearing on a crisp but not quite bitterly cold run, or for wearing beneath trousers when one layer isn’t going to work. These are still warm, but aren’t going to leave you overheating on a sunny day or a particularly intense run.
Zone3 RX3 tights: £67.49, Wiggle
Whether or not it’s scientifically true, in the winter recovery feels longer and injuries feel more common. Zone 3’s tights fend off both, using heavy compression to help you run more comfortably and recover quicker. Plus the nice thermal design keeps you snug whether you’re wearing them during a run, for a warm down, or even as you recover back at home.
Proviz REFLECT360 long sleeve top: £34.99, Proviz
Running in winter has two challenges: keeping warm and being seen. Thankfully this top takes care of both. Made from a comfy material to keep out the weather, it is also decked out with subtle but visible reflective strips, which ensures that it stands out in the glare of street lamps and headlights.
Nike x Gyakusou beanie: £33.95, Nike
Nike’s Gyakusou collection is uniformly stylish, and this no is no different. It fits like a glove and keeps your head warm while allowing it to breathe. But most importantly of all, it’s a running hat that looks neither boring or overly jazzy, which is a very rare thing indeed.
Nike Phenom running trousers: £64.95, Nike
These trousers fit somewhere between leggings and traditional tracksuit bottoms. From the former, you get the easy of movement and lack of bagginess; from the latter, you get the extra protection and avoid the requirement to wear shorts. They’re the best of both worlds, with none of the compromise.
New Balance’s tights are understated but represent the best of winter running gear: a perfect balance of comfort, warmth, water repelling and considered details.
If it’s your top that you’d rather keep warm, then Tracksmith’s Brighton base layer and Ryzon’s sydon athletic jacket are both fantastic investments for the cold. If it is the wet rather than the cold that you want to keep out, the 2XU Pursuit AC Shell jacket has almost supernatural rain-repelling powers.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.