The ultimate winter running gear checklist: prepare for the cold

winter running gear: runner
Winter running brings a unique set of joys and challenges (Image credit: Getty Images)

Our winter running gear checklist is here to give you the confidence to venture out into the freezing season. Ask yourself, as the temperatures drop and the nights draw in, do you have everything you need to run safely?

As a run leader, I'm responsible for making sure everyone in my club has the right gear before we head out together. During the summer the biggest problem is usually people forgetting water, but in the winter things get a bit more complicated. Shorter days mean more running in the dark, so visibility can be an issue, and heading out without the right clothing can mean being cold and miserable.

Of course, not every day is inclement, but different conditions call for different kit. This guide will help you critically consider what you have, and make sure you're properly equipped for the colder, shorter days ahead. Things like waterproof socks are very nice to have, but these are the real essentials.

Meet the expert

Cat Ellis
Cat Ellis

Advnture's editor in chief Cat counts running (on the roads or the trails) among her very favorite pastimes. She's a qualified UK Athletics run leader and an expert in running kit, whether its high end wrist tech or the shoes on her feet. Here, Cat takes us through the essentials for standard winter running.

Today's best deals

High-vis clothing

  • High-vis clothing is a must in order to make yourself visible to cyclists and motorists
  • Fully reflective jackets, rather than just those with reflective detailing are best

Female runner pausing for breath wearing high-vis jacket

Bright colors and reflective details will help keep you safe for pre-dawn and evening runs (Image credit: Getty)

First of all, it's time to take a good look at your running wardrobe. Black might be flattering, but it's just not safe when you're out before dawn or in the evening in winter – even if it's not completely dark, you'll be practically invisible to cyclists, scooter riders, and drivers. In fact, many running clubs (mine included) won't let you join a run if you're not wearing something bright.

Ideally, you'll wear something that's light colored on both your top and bottom half. Many running jackets and leggings also have reflective detailing, which is a handy addition, but isn't enough if the garments themselves are dark. 

If you're going out in the dark regularly, you might want to check out ProViz sportswear, which looks unassuming during the day, but is so reflective it shines bright white when hit by car headlights. It also completely ruins any mid-run photos taken using a flash, but never mind.

Proviz isn't your only option, though. Almost all the big names in running gear produce some high-visibility items. Personally I like the Brooks Run Visible range, which includes some affordable accessories like hats, headbands and socks that'll help you stand out and don't cost a fortune.

If you love your slimming black running kit too much, or can't justify buying new kit, a reflective vest works well too. These come in various neon colors, with strips of highly reflective material stitched in key areas. Your running club may have a stash (mine does), or you can buy one cheaply on Amazon.


  • A headlamp gives you greater visibility 
  • It also alerts cars and cyclists to your presence

Ultimate winter running checklist: Woman wearing Moonlight Bright As Day 800 running headlamp at night

A headlamp is useful when running lit streets and essential when heading off onto the trails (Image credit: Claire Maxted)

If you're running on well-lit city streets in the winter then a headlamp might not be strictly necessary, but it's never a bad idea; you never know when a streetlamp bulb might have burned out, leaving a stretch of road in darkness, and a headlamp will also make you more visible to cyclists, traffic, and other pedestrians.

If you're planning to head anywhere else, a headlamp is essential. Look for one with a wide beam so you can see what's ahead of you and underfoot without having to adjust it, and look for one that's nice and light so it doesn't bounce with each step. Trust me, there's nothing more annoying.

This essential piece of kit doesn't have to be expensive, and you'll find options at various price points in our roundup of the best running headlamps. The Black Diamond Sprint is one particularly good model that won't break the bank.

If you already have a headlamp, this is the time to check its battery. Even if the lamp still works, a battery that's running low will mean fewer lumens.


  • A running jacket works well, as it can be stashed in your hydration pack
  • Arm warmers can be useful, as they can easily be removed once warmed up
  • The same goes for a running hat

It can be extremely tricky to get your running outfit just right during fall and winter, so layers are the way to go - especially if you're not finishing your run at your front door and risk getting cold afterwards. Even a super lightweight running jacket can keep you surprisingly toasty, and many of them pack down so small, you can stash them in a running belt or your hydration pack.

Arm warmers can be extremely helpful too; once you've warmed up sufficiently, just peel them off and stuff them in a pocket. I'd also recommend a lightweight running hat. You might feel silly wearing it, but nobody will care at night, and you can take it off if you start to feel a bit too cozy.


  • Lightweight running gloves take the edge off a winter run for your digits

winter trail running gear: man running with hat

Gloves take the sting out of the elements for your digits (Image credit: Getty Images)

I love my running gloves, and I'm thinking about picking up an extra pair for people who come out without a pair for winter runs, and find themselves regretting it. My own pair are Sealskinz Water Repellent All Weather gloves, which aren't hugely expensive, but again there are plenty of cheaper options around. The budget-friendly Kalenji Tactile from Decathlon have earned a place in our roundup of the best running gloves and cost just $8/£5.

I also like to carry one or two handwarmers if I'm walking back from somewhere post-run, or I've just finished a race in the winter.


  • Always take a phone on a winter run so that you can contact someone in an emergency

winter trail running gear: checking phone

Taking a phone out in winter is vital (Image credit: Getty Images)

Running unencumbered is a great feeling, but I'd always recommend taking a phone just in case, particularly if you're running in the winter. Ice can be an unexpected hazard, and if you don't spot it, you could go down hard and need to call for help.

Night running can be tricky too. Familiar streets can look very different after dark, and you could easily miss a curb or pothole and twist your ankle, or just stumble and land badly. Even if you don't need to call emergency services (perhaps you just bonked or strained a glute), being able to contact a friend or get an Uber will help get you home safe and sound.

What about trail running in winter?

If you're taking to the snowy trails in winter or even wild hills and mountains, you're going to need to up your gear game even more. Fortunately, Advnture contributor Fiona Russell is here to take us through the winter trail running gear essentials.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.